Windows NT 3.1 on DEC Alpha AXP

(this is a guest post by Antoni Sawicki aka Tenox)

As I was preparing the Windows NT RISC exhibit for VCF west, I realized that I’m missing a rather important piece of the history. While I will be showing the potentially last DEC Alpha Windows build ever – AXP64 2210, I don’t have anything earlier than NT 3.51. It would be nice to showcase the very first RTM version – NT 3.1. From time perspective, NT did not get popular until the version 3.5 and later. Windows NT 3.1 would be considered rare even on a 386, let alone on a RISC CPU! So what RISC hardware does Windows NT 3.1 run on?

NT 3.1 RISC HCL

Not many! The HCL published on gunkies has a few more systems, but nothing that I have. The early MIPS based systems are all but unobtanium as of today. This is probably a good time to mention a little known port of Windows NT 3.1 to the DECstation 5000. However these builds are not found even on earliest NT betas. Not to mention lack of ARC firmware for this machine.

The Alphas were looking a little more reachable. The DEC 2000 Model 300 and DECpc AXP 150 are one and the same machine, packaged in a server and workstation cases. Code-named Jensen, DEC designed and marketed these specifically around Windows NT. Unlike prior Alphas, this model used a lot of “PC” components for increased compatibility and lower cost. Eventually paved way for the more well known DEC Multia. The Jensen has been seen floating here and there and many people have these.

I was able to get a loaner from Chris Satterfield aka Compgeke for the VCF. Having a working specimen at hand, I started looking at part numbers of various components. In an amazing streak of luck, in practically zero time I was able to find, buy and assemble a complete DECpc AXP 150 from spare parts on eBay! Without a case, but nevertheless. Also big thanks to Christopher Rivett for help with some fine details!

Franken Jensen built from spare parts off eBay.
Jensen running at VCF West 2023, with fans installed

BOM

  • Motherboard + CPU – DEC 70-29685-01
  • GPU – DEC/Compaq Qvision 1024/E (1024×768) – 126654-001
  • GPU – (Optional) Number 9 High Res (1280×1024) – 30-41800-01
  • HBA – Adaptec AHA-1742A EISA – 467806-00
  • NIC – DEC DE422-S EISA – 5021102-01
  • RAM – 4x 16MB, FPM, 60ns, 72-Pin, 12-Chip, True Parity SIMM
  • PSU – DEC/HP 30-37197-02, however a standard AT PSU may be OK

If you going to build one yourself, beware of overheating. Jensen runs rather hot and needs good cooling. Not only for the CPU. There is a section of the motherboard just under the EISA cards that runs incredibly hot. See the picture, where I have installed a large Noctua fan.

OS Install

There are many Windows NT 3.1 CDROMs floating around. I purchased a DEC branded, shrink-wrapped CD on eBay to use as a prop along with the machine. You can download the iso image here.

Installation of Windows NT 3.1 on DECpc AXP 150 is pretty straightforward and not that much different from the later versions. However as a prerequisite you will need the ECU floppy disk to configure the EISA slot assignments, card and jumper settings. After that you will have to go through various setup screens in ARC BIOS to configure system settings. Then you run arcinst to create a system partition and setupldr to install the OS. The rest of it is pretty uneventful. This is somewhat expected, as this was pretty much the only one and supported hardware combination, so must have been well tested. The only curious part is that the NT OS Kernel does not display any text during normal boot. Later versions of NT will display the build number and MP or UP kernel variant and dots indicating subsystem load progress. This is rather odd because I expected more text mode stuff from older NT version, but who knows.

Jensen NT 3.1 Boot Menu
Windows NT 3.1 on DEC Alpha AXP, DECpc 150 aka Jensen

Service Pack Saga

If you are even vaguely familiar with installing Windows NT at all, you will know that the very first thing you have to perform after installation, is to apply a service pack. NT 3.1 did have service packs, up to SP3. The problem is that, as you may very well expect, non-x86 editions were nowhere to be found in 2023. The only thing I could come up with was http://www.win31.de/ent31.htm, which had a German AXP and MIPS SP3, but no English! [It since has been updated…]. I had to do some real detective work to track down an US-English AXP SP3 version. I spent a few days going through various random CDs and ftp site mirrors of that era, with little luck. Eventually I stumbled on this README file, stating:

Due to space constraints on the Windows NT Service Packs for
International Versions CD, the USA Service Pack version 3 is located on
the Additional Windows NT Service Packs, Windows 3.11 versions, SDKs,
and DDKs CD in the NTSRVPC3\USA directory.

