VOGONS


Retro OSes for retro computers

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First post, by lolo799

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Yes we (all) have DOS installed on our retro x86 machines, but there are many Oses out there worth trying, if only for a couple of minutes.
I propose to share some of them here, from one-floppy OS to installers to live CDs, all while staying in compliance with the forum's rules and legality, so only demos, trial versions, free for non commercial use releases and free software.

There'll be stuff for platforms ranging from the 8086 upto the Pentium and beyond, and other platforms perhaps.
Some will be very basic, usability-wise, some will be more complete, I hope everyone will find someting to his/her liking, and maybe some of you will discover new old things to enjoy between two sessions of Doom on your 486!

Feel free to comment, post your new or past experiences with them, share links to other Oses that deserve getting into the light once in a while.

So to start things, I'm sure many of you know the famous 1.44MB QNX Demo Disk, but which version exactly?

The first one from 1997:

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https://web.archive.org/web/19970710162704/ht … /iat/index.html
https://web.archive.org/web/19970710170743/ht … createdemo.html

Or the Japanese or Russian versions that were still limited to modems but added PCMCIA support:

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https://web.archive.org/web/19990209062602/ht … createdemo.html
https://web.archive.org/web/19980507094732/ht … ussian/win.html

Or starting with versions 3.x, network support:

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https://web.archive.org/web/19981202094149/ht … /iat/index.html
Pictures of the 3.0 floppy and leaflet:
https://twitter.com/BedfordLvlExp/status/956556509105684480

The last revision, 4.x, added downloadable packages to extend the functionality with extra programs:
https://web.archive.org/web/20000301130709/ht … /iat/index.html
https://web.archive.org/web/20000815201147/ht … extensions-400/

And finally, the Snowman Development Kit:

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https://web.archive.org/web/19990421102058/ht … wman/index.html

Screenshots of the interface on http://toastytech.com/guis/qnxdemo.html
qnxdemoboot.png

Extending possibilities and adding undocumented features:
http://qnx.puslapiai.lt/qnxdemo/qnx_demo_disk.htm
or http://pub.nkosi.org/qnx/qnx_demo_disk.htm

Get all the versions I found here:
https://mega.nz/#!ux4yTK5Z!o3l-G1cQdixjQL9FhO … WgopgUMvh96kq_g

Have fun!

PCMCIA Sound, Storage & Graphics

Reply 1 of 198, by dionb

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Sounds like a good idea, but not confident on the legality bit.

I'd love to share OS/2 (I have Warp 3 and 4) and BeOS (x86 r5) for example, but have no idea which versions would be OK and which not. And there are OSs which were free to download, but came with specific restrictions on redistribution (Sparc Solaris 9 springs to mind).

Reply 3 of 198, by lolo799

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As you can see, the webbrowser doesn't like today's javascript, understandable for a product of 1999.

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Let's try to post that from QNX demodisk running in 86box V2.00 with NE2000 network support...

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It worked with the full editor, the "Quick Reply" function gave 5 JS errors and did nothing.

I'll come back to QNX another time as there are more free for a personal use and demo versions around, both for PX/XT and Pentium and upwards systems.

dionb wrote:

Sounds like a good idea, but not confident on the legality bit.
I'd love to share OS/2...

But for now, let's dive into the OS/2 world, with the follow up to OS/2 Warp 4 called eComStation, developed and maintained by Serenity Systems, which added many features not present in Warp 4.
Serenity Systems released a couple of versions of an EcomStation LiveCD downloadable from their website over the years.
You'll need atleast a Pentium 133MHz and 160MB RAM to run the LiveCD version.

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You can get the last version from the official website:
http://www.ecomstation.com/democd/index.php.e … re&site_lang=en

And if you don't want to give your e-mail to yet another website, you can get the second to last version here:
https://www.classicdosgames.com/utilities/os2.html

PCMCIA Sound, Storage & Graphics

Reply 4 of 198, by lolo799

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Among the many on 1-floppy OSes, most of them being based on Linux, and a few on BSD, there are completely different systems out there, such as MenuetOS and a fork of it called KolibriOS.

MenuetOS is being written entirely in assembly language, is not based on any other systems or following UNIX/POSIX standards, it exists in both 32 and 64 bit flavours.
The 64bit version is released under a Free for personal and educational use license, the 32bit one is under GPL, the latter hasn't been updated in a few years though.

