How FreeDOS Grew Up and Became a Standard DOS (2021)

How FreeDOS Grew Up and Became a Standard DOS (2021)


| 6 min read

playing DOS games on freeDOS

I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, and that intended I grew up with pc systems. Our first home pc was once an Apple II, and my brother and I taught ourselves about BASIC programming on the Apple. I wrote various video games and math puzzles, as a consequence of that’s truly the limit of AppleSoft BASIC programming.

Later, our family changed the Apple with an IBM PC, and I was once furious to capture a notion at the novel DOS expose line. DOS supplied its have BASIC, nonetheless also a host of instruments. Effectively, in those days “host” intended about twenty utilities, mostly to work with floppy disks and data. it wasn’t until MS-DOS 5 that I felt DOS had changed into truly “contemporary.” This model, launched in 1991, changed the musty Edlin “line editor” with a rotund-show interactive editor. It also included a truly novel QBASIC programming environment and an incredibly gracious DOS Shell that supported project-switching, a precursor to upright multitasking.

And it was once on this novel machine that I realized learn the technique to program in C and rather various languages. With this novel data, I wrote my have utilities to present a take to the DOS expose line, in most cases creating solely novel versions of reward DOS utilities with additional aspects and performance. I felt like a upright DOS “energy user” and I felt very happy at the expose line. I did powerful of my work on the expose line, with my have instruments to back watch over my directories and process data, nonetheless relying on my well-liked DOS capabilities to write papers for sophistication, or play video games when I needed to mute down.

In 1993, I realized about Linux and regarded as this as my subsequent “step up” from DOS. I installed an early Linux distribution on my puny PC at home, nonetheless I couldn’t discontinue away with DOS solely. Linux didn’t enjoy many capabilities in those early days, so I’d gradually reboot into DOS to exhaust my note processor or spreadsheet. I cherished DOS, and relied on it.

So that it is possible you’ll perchance take into consideration I was once a tad upset to learn in 1994 that Microsoft planned to “discontinue away” with MS-DOS the following one year. Essentially based on interviews in tech magazines, Microsoft’s subsequent Windows model wouldn’t want MS-DOS, and DOS would effectively changed into a “pointless” working machine. All americans had to upgrade to Windows.

I’d damaged-down Windows by this point, and I wasn’t a fan. Whenever you happen to be acutely aware Windows 3 at the time, you trace it wasn’t a gigantic ride. I thought Windows was once sluggish and unreliable. When a Windows utility ran into considerations, that one utility could perchance capture down all of Windows. And I thought, “If Windows 4 will be anything like Windows 3, I desire nothing to discontinue with that.” So I determined to stay with Linux and DOS.

However if Microsoft was once getting out of the DOS sport, how could perchance I back running DOS?

I determined that if we had been going to retain DOS around, we had to trust our have. I asked around on Usenet, the forums or “message boards” of the day, and asked if someone was once working on their very have DOS. The acknowledge was once “no,” nonetheless folks thought it was once an enticing belief.

A few months later, on June 29, 1994, I made this announcement on comp.os.msdos.apps:

Asserting the main effort to gain a PD-DOS. I even enjoy written up a “manifest” describing the targets of this kind of project and a top level notion of the work, moreover to a “project checklist” that presentations exactly what desires to be written. I’ll put up those here, and let dialogue note.

I called it “PD-DOS” as a consequence of I needed to create a DOS that was once free for each person to exhaust, and I thought that intended “public arena.” However it didn’t capture long to trace the variation between public arena and “Free scheme,” so we changed the name to Free-DOS after a few weeks. We later dropped the hyphen to changed into FreeDOS.

I’ll assign you the indispensable parts on the history of FreeDOS, except to tell that we had a truly frequent liberate cycle, and we added a ton of novel utilities to DOS. We divided FreeDOS into “groups” – the “Execrable” neighborhood changed the core aspects from MS-DOS, and rather various groups supplied editors, drivers, and building instruments. And every thing was once originate source. To illustrate, the “Lang” neighborhood included the MicroC Compiler and Val Linker so FreeDOS builders could perchance bring together C capabilities. You have to perchance well’t enjoy an originate-source DOS if builders don’t enjoy originate-source instruments to form more of FreeDOS.