Bingo! After a few hits and missed I spotted this particular CDROM here: https://archive.org/details/microsoft-developer-network-january-1995-disc-4-of-15 – Now the OS is finally “servicepacked” 🙂

Applications!

My general impression of NT 3.1 on DEC Alpha is pretty awesome. If you can overlook the age and some obvious shortcomings, the OS is pretty stable, solid and even snappy for such old hardware. An OS itself without apps is not much. While overall Alpha NT application outlook is pretty scanty I was able to find a several very interesting gems!

Most importantly, thanks to Chris, a DEC Windows NT Developers CD-ROM!

The disk has an incredible amount of demo, freeware, public domain and shareware applications as well as DEC marketing material.

Windows NT Developers CD for DEC Alpha NT 3.1

You can get a lot of DEC proprietary software like C++, Fortran, PATHWORKS, DECtalk, as well as X servers, etc.

However I was particularly interested in some 3rd party commercial apps.

For example there is an early version of DMC Calamus Desktop Publishing.

DMC Calamus desktop publishing on Windows NT 3.1 DEC Alpha AXP

Also a demo version of a vintage, text-mode SlickEdit, way before it was replaced by the Visual SlickEdit known today.

SlickEdit 2.3 on Windows NT 3.1 DEC Alpha AXP

There also is WinDev editior, which is quite superior to Notepad and has some code editing goodies and shortcuts to SDK tools, making it something of a simple IDE.

WinDev 1.56 on Windows NT 3.1 DEC Alpha AXP

Another big source is Windows NT Application Sampler CDROM, (also from Smithsonian).

One of the coolest thing found there is a graphical text editor called WinEdit. It has a ton of features and even syntax highlighting! It has since became my default to go editor / IDE on this system!

WinEdit 3.0E on Windows NT 3.1 DEC Alpha AXP

There of course is a Windows NT SDK with the M (MEP) editor.

Windows NT 3.1 SDK with M / MEP Editor on DEC Alpha AXP

There also are quite few public domain apps and games, ports of GNU software, Micro Emacs, Kermit, etc.

Update: CICA NT Shareware Collection has some interesting apps under the /alpha directory.

High Resolution GPU

One of things that was troubling me for some time was rather low resolution of the default QVision graphics card. The maximum being only 1024×768 is just not acceptable. Talking to several Jensen’s owners, no one even heard about anything better. However looking at the Windows setup options, I curiously noticed that the system does support one 1280×1024 video card – Number 9 GXE.

I simply assumed that such card would simply be unobtanium in 2023. However, digging through some old catalogs and spare part listings, I managed to find a DEC part number, which is 30-41800-01. Armed with this, I was able to find it via DEC spare part reseller that I often use. They had it in stock listed as “HIGH RES EISA 1280 x 1024 GRAPHICS”. The price wasn’t too bad either, at least compared to the whole endeavor. A few days later I received this:

After installation of the S3 driver (must be the Service Pack 3 version!) I was finally able to get 1280×1024 from the poor thing!

With this I should have a more cozy environment to compile and port even more apps 🙂

In future I want to try the Advanced Server edition as well as some early Betas with Alpha support.

Windows NT demo on the DECstation 5000

Well this was unexpected find! Thanks to hyenasky over on discord.

While the platform had a few mentions here and there but it’s great to have found a talk about the product with video of it running.

Interestingly enough Compaq was apparently in charge of the ARC specifications? Also kind of funny how the do touch on that maybe one day it could be available for the Dec Alpha, but as we know DEC pivoted away from the MIPS entirely to focus on the Alpha.

The other part being how the Pentium/Pentium Pro was entirely unexpected from the wider RISC market that thought they had the migration point out of 386/486 based machines.

