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First post, by goostaw

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Hi. I have a problem with the game "Below the root".

Works on all dos computers I have except IBM 5155. The game hangs right after the control selection screen (keyboard, joystick)
I checked both versions - pc booter and DOS.
My IBM has 256kB Ram, but I also checked with an additional RAM card (640 in total). Same.
what is going on? what would somebody check on their Ibm?
I will be grateful for your help.

Reply 1 of 10, by kdr

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My first thought was that the game might be compiled to use 80286 instructions, but then I looked up the game and saw it was from 1984. 😀

Have you been able to run your copy of the game on any other 8088 machines? I've had a couple of programs hang or otherwise exhibit weird behaviour and the root cause (heh) was actually some bits getting flipped during the download/transfer/write to floppy process.

But the 5155 uses exactly the same system board as the 5160. It's as 100% IBM PC compatible as one can get. So that's why I think there must be something else wrong. Do any other games or programs not work on the 5155? I'd recommend running a comprehensive test (try Check-It 2.1 or 3.0) just to rule out any hardware glitches or bad memory.

I have a 5155 that I am going to get out of storage again soonish, can definitely give the game a try to confirm whether it does or doesn't work.

Reply 2 of 10, by VileR

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kdr wrote on 2020-10-15, 22:35:

My first thought was that the game might be compiled to use 80286 instructions, but then I looked up the game and saw it was from 1984. 😀

A game from 1984 can come from the internet in a form that was 'deprotected' much later. I've seen enough cases where a game was written for the 8088, but comes with a crack/loader that uses 386 code, or depends on AT BIOS calls. 🤦

On the other hand, the OP says he tried at least two versions, so that may not be the case. Still possible, just less likely.
All I know is that BTR runs fine on my 5160, which like you said, is pretty much identical to the 5155.

@goostaw: is your 5155 'stock'? does it have the original BIOS (which revision)? Any extra cards you might have in there?
Is BTR the only thing that hangs/misbehaves on it?

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Reply 3 of 10, by leileilol

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VileR wrote on 2020-10-16, 00:32:
kdr wrote on 2020-10-15, 22:35:

My first thought was that the game might be compiled to use 80286 instructions, but then I looked up the game and saw it was from 1984. 😀

A game from 1984 can come from the internet in a form that was 'deprotected' much later.

I've seen a deprotected/loader'd version from far earlier (1986) that's definitely nothing to do with the commonly recirculated 1998 "abandonware" one, and it's buried in time.

apsosig.png

Reply 4 of 10, by goostaw

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Thanks for the answers.

kdr wrote on 2020-10-15, 22:35:

Have you been able to run your copy of the game on any other 8088 machines? I've had a couple of programs hang or otherwise exhibit weird behaviour and the root cause (heh) was actually some bits getting flipped during the download/transfer/write to floppy process.

But the 5155 uses exactly the same system board as the 5160. It's as 100% IBM PC compatible as one can get. So that's why I think there must be something else wrong. Do any other games or programs not work on the 5155? I'd recommend running a comprehensive test (try Check-It 2.1 or 3.0) just to rule out any hardware glitches or bad memory.

I have a 5155 that I am going to get out of storage again soonish, can definitely give the game a try to confirm whether it does or doesn't work.

1. Yes. I have tried different copies and yes, the concrete copy works on Bondwell b200 Laptop. (80C88)
2. I ran the check-it. No hardware problems seen. I don't remember a program that wouldn't run on my 5155 but ran on another computer.
3. Yes. Please check the game on your 5155. I bet it won't work. 😀

VileR wrote on 2020-10-16, 00:32:

@goostaw: is your 5155 'stock'? does it have the original BIOS (which revision)? Any extra cards you might have in there?
Is BTR the only thing that hangs/misbehaves on it?

1. Yes. Stock.
2. Original Bios rev. 11/08/82

3. I also tested in the simplest configuration - only with fdd controller and cga card (both stock).
4. Yes . BTR is only one.

On another forum, one of the users confirmed the problem with the game and 5155. Interestingly, the game works on 5160 (the same mainboard)
'Probably a bug in the "determine what this machine is" code, which reads the Model ID byte in ROM.'

