Ever heard of a terminal emulator? Most people haven’t, but emulation software is something we all use quite a lot.
And by a lot, we’re talking every single day.
To be sure, you probably only use emulators indirectly. But you would be hard-pressed to manage your daily affairs without them. Here are three ways emulation software directly impacts your life:
1. Financial transactions
Got a bank account? There’s a good chance that bank you go to was an early adopter of technology. And a lot of early adopters started using what we now call “legacy” computer systems.
Decades ago, when these legacy systems came out, they weren’t legacy systems at all but the latest and greatest in business computing. Banks, insurance companies (who also sell a service you use every day, right?), and other financial institutions were quick to embrace these new computer systems that could help them store client information, process transactions, and perform a whole swath of other necessary tasks.
They signed on and locked in, which meant they were stuck with that great new system. Even after newer, better solutions eventually came along.
So, how could an established bank remain technologically competitive when newer banks were using more advanced computer systems? One way was to invest in terminal emulation software.
Instead of using clunky platforms that required a command line, emulators allow the banks to – you guessed it – “emulate” an old system within a newer, faster computing framework. Data may be stuck in the old system, sure. But bank personnel can still access that data and work with it fairly easily thanks to the emulator.
Government institutions and healthcare providers use emulators the same way, so the impact of emulation technology on your personal wellbeing doesn’t end at the ATM machine.
2. Your job
By now, you may be wondering whether terminal emulation is just a fancy way to describe how someone accesses a central computer to retrieve data.
And you’d be correct! That’s exactly what a terminal emulator does. If you’re also wondering whether that means you, assuming you work at a computer for much of the day, are somehow already using terminal emulation to complete routine tasks, well… you’d be two for two.
Many professionals who access document management apps connected to a local server, in-house proprietary software systems, and the like must go through an emulator to retrieve the data those applications were built to manage. Sometimes the emulator works in the background (i.e. you don’t specifically click an icon that says “emulator” to start looking at data), but it’s still there.
And if you’re in the habit of contacting your company’s IT people so they can pull something off the server for you, you can bet they’re using an emulator, too.
3. Mobile computing
So far, we’ve considered nothing more than terminal emulation software. But emulation itself is far more broad.
Just look at your smartphone. The apps you see were designed by enterprising folks who probably used an emulator at some point during the app’s creation.
Google, for example, has an emulator developers can use to test apps they’re building for Android (see image). The coder doesn’t even need to have an Android phone to design apps for the platform. He or she can “emulate” an Android environment on a desktop computer and perform all the testing there.
It’s different than what your bank is doing, but the idea is the same: accessing an otherwise inaccessible computing environment for some practical purpose.
Anyone who has a bank account, gets a checkup from the doctor, works from a cubicle, or owns a smartphone owes a lot to emulation software. If nothing else, our lives would be far less efficient without it.