Unfortunately, like the platform, Alexandre Bronstein exited DEC to go onto other ventures, oddly enough at Veritas being pulled back into dealing with Microsoft with the disk manager.

Fun with Windows ePDK NT 3.1 build 196 & Some Xenix fun!

I’m not sure if I covered the Windows NT 3.1 build 196 before. First the most obvious is that as of this moment it’s the earliest version of Windows NT available.

So let’s do some obligatory scratch of the surface. Like all the other 1991 pre-releases there really is just a text mode setup install script. Choosing the lesser amount of pain, I went with a MS-DOS hosted install. However, using MS-DOS 6.22 resulted in a broken dual boot system. But we live in the era of virtual machines, so it really doesn’t matter. I’m using Qemu 0.14-rc2, something that is ‘era correct’ for when the first avalanche broke on early Windows NT pre-releases. I’ve had issues with more modern versions of Qemu, and I felt that if we’re using vintage software may as well go in all the way.

The boot loader identifies itself as being 1990 vintage. Pretty sure it doesn’t mean anything, but we haven’t been blessed with the “blue screen” of ARC yet.

The login screen and desktop have a very strong Windows 3.1 beta feel to them. And that would land this where it was, Windows was such a big seller that Maritz had been trying to convince Gates & Balmer to ‘switch to the Windows horse’ in the spring/summer of 1990, culminating in Gate’s July decision to walk away from NT/OS2 and rebrand the new OS as Windows NT. Oddly enough it was Balmer who was in favour of OS/2 & IBM. (Showstopper 89-90)

At first glance the opening window isn’t all that interesting. It’s just very. Windows.

Rest assured Reversi, of course made the this Win32 cut. And it’s full of weird easter eggs, oddly enough in the OS/2 surviving bits.

type OS2LDR.DOS
OS2LDR 01.00.01
by KeithMo 01/08/91

On the Discord there had been a big discussion about early NT executable formats, and the whole COFF vs ECOFF vs PE/PEI. I had tried to hunt down the specific version of GCC I used ages to to build a so called Dec Alpha GCC cross compiler, but the short version is that it didn’t work as we don’t have any assembler/linker for anything GNU targets. There had been a cygwin port and an OpenNT on Alpha, but all that is lost to the winds, minus what few scraps I had saved. I did try building some cross tools to elf hoping to just objcopy out the data and get linkable objects, but that didn’t work either.

So I though this was a perfect opportunity to take a look at this early pre-release version of NT, and although I do know that you have to convert your objects into something the ‘COFF’ linker will accept:

And I never really paid that much attention to the object files. I do know that you can link them with Link386 for OS/2, but the NT object files themselves report:

wsl file SIMPLE.OBJ
SIMPLE.OBJ: Intel 80386 COFF object file, not stripped, 4 sections, symbol offset=0x102, 20 symbols, created Thu Jun  1 14:13:50 2023, 1st section name ".text"

Well, now that is interesting. And of course the COFF thing reminded me of Xenix! And sure enough ages ago I had found the source to a modified version of GNU GAS that outputs COFF. Once more again this is an indication that all 386 roads in Microsoft really did originate with Xenix. It’s too bad there never was a Windows/386 on Xenix/386. What an incredible OS that would have been! There must be some incredible stories from the tool teams that worked on Microsoft C/386 along with other projects. Oddly enough they never get anywhere near as much exposure as Office or OS.

Now this is fun, but nothing takes in these ancient COFF objects, do they? I tried to run LINK 1.0 from Win32s SDK and surprisingly it didn’t complain about the object, rather, it auto converted it in memory:

Microsoft (R) 32-Bit Executable Linker Version 1.00
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corp 1992-93. All rights reserved.

SIMPLE.OBJ : warning LNK4016: unresolved external symbol "__chkstk"
LINK : warning LNK4016: unresolved external symbol "_mainCRTStartup"
SIMPLE.OBJ : warning LNK4016: unresolved external symbol "_printf"
SIMPLE.exe : error LNK1120: 3 unresolved externals

Does this mean that if I give it some libraries it will actually link?

