WineVDM 0.5.0 released!

This version has MANY issues fixed, and is capable of running more and more Win16 software on Win64 based OS’s.

Printing on paper!

One of the more exciting things is that as long as I do a print setup first, I can actually print on a new printer from MS Word 2.0c!

You can download it from the releases page here:

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

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

Excel Working Model

While messing around with Windows/386 and talking to others going through their old stuff, I’d forgotten that in the box was a working model of Excel. Since I only have the physical diskettes for 2.03, I did dump the disks for 2.11 when I had that.

Envelope with the demo

At this time in history the big spreadsheet that defined the PC was 1-2-3 which took the spreadsheet mantle away from the CP/M spreadsheet who in turn took it away from the progenitor VisiCalc on the Apple II.  And this was the chance to define the new spreadsheet for a whole new platform.  

Excel started out on the Macintosh, but with version 2 it was time to come to the PC for the new and exciting Windows 2 platoform.  And to get people to try it out the key was free working demos.

Automated demo

I thought it was interesting that it comes with a demo showing off the ability to take data from several spreadsheets and make a 3rd with data.  Oh what an exciting world 1989 was!

Oddly enough I couldn’t directly import text (csv) data into XL, but I could use Excel 3 to create a version 2 xls with my current top blog stats and then create some graphs.

So first, here is from the blog stats package wp-statistics:

Chart in Excel 2

And there we go in Excel 2.  Since I have Excel 3, here is it running under WineVDM on Windows 10:

Excel 3

Obviously the higer resolution helps for moving stuff around.  And the legend doesn’t resize in either, but in Excel 3’s larger display it and move stuff around.

Needless to say this stuff is down right primative in 2018, but it’s always fun to check out ‘professional’ tools from 30 years ago.

Windows/386 v2.0(3)

Unknown disk on Ebay…

I stumbled onto these three disks, seemingly out of place in history.  Windows/386 version 2.0 is a strange one in that it shipped to OEM’s in late 1987, making it & Xenix part of the initial 386 wave of Operating Systems/Environments and beating out not only the OS/2 launch in 1988, but taking advantage of the 80386’s v86 mode, something that OS/2 wouldn’t be able to do in a shipping product until 1992. 

This version itself appears to be a retail version of Windows/386 lacking any clear OEM identification that was so prevalent for the era.  Indeed setting it up it offers a few interesting platforms:

Getting this to run was a little bit of a challenge as much as I prefer Qemu, these older 2.0x versions of Windows/386 have a BIOS/disk incompatibility with the hypervisor resulting in errors reading the hard disk.  Although PCem/86Box have no such issues.  I think it’ll run off floppy/CD-ROM/Network without any issue though.

Windows/386 v2.03

Once installed it reveals itself to be version 2.03 of all things.  While I was hoping for some kind of retail version of 2.00/2.01 this appears as close as it may get as it has more in common with the PCjs version of 2.01 (which you can try live on his site!)

The PCjs version of 2.03 has 138 setup files (not counting the PIFs), compared to the eBay’s 141, while the PCjs 2.01 has 59 files.

That said, well it’s Windows/386 mostly from 1987 with slightly updated EGA/CGA VMM drivers from early 1988 that just didn’t quite make the cut.  To me what is confusing, is that it identifies as 2.03 while it’s closer to 2.01 in file count and functionality, unlike 2.03 it really ought to have been a 2.02, if there even was such a thing.

Windows/386 2.03 in CGA

Otherwise it’s really not all that interesting short of the timestamp.  It’ll run on CGA/EGA *IF* you have the proper adapter in place, although VGA is compatible, the environment will detect that it’s not actually the proper card and refuse to run.  I tried to put in the 2.01 CGA/EGA drivers, but that resulted in an OS version mismatch (I didn’t check if 2.01 was locked to the Compaq OEM of MS-DOS)

No mixing drivers!

