back to article User asked why CTRL-ALT-DEL restarted PC instead of opening apps

Welcome again to On-Call, The Register’s Friday foray into readers’ recollections of tech support jobs that went janky. This week, meet “Miles” who told us that “back in the 90's I was supporting a DOS-based machine control application that was installed around the world.” “To give us remote access we had pcAnywhere installed …

Feeling Old...

For not needing an explanation of TSR!

173
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

Have an upvote from me...also feeling old.

Remember wrangling with the order things loaded in autoexec.bat and config.sys too, just to be able to get a game or program to run properly. And I used to think that kind of thing was fun!

Oh and at the early end of my career, one of my prized possessions was an A4 ring bind folder with jumper settings for most IDE HDD's, that gave the correct combination for primary and slave...that folder was gold dust.

110
0

Re: Feeling Old...

Both have an upvote for making me remember token ring networking, and using IPX/SPX to set up a Doom session.

68
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

Remember wrangling with the order things loaded in autoexec.bat and config.sys too, just to be able to get a game or program to run properly.

Worst one I saw was DOS 5 + Falcon 3 + Gravis Ultrasound. Kids these days will never understand the trauma of trying to get 600k of base memory.

(The Gravis was a really nice card. A friend had it. I saw the pain he had to go through and bought a Soundblaster instead.)

65
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

I seem to recall reading how Doom had crashed WAN links back in the day, as every bullet from the minigun was a data packet

35
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

Indeed, I remember having two or three different boot floppies around for certain different games. I still remember today that Dune 2 needed 604k of free conventional memory in order to run. DOS 6 then came along and made the process a lot easier by including "memmaker" that could automatically load as much as possible into high memory for you.

40
0
Silver badge
WTF?

Re: Feeling Old...

Kids these days don't understand that we used to have to buy a card specifically to get sound out of a computer, then configure each application for it.

Those cards were about 4x the size of a Raspberry Pi. And about 4x the cost.

Damn I feel old too.

82
0

Re: Feeling Old...

Oh the joys of fiddling and then discovering it was actually possible to have > 640k base memory! Can't for the life of me remember what was needed, I think things loaded in config.sys needed to be somewhat compliant so they didn't start eating up memory at 640k. Fun fun fun

15
0
Silver badge
Go

Re: Feeling Old...

"DOS 6 then came along and made the process a lot easier by including "memmaker" that could automatically load as much as possible into high memory for you."

Those of us in the know had used QEMM for many years before Memmaker came to be, and even afterwards QEMM was much more efficient in maximizing the available memory.

What I really hated was Origin and their stupid own memory managers starting with Ultima 7 which refused to work with QEMM, HIMEM.SYS and others.

42
0

Re: Feeling Old...

I worked around that with a lot of batch file programming and a dozen or so different versions of CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT that were swapped in and out depending on what it was I wanted to do. Games had their own copies, but there was also a set to back up the PC to my DittomaxPro and then reboot back into the default setup.

Good days...

16
0

> 640k base memory

I had a 64k card I could map to the address space directly above the 640k and a .com executable ran on startup changing the top memory address to 704k. The same machine also had a NEC V20 replacing the Intel 8088.

14
0

Re: Feeling Old...

I used to manually edit Config.sys and Autoexec bat to push free RAM to more than 600KB so that AutoCAD would run...

On DOS5.0 with MS LAN MAN and NETBEUI loaded.

Then we added Wollogong Pathway TCP/IP(took 40KB)

On DOS 6.0 it got easier, and I often got it to 639KB.

The CADders worshipped me.

16
0

Re: Feeling Old...

I'm getting the impression that the whole development of personal computing was driven by the desire to play games?

57
0
Cab

Re: > 640k base memory

Ah the memory allocation table layout, knowing where Windows 3 loaded the CGA driver in memory so you could overwrite them with something else because you were posh and had a VGA card, those where the days.

At Uni though I had an Amiga and a hardware PC emulator, (an actual board with a 286 on it, you lifted out the Amiga's 68000 chip, stuck it on this board with the 286 and plugged it back into the CPU socket) but this had the fantastic feature that when you booted it into PC mode you could have access to the Amiga's entire 1MB of Ram in DOS, the luxury. Only ever used it for Turbo Pascal and Dbase IV obviously because the games were better on the Amiga side.