LINK.EXE SIMPLE.OBJ /SUBSYSTEM:CONSOLE /MACHINE:i386 -entry:mainCRTStartup -out:simple.exe libc.lib kernel32.lib
Microsoft (R) 32-Bit Executable Linker Version 1.00
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corp 1992-93. All rights reserved.


C:\temp\nt196\x\dec\x>simple
Win32, it's happenin'!

This was. VERY unexpected.

So I had this crazy idea, what if the Xenix assembler could in fact build objects that are also compaible in this manner? I used the a.out GCC / Linux porting tools I had built so I could compile Linux on Windows NT using the vintage tools as a starting point. I guess I should also add that when people always say ‘use newer version of THING’ this is how you miss out on old stuff like this. If I had been obsessed with using modern tools and modern operating systems, I’d have missed out on this Xenix filled window.

I took the gcc driver & the cc1 compiler from 1.40 and the c pre-processor from 2.5.8 as it can understand C++ comments. First I manually compiled the ‘simple’ example to assembly:

gcc -v -nostdinc -I/xenixnt/h -S SIMPLE.c -O simple.S
gcc version 1.40
 cpp -nostdinc -v -I/xenixnt/h -undef -D__GNUC__ -Dunix -Di386 -D__unix__ -D__i386__ -D__OPTIMIZE__ SIMPLE.c C:/Users/jsteve/AppData/Local/Temp/cca2_048.cpp
GNU CPP version 2.5.8 (80386, BSD syntax)
#include "..." search starts here:
#include <...> search starts here:
 /xenixnt/h
End of search list.
 cc1 C:/Users/jsteve/AppData/Local/Temp/cca2_048.cpp -quiet -dumpbase SIMPLE.c -O -version -o SIMPLE.s
GNU C version 1.40 (80386, BSD syntax) compiled by GNU C version 5.1.0.
default target switches: -m80387
 cpp -nostdinc -v -I/xenixnt/h -undef -D__GNUC__ -$ -Dunix -Di386 -D__unix__ -D__i386__ -D__OPTIMIZE__ simple.S C:/Users/jsteve/AppData/Local/Temp/cca2_048.s
GNU CPP version 2.5.8 (80386, BSD syntax)
#include "..." search starts here:
#include <...> search starts here:
 /xenixnt/h
End of search list.

Which gave me the following assembly:

        .file   "SIMPLE.c"
gcc_compiled.:
.text
LC0:
        .ascii "Win32, it's happenin'!\0"
        .align 2
.globl _main
_main:
        pushl %ebp
        movl %esp,%ebp
        pushl $LC0
        call _printf
        leave
        ret

Now to assemble with the GAS Xenix assembler

C:\temp\nt196\files\MSTOOLS\SAMPLES\SIMPLE>ax386 SIMPLE.s -o SIMPLE.obj

C:\temp\nt196\files\MSTOOLS\SAMPLES\SIMPLE>wsl file SIMPLE.obj
SIMPLE.obj: 8086 relocatable (Microsoft), "SIMPLE.c", 1st record data length 10, 2nd record type 0x88, 2nd record data length 11

Not quite the same. But it does closer resemble the output from the OS/2 bound versions of the Pre-Rease compilers:

file EMPTY.OBJ
EMPTY.OBJ: 8086 relocatable (Microsoft), "empty.c", 1st record data length 9, 2nd record type 0x88, 2nd record data length 7

So will it link?!

C:\temp\nt196\files\MSTOOLS\SAMPLES\SIMPLE>LINK.EXE SIMPLE.OBJ /SUBSYSTEM:CONSOLE /MACHINE:i386 -entry:mainCRTStartup -out:simple.exe libc.lib kernel32.lib
Microsoft (R) 32-Bit Incremental Linker Version 2.50
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corp 1992-94. All rights reserved.

SIMPLE.OBJ : warning LNK4033: converting object format from OMF to COFF

C:\temp\nt196\files\MSTOOLS\SAMPLES\SIMPLE>simple
Win32, it's happenin'!

Well now this is interesting! LONG before MinGW, or the GCC port to Windows NT, it turns out that in fact GCC could target Windows NT the entire time!

So the next thing to do is something not as trivial, like phoon.