It took us a truly long time ahead of we felt happy releasing a model of FreeDOS that was once “entire” sufficient to invent the “1.0” label. FreeDOS 1.0 at closing regarded in September 2006. Pattern slowed after that, mostly as a consequence of DOS stopped being a fascinating target in 1995 when Microsoft launched Windows 95 and stopped making novel versions of MS-DOS. It took but every other six years ahead of we launched FreeDOS 1.1 in January 2012, and 4 years after that for FreeDOS 1.2 in December 2016. Every liberate added novel aspects, alongside side novel drivers for contemporary hardware, updated scheme, and novel instruments.

FreeDOS as a Standard DOS

We’re working on the following model of FreeDOS, and we launched FreeDOS 1.3 Release Candidate 4 in April 2021. We’re truly pleased with this novel model, namely the “Dwell CD” mode that lets in you to flee FreeDOS from the CD, while not having to install anything to a onerous drive.

Booting the FreeDOS LiveCD
Booting the FreeDOS LiveCD

Whenever you happen to don’t are looking to flee FreeDOS from the LiveCD, you may also install it to your onerous drive. We updated the installer in FreeDOS so it detects all forms of prerequisites and takes the counseled action, like creating a brand novel disk partition for FreeDOS if none exist already.

Older FreeDOS distributions damaged-down to instructed you for every thing, even deciding on particular particular person capabilities to install. The novel installer is amazingly streamlined. It asks you a few inquiries to gain began, then does every thing else on its have. Installing FreeDOS on an empty digital machine takes top a rapid time.

Installing FreeDOS 1.3 RC4
Installing FreeDOS 1.3 RC4

It’s big that you can customize your FreeDOS installation. DOS was once by no methodology a mammoth working machine, nonetheless FreeDOS involves various optional scheme in the distribution. To assign space, originate up by installing a naked minimal machine, then exhaust the FDIMPLES kit supervisor to install the additional capabilities you are looking to exhaust. Don’t disregard that FreeDOS 1.3 RC4 also involves a “Bonus” CD rotund of additional capabilities that you furthermore mght could perchance earn sharp.

Installing FreeDOS programs with FDIMPLES
Installing FreeDOS capabilities with FDIMPLES

FreeDOS 1.3 RC4 also involves a unfold of Linux and Unix instruments. Whenever you happen to’re a Linux user, you must truly feel splendid at home with commands like cal, du, grep, sed, less, head, tr, tee, and even a model of Unix nroff called NRO. One of my well-liked Unix utilities on FreeDOS is the Freemacs editor, an editor that’s very comparable to GNU Emacs from Linux.

Freemacs programmer's editor on FreeDOS
Freemacs programmer’s editor on FreeDOS

Whenever you happen to don’t like Freemacs or the fashioned DOS Edit text editors, you can capture from over a dozen editors to swimsuit your vogue. More no longer too long previously, I’ve switched to FED, a folding editor that “folds” blocks of code so you can take a look at out more of your program on one show. FED also provides color to your code listings, so key phrases, feedback, numbers, and rather various program aspects stand out to back you assign bugs ahead of you bring together.

FED folding editor on FreeDOS
FED folding editor on FreeDOS (displaying folded capabilities)

In picture for you to write your have capabilities, we even enjoy several compilers and assemblers. A as much as date addition is an IA-16 model of GCC. This requires a 32-bit CPU to bring together, nonetheless the capabilities it creates can flee on any 16-bit machine. We also provide the 32-bit DJGPP C compiler, that are more just like the GCC that you’re damaged-down to from Linux. For most of my programming, I capture the OpenWatcom C Compiler.

Compiling a program on FreeDOS
Compiling a program on FreeDOS

However most of us exhaust FreeDOS to play video games. And that’s chilly, we even embrace a few of our have. Whenever you happen to’re into arcade-vogue shooters, cruise missions in WING or Kraptor. For classic video games to raze time, are attempting Nibbles or Tetris. And FreeDOS has a bunch of assorted fun video games from a unfold of genres; earn the one you like.

Playing Kraptor on FreeDOS
Playing Kraptor on FreeDOS

You have to perchance earn the novel FreeDOS 1.3 RC4 from the FreeDOS web situation, on our Downloads page. To put in FreeDOS, you’ll want no no longer as much as 20MB of free disk space: 20MB to install a horrible FreeDOS machine, and 250MB to install every thing, alongside side capabilities and video games. To put in the source code too, you’ll want as much as 450MB of free space.

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“Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

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