15
0
Trollface

Re: Feeling Old...

Kids these days don't understand that we used to have to buy a card specifically to get sound out of a computer

To be fair, having grown up using a Commodore16 then eventually an Amiga, on encountering an "IBM Compatible" for the first time, I didn't understand that either; "What do you mean, it can only go beep?"

43
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

Kids these days don't understand that we used to have to buy a card specifically to get sound out of a computer,

And a card to connect the networking!

Who remembers the joys of setting jumpers on a 3Com Etherlink card to get the IRQ and base address set correctly.

49
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

and using IPX/SPX

Had to upgrade a bunch of JetDirect cards on a TCP/IP network, LJ4 era. Version was supposed to get upped to 5.something. Cards at 4.low had to do a two-step via 4.high before 5.something could take hold. Then half a dozen or so units turned up that still had 3.medium, and no 4.intermediate version managed to stick. No errors, upgrade appeared to go OK, but on restarting the version still showed 3.whatever. Until, for some obscure reason, and one which I apparently had good reason to forget, I tried IPX. Which wasn't in use anywhere on that network. IPX would allow 4.verylow to be installed for real, then via 4.medium and 4.high to 5.something via TCP/IP. Only two of that bunch of cards failed to upgrade because of lack of memory.

5
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Feeling Old... For not needing an explanation of TSR!

Tactical Studies Rules, wasn't it? I always preferred 2nd edition D&D, myself, but that's just because its what I started off with.

17
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

> For not needing an explanation of TSR!

My Sidekick agrees too....

37
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

"What I really hated was Origin and their stupid own memory managers starting with Ultima 7 which refused to work with QEMM, HIMEM.SYS and others".

Origin always liked to push the hardware harder than everyone else - I still remember my local computer shop forcing anyone who wanted to buy Wing Commander II to rattle off their system specs before he would sell it to them, because so many folks returned it complaining it wouldn't run at any decent speed on a 286.

"Yeah, you can have it - Man, I'd kill for a 386DX-33 and 2Mb of RAM !"

Ah, how times change...

20
0
Bronze badge

Re: Feeling Old...

Ah the old boot disks for that game that, despite having an early-mid 90s adequate amount of 12mb RAM needed that extra 5k of base 640k.

Then realising that a menu driven autoexec.bat/config.sys would allow to do away with boot disks.

11
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

You can have >640K of base memory by including memory that might otherwise be used by the graphics adapter, if you know the video mode will not be used. I tried it once and it 'worked' but was incredibly slow. Can't remember the setting in DOS off the top of my head (probably an EMM386 switch), it's also an easily ticked box in OS/2 DOS boxes.

The record of jumper settings was vital - I had to get a new vesa local bus (horrid bus, my least favourite) I/O card recently as I'd lost the jumper settings for the original one, there were no identifiable markings on the card, and no-one online knew either (eventually I found a photocopy of the page..)

The Gravis Ultrasound wasn't really that decent a card, other than being essential for sound in a small but select number of demoscene demos. Too many different types, didn't support Adlib/OPL, and game compatibility was hit and miss.

The good news is that the advent of the FreeDOS project has spawned a load of highly efficient support utilities, such as memory managers, mouse drivers, and networking/packet drivers. It's only the work of one evening to construct a DOS system capable of running anything you'd want. FTP with a packet driver is a lot easier to get going than loading up the ancient SMB client, too.

I started out by fiddling with DOS 4.01, the least compact DOS version, getting games running in that wasn't fun..

5
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

Wasn't it TSR who back in the day published Dungeons & Dragons?

7
0
Silver badge
Coffee/keyboard

Re: Feeling Old...

From DOS 5.0 onwards I had a menu set up in Autoexec.bat that allowed half a dozen different configurations for different games. Origin games were the worst for needing maximum base memory and would only recognise expanded memory and not extended memory.

7
0

Re: Feeling Old...