I setup some quick script to pre-process, compile, assemble and then try to link, but as this one uses floating point, disaster struck:

phoon.obj : error LNK2001: unresolved external symbol "___fixdfsi"
astro.obj : error LNK2001: unresolved external symbol "___fixdfsi"
phoon.exe : error LNK1120: 1 unresolved externals

Now ages ago while messgin with old GCC & DooM I also had weird math calls not working. In the end I ended up extracting them from libgcc builds, so I thought I’d try the libgcc built during the GCC 2.6.3 on NT adventure.

link /NODEFAULTLIB:libc.lib /NODEFAULTLIB:OLDNAMES.LIB -out:phoon.exe astro.obj date_p.obj phoon.obj -entry:mainCRTStartup libgcc1.lib LIBC.LIB KERNEL32.LIB
Microsoft (R) 32-Bit Incremental Linker Version 2.50
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corp 1992-94. All rights reserved.

And of course:

To try to make the steps make a little more sense, and to allow for some higher level of automation I made a Makefile:

CC=gcc
AS=ax386
CPP=cpp


CFLAGS= -O
CPPFLAGS= -lang-c-c++-comments -nostdinc -I/xenixnt/h

OBJ =   astro.obj \
date_p.obj \
phoon.obj

LIBS = libgcc1.lib LIBC.LIB KERNEL32.LIB

phoon.exe: $(OBJ)
        link -out:phoon.exe $(OBJ) -entry:mainCRTStartup $(LIBS)

%.obj: %.c
        $(CPP) $(CPPFLAGS) $< $*.i
        $(CC) $(CFLAGS) $(INCLUDE) -S -o $*.S $*.i
        $(AS) $*.S -o $*.obj


clean:
        del $(OBJ) *.i *.S phoon.exe

I’m sure there is better ways to do this, but it breaks the compile up to it’s individual parts:

Run the pre-processor to allow // in the comments, C++ hadn’t been the default thing back when GCC 1.40 was a thing. Also path it to the headers, in this case I’m using the ones from NT 196. Trying to link with the 196 libraries gave me this:

C:\xenixnt\demos\phoon>link /NODEFAULTLIB:LIBC.LIB /NODEFAULTLIB:OLDNAMES.LIB -out:phoon.exe astro.obj date_p.obj phoon.obj -entry:mainCRTStartup base.lib wincrt.lib ntdll.lib \xenixnt\lib\libgcc1.lib
Microsoft (R) 32-Bit Incremental Linker Version 2.50
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corp 1992-94. All rights reserved.

wincrt.lib(maincrt0.obj) : warning LNK4078: multiple ".data" sections found with different attributes (40000040)
astro.obj : error LNK2001: unresolved external symbol "_asin"
astro.obj : error LNK2001: unresolved external symbol "_atan"
astro.obj : error LNK2001: unresolved external symbol "_atan2"
phoon.obj : error LNK2001: unresolved external symbol "_cos"
astro.obj : error LNK2001: unresolved external symbol "_cos"
astro.obj : error LNK2001: unresolved external symbol "_floor"
astro.obj : error LNK2001: unresolved external symbol "_sin"
phoon.obj : error LNK2001: unresolved external symbol "_sqrt"
astro.obj : error LNK2001: unresolved external symbol "_sqrt"
astro.obj : error LNK2001: unresolved external symbol "_tan"
phoon.exe : error LNK1120: 8 unresolved externals

Which is not surprising as there is no FPU/Floating point math support in 196. I tried the December 1991 Pre-Release, but it failed for other reasons:

I did copy over BASE.DLL BASERTL.DLL CSR.DLL DBGDLL.DLL as it wanted, but despite the symbol being in the DLL it didn’t load.

So that’s why I’m using the libraries from the Win32s SDK.

Okay, so far now we have GCC 1.40 compiling to an old Xenix GAS assembler, and linking with Microsoft link from Visual C++ 1.0/2.0 era. The next step is to see if we can just link the objects under 196, and get a running EXE!

I have this tiny fibonacci example program, so with it compiled & assembled by GCC & GAS, I did the final link under 196, and YES it runs!