I installed the infamous pair Word & Excel.  Despite Word 1.1a demanding at least Windows 2.11, it appears to run okay.  Excel 2.1d loaded without complaining.  There isn’t very much convential memory for either, but they both can use expanded memory, which the hypervisor can create and share out without any emm386 or any equivalent driver.  I can only imagine the incompatibles of trying to balance these drivers at the time, and how much the coming DPMI specification was needed.

Memory trouble in Windows 2.x

 And as the old saying goes the three top problems in Windows version 2 is memory, memory and memory.  Trying to run anything graphical will exhaust convential ram, forcing you to single task anything graphical which kind of defeats the whole point of Windows.  You go from this:

BattleTech CGA in a Window

To this:

Windows is out of memory!

Oh well it’s 1987, and users were kind of used to being disappointed as such.  It’s really no wonder why Windows 3.0 became the smash it it was.

And of course you can't talk about Windows/386 without this gem. (Video in MPEG-1/Audio MPEG-2 care of JSMpeg).

WineVDM is improving at a dramatic rate

It’s incredible how much it’s improved since I last touched on WineVDM, the port of Wine to run on Windows using the MS-DOS Player (and Mame 80386 emulation) at it’s heart.

The latest source build WineVDM_2018_07_30b.7z is now capable of loading and running Sim City for Windows 1.0.

I found it best to install Windows 3.0 into DOSBox, and then your application.  After the install I copy the application so the physical drive of the hosts matches where it was installed, and then unpack the 7z build archive into that directory.  There is a ‘WINDOWS’ directory and I xcopy the installed Windows directory into there so it has all the INI files, fonts and all that jazz.  To make sure it doesn’t conflict I delete the following from Windows 3.0:

del windows\system\*.drv
del windows\system\*.exe
del windows\system\*.mod
del windows\system\WIN87EM.DLL

Since these files are most certainly going to be emulated by WineVDM.  After that it’s time to run stuff!

130 KLOC!

I should also add that I’ve been able to use QuickC for Windows, and build a ‘non trivial’ program, the Fortran f2c compiler weighing in at 104,245 lines , and use that to compile 16,182 lines of Fortran 77 into C, and then compile the resulting C + the Fortran runtime library a staggering 130,405 lines of code, and the resulting binary works, just like it did on Windows 3.0!

I’ve also been able to print a text file using Microsoft Word 2.0 much to my amazement, although anything involving fonts just locks or crashes.  I can’t say I’m all that surprised.

And yes, it does in fact run SkiFree 1.0

SkiFree on WineVDM

So no need to wait for Win3mu, there is WineVDM which is being developed RIGHT NOW, and the source is already available.  You can see my notes on building it here.


This is super cool, building on Takeda Toshiya’s excellent MS-DOS Player, is a fusion of the MS-DOS emulation with portions of Wine to run Win16 applications on Win32 capable OS’s.

Excel 3.0a

Yes, it really can run Excel 3.0a.  I don’t know how much people will want a 27 year old spreadsheet, but here we go!  It’s incredibly buggy, and many Microsoft programs don’t like their accelerators, or menus, more things don’t run than do, but when they do it’s great.

The releases on the github page are quite old, and you’ll really want to bulid this from source.    You will need Visual Studio 2017 to build this, and I used the Community Edition.  While trying to compiling I got this error:

Really it’s no help at all

Performing Custom Build Tools
The system cannot find the path specified.

Well that doesn’t help us at all!

Setting the Tools -> Options -> Build and Run, MSBuild sections to both detailed verbosity revealed:

“C:\Users\neozeed\source\repos\winevdm-master\Release\convspec” “krnl386.exe16.spec” KERNEL > “krnl386.exe16.asm” && “C:\msys32\mingw64\bin\as” –32 -o “krnl386.exe16.obj” “krnl386.exe16.asm”
Performing Custom Build Tools
The system cannot find the path specified.