I see what you did there. And now I feel old too.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

I played all of WC2 on a 286 - you're not wrong, it was slow, particularly in the capital ship battles. Still fun though..

Ultima VII was created in the tricky pre DPMI extender days when ways of extending memory were not standardised, I presume using EMS/XMS wasn't fast enough.

Still, Ultima VII was a ground breaking RPG, so it can be forgiven an awful lot.

6
0
Silver badge
Trollface

Re: Feeling Old...

Those of us who had Amigas don't feel old as it just worked (tm).

19
0
Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: Feeling Old...

@TonyJ "Remember wrangling with the order things loaded in autoexec.bat and config.sys too, just to be able to get a game or program to run properly. And I used to think that kind of thing was fun!"

I recall it very well. Back in the day my 486-DX2 50 laptop (the first with an integrated double speed CD-ROM drive no less!) had about 9 different configurations (selected at boot up) in the config.sys and autoexec.bat to either load full fat everything for Win 3.11 and applications or just load the bare minimum tailored for this or that game.

When I went to university I took up the option of a network connection in my Hall bedroom (a 10MBps always on 10baseT ja.net connection for £50 was incredible compared to the V.90 modems of the day). I left my computer with the config guys to install the network card and required software+drivers and returned after lectures to find machine all sorted and working. Then the config guy cheerfully told me he'd run "memmaker"* to ensure DOS loaded the network stuff optimally. I almost used his head to test how robust the solid metal display casing was (the CF-41 was an early Panasonic tough book).

*Those who didn't know what a TSR is, probably won't be familiar with memmaker - a DOS tool for "optimising" the stuff loaded at boot up. Fine for simple configs but it totally mangled setups like mine

9
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

I seem to recall reading how Doom had crashed WAN links back in the day, as every bullet from the minigun was a data packet

Indeed it did, but not simply because of that. Because every packet was a broadcast. In DooM 1.0 you could have 3 computers on a network act as left / front / right views, so everything was broadcast.

I think that was taken out in DooM 1.2, but not before it had tanked the fibre line between George Square and Kings Buildings at Edinburgh University.

9
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

"Kids these days will never understand the trauma of trying to get 600k of base memory."

And kids of your days never understood the trauma of 64k with a lump taken out of it for BIOS. Cue Four Yorkshiremen sketch from Dabbsy's latest.

12
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

I'm getting the impression that the whole development of personal computing was driven by the desire to play games?

Hah - I know one guy whose first word of English was SoundBlaster. Further words came out of the copy-protection schemes that required the game manual...

15
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

The mighty, mighty Gravis Ultrasound! Lots of fiddling. But its wavetable sound was worth everything. And hours, no days!, of tinkering with tracker software and .mod files...

6
0

Re: Feeling Old...

> Who remembers the joys of setting jumpers on a 3Com Etherlink card to get the IRQ and base address set correctly.

That is not a definition of "joy" I am familiar with.

Going systematically through all possibilities and none worked, only to try again from the beginning to realise you didn't start at the beginning the first time and if you had then it would have worked first time.

26
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

Who remembers the joys of setting jumpers on a 3Com Etherlink card to get the IRQ and base address set correctly.

Pfft. I had a pair (for $JOB) in 1989 that would not talk to each other over thinwire even though the IRQs and such were correctly configured. Both ends would talk to their respective cards, but there was the "other" jumper to consider.

The one that selected thinwire or AUI thickwire.

And wasn't the same on both cards.

10
0

Re: Feeling Old...

Such happy days, each box has the finely honed boot disc inside. Magazines cover discs bursting with utilities that promised to magically maximise available ram but invariably did naff all. And 640k? Luxury! My first PC (an old one I re-purposed form a skip) had 512 and an Amstrad logo.

I do remember the day I got a brand new freshly released SouindBlaster AWE 32 sound card. The hassle the tears getting that set up, and that was before we attached a CD rom to one of the (3?) interface options. Panasonic, Soundbalster and.....? Not IDE but can't recall the third one. Any one remember?

5
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

Indeed, I remember having two or three different boot floppies around for certain different games. I still remember today that Dune 2 needed 604k of free conventional memory in order to run. DOS 6 then came along and made the process a lot easier by including "memmaker" that could automatically load as much as possible into high memory for you.