I then built the ’87 InfoTaskForce, Infocom interpreter, and it was just a simple link, and it’s running!

Possible things to do? GCC should be able to build itself, so it should be possible to build GCC and link that on 196 or December 1991, and get a native version of GCC on NT. The other possibility is to get newer versions of GCC (cc1 drop in replacements) to build for Xenix and / or OS/2. Obviously this Xenix linker is the gateway to older 386 Microsoft based products!

For those interested in such things, I’ve uploaded all of this to archive.org here: windows-nt-196-linking-and-running-gcc

Interesting? Maybe. October 1991 NT SDK uses the OS/2 toolchain

The linker is from an older MS SDK, the compiler from October 1991 preview of NT

So back in the day I wrote something vague about the October 1991 preview version of Windows NT, and after messing with the tools and building f2c & dungeon (among some other stuff) one that that stuck out to me is that the object files had to be converted for NT.

cvtomf!

The interesting thing is of course that it doesn’t support the cl386 direct compile and link (hence CL). Instead you have to compile, convert and then link. A fun thing about the October 1991 version is that there is a cl386 cross compiler for OS/2. So while looking around for OMF linkers (and assemblers that either understand GAS but output OMF, or some translator) I ran across this, and well yeah, it turns out that the OS/2 tool chain is the toolchain. I guess it makes sense in that the NT team was using OS/2 to build NT, but objects and exe’s were not solidified.

I think 6.00.080 was the last version of Microsoft C 386 for OS/2. I need to start collecting more of the SDK/DDK’s of the mixed era, I think the LX/OMF stuff was a bit more widespread hiding in plain sight.

Anyways, interesting?! sure. useful? Maybe 30 years ago. Although I’d probably say just use Watcom C/C++ instead of Microsoft C 6.00

MSDN from October 1994

I picked this 20 disc set recently and ugh the cringe is just… insane.  And yes, that is Bill Nye

 

STUDS from Microsoft .
(Video in MPEG-1/Audio MPEG-2 care of JSMpeg).

I had this ages ago, although I couldn't remember if the NT 3.5 SDK/DDK had shown up at this point, but it's only the Japanese version in this set.  Since I'm having such a PITA in tracking down a 3.5 set, and I'm not sitting on this, I may as well archive it.

Yes, I had to rip 20 of these!

So you too can find the early Video for Windows, and all kinds of other things from the mid '90's on archive.org.

Or Wallpapers like this 'puppy' from the Japanese version of Windows 3.1

https://archive.org/details/MSDNOctober1994

Re-enabling WinHelp on Windows 10

There was a shift years ago from the old help system that has it’s roots going back to Windows 3.0, and was certainly one of the killer features of Windows 3.0, the hyperlinked and searchable help files.  They were a form of compiled RTF files, and could also embed image resources, and later audio & video with the evolution of Windows.  This allowed for a platform for early multimedia encylopedias and other refrence books of sorts.

Starting with Windows Vista, however the WinHelp engine was being retired out for a CHM or compiled HTML help engine.  And for a whlie there optional updates and later downloads to re-enable WinHelp.  However starting with Windows 10 the downloads no longer work.

All is not lost however, if you copy any of the 32bit WinHelp programs from NT 3.1 onward it will still function on Windows 10.  And thanks to this great post on TenForums, you can re-enable the hook so that Windows 10 will integrate again with WinHelp.

@echo off
set crtpth=%CD%
takeown /f "%windir%\winhlp32.exe" >nul
icacls "%windir%\winhlp32.exe" /grant *S-1-5-32-544:F >nul
copy /y "%crtpth%\winhlp32.exe" %windir%
icacls "%windir%\winhlp32.exe" /setowner "NT Service\TrustedInstaller" >nul
echo.
echo Done.
echo.
echo Press any key to Exit
pause >nul

WinHelp from Windows NT 3.1 refresh on Windows 10

And there we go, now I can load obsolete refrence docs from great old programs like Visual C++ 1.10 for Windows NT!

Naturally Microsoft removed all this stuff as it was a security risk, in that they apparently never revamped or updated it, so yeah it may be another infection vector.

