That particular computer passion known as retrocomputing requires to use ancient hardware components unable to support the most recent programs, but this doesn’t mean fans have to feel obliged to exclusively run software dating back to 10, 15 or even 20 years ago. On the contrary: the “scene” of the new releases designed to keep the retro hardware alive with recently produced code provides non-stop announcements - some of them stealing the spotlight, for a bit at least, next to the latest version of Windows 10 or Google Chrome.
After their well-deserved moment of glory which lasted from 1981 to 1995, command line-based operating systems for PC better known as “DOS” (Disk Operating System) should be extinct by now. And yet DOS, and particularly Microsoft’s MS-DOS and the open source projects directly inspired to it, still is a market niche populated by extremely peculiar usage scenarios, old users and enthusiasts that have no intention to quit the command line for good.
Before the arrival of Windows 95, the creators of self-replicating malicious code were deeply concerned about the potential consequences of the new OS on the future of their activity. After the historical generation leap from DOS to the windows-based GUI, however, virus writers gained new confidence in their abilities, expanding their horizons and developing inclinations that occasionally turned into true megalomania. Some of the VXers from the Nineties had the god complex, and they didn’t hide it at all.
In April 1994 computing was still young, operating systems worked from the command line and the PC still had to become the universal phenomenon which later turned into a commodity like everything else. Microsoft was about to radically change things by releasing Windows 95, but there was another group of technophiles concerned with the generation leap from the prompt to the windows-based GUI and the consequences that it would have had on how the low-level code ran.
One March many years ago, when the IT industry was rather different compared to the modern one, two computer viruses brought panic because of an out-of-scale media attention. Born out of a time when the “malware” (an unknown term then) creators were largely interested in fame more than money, the viruses ended up making substantial damages valued (in one of the two cases) more than 1 billion dollars.
The month of February 2014 marks the 32nd anniversary of the debut of the Intel 80286 CPU, a historical processor of changing fortunes which helped to build what would have later become the market domination of the x86 instruction set. As Computer Hope reminds, the 286 processor (also known as “iAPX 286″) was introduced on February 1st in 1982 bringing important technology innovations a bit too ahead of the times.
During the first days of April, anniversaries for two genuine pieces of the operating systems’ history took place, two different evolutionary lines of what should have been a single product born from the partnership between two giants of the PC industry. IBM OS/2 and Microsoft Windows 3.1 were initially destined to be merged in the graphical interface-based operating system by Big Blue, afterward history went in a different way and OS/2 sunk while the competing OS turned into the dominant platform on the market.
Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies and their noxious inclination to spoil the day for PC gamers are steadily at the focus of the gaming debate, and almost everyone takes for granted the fact that it’s a contemporary issue not concerning games of the past at all. Nothing more wrong: maybe some years ago (or many years ago) they were more trivially called “copy protection”, but DRM restrictions continue to do harm even among people that engage in the noble art of retrogaming or are interested to digital contents preservation.
Followers of the VOGONS board and DOSBox official forum are already aware of this: one of the forthcoming versions of the best PC-with-DOS emulator out there should include a very important architectural novelty, ie the software implementation of the historical Voodoo Graphics chipset created by 3dfx Interactive in the Nineties. “Kekko”, the programmer working on the project with the aid of the DOSBox crew and the coding-capable VOGONS users, says that his aim is the complete and faithful emulation of SST-1, the first Voodoo chipset marketed in 1996 inside the first 3D graphics accelerated cards on the PC.
Some technologies are really die hard, but they can be celebrated in due time when they finally become history. It happened by chance that the twenty-second day of May 2010 fell the anniversary of two fundamental tech products, considered as milestones within their field so much that there is a “before” and an “after” their appearance on the market. And both products have no need for introduction, being no less than the first “star” of the video games history and the first Windows version to be successful among the vast user base of “IBM and compatible” PCs.
During the past few days two important facts happened in the emulation world: DOSBox, the virtual machine that accurately replicates the PC world obsolete hardware has been updated with a new version release, while the Dreamcast emulator nullDC has found itself at a crossroad in its erratic history. Both cases concern software that are almost unique in their kind, and both the news are worth being told for the practical effects they have on the many fans using them.
Technology old fogeys can rejoice: even though they have lost the chance to obtain new Windows for Workgroups 3.11 licences by now, the almost-defunct operating systems and storage devices that persist in not wanting to fade away surely aren’t lacking. A recently surfaced couple of news actually highlights as even in information technology, probably the most rapidly evolving technology field, there are users niches that really don’t want (or can’t) abandon an outdated standard to adopt a more modern one.
As security experts have already highlighted in this months and years, the trend of the most sophisticated malicious code is to be able to reach the lowest levels of the machine to infect, putting out of the game all the security mechanisms and gaining full control of the PC and the operating system. This trend embraces more and more the term “bootkit”, literally a bootable rootkit, on which the attentions of researchers and Assembly code enthusiasts have recently focused uncovering new, potential threats with an ancient heart and dangerous security flaws sold as malware-proof security measures.
After the release of DOSBox version 0.73, I was asking myself why the emulation status page wasn’t updated yet and kept reporting the own features of version 0.72. Actually mine was a rhetoric question because I knew that sooner or later, as already happened in the past, the page would have been updated with the current status of the several subsystems of retrogamers PC/DOS preferred emulator.
On the occasion of SourceForge.net’s project of the month award granted to DOSBox, I asked the crew behind the best PC/DOS emulator out there to reply to some questions about the project. The developers were busy with the last works on the new version of the emulator, thus the interview was changed to include some DOSBox 0.73 related features and finally in the past days the crew was kind enough to send me back the replies I was seeking for. There is no Big Scoop (tm) here nor I was asking for one, but I hope the conversation is an interesting reading anyway.
Even though the last works on the code have been slowed down by some last hour bugs, around the end of May the DOSBox developers have kept their word by releasing the new version of the best PC/DOS emulator out there. After almost two years since the previous official main release, DOSBox 0.73 comes to improve the already remarkable compatibility level of PC retrogamers’ preferred virtual machine and introduces a lot of new stuff in practically every aspect of the emulation.
DOSBox, the emulator designed to run DOS games on modern operating systems (and not necessarily on a PC), has been chosen as project of the month for May 2009 on the open source platform SourceForge.net. It’s the latest award granted to a software that “simply does what it is supposed to do“, as the authors state, and that after having summed up more than 10 millions downloads is ready for an update awaited since almost two years.
UPDATE: on the DOSBox official homepage Qbix writes that, “after careful studying the statistics“, the date in which downloads summed up the 10 millions amount has been determined in July 21. Because of this the contest with the CD edition of Dune as a prize is still valid, and the winner selected “randomly” from the 4 people that guessed the date will be contacted shortly to receive it.
That’s an important goal achieved by “the x86 emulator with DOS“: DOSBox has passed over the crucial amount of 10 millions downloads, including all the supported platforms’ versions. As stated on the official forum hosted on VOGONS, the stats on SourceForge.net (the delivery platform that hosts the emulator) of the 17th of August have scored 10,025,792 downloads, and now DOSBox is the 43rd of the 50 most downloaded FOSS projects.
This time I’m not talking about old (and always attractive!) corpses of emulation like Model 2 Emulator and ePSXe, but about actively developed projects released in their corresponding updated versions during the last few days. Projects like MAME, the emulators Borg which assimilates and annihilates everything, like MESS, which would like to do the same with home machines emu and like Raine, small but combative emulator optimized for a limited number of systems.