Running DOS programs that *aren't* games

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    While DOSBox was created to let users run old DOS games on things that aren’t DOS PCs, that’s not what I use it for. DOSBox is a specialized virtual machine implementing an Intel x86 CPU and a DOS kernel. I use it to run old DOS applications. My platform is a 7″ quad-core Android tablet, used in landscape mode with an external USB keyboard. A surprising number of things work fine.

    My first target was Eric Meyer’s VDE. VDE is a clone of the classic WordStar word processor that originated under CP/M on old 8bit micros like the Osborne, using Intel 8080 or Zilog Z-80 CPUs and having 64K of RAM. VDE began under CP/M, did what WordStar did, with WordStar key mapping, and was a single file instead of using overlays like WordStar did. Eric ported VDE to MISDO, and it was a popular shareware program in the 90’s. These days, it’s freeware.

    WordStar made extensive use of Ctrl-key combos for commands (like ^KS to Save your work. Magic DOSBox passed these through to the application, which made VDE usable. Other DOSBox ports to Android I looked at didn’t, so Magic Box is the program of choice.

    One major lack in stock DOSBox is the shell. The version of COMMAND.COM it implements is missing several features. For instance, I can’t do dir /s | more to get a page-able list of the directories and sub-directories where I keep the DOS programs on the tablet’s external card, because /s, |, and more aren’t implemented.

    Fortunately, I’m not stuck with what DOSBox provides. The FreeDOS Project open source COMMAND.COM clone runs fine under MAGIC DOSBox (and has features real MSDOS COMMAND.COM does not. The old 4DOS COMMAND.COM replacement also runs fine, and adds a large number of features to what COMMAND.COM offered. Both of these shells implement pipes, and you can use third party file viewers like LIST or a DOS port of Unix less to view piped output.

    Along with VDE, I currently have WordStar 7, Daniel Lawrence’s DOS version of MicroEMACS, Microsoft Word for DOS v5.5, the Thompson-Davis editor, and DOS versions of the old Adventure and Dungeon text based adventure games, and DOS ports of the character mode VMS Empire and Unix Larn games.

    Magic DOSBox also successfully loads and use the NNANSI ANSI driver, cwsdpmi to provide DOS Protected Mode Interface support, doslfn to provide long file name support, and the DOS4GW extender for programs that use expanded/extended memory.

    The most recent experiment has been successfully running the old HomeBase TSR, that provided a popup calendar, calculator, DOS shell, editor, Rolodex and other functions.

    I’m curious about whether anyone else using Magic DOSBox is using it to run applications rather than games, and what you’ve gotten to run.

    Al ex

    That’s pretty impressive. 🙂

    I certainly can’t keep up with your list, but if you consider emulators as apps instead of games, I can claim to have CCS64 up and running at full speed – making it my C64 emulator of choice on Android because of Magic Dosbox’s superior control scheme.

    I’ve also run several graphic demos successfully, the most popular probably Second Reality; and Windows 3.11 as well as Windows 95. The latter again for gaming (Diablo, Starcraft, etc), but of course it also runs MS Paint, Wordpad etc. nicely. So I’m pretty sure it would be easily possible to install and run Word or Excel.

    Oh yes, and Dr. Sbaitso. ?



    Thanks for sharing your experiences. Sometimes I communicate with people who run various old programs with mDosbox. You are right dosbox was made for games (like was many times told on vogons), but there is still community what want run their old programs on mobile device. I personally start sometimes Turbo Pascal on my tablet. But most interesting program what one man started was HiWIRE II (or something like that). I think it was old CAD program for designing PCB (A printed circuit board). Really interesting. Then of course old database programs are still top;) Here may be trouble with file locking, but I’ll fix that in the future.

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