Microsoft Fortran PowerStation for NT 1.00

So I came across this recently, and unlike the previous version I had for Windows 3.1, This version is for Windows NT.  And unlike the Windows 3.1 version this version does actually run on the shipping version of Windows NT 3.1, and thus will work all the though including Windows 10 on x64.  The setup program unfortunately doesn’t complete leaving it ‘unlicensed’ however it’ll still run.

The diskettes for the Windows 3.1 version I have are dated 11-23-93, but once installed the compiler is actually from February of 1993, with the Windows NT version being dated October of 1993.

So the nice thing with the Windows NT version is that you don’t have to mess with the compiler, and linker, it’ll just run.  And just like Visual C++ 1.0 / 1.10 for NT the linker doing a release build will always result in an exe being at least 2 megabytes in size.

I know that this is pretty much useless for 99.9999% of people.  Yes it’s ancient Fortran.  Yes Fortran PowerStation 4.0 is far more comprehensive.  Yes after it was sold to Compaq as part of some deal over the collapse of Dec & Windows NT, then sold out to Intel.  And GFortran is free.

But here we go.

32bit Fortran from 1993 in 2018!

Microsoft Editor

(This is a guest post by Antoni Sawicki aka Tenox)

In a recent blog post Wanted: Console Text Editor for Windows I lamented about lack of a good console/cmd/PowerShell text editor for Windows. When researching for the article I made rather interesting discovery. There in a fact has been a native Windows, 32bit, console based text editor. It was available since earliest days of NT or even before. But let’s start from…

…in the beginning there was Z editor. Developed by Steve Wood for TOPS-20 operating system in 1981. Some time after that, Steve sold the source code to Microsoft, which was then ported to MS-DOS by Mark Zbikowski (aka the MZ guy) to become the M editor.

M editor

The DOS-based M editor was included and sold as part of Microsoft C 5.1 (March 1988), together with the OS/2 variant, the MEP editor (perhaps M Editor Protected-mode). The official name of M/MEP was simply Microsoft Editor. The same editor was also available earlier (mid-1987) as part of the MS OS/2 SDK under a different name: SDKED. Note that normally SDKED insists in operating in full screen mode. Michal Necasek generously spent his time and patched it up so that it can be run in windowed mode for your viewing pleasure.

SDKED on OS/2

However my primary interest lies with Windows NT. The NT Design Workbook mentions that in the early days a self-hosting developer workstation included compiler, some command line tools and a text editor – MEP. Leaked Windows NT builds sometimes include IDW, Internal Development Workstation, which also seem to contain a variant of the same editor. In fact some these tools including MEP.EXE can be found on Windows NT pre-release CD-ROMs (late 1991) under MSTOOLS. It was available for both MIPS and 386 as a Win32 native console based application.

MEP on Windows NT Pre-Release

The editor was later also available for Alpha, i386, MIPS, and PowerPC processors on various official Windows NT SDKs from 3.1 to 4.0. It survived up to July 2000 to be last included in Windows 2000 Platform SDK.

M editor
M editor from NT SDK 3.1 running on Alpha AXP
MEP from NT SDK on Windows NT 4.0

The Win32 version of MEP also comes with an icon and a file description which calls it M Editor in NT 3.1 SDK and later Microsoft Extensible Editor.

From time perspective, it was rather unfortunate that this gem was buried in the SDK rather than being included on Windows NT release media. However I can understand that the editor wasn’t very user friendly or intuitive, compared to say edit.com from MS-DOS. It came from a different era and similar to VI or Emacs, didn’t have “PC user friendly” key bindings or menus.

But that’s not the end of the story. The editor of many names survives to this day, at least unofficially. If you dig hard enough you can find it on OpenNT 4.5 build. For convenience, this and other builds including DOS M, OS/2 MEP and SDKED, NT SDK MEP can be downloaded here.

Digging through the archive I found not one but two copies of the editor code, lurking in the source tree. One under the name MEP inside \private\utils\mep\ folder and a second copy under name Z (which was the original editor for TOPS) in \private\sdktools\z folder. MEP was included in Platform SDK, while Z was only available as part of IDW.

