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DOS 16 Bit vs. Windows or Linux 32 Bit Command Line

Why can you do more complete diagnostics in DOS 16 Bit than the higher level 32 bit Operating Systems?

A discussion in another blog/forum is which is better - DOS-16-Bit or Linux command line. I won't rehash what is going on there but there is some merit to this idea.

There are some of us that learned how to use a computer in DOS before the GUI (remember Windows 3 was a 16 Bit Operating System the same as DOS) and the single application at a time environment.

The main differences between DOS 16 Bit and Windows were:


  • DOS - 640 KB memory space to work in
  • DOS - Single application
  • High memory would be maxed out at 340K

Windows 2 Beta / 3.0

  • Windows - 32 MB memory space to work in
  • Windows - Multitasking environment (it never worked right)
  • Windows - 3.0 memory manager could use up to 256 MB of memory space on top of the basic 32 MB.

One reason that the GUI (Graphics User Interface) became so popular was the use of all physical memory to multitask.

Note: We may think that 640K, 1 MB, 32 MB, and 256 MB of memory to use as minuscule but at the time these were the leading edge of technology for the size of memory, when you went past 16 MB of ram you started to talk of hundreds of dollars in memory only.

When Windows 3.0 was introduced very few application publishers continued to produce the DOS versions of their programs.

Because DOS is a single application environment ( very few programs could use more than 1 MB of memory and multitask) it was dropped like a hot potato in favor of the new Windows 3.0, multitasking would use all the physical memory in the computer environment.

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Thinking back on the versions of DOS or Command line environment that comes with each version of Windows I wonder if the application publishers wanted to 'push the envelope' with DOS could they have came up with better applications for the later versions of DOS such as the 6.0 version or even the last version which is MS-DOS Version 8 which is Windows Millennium Version 4.9.3000 that comes with Windows 7.

Now this is not the same as the "Command Prompt" while in a Windows Operating System.

I am not very familiar with Linux, I have worked in the Command line mode a few times but not extensively as with DOS or Windows Command line.

Linux commands make about as much sense as Unix and Windows Console commands, a few mirror DOS commands such as DIR, CD, TYPE, and so on but once you get past the normal commands and need to do something like change the attributes on a file the name of the command is different CHMOD (?) or something along those lines. Probably has something to with trade marks and patents.

In actuality someone using DOS 16 Bit can access hardware directly, test the hardware directly where as in a Windows and somewhat in a Linux environment the user is not allowed direct access to the hardware. Access to the hardware is controlled by the hardware driver through the ntoskrnl.exe (the Kernel program) to protect the hardware from you, the user, and "errant" programs.

That is why if you need to run tests on the hardware your results will be better with a DOS 16 Bit program over the Windows/Linux GUI program that is removed from the hardware with layers of 'protection'.

Other than free or shareware applications there isn't much in the offering for new DOS programs.

A little known fact:

Did you know that the first game that was given away for free on the internet was a 32 bit program? It used a DOS pre-loader to load a small program in to DOS hi memory that then called a 32 bit program that was the game. Most people at that time were unaware of this ( I noticed it one day after fighting with a Compaq Server all morning, the pre-loader for the game was the same one that Compaq used for its hardware Installation and Diagnostics). This small program did two things: It made the Operating System 32 bit run [which would run on all processors but the 8088 processor] and expanded the memory to all the available memory in the computer.

If you were running a 286, 386, or even a 486 (which were available shortly after the release of this game) then the game would run faster and it would not pause during a scene change like other games of the period. (To make these pauses shorter I would use a RAM Drive and copy the game there before starting it, worked pretty good...)

What was that game that came out in 1993 and was spread for free by the (invented by A. Gore) fledgling internet?



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DOS 16 Bit - love it or hate it but you can do more complete hardware diagnostics with it!

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