Introducing the CAPS0ff Project


How you can help retrieve ROM data for classic video games.

It's no secret that I love classic video games. Fortunately, thanks to emulation, many of the classic arcade games still can be enjoyed and forever will be available via digital copies of the ROM chips. Sadly, some older systems have protection, making them impossible to dump into ROMs properly. If the chips can't be dumped, how will you ever get a digital copy of the ROM data? Well, the folks over at the CAPS0ff blog actually are disassembling the original chips and painstakingly transcribing the contents one bit at a time. They're literally looking at the chips and determining the 1s and 0s burned onto them.

Yes, there are a lot of chips. Yes, it takes a long time to copy the bits one by one. And yes, you can help. When a chip is stripped down literally to its bits (using various acid baths and so forth), it is scanned at high resolution. Then, pieces of the chips are put into a database, and people like you and me can transcribe the photos into 1s and 0s for the project!

This is a sample of the interface for identifying 1s and 0s on the scanned chips.

Having the underlying code doesn't automatically make your favorite non-dumpable games work in MAME or anything, but it's a crucial and difficult first step. It's also a fairly pricey step, because the chips need to be procured, and the chemicals need to be purchased. If you are passionate enough about preserving the old chips, you might consider donating money to the CAPS0ff project as well. There's a great one-time donation site on Indiegogo with an explanation of the project. And, if you want to support them continually, recurring donations are handled at Patreon.


Shawn is Associate Editor here at Linux Journal, and has been around Linux since the beginning. He has a passion for open source, and he loves to teach. He also drinks too much coffee, which often shows in his writing.