Oh goodness I remember trying to get Dune 2 to work. That makes me feel bloody old. I learned a lot from spending time on that game and getting it to work. It's interesting to think that I can run that on my phone now and not some boxy computer and CRT monitor.

4
0
Silver badge
Go

Re: Feeling Old... - memmaker

I remember when that came along. Pushed as the cure to all memory needs by a senior manager.

I used to take joy in doing it manually and getting more contiguous free base memory and showing him...

6
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

...we attached a CD ROM to one of the (3?) interface options. Panasonic, Soundblaster and.....? Not IDE but can't recall the third one. Any one remember?

ATAPI, or SCSI?

3
1
Silver badge
Pint

Re: Feeling Old...

@DuchessofDukeStreet The two traditional drivers of IT are games and porn.

This, at least partly, explains why we are now not improving so fast. The big money for games is either with consoles or with mobile devices (Android and IOS). We have allowed US "standards of decency" to pollute our life that if an MP looks at legal rude stuff, our nasty press tries to force him to resign. Yes, there is stuff that should get people sent to Gruinard or Rockall but what consenting free grown ups do in their free time is not anyone elses' business.

Get games and adult content back in the mainstream of IT and Moores law will continue!

20
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Re: Feeling Old...

Token Ring...the bane of my existence for about five years. A networking technology whose time took too long in going. Way too much pain for way too little performance.

And I also remember the joys of QEMM...the extended (or was it "expanded"?) memory manager that worked...most of the time...until you really needed it, then it crashed the whole system.

Of course, Windows 3.1 with the "optional" TCP/IP package, which had to be obtained from a third party, because Microsoft couldn't imagine why anyone needed networking.

Good times...

6
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

I'm getting the impression that the whole development of personal computing was driven by the desire to play games?

Pretty much. "The 7th Guest" was the killer app that sold the CD-ROM drive in it's infancy.

8
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

I do remember setting jumpers on Serial Cards - Com1 0x3F8, IRQ4; Com2 0x2F8, IRQ3...

8
0
Silver badge

All together now:

640k ought to be enough for everybody

16
1
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

@ DuchessofDukeStreet:

I'm getting the impression that the whole development of personal computing was driven by the desire to play games?

I'm getting the impression that the whole development of personal computing was is driven by the desire to play games?

FTFY

Same goes for broadband speed, come to think of it...

2
1

Re: Feeling Old...

>> For not needing an explanation of TSR!

Same.

I also did some 8088 assembler programming for local company as an intern.

No virtual memory, just segments. Still find "FAR CALL" humorous today ;)

5
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: All together now:

640k ought to be enough for everybody

Don't forget the weird memory addressing scheme, where you had the 64K page and then the offset.

I did read somewhere that the reason that they did that and why 640K was chosen was for backwards compatibility with 8 bit CP/M programs. The idea was that each program could run in a 64K and not interfere while multitasking. Ten pages for 640K memory.

I read this and thought this sounds a lot like virtualisation! Just like modern PCs!

7
0

Re: Feeling Old...

Wasn't it TSR who back in the day published Dungeons & Dragons?

Ah, memories of the Gold Box Games. Produced by SSI (Strategic Simulations, Inc.), they used 2nd Edition AD&D, licensed from TSR (Tactical Studies Rules). The last game actually used VGA graphics and sound cards. Ah, the stacks of 5.25" floppy disks those used. I still play the series occasionally, though I use the Forgotten Realms Silver Archives version and DOSBox.

5
0

Re: 7th Guest

Still one of my fonder gaming experiences. Privateer 2 (yes, the one with the HUGE for the time FMV segments on the disc) was another one somewhere back then that took a bit of a spannering :D

4
0
Silver badge
Windows

Re: Feeling Old...

IPX and DOOM! (oh my memories)

BNC cable terminators all over the floor.....

9
0
Silver badge

Re: Feeling Old...

600: pah. We had a Unisys Office automation application that required about 620, and we needed to run a Netware LAN stack as well.

2
0

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018