What 2020 Means for Retro Computing

Image: Luftrausers. A flash game that became a retail product
Written by: Elijah Moon Blackwell

Change is coming. It happens every year and there is no stopping it.

While tech is becoming more impressive, older hardware and software is slowly being forgotten.

It’s kind of grey area for me. On one hand I understand that technological upgrades are necessary. Medicine, education and everything in between benefit from advancement.

On the other hand I wish tech companies supported their legacy components indefinitely. I realize this is difficult, but come on, I’m allowed to dream. Oh well, just another excuse to buy more old hardware.

Here are some changes that you may notice this year in no particular order.

Adobe Flash Player will come to an end.

This isn’t breaking news. Adobe announced their plans to end Flash Player in 2017 on their blog.

Adobe will no longer support Flash Player after December 31st of this year. You’ve probably noticed how some web pages that were built long ago require you to enable Flash Player plugin in Chrome (or whatever browser you use) to see certain content.

Browsers already started removing Flash as a default function this year, requiring users to download a plugin if needed.

Flash is what browser games were built on, hence the popular term “Flash Game.” These games were found all over the web. Some of the most popular Flash Games turned into full-fledged products. Luftrausers went from being a game you’d play in your browser to something you can now buy through Steam.

I vividly remember playing these games in school during the early days of weak firewalls. SAS Zombie Assault, The Fancy Pants Adventure, Stick Arena, Defend Your Castle and on and on.

Flash will come to end and will no longer receive updates. There are two archival sites I know of dedicated to preserving the history of Flash based gaming, flashgamearchive.com and bluemaxima.org.

Users also created things known as Flash Animations. These were short little videos that covered a wide range of topics. Since they were made by every day users, the creativity was unbound. There was no shareholders to please. This led to some trippy animations that still resonate with me to this day. I’d say seek them out but be warned, these animations were not restricted by any kind of review board. There are some freaking videos out there.

There was just so much built on Flash but it was a different time and now it is being left behind.

If you work at a company that utilizes Flash in some way you might want to drop hints. It’s better to take action now than be caught off-guard. More than likely your company is already aware of this change but I’d wager that some mom and pop shops are still in the dark.

Intel is dropping Legacy Bios support.

Again, not breaking news as Intel announced this in 2017.

This will not affect any consumer that stays current. Intel will no longer manufacture chipsets that utilize the traditional Bios.

Bios is very outdated. The replacement is UEFI. This is a huge improvement as UEFI provides newer ways to boot an OS. At my place of work we can boot from a network location, eliminating the need to use a USB or CD. This ensures that whatever image we install is the latest one. Booting is not the only improvement. There is so much more UEFI can do.

However if you use a lot of retro hardware or software than this is a problem. Under UEFI, applications like FreeDOS will experience issues.

Usually Legacy BIOS along with the Compatibility Support Module (CSM) lets you get older components working in modern hardware. UEFI can be a problem when using an old boot-from-USB device. Most USB boot sticks are formatted as NTFS. UEFI needs a USB to be formatted to FAT32.

The list of potential problems are endless. I honestly won’t know all the effects of UEFI until I experiment with a desktop that does not have Bios. Stay tuned as updates on this particular issue will come later.

Emulation and third-party applications will play a larger role as support continues to drop.

If you were wanting to install older operating systems on newer hardware than you may experience issues. Windows 7’s compatibility with UEFI is a little iffy and any OS before it definitely won’t work.

Just another reason to have a machine for every OS you need.

Windows 7 will no longer be updated.

I wrote about this issue previously.

January 14 is the official end date for Windows 7. After that day the operating system will no longer receive security or feature updates. It’s already rare to see a Windows 7 machine in a major retailer, and soon you will only see Windows 10 machines.

Microsoft will support enterprises that still require the OS. Eventually it will be fully phased out and become just another footnote in computing history.

I personally know some users who will stick with 7 till the bitter end. I would not recommend this unless it’s for gaming. Even then I’d leave it off the network and install games via optical disk or USB.

Apple no longer supports 32-bit support with Catalina.

Towards the end of 2019 a new macOS called Catalina made gaming on Apple’s laptops and desktops difficult (more than it already is). If you are going to buy a new Mac this year it is definitely going to have Catalina. In classic Apple fashion, it is impossible to downgrade to Mojave.

Catalina will not recognize any application that is 32-bit. Some fairly modern games are 32-bit. Sid Meier’s Civilization V, Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, Bioshock 2, Dead Rising 2 and many more games are 32-bit only.

Gaming on a Mac was always a tough thing to achieve. Very few games have native Mac support. The lack of 32-bit support makes it near impossible to achieve now.

This doesn’t just affect gaming. Any 32-bit applications will not run on the latest Apple firmware.

Apple users! I included you for once!

There is probably more to come.

Could there be more changes? Of course. These are the four that stuck out to me the most. Are there any updates that have a negative effect on anything retro? Let me know at cdromfossil@gmail.com or in the comments of this post!

I may include updates to this post if anything new comes my way. Until then, embrace the change and prepare the workarounds.

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