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Prior to the creation of this emulator, the enormous diversity of the hardware of the arcade machines made the emulation of their games a very complex and untidy task.

To facilitate the emulation of the recreational machines, Nicola Salmona created MAME by merging several emulators he had been working on. It based its structure on a modular architecture, in which each component of the hardware was emulated by a specific driver, in such a way that for the emulation of a machine, it is enough to give the information of what components it has, and how they relate.

The goal of the development of MAME is to contribute to the conservation of games that, otherwise, disappear forever by disappearing the machines that contained them, contributing to preserve the history of video games.

The development of the MAME project has been hampered in these years by different factors:

The difficulty of accessing the plates (hardware) of the original arcades, to study them and to extract the ROMs (copy of the software of the machine, which contains the game itself).
The encryption used internally by many recreational, as a means to avoid piracy.
Possible legal problems that might occur if too recent, even commercialized, games are emulated.