August 26th, 2020

Hard Stare

Hints on running an IBM PC-XT in 2020. What would you say?

I tried to leave a helpful, constructive answer to this interesting blog post:

In case it helps, there are a few things that you could fix or improve on this machine. Please feel free to contact me if you would like more explanation.

> No HISTORY. You can repeat the last command by pressing the right-arrow.

This is incorrect. You say that you have IBM PC DOS 5. If so, this includes the DOSKEY command. This will give you a command-line history with editing. Just type `dos\doskey` to load it.

> For a starters, on IBM DOS (version 5.0) there is no $PATH.

There certainly should be! DOS has 2 configuration files, which live in the root directory of the boot drive (A: or C:). They are called [1] CONFIG.SYS and [2] AUTOEXEC.BAT. In the 2nd, there should be a line:
If you don't have them, email me and I can help you write some. I am easy to find on Google.

> Trying to exit QBASIC. Epic fail

That is *not* QBASIC; QBASIC has a GUI. You were in either BASICA or GWBASIC. The command to quit is `system`, if I remember correctly after 30 years.

> but there is no scrolling

Yes there is. Type `dir /p` for page-by-page. `dir /w` gives a wide listing. You can combine these: `dir /w /p`. You can also do `dir | more`.

> the monitor only is 25 lines.

This depends on the graphics card. If you have an MDA card, no, 25 lines is all. Try `mode con: lines=43` or `mode con: lines=50`. This will only work on a VGA-compatible card, though, and you will need ANSI.SYS installed, I think.

> wppreview, I totally miss the point of this program.

It is not part of DOS. Sounds like a WordPerfect preview program for use with mailmerge.

> I will have to remap my function key in i3, because I am currently using the windows key for this.

It is easy to remap CapsLock to be a “Windows” (Super) key. This is how I use my IBM Model M in Linux. I suggest `xmodmap`.

> Besides that, I found this great archive with manuals and bootdisks and even PC DOS 5.02.

If you are willing to change the DOS version, I suggest DR DOS 3.41. The reason is this: MS/PC DOS 5, 6 & later are designed for 386 memory management. This is impossible on an 8088 chip, and as a result, you will have very little free memory. Many DOS programs won’t work.

DR-DOS is a better 3rd party clone of DOS, by the company that wrote the original OS (CP/M) that MS-DOS was ripped-off from. The first version is 3.41 (before that it had different names) and it is far more memory-efficient.

But if you want to stay with an IBM original DOS, then IBM developed PC DOS all the way to version 7.1, which supports EIDE hard disks over 8GB, FAT32 and some other nice features. It is a free download.

I have described how to get it here:

PC DOS 7 is a bit strange; IBM removed Microsoft’s GUI editor and replaced it with an OS/2-derived one called E, which has a weird UI. IBM also removed GWBASIC and replaced it with the Rexx scripting language.

Personally, I combine bits of PC-DOS 7.1 with Microsoft’s editor, Microsoft’s diagnostics, Scandisk disk-repair tool and some other bits, but that is more than I can cover in a comment!

There is a lot you can do to upgrade a 5160 if you wish. Here is a crazy example:

I would not go that far, but a VGA card, VGA CRT, a serial mouse and an XTIDE card with a CF card in it, and it would be a lot easier to use…