DOS installation floppy disks and manuals — nostalgia, anyone? [Image]

pc_dos_7

I was too young to use it but I’m sure this image sweeps a wave of nostalgia over many of you.

[via Reddit]

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27 comments

  1. Merlin

    Actualy I still have my TI 99-4A.
    Those were the years of the BBC Acorn, VIC-20, ZX-spectrum and so on.

    I also used to program on an IBM system34 with those realy large fishtank like workstations. The programming language was RPG which had nothing to do with role playing games.

    My first hard drive in a PC clone was a ‘large’ 10 MB. :^D
    Quite small compared to todays 2 TB drives…

  2. AFPhy6

    [@Tenderfoot]

    Well, I suspect that there are others here who have memories like the following, but no one has shared it yet:

    Back even before the PC craze, but only a little before it, in 1972, I was key programmer on a Data General Nova machine. It must have had about 64kb of “core” (little iron magnetic donuts) memory, accessed tape drive for archive access and storage, and the main working storage was two hard drives with removable platters that were about 14 inches diameter, and weighed about 8 pounds, it seems. I believe they handled about 50Mb of data, but most importantly, in my mind, was that their first 512byte sector was written with the “bootloading” program for the operating system. That instructed the computer as to how to load the rest of the operating system.

    We tried to keep the computer on all the time, because if it lost power, that first sector had to be copied into the computer’s memory and run. There was no such thing as a non-volatile “BIOS” that has been present on all commercial PCs since the 80s, so… Core memory did “persistent” without power but for a reason I don’t recall right now, about twice a month, I had to recover from a total loss of that memory.

    The way that first sector, the bootloader, was read into memory after a power on, was entering a 40word(double-byte) “bootstrap” program into the computer’s memory via switches. There were about 20 switches on the front panel, 16 of which corresponded to directly setting each of the 16 bits in that word to 1(on) or 0(off). Another toggle switch was depressed to either select that particular memory location, or to “enter” that particular word as an instruction into the current address of memory. Fortunately there was a way to quickly increment to the next memory location, instead of setting the switches for each word to be entered.

    There was also a row of 16 little neon(? possibly LED) lights on the panel, that displayed each bit of that word, (and those blinkin’ lights were active while the computer was running) so you could verify each program location.

    It was a bit tedious, and entering and reading 40words of sixteen 1s and 0s could be fraught with error and required a lot of patience. Hex was a great innovation that I really appreciated when it became possible to enter machine language that way!

    Yep, those were the days… Using binary machine language to bootstrap the boot sector, and programming in assembly language… You really learn to appreciate exactly what a computer is doing. Sigh :^)

  3. Tenderfoot

    Wow, now I really feel old… I was custom building and installing clone PC’s with 4.77 Mhz and Turbo 8 Mhz CPU’s (Yes, that’s right, Mega-hertz) and installing “Seattle DOS” and later, “DR-DOS” with even more “Features”… ! (Before that we used CPM, but that is another life)

    The first Hard Drive I installed in a PC was a 5.25″ Full Height 5 Megabyte IBM Hard Drive which sold for a little over $20,000 dollars U.S. This one went to an attorney in Dallas… Yes, truly a sign of success back in the Mid 1980’s…

    Ahhh, yes, the good old days….. LOL :-)

    Now, where did I put that 4K RAM Chip….

  4. AT

    Those bring me back. How many of us can say they can write actual programs using just debug.com and edit.com? Batch files still serve me to this day. Getting 624k free of memory just because you can do it. Printing a text file with a redirection to LPT1. The 3 finger solution. The inside joke of “Press the ANY key to continue”.

    You had to be there.

  5. Uday Rege

    Actually I have used even older floppy disks the 51/4″ variety. I have also an 8 inch floppy which I have never used but found somewhere. In those days I worked with 8088/8086 processor, 640K RAM and a 20 MB hard disk. Yes the hard disk was 20 Megabytes not Gigabytes. Nostalgic memories.

  6. Tuiruru

    Forgot to mention – I have an old PC with an internal hard drive, and two removable hard drives in big chunky caddies, so that I can run Win 95, 98 and XP (but not simultaneously obviously) and it all still works!

  7. haakon

    Agree to all or most of the posts- DAMN
    I hate being THAT old :-))))
    What about building apps… visual basic and ALL the others..time gone
    Now I have even problems using a new cellphone :-(
    I AM too old!!!
    Win 31x..yes :-)
    Fun to see that MS TechNet still have MS Dos 6 and MS Dos 6.22 ready for free download :-)))

  8. sragan5

    It’s so coincidental that you should have written an article about DOS, floppys and nostalgia, today of all days! I just finished cleaning out a closet FULL of my old Win 386, Win 95 and 98 manuals and floppy disks. Talk about nostalgia. It nearly knocked me off my feet to see all of these relics of a very fun and interesting time. And I couldn’t help myself. I had to open my DOS manual and gaze at my old DOS and 3.1 disks. I still have my 386 which I start up occasionally, and my Win 98 computer still works like a champ, an old beloved friend that I can’t give up on. And, needless to say, I couldn’t throw anything out.