The latest MenuetOS for 32bit is version 0.86:

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While latest releases need atleast 32MB to boot, older versions of it will boot with only 16MB, such as the 0.48:

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Current website:
http://www.menuetos.net/index.htm
MenuetOS 0.86 is available at https://sourceforge.net/projects/menuet/files/?source=navbar

Old website:
http://web.archive.org/web/20010722211251/htt … w.menuetos.org/
Older versions of the installer/floppy image:
http://web.archive.org/web/20010701000000*/ht … lemt/MSETUP.EXE
If you have trouble running those old MSETUP.EXE files in DOS, use DD to strip the irrelevant parts:
dd if=MSETUP.EXE of=mfloppy.img ibs=1000 obs=1000 skip=20

PCMCIA Sound, Storage & Graphics

Reply 5 of 198, by lolo799

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As for KolibriOS, it can boot with only 8MB, still on a first gen Pentium:

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Get it at http://kolibrios.org/en/index

PCMCIA Sound, Storage & Graphics

Reply 6 of 198, by lolo799

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Another system entirely written in x86 assembly, V2_OS, created in 1999 in the Netherlands, claims to be "the fastest operating system available for the 386+ PC."
It needs only a 386DX and 2MB of RAM to run correctly, though it will be a lot faster with a better CPU and more memory.

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The bootdiskV2_064.img won't boot on machines without an IDE hdd present, however the bootdiskV2_064-nohd.img will work without issues.
I added all the 3rd party apps and modules I found on archived websites to both those images:

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Current website:
http://v2.nl/archive/works/v2_os

Old website, check it for more info on the OS:
https://web.archive.org/web/20040619101720if_ … www.v2os.cx:80/

All the files I found scattered online:

Filename
V2_OS-archive.zip
File size
2.29 MiB
Downloads
66 downloads
File license
Fair use/fair dealing exception
Last edited by lolo799 on 2018-07-29, 17:59. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 7 of 198, by BeginnerGuy

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I have Slackware 3.0 on my 486, but not sure how many unix/linux types we have around this forum? I'm not really into OS/2.

Heyy @lolo799 that Menuet looks awesome. I'm gonna go check that out.

I'm guessing they both rely on pentium instructions? I only have the 486 up and running to toy with now. Kolibrios says i586, menuet doesn't have any requirements listed.

Sup. I like computers. Are you a computer?

Reply 8 of 198, by lolo799

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BeginnerGuy wrote:

I have Slackware 3.0 on my 486, but not sure how many unix/linux types we have around this forum? I'm not really into OS/2.

I use a few Linux distros on my 486, RedHat 3.0.3, Unifix 1.5, and some old Debian...
There are some alternatives OS people around, just not many in my thread!

Yes, 32bit Menuet needs atleast a first gen Pentium, and plenty of memory.
Scratch that, old versions of Menuet can run on 386 cpu, if you check the old website, though you'll need a VESA 2.0+ compliant graphic card.
Try Kolibri too, it's still updated for x86 and comes with more applications.

PCMCIA Sound, Storage & Graphics

Reply 9 of 198, by BeginnerGuy

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I like the look of the DE on KolibriOS. That would be a fun upgrade for the retro machine. It does say in the wiki that it requires i586 (pentium) or higher as well.

For now I'm going to see if I can get it going in QEMU

I have a S7 board with a MMX233 tucked away somewhere in the closet I could pull out to try, but it would be really cool to top off my 486 with 64MB and be able to run a nix OS with a desktop interface.

Re Menuet: Hmm, I have a Cirrus Logic CL-GD5428 VLB. I have absolutely no recollection of what VBE version it would be compliant with 😒. I could squeeze my machine up to 64 megs and drop an AM5x86 133mhz if I really want to get it moving too. Just a lot of work to swap up to a Pentium 😊

Sup. I like computers. Are you a computer?

Reply 10 of 198, by lolo799

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I took the screenshots on 86box and/or qemu, when the former failed to display the system.

One more Open Source OS for today, Visopsys, the Visual Operating System was first released in 2001.
Current version from March 2018, available as a single floppy::

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or a CDROM:

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Official website
https://visopsys.org/

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Reply 11 of 198, by lolo799

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Time for an update, with a handful of 1 or multi floppy Linux distros running from a ramdisk, some of them are installable.

-As its FAQ describes it, "The most GNU/Linux on one floppy disk", using a superformatted 1722K floppy, Tomsrtbt is available at
http://www.toms.net/rb/
It's a rescue disk with support for a lot of hardware, in one word, it's useful!

