It’s no secret that the Raspberry Pi can emulate a number of devices, and the Raspberry Pi Pico is no exception. In his latest project, Eric Badger demonstrates the Pico’s ability to emulate a 6502 computer and shows a side-by-side comparison of the Pico running next to an Apple II computer.
According to the video description, Badger developed this homebrew emulator and ported a copy of Apple II’s Loderunner to test it out. If you’re unfamiliar with the classic title, Loderunner is a 2D puzzle game that first debuted in 1983. Its basic system requirements make it a fun choice for testing the limits of his Pico-powered 6502 emulator.
The original 6502 is an 8-bit microprocessor developed by a team that used to work for Motorola on the 6800. There are similarities between the two, and the 6502 is a more straightforward take on the 6800 processor. Overall, the Pico is more than capable of emulating the 6502 as it’s a 32-bit microprocessor, but you can find plenty of RP2040 boards that would be fun to implement for a project like this.
Badger explains that the emulator runs solely on the Raspberry Pi Pico and also supports a handful of accessories. Users can connect a PS2 keyboard or even an Atari joystick for input devices. Video output is possible using a VGA port. This essentially turns the Pico into a full-fledged computing system with both input and output capabilities.
This project was inspired by Ben Eater’s work on 6502 emulation. Eater provides 6502 kits that can be purchased on his website, but Badger has proven the project can be tackled using a simple Pico microcontroller.
If you want to get a closer look at this Raspberry Pi project, check out the demonstration video Eric Badger shared on YouTube to see it in action. This video shows not only the 6502 emulator but compares it to an original Apple II running the same application, so you can see how well the Pico operates compared to vintage hardware.