Doing a few diffs I was able to get some insight on the differences. Looks like MEP was initially ported from OS/2 to NT and bears some signs of being an OS/2 app. The Z editor on the other hand is a few years newer and has many improvements and bug fixes over MEP. It also uses some specific NT only features.

Sadly the internal Z editor was never released anywhere outside of Redmond. All the versions outlined so far had copyrights only up to 1990, while Z clearly has copyright from 1995. Being a few years newer and more native to NT I wanted to see if a build could be made. With some effort I was able to separate it from the original source tree and compile stand alone. Being a pretty clean source code I was able to compile it for all NT hardware platforms, including x64, which runs comfortably on Windows 10. You can download Z editor for Windows here.

Z editor on flashy Windows 7 x64

But how do you even use this thing?

Platform SDK contains pretty solid documentation in tools.chm.

Here is a handy cheat sheet:

Last but not least there is a modern open source re-implementation of Z editor named K editor. It’s written from scratch in C++ and LUA and has nothing to do with the original MEP source code. K is built only for x64 using Mingw. There are no ready to run binaries so I made a fork and build.

K editor on Windows 10 x64

The author Kevin Goodwin has kindly included copies of original documentation if you actually want to learn how to use this editor.

Installing Windows NT 3.1 on a physical computer

I have this P4 I got for super cheap in Hong Kong, that came with Windows 98 of all things. Naturally I want to load something more useful like Windows NT 3.1 onto it, so I did have to do some tweaking first.

Storage

The first thing is the hard disk. I was lucky in that this machine came with a 40GB disk, the Hitachi Desktar IC35L060AVV207-0.

HGST Deskstar 180GXP IC35L060AVV207-0

HGST Deskstar 180GXP IC35L060AVV207-0

Now what makes this disk great, is that it can be jumpered down to act like an 8GB disk, so that things like MS-DOS and older OS’s like Windows NT can recognize the disk.  Even nicer that the jumper settings are on the disk!

Disk jumpers

Disk jumpers

My board supports booting from IDE, which is nice as I could paritition and format the disk from MS-DOS 5.00, and make sure things were working fine.

However it really doesn’t matter as over on Beta Archive, TheCollector1988 has made an ATAPI driver available for not only Windows NT 3.1, but also various beta versions as well!  You can find the post, and the links to download here! (mirror here).  Now you can install from the boot diskette & a driver diskette and load the rest of the OS from CD-ROM.

Processor

You will have patch the INITIAL.IN_ and SETUP.IN_ files to allow installation on any new processor.

Change

STF_PROCESSOR = “” ? $(!LIBHANDLE) GetProcessor

to

STF_PROCESSOR = $(ProcessorID_I586)

You can leave the files expanded, but this is needed if your CPU is newer than a Pentium (Yes a Pentium 60/66 type processor, so that is Pentium Pro, Pentium II, Pentium III, Pentium 4 and beyond…).  But yes, this is great!  No need to try to dig up old SCSI cards, SCSI disks, and SCSI CD-ROM drives.

Network

And much like Qemu and VMware, the AMD PCnet is a great go to PCI card, and I was able to find this IBM 11H8130 Type 8-Z 10BaseT PCI Network Card which works!

IBM 11H8130

IBM 11H8130

The card works great with 11265315.exe set of drivers, OR disk image pcnet.7z .  But for sure the key is the in the chipset!

AMD

AMD AM79C970AKC PCnet(tm)-PCI II

As this chipset, the AMD AM79C970AKC is the one that is explicitly listed as compatible.  This IBM card provides an AUI port, along with a 10baseT port.

Post install, service packs

Of course when installing Windows NT 3.1, you’ll want service pack 3, the last update to the OS.

Also don’t forget to replace NTLDR & NTDETECT.COM from a later version of Windows NT to allow access to more than 64MB of RAM.

Thoughts…

Windows NT 3.1 will allow you to install on FAT, HPFS, and NTFS v1 partitions and disks.  The TCP/IP is a 3rd party, from Spider that does not support DHCP.  Outside of doing it just because, it really is better to go with NT 3.5 or 3.51 as they have better SMP support, are much faster, and have a much more robust network stack.