DOSBox

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A PC emulator specifically designed to play DOS games. It emulates an 8088, 80286 or a 386 system in real mode or protected mode with Tandy 1000, Hercules Monochrome, CGA, EGA, VGA and VESA graphics emulations and Sound Blaster or Gravis Ultrasound sound card emulations. The program has become significant as Microsoft has dropped all DOS support in their 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows and the vendors of PC system emulators such as VirtualBox have either declined to include DOS integration features with their systems or even removed them, as in the case of Virtual PC, leaving this program as the only viable way for some people to use their vintage games collection.

As it stands at version 0.74 the system is best at emulating an 8088 XT class system although it does a reasonably good job at doing a 80286 in protected mode, the 80386 and especially 80387 numeric coprocessor emulation however are a bit iffy although they do work fine with a large number of games. As the system comes with a version of FreeDOS built in it requires only minimal setup but as FreeDOS in not 100% compatible with neither MS-DOS nor PC-DOS that can lead to some incompatibilities with both games and other software.

A perennial problem with the system has been the inflexibility of the original author to support features that might be useful for software other than games, he not only refused to implement features such as serial and parallel port emulations or pass-throughs but if those features were donated to the codebase, he removed the code donations and ignored any bug fix requests that affected non-games software. This has lead to a proliferation of forks both free and commercial, primarily targeting MS Windows. Those have been distributed under a variety of names since they are not allowed to use the trademarked DOSBox moniker and have fragmented the landscape quite a lot on the Windows side of things, and none of them appears to have an OS/2 port.

This lack of features and integration means that it is mostly useful under OS/2 either as an emulator for those few game that the native DOS install can not handle well or for those that would like to run a clean 32 bit system without the DOS and WinOS/2 portions, especially if they have been giving them instability problems. The lack of integration, serial and parallel port and similar features means it cannot the used for emulating remote debugging, or most debugging task altogether, no use for business software that needs to print something out such as word processors or accounting systems, DOS communication software becomes meaningless and so on.

Version & links

License

  • Open source software published under the GPL v2

Author

  • Peter Veenstra