Atomic flashback

I just experienced a few nostalgic hours, when I tried some of the programs I wrote 25 years ago.


Prelude


Recently, I ran across an ad offering personal computers shipping with FreeDos instead of Windows. I was suprised for the minute it took me to realize that FreeDos obviously was a placeholder, to be replaced by the buyer with the operating system of his choice.


I thought about the last time I booted a computer in dos mode; i could not really remember when, but the last time I used the dos-like command line interface of windows -- that was when I tried an emulator for a computer I used to have -- an Acorn Atom. The were a few video problems, as far as I remember, and suddenly I knew I had to try it again with a plain, real, dos environment.


Virtual DOS


Anybody remember Desqview? Before tools like these existed, you had to set up a seperate pc for every program you wanted to run simultaneously.


I have VirtualBox running on my Solaris based home pc. VirtualBox supports DOS as a guest operating system, so I did not have to set up a separate machine. I just had to download FreeDos -- that was just 8 MB in size! Setting up the virtual machine and installing FreeDos was a matter of under five minutes. How long did it take to set up MS DOS 5 from two 3.5" disks? An hour?


FreeDos comes with CD ROM drivers, doskey and editor preinstalled, so I could get right off mounting the .iso I created from the virtual Tape files I created during my last emulator sessions. The emulator I use is the Acorn Atom Emulator from Wouter Ras. It emulates the computer I did write my first BASIC programs on, the Acorn Atom. While it was a pretty basic system, with only 5K of RAM, limited graphics and almost no sound, it came with a comprehensive book, including an assembler tutorial. That was important to me, as there was no other material available in Germany for that computer (the maximum number of Acorn Atom users I knew of was three). I worked myself through this book, at first skipping the chapter on assembler because it was incomprehensible to me: When I started when I was just twelve years old. But my abilities and understanding grew with every page I read and every example I tried and re-tried, and I did not even give in when quite a few of my friends got C64s from 1983 on and played fast, colourful and noisy games that made the Atom look like a pocket calculator.


Atomic Star Trek


I had to do most of the games all by myself... Of course, Star Trek was one of them. This is a sample screen shot, with my ship ("+") being under attack by a fierce Klingon ship ("1").




It was making heavy use of the BASIC extensions the 4k SUPERBASIC extension ROM by PROGRAM POWER provided.  I remember it had to be activated using LINK 44800 or LINK #AF00...


In the end it's just...


a short trip every time I go back in time. It is nice remembering these days, but there is no way I would sit down in front of that 32x16 text mode display and doing a single line of code again.


These were just "the good old days", where I knew every zero page memory location by name....





Comments:

Dirk, how did you get the Atom emulator to work in FreeDOS?
I just installed default full install of FreeDOS, no changes at all. Copied over ATOM.ZIP, unzipped and ran ATOM.EXE. The display is complete garbage. Like it's in the wrong video mode or something. Totally unusable.

Any suggestions appreciated.

Posted by Mark Abene on June 15, 2009 at 05:43 PM CEST #

I've looked into this further, and it appears that vmware must have some graphics mode emulation issues. I tried the exact same virtual machine in VirtualBox, and it works perfectly!
Occupational hazard: DOS graphics + vmware = broken.

Posted by Mark Abene on June 15, 2009 at 11:32 PM CEST #

Post a Comment:
  • HTML Syntax: NOT allowed
About

Dirk Wriedt

Search

Categories
Archives
« April 2014
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
  
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
   
       
Today
Bookmarks
Software for Solaris
Favourite blogs
Dirks Bookmarks

No bookmarks in folder