MAME stands for Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. What it does is simulate the chips used in original arcade machines and then run the original game code which is extractedfrom the arcade machines ROM chips. This gives you a 100% exact reproduction of the arcade game complete with original graphics, sound and more importantly gameplay!
MAME was started back in 1997 by Nicola Salmoria supporting 3 games which were Lady Bug, Ms Pacman and Pengo. Now after 14 years of continual development Mame now supports over ten thousand games and new games are being added all the time. This could only have been achieved by contributions from dozens of programmers and thousands of hours development.
MAME supports hundreds of different arcade manufacturers including Sega, Capcom, Atari, Konami and Irem to name but a few. If you have had a console or even games computer like the Amiga or Atari, you will have probably played "arcade conversions". Now its your chance to play the real thing.
One of the good things is that you don't need a powerful machine to run it on. Most games will run on a low end Pentium PC (or equivalent) with Windows 9x up to Windows 7 (including 64bit versions), 256mb ram and 100mb plus of hard disk. However some of the newer games require a pretty good specification and a DirectX 8+ graphics card as they support 3D chips or use hard disk images. Even the fastest PC's available now won't play certain games at full speed.
MAME isn't a PC exclusive as it has been ported to other systems including Amiga, Macintosh, Linux, Unix and several palm tops. What I will do is cover the Windows versions of MAME and will try my best to make it easier to understand.
The ROM images are the largest part of MAME. These can be as small as 2kb or over 1GB! To download the whole set on a 512k connection would take weeks of solid downloading and would use over 150 gigabytes of hard disk space.
With all the diversity of games that MAME supports there are many thousands of hours of gameplay to be had. All categories of games are supported from "shoot-em-ups" to "wrestling".
If you're an arcade game fan or even if you've never visited an arcade, MAME has something for you!