Gadgets,  Lounge

Crazy things people do with IBM PC & DOS

When it comes to IBM PC & DOS operating system, there has always been a feeling of allure and nostalgia, even after four decades of so much advancement in the hardware and software.

BOGIN, JR. and Booting from a vinyl record
BOGIN, JR. and Booting from a vinyl record

Today, I read a news about a young engineer from Slovak, Mr Jozek Bogin, rigging up a gear to boot an IBM PC with a FreeDOS kernel running off from a [wait for it], vinyl record. He had made a custom ROM and then cutting a VINYL record with a bootable read-only RAM drive. The IBM PC on boot looks for a floppy first, then a hard-drive, and then falls back to a cassette-loader, and this is what he used. He hooked the record player to an audio amplifier, then to a cassette modem for achieving this feat. Check out the video below.

You can argue on what is the point of all this? I certainly see a value. These are researches which may throw up surprises, and serendipity can lead to new breakthroughs when old problems lead us to newer inventions. Also, there is nothing wrong with tinkering if it makes you happy, reading this news certainly made me happy.

MSDOS.NET - Unreal and for fun
MSDOS.NET – Unreal and for fun

About 20 years on-stage in a Microsoft event I spoofed for fun, an announcement of MSDOS.NET with an elaborate feature listing. Microsoft was not alone, in 2015 they released an app that reproduced MS-DOS and Windows 3.1, all running on a Windows Phone.

DOOM running in a browser at Internet Archive
DOOM running in a browser at Internet Archive

When it comes to running any MS-DOS app, especially games, I head to Internet Archive’s MS-DOS Software Library. They have most of the popular games from that era including Prince of Persia or Doom (1993) or Wolf, you can run any of them for free from your web browser (Chrome/Firefox/Edge) super easily. If you are wondering how MS-DOS games run inside browser, they have been possible thanks to phenomenal work by individuals from around the world out of their passion and all of them are open-source.

The first was DOSBox created originally by two dutch programmers two Dutch programmers Peter Veenstra and Sjoerd van der Berg. DOSBox is a full-system emulator that provides BIOS interrupts and DOS-like shell, enabling it to run most DOS games.

The second was em-DOSBox that compiles DOSBox to run in a web browser using Javascript and Web Assembly.

To make em-DOSBox possible there is another open-source project called emscripten that compiles C/C++  to WebAssembly using LLVM and Binaryen. Emscripten output can run on the Web, in Node.js, and in wasm runtimes.

There is another opensource project called FreeDOS that is equally important. While it is not connected to the above, it is a free and is compatible with most DOS apps and games. FreeDOS is created by Jim Hall around 1994.

Lastly, on the topic of DOS, I should be mentioning about DR-DOS. It is a proprietary operating system created by Digital Research and Gary A.Kildallthe creator of CP/M operating system from which QDOS (allegedly) got its inspiration, and QDOS was the one adapted by Microsoft for IBM as PC-DOS & then as MS-DOS. For many years, when I was using a PC-286 and PC-386 I found DR-DOS to be faster and capable than the MS-DOS v4.0 and v5.0.

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