MAME stands for Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. When used in conjunction
with an arcade game's data files (ROMs), MAME will more or less faithfully
reproduce that game on a PC.
The ROM images that MAME utilizes are "dumped" from arcade games' original
circuit-board ROM chips. MAME becomes the "hardware" for the games, taking
the place of their original CPUs and support chips. Therefore, these games
are NOT simulations, but the actual, original games that appeared in arcades.
MAME's purpose is to preserve these decades of video-game history. As gaming
technology continues to rush forward, MAME prevents these important "vintage"
games from being lost and forgotten. This is achieved by documenting the
hardware and how it functions, thanks to the talent of programmers from the
MAME team and from other contributors. Being able to play the games is just
a nice side-effect, which doesn't happen all the time. MAME strives for
emulating the games faithfully.
See also: mame-tools.