640k? 640k should be enough for anybody!
February 28, 2005 1:02 AM   Subscribe

DOSBox is an open source project dedicated towards emulating DOS and many of the features of computers during DOS's heyday. It's not the only DOS emulation project out there either.

When emulation has been discussed before, it has often been considered the domain of video games. Of course, who says it isn't?
posted by Saydur (21 comments total)
Obviously, you've never tried to use obsolete DOS programs that simulate and assemble code for a Motorola 68K on an OS X Powerbook for your Electrical Engineering class...
posted by onalark at 1:12 AM on February 28, 2005

Why not skip emulation and just run FreeDOS?
posted by Calast at 1:22 AM on February 28, 2005

Ooh, nifty. Still, I think being able to run DOS in a window has some benefits. All in all, I'm fascinated with the ideas of emulation and just how impressively well it can be done, considering the changes and limitations of today.

Thanks for pointing that one out though, it looks like a pretty interesting project as well.
posted by Saydur at 1:36 AM on February 28, 2005

Calast, the big things that DOSBox emulates aren't just DOS, it's actually the sound and game hardware of that era, as well. You get the old sound cards, like the Gravis UltraSound (How I miss thee), the Soundblaster 16 or SoundBlaster Pro, AdLib FM synthesis, or Disney Sound Source, all emulated in software. You also get IPX/SPX networking support, COM port support, CD-ROM and Floppy I/O, mouse support and cool video filters.

Also, simply because of the emulation, you get a nice side effect: the original speed of the games. The emulation overhead slows modern day rocket PC's to the humble slug like speed of the 386SX/16.

Much of the time, playing old early 90's games works flawlessly in DOSBox, and is very enjoyable.

FreeDOS, on the otherhand, doesn't emulate this hardware- you get what you have installed in your system. That's the major difference.

I <3 DOSBox.
posted by id at 2:11 AM on February 28, 2005

Very well put together post, Saydur. It might be fun on a lark, but I would have no interest in brining DOS back to the forefront. For nevlty's sake, maybe, but what are you going to run on it that won't run on a Linux box?

Windows users, let's not pretend DOS is gone, ayeeet? Windows users are sucking DOS all day, Doesn't matter what number-covered condom they want to put on it. Bill's brainfart 3000 XD is running on DOS.

I kid the Windows people because I love them.
posted by squirrel at 2:15 AM on February 28, 2005

I think the ironic thing is, that dosbox isn't just great for linux users who want to run outdated DOS business software (there's much more of this than you think) - its great for windows users who want to run outdated DOS business software.

There are lots of people out there using DOSBox to run DOS, on windows. It just works better than doing it natively.

Not to mention, there are lots of games that don't work with the largely modified and emulated DOS support under windows XP / windows 2003.
posted by Jerub at 2:36 AM on February 28, 2005

I use DOSBox to run Masters of Orion and Transport Tycoon Deluxe.
posted by PenDevil at 3:57 AM on February 28, 2005

I like Dosbox for "Pirates! Gold" and the Epyx version of "Rogue". I have it installed on a pc and a linux laptop.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:46 AM on February 28, 2005

Calast, the big things that DOSBox emulates aren't just DOS, it's actually the sound and game hardware of that era, as well. You get the old sound cards, like the Gravis UltraSound (How I miss thee), the Soundblaster 16 or SoundBlaster Pro, AdLib FM synthesis, or Disney Sound Source, all emulated in software.

Thanks id, I didn't realise that. I'm much more inclined to give it a thorough examination now.
posted by nthdegx at 5:06 AM on February 28, 2005

All of which makes this a good time to mention Abandonia, "home of abandonware DOS games".
posted by nthdegx at 5:09 AM on February 28, 2005

Dude. You people have just killed any free time I ever thought I'd have.

I was adicted to the old wizardry series of games. And not they are apparently abandonware.

Of course, I thought I was safe from harm since I'm using a Mac running OS X, so you know, I was "restricted" from being able to run those old games, if I could ever find them.

And now this.
DOSBox has been running on my machine for the past week. Constantly.

I've almost beaten Wizardry 6, Bane of the Cosmic Forge. It's taken me only half the time it took when I was using a 386. In 1992.

So long world. Time for me to go kill some vampires.
posted by daq at 7:28 AM on February 28, 2005

For many programs this isn't necessary.