  9. AFPhy6

    [@Susanne]

    I enjoyed DOS 6.2 and was wise enough to wait for DOS 4.01 since 4.0 was buggy right out of the box: something having to do with accessing huge hard disk (Winchester) drives as I recall. DOS 4.0 had trouble if the partition got bigger than some amazingly large number I definitely did not need… something like 500MiB, I think…

    LOL

    [@Merlin]

    I have DOS 3.3 here. I got rid of DOS 2.1 disks when 3.3 arrive and was so much better.

  10. Ian

    I started with DOS 1.1, with a huge external QCS 16MB hard drive (which I still own, along with its dedicated card and ribbon cable). It had its own drivers for DOS, which at that time did not support hard drives at all, only floppy disks. Hard drive support arrived only with DOS 2.0.

    PC DOS 7 just seems so very recent, one can look back much further than that.

    I am still using Jim Button’s PC-File 5.0, an MS-DOS program, running it under Windows 7 in the command line window of Virtual XP where most (but not all) of its features still work.

    What’s amazing is the tiny amount of disk space required for programs and data – under 2.5MB for my entire music collection database, programs and indexes.

    Also I have Supersort, dating back to CP/M days, “updated” to run under MS-DOS. Great for sorting data; once I sorted a 1.5MB file with it which took the best part of an hour. So powerful, nothing like it seems to exist today.

    Those were the days …

  11. Tuiruru

    In a draw in my filing cabinet I’ve still got a version of MS$ Office comprising 36 (yes 36) 3.5″ Floppies. In those days you didn’t use the original disks for installations, you made backup disks first and used them. Trouble is I had to install it on a classroom set of 30 computers!! :(

    Oh! Just found the installation disks for DOS 5 and 6.2.

    The first OS I used was CPM (no hard drives at all then – well not on my world)

  12. Susanne

    Ahh, yes. Like so many here, I too miss the days of real manuals. I still have not only the disks & manuals for DOS 6 & Windows 3.11, but the 12 or so 5.25″ floppies (& multi-volume manual) for my old WordStar, the last, best wp ever made . True, I wouldn’t want to go back to DOS for everything, but for serious writing, there is nothing like the simplicity of WordStar.

  13. Susanne

    Ahh, yes. Like so many here, I too miss the days of real manuals. I still have not only the disks & manuals for DOS 6 & Windows 3.11, I the 12 or so 5.25″ floppies (& multi-volume manual) for my old WordStar, the last, best wp ever made . True, I wouldn’t want to go back to DOS for everything, but for serious writing, there is nothing like the simplicity of WordStar.

  14. JonE

    Ah yes, the good ole’ days. I have a DOS 7 manual, but don’t have a floppy; I don’t think.

    I used DOS extensively in the military in the late Eighties and early Nineties; I remember it well. I believe we were using DOS 4 and 5 then.

    And I remember the limited capability of the 286 computers we were using then too. I was developing some rather large database programs to track statistical data; when I got to a certain point I could go not further; the processor simply could not process all the data. I coveted a Math Co Processor in the worst way. Shortly after I left that duty station in early 1991 all the 286 computers were replaced with brand new 386 machines; each one with an integrated Math Co Processor.

    One of the guys I worked with who knew about my work was able to finish the work I started with the new 386 machine, and when I talked to him about it he said it didn’t really take that long to finish. Before those programs were completed it took days to crunch all the numbers for the statistical data needed. After he finished the program all that was needed was to input the numbers and press a button. Oh well, I didn’t do it for glory, I did it to make everyone’s job a bit easier and more efficient, but dang I didn’t even get an honorable mention. I imagine something like this has happened to many of you.

    Oh how old technology can date one . . . . . . .

  15. AFPhy6

    I am currently trying trying to convince XP to let me put my licensed copy of W98 on a new partition of my computer, but it is being recalcitrant since it is “an older version of Windows”. The main reason is just so I can get a good copy of MS-DOS the way it should be! Annoying to get this done… Hopefully by Friday…

  16. kevbo

    My 14 year old son is captivated by the older msdos, manuals, and floppies. Occasionally we’ll run into an old computer in someone’s basement and he’ll spend hours playing with them and reading the manuals.

    Geek.

  17. Kerry

    I miss those days cause like the previous post you actually got a paper manual rather then a dvd version. still have lotus office program in the box sealed yet, and even windows 95 manuals. Thats when microsoft wasn’t so cheap and actually cared about customer satisfaction. Also tons of 5.25 discs.