It makes sense, but afaik id. byte is in FFFFE
FE is there:
FE = XT or Portable PC

The conclusion is that either the game assumes there is an FB (xt with 640kB mainboard) in there, or more likely something else.
This is a lead. I'll try to check it out.

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Reply 5 of 10, by kdr

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goostaw wrote on 2020-10-16, 09:26:
On another forum, one of the users confirmed the problem with the game and 5155. Interestingly, the game works on 5160 (the same […]
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On another forum, one of the users confirmed the problem with the game and 5155. Interestingly, the game works on 5160 (the same mainboard)
'Probably a bug in the "determine what this machine is" code, which reads the Model ID byte in ROM.'

It makes sense, but afaik id. byte is in FFFFE
FE is there:
FE = XT or Portable PC

The conclusion is that either the game assumes there is an FB (xt with 640kB mainboard) in there, or more likely something else.
This is a lead. I'll try to check it out.

Yes, I saw that Trixter has confirmed that it works on a 5160 but not on a 5155. Fascinating! I was certain that they were identical, but it seems not?

Thanks for posting about this game, what an interesting thing to discover.... will definitely be trying it on my 5155 in the near future...

Reply 6 of 10, by kdr

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Well, I couldn't resist, so I've unpacked the 5155 and found a copy of the game. It's the one with a tiny LOADER.COM, not the booter. (Which I wasn't able to find.)

The results: running PC DOS 2.10, the LOADER.COM did nothing and just returned me to the DOS prompt. Running MS-DOS 3.30, the LOADER.COM worked and was able to load the game. Upon startup, it displayed the 'select control' screen but then *immediately* displayed the main menu screen [skipping the intro, it would seem] without any keys being pressed. And once on the menu screen, it wouldn't accept any key input. It didn't freeze the machine, though: eventually the keyboard buffer filled up and I started getting beeps (from the BIOS) with any additional keypresses.

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It sounds like this might be slightly different to what you experienced?

I can confirm that my generic turbo XT clone system was able to run the game as expected from the same floppy.

My 5155 also has the 11/08/82 BIOS, but it's not the original CPU. At some point in the distant past, the machine had its original 8088 CPU removed and replaced with a 286 accelerator card. So in the process of restoring the 5155 to "stock" configuration I have installed an AMD P8088-1. I've got the original CGA and floppy adapters installed as well as an AST SixPackPlus to bring it up to 640K RAM.

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Reply 8 of 10, by VileR

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Hm. My first thought before my previous post was the Model ID byte, but I looked it up and found that it's identical to the 5160 (as expected).
And indeed the only branch is on the value of FDh (PCjr), so that can't be it.

OTOH, I just remembered that Trixter had long ago mentioned a certain keyboard-related problem with the 5155 that didn't show up on 5160s, so I'll ping him about that one. If those freezes you guys are describing are due to the keyboard buffer filling up w/beeps (i.e. unhandled keystrokes), it MAY be related somehow... very weird!

Edit: Okay, resolved on VCF - and yep, it's the keyboard, more precisely the lack of a keyboard controller in the 5155. So even if I was beaten to the punch, at least my hunch was validated 😎

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Reply 9 of 10, by kdr

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I was able to play Below the Root on my 5155 tonight:

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Enjoying the intro in all its amber glory
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Playing the game on a teensy tiny CRT
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This has been quite a mystery, because several people reported that this game worked just fine on an IBM model 5160. Which we know uses the exact same motherboard and BIOS as the 5155 portable. And aside from the 5155 having a built-in 9" amber monochrome CRT, the two systems are identical.... or are they?

They're not! The 5155 has a different keyboard! My epiphany was to try plugging in my regular XT keyboard into the 5155. And sure enough, that did the trick, and the game worked perfectly.

Reply 10 of 10, by goostaw

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Thanks for the tests. A big step forward. 😀
It is a pity that I do not have such a keyboard.

From what you wrote on another forum, only the original 5160 keyboard works with the game and if I understand correctly, it does not work with the generic XT keyboard.

So my guess is that the 5155 keyboard connected to the pc xt clone will not cause problems with the game?