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-Another set of rescue floppy disks, cramdisk-2.0 comes in 4 versions, 2 of them will boot with only 4MB on a 386SX and offer networking (using PPP or NE2000, 3C509) or support for the parallel port ZIP drive.
The other two cramdisk floppies need 8MB to boot and will give you network support and either some commandline network utilities or the lynx textmode webbrowser:
http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/Linux/system/recovery/images/

-HAL91, a 1 floppy Linux, requires a 386 with 8MB to run:
https://web.archive.org/web/20010623125310/ht … 0/~perle/hal91/

-giotto is another 1 (or 2) floppy Linux, it needs a 486 and 12MB to run, so it's a bit more demanding in resources:
https://web.archive.org/web/20010606182311/ht … n.de:80/giotto/

-DLX is yet another 1-floppy Linux, it supports networking and parallel port ZIP drives:
https://web.archive.org/web/19970503093624/ht … 301726/dlx.html

-Mininux is a 1 or 2 floppy disks rescue Linux, it uses the kernel 2.4.4 (all the other Linuxes in this post use older kernels), supports various network cards, filesystems, and also audio cards:
http://mininux.free.fr/uk/

The following mini Linuxes can or require to be installed to work:

-BasicLinux is designed for machines with low specs, the DOS installable version, in a loop filesystem, needs only a 386, 3MB of RAM and less than 25MB of your HDD , the 2-floppies version requires 12MB to run from RAM, and it also supports PCMCIA, so it's great on old laptops, and has many add-ons, X window client/webbrowsers/audio player/word processing and more:
http://distro.ibiblio.org/baslinux/

-Small Linux can run on even lower specs, a 386 with only 2MB of RAM and 20Mb of HDD space if you install it, it also has an optional mono or VGA16 X Window server.
Check its website, read the docs, get the floppy images and dust off your 386:
https://web.archive.org/web/19991110183234/ht … t:80/index.html

-Monkey Linux is an installable only distribution, using UMSDOS, coming on 5 floppy disks.
It needs a 386SX with 4MB RAM, 20MB of space on an IDE HDD (+ 10MB for SWAP) and atleast a VGA card for X Window, it comes with optional packages, extra X Window servers, Netscape, DosEmu and more.
Check its webpage at https://jenda.hrach.eu/f2/monkeylinux/english.htm
Get the files at https://jenda.hrach.eu/f2/monkeylinux/

-muLinux is, in my opinion, pretty great, bordering on amazing even, it comes with a lot of extra add-ons, can run from RAM or be installed to a hdd in UMSDOS or ext2, can run with only 4MB of RAM on a 386, supports a lot of hardware, it's the first of the mini distributions I used extensively on a 486 laptop I had lying around!
Check it, it's worth your time: http://micheleandreoli.org/public/Software/mulinux/
Mirrored at https://ftp.gwdg.de/pub/linux/mulinux/mulinux.html

And to finish this long post, I can already imagine people complaining about Linux being a mess, Unix being way better, and all this and all that, so you'll be delighted with two versions of PicoBSD, a 1 floppy version of FreeBSD.

One is based on FreeBSD 3.0 https://web.archive.org/web/20030801080848/ht … sd/picobsd.html
and the other FreeBSD 2.2.5 https://web.archive.org/web/20030802102736/ht … bsd/picobsd225/
Some of the files are here: http://lntmaps.herauthon.nl/I/ds/Floppy/Boot/picoBSD/
There are duplicates and badly named (regarding the version number) floppy images, you're warned!

Last edited by lolo799 on 2018-08-21, 09:46. Edited 1 time in total.

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Reply 12 of 198, by j^aws

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These would be my favourites from the 90s and earlier, across various hardware:

HeliOS (transputer)
IRIX
NeXSTEP
BeOS
OS/2
AmigaOS
RiscOS

They are all unique in their own ways.

Reply 13 of 198, by debs3759

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This thread should be pinned. I love seeing these alternative OS for older systems. Now I'm going to have to see if I still have the QNX CD (can't remember which version) I had with the QNX Operating System System Architecture book (still on my bookshelf) that they sent me back in the day.

It's a shame that some of these weren't updated with much newer hardware 😀

Reply 15 of 198, by root42

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Back in the mid 90s when I got my first CD ROM drive, one of the cover CDs contained a shareware version of TSX-32. A multitasking, partially DOS compatible operating system for 386 and better:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TSX-32

I would have to try it out again to be able to say anything meaningful about it though.

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80486DX@33 MHz, 16 MiB RAM, Tseng ET4000 1 MiB, SnarkBarker & GUSar Lite, PC MIDI Card+X2+SC55+MT32, OSSC

Reply 16 of 198, by spiroyster

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debs3759 wrote:

Have you tried Plan 9 from Bell Labs?

I tried Plan9 once, interesting academic exercise... not much you can do in it given there are different protocols due to its architecture (more cluster like). Shame it was a really good idea for an OS, and perhaps what Unix should have been. Still it introduced me the world of Ed Wood.

There was an improvement called Inferno. Never got round to playing with that though. Maybe something for a rainy day 😵

Reply 17 of 198, by gdjacobs

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I can't find any of the old versions of Peanut Linux. I remember running it via loopback off a FAT filesystem.

All hail the Great Capacitor Brand Finder