Dioscuri is a computer hardware emulator, specifically designed to be used as part of a digital preservation strategy.


The project is sponsored by the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands, the Nationaal Archief of the Netherlands, Planets and KEEP.

Licensing and cost

The software is licensed under GNU GPL version 2.0 and is free to use.

Development activity

Dioscuri 0.7.0 was released in January 2011 after development within the KEEP project (which itself concluded in March 2012). There has been no development activity since.

Platform and interoperability

Dioscuri requires the Java Platform SE (Standard Edition) Runtime Environment, version 1.6 or higher. It can be ported to any computer platform that supports the Java Virtual Machine (JVM).

The software is distributed with the open source operating system FreeDOS.

Functional notes

Dioscuri is a Windows-capable x86 hardware emulator for 16-bit operating systems.  Users must supply the original software they wish to run.  It is unable to access physical storage devices, offering instead a virtual floppy drive and virtual hard disk; users must create a disk image from the original physical carrier for any files they wish to access.

As a digital preservation tool, Dioscuri aims to be both durable and flexible. For durability, it introduces an intermediate layer  - a Universal Virtual Machine (UVM) – between the emulator and the current platform the user is running, avoiding dependency on the underlying system.  For flexibility, the system is constructed using modular architecture; each hardware component is mimicked by a software equivalent called a module, which allows the user to recreate a wide range of configurations. Users configure the software through an XML-based configuration file, which can be altered either through a graphical user interface or directly in the file itself. The complete list of emulated components is available on the site.

Documentation and user support

Dioscuri offers a straightforward and helpful User Manual, as well as links to reference material and an FAQ. The SourceForge forum is not widely used; it was last active in August 2011. Similarly, the mailing list does not appear to be currently active.

Contact information is given for the active developers on the project, using the SourceForge domain.


The software uses a graphical user interface (GUI) for configuration and operation, but also offers command-line interface.

Expertise required

Dioscuri assumes that the user has deep knowledge of fundamental computer hardware concepts. Users must know the hardware and operating system requirements for each piece of software they wish to run on the emulator.

Standards compliance

Dioscuri uses an XML-based configuration file.

Influence and take-up

Dioscuri is widely adopted, with over 4,000 downloads reported on the SourceForge site.

Last reviewed: 
24 July, 2015