I run lots of old DOS software at work, and as long as they don't access the parallel port, they usually run fine under CMD.exe in W2K. Serial port access will usually work, too. Many of these programs are custom Turbo/Borland Pascal programs. Others were compiled with DJGPP. None of these programs do any graphics beyond curses, though. Turbo needs a patch to run on anything faster than a Pentium.
posted by rfs at 7:28 AM on February 28, 2005

I use DOSBox to play X-Com (actually, X-Com Terror from the Deep, the sequel) on my Gentoo Linux box. Works great. It even lets you adjust the amount of processor power that it gets, so that you can give programs an hardware environment more similar to what they were expecting, which can be be helpful in giving games normal timing (I have it cranked up to 50x the default in X-Com, in the hope of reducing the duration of the annoying moments when you wait for the computer to move, but it seems to do nothing. The game developers actually dragged that out to tease you.)

I tried DOSEmu, but had a much easier time getting DOSBox to work.
posted by gsteff at 8:06 AM on February 28, 2005

While on this topic anyone on mefi know how to run Mechwarrior 2 on new hardware? (I mean through emulation)
posted by vagus at 9:35 AM on February 28, 2005

Master of Magic is still just as addictive now as it was in the mid-90s.
posted by gurple at 10:26 AM on February 28, 2005

DOSBox rocks.

I can finally play my beloved "Red Storm Rising" again. Watch out, evil Soviet submariners...
posted by BobFrapples at 11:42 AM on February 28, 2005

Master of Magic is the reason I still have a dedicated DOS PC, although I will be converting to DOSbox since my KVM is all flaky now.

Mayor Curley, I remember that Epyx game, but not the title. Was it Temple of Apshai? I remember it from the C64, is there a DOS version too?
posted by WinnipegDragon at 11:50 AM on February 28, 2005

Note that XP has quite good built-in emulation that will let you run many games of this era as well. However, oddly enough, it doesn't work well on AMD processors.

For whatever reason, AMD processors don't seem to support expanded memory in DOS emulation. Windows just quietly doesn't allocate any.... no error message, no warning, it just doesn't work. It will only work properly on Intel chips. I assume this is a hardware problem.

One of my favorite games, 1830, is much better under the native XP emulation, because it runs about 50 times faster. 1830 was very, very slow on machines of its day. Its AI is quite good, but takes FOREVER. Late-game moves under DOSBox are agonizing. Under native XP emulation, they're quite playable.

If you have an Intel chip and you want to run old DOS games, it's quite doable. You have to muck around with your CONFIG.NT and AUTOEXEC.NT files (just like real dos!). Most notably, you have to add an EMM=RAM command to the CONFIG.NT file to enable expanded memory. In exchange, the games run at blazing speed, and you get Soundblaster support and everything. (you may have to uncomment something for the SB emulation, and I think it's only SB version 1... but it IS there.)

DOSBox is best for when you don't want the game to run too fast.. many games of that era didn't do proper speed limiting, and they are unplayably fast under the native emulation mode. And for the person who mentioned FreeDOS... keep in mind that DOSBox comes with that! It's very good for running old games... lots of built-in commands and takes very little conventional memory. You can run practically anything on DOSBox/FreeDOS... as long as you're willing to take the speed hit. The default speed is incredibly slow, you'll want to raise the CPU cycles parameter. I have mine set at 10,000.... I don't know how that compares to a a 'real' 386, but it runs everything I've tried pretty well. As I recall, this eats about 40% of my real CPU time.

If you have an Audigy and a lot of memory, you may want a seriously kickass SoundFont called SGM180. It takes 180 megs! And it takes some tweaking with your EAX settings to really sound right. But it is absolutely splendid, a toe-tingling soundfont. If you have old MIDI games, this will let you hear them in their full glory, better than the programmers of the day could have imagined. This will work both with DOSBox and the XP native emulation. Master of Magic sounds AMAZING this way.

Finally, an aside, to squirrel: XP is not running on DOS. All the 9X series was, but NT, 2K, and XP have entirely replaced DOS. They emulate it, but they aren't based on it, not even a little.
posted by Malor at 3:13 PM on February 28, 2005

Two great technologies that go even better together:

DOSBox and X window forwarding

That is to say, I can play Master of Magic from anywhere in the world, on pretty much any computer. Boo-yah!
posted by breath at 3:23 PM on February 28, 2005

this thread got me playing Liero again. i don't know if that's good or bad. But dosbox plays it well.
posted by Calast at 2:47 AM on March 1, 2005

Looks like this thread is a DOSBox fan thread. I use it to. You can't beat the emulation for old games. I LOVE IT!
posted by tomplus2 at 9:44 AM on March 1, 2005

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