Technological Relics – Amateur Radio Software running on MS-DOS

One wonders will Amateur Radio face a hardware/software crunch as technology moves us further & further away from machines which natively run MS-DOS, the favorite operating system for many contesting programs?

(For those of us young enough to not have started on PCs using operating systems like CP/M and MS-DOS, MS-DOS pre-dates the Windows Family of operating systems, and last shipped in June of 1994 as a stand-alone operating system without a Windows component or overlay. Most current Windows operating system variants continue to off a MS-DOS “Window,” though from Windows-NT forward that window does not really run “MS-DOS,” but rather runs a Command Line Interpreter that acts “like MS-DOS.”)

MS-DOS Obituary

How long will new machines offer MS-DOS emulation? In Windows Vista Microsoft has replaced the expected CLI cmd.exe that looked like MS-DOS with Windows PE 2.0 to replace the main legacy role of MS-DOS-like CLI, that was to aid in installing Windows itself. It has been reported that Vista SP2 onwards will lack any backward compatibility for the MS-DOS-like range or programs.

How many new machines are lacking the LPT (Line Port – or Parallel Port in more common usage) needed to work the CW keying of many Contesting Packages? This hardware change alone has great impact.

I should mention I liked working in MS-DOS – the structure was simple and commands forthright – but alas MS-DOS is less able to deal with the world outside of it’s own box (like the internet) than newer operating systems. And many users are not happy to face a C:\> prompt in an otherwise blank screen!

There are some work arounds to the changes in hardware & software = some ways to do MS-DOS in a modern world.

DosBOX (see http://dosbox.sourceforge.net/ ) is a project that will let you run MS-DOS Windows (Boxes) in Windows XP and Windows Vista. Of course this brings all the unreliability of Windows as well as the complexities of Virtual Machine Emulation into the play. In other words you have to make Windows Vista even more complicated than it naturally is to give your machine a separate workspace to sort of run a MS-DOS program!

You can do the same hardware-wise and use a USB to Centronics conversion cable. Again it is a complex way to simulate a simple old-style computer standard.

Or will programs be updated to meet the challenges of current hardware & software?

Or will we see released a retro-PC and retro-laptop designed around Contesting with MS-DOS software?

Professionally we’ve just reinvested to replace a satisfactory proprietary software package running under MS-DOS 6.22 on old x486 machines with the latest GUI (Graphical User Interface) version which now has a lot of gee-whiz visuals & a lot of curb appeal visually, but after all is said an done really doesn’t do anything seriously different than the old system.

I’m wondering at what time will we have to do the same in Amateur Radio?

73

Steve
K9ZW

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