So it turns out it is using GNU GAS to assemble itself.  So I just copied in an ‘as.exe’ from another MinGW install I have lying around.

c:\msys32\mingw64\bin\as.exe –version
GNU assembler 2.17.50 20060824

So it doesn’t even have to be a hyper modern version, as you can see with the –32 we are building 32bit based stuff anyways.

And with that all done we have a release build.

F2c Dungeon

I had no luck with Sim City, but Sim Life & Sim Earth load at least, but not being able to use the menus means you can’t really use them.  Microsoft Word 1.1 won’t load at all, while Word 2.0 will load but again no menus, and it’s unable to register enough OLE to open documents so it’s not very useful again.  Although my ancient QuickC for Windows F2c port of Dungeon, works okay, although QuickC for Windows itself does not currently run.

WinHelp 3.00

Another great thing is that you can run WinHelp for all your ancient documenation fixes!  Also MS Write from the ancient days of Windows 3.0/3.1 works as well


You can download my binary build here: WineVDM_2018_07_30.7z.  It’s almost a given that you will need the Visual C++ 2017 runtime.

The latest version allows the menus to work properly so you can actually use Word for Windows 2.0 and SimEarth & SimLife now!  Further updates let you actually select and open files in Word for Windows 2.0!

SimLife for Windows

Sim Life on Crossover for OS X

Continuing in my eventual goal to get all the Maxis games (Sim City, Sim Earth) for Windows 3.0 I just acquired Sim Life.

Although the box that I have is the ‘Classics’ version, it actually does support Windows 3.0 as specified on the box.  The requirements were again massive for the era, but pitiful for today requiring an 80386 processor, and 4MB of RAM, and a VGA display!

Unlike Sim City, the UI in Sim Life prevents you from moving MID child windows under the title bar, making playing on modern machines much more tolerable.  My copy arrived with 3 low density 3 1/2″ diskettes, and a 204 page manual, making for a very hefty learning curve, along with a more involved experience then something casual, say Spore.

There is no doubt about how there is a great deal of overlap between Sim Earth and Sim Life, although the timescale is certainly more geared to life, unlike Sim Earth’s geological timescale, and even with these 3 programs it certainly feels like the save files should have been able to be transfered at some point, that the genesis of Spore is here with moving from geological to biological then to human lifetime scales.  Although with so many things to change and get involved in, I really have to wonder if dumbing down Spore was the ‘right thing’ to do, to make it more accessible, however there is no doubt that the space portion of Spore was terrible with only a single ship to command, which made growing an empire of any size once the Grox has been encountered impossible.

Having a modern display does make the sense of the planet feel laughably small, but it’s a game, not a real life simulation, and as such expected to execute on 16Mhz machines.  That said running on Crossover (Wine) on my Xeon it is incredibly snappy.  One nice touch is that Sim Life is able to detect sound properly and it’ll run silently on Windows 3.0, but with 3.1 with configured audio & MIDI drivers, it’ll play (annoying) sounds, and the occasional MIDI track.

The included catalogue for this game didn’t have any prices so I don’t know what the retail price was at the time.  And I have to admit, short of collecting old games for Windows 3.0 there is probably little value here compared to the far more relatable Sim City for Windows.

VGA display

Also it just goes to say that although it scales nicer for the UI on a VGA display, comparing my Apple Cinema display to VGA really makes for a claustrophobic experience.

Unless you are a diehard fan, I’d say that you’d get more out of the much flawed spore.  Although if you want to see how incredibly more detailed the older games were, you’ll certainly love this one!

DOSBox 0.74 can run Windows 3.0/3.1 in 386 Enhanced mode!

DOSBox… in a box!

I don’t know why I never tried it before, but it actually works!  And it’ll even spawn out to a window two.  Although without share/record locking it’ll end up being a world of pain, I suspect.  Maybe vDOS/vDosPlus will work?  I know it’ll work fine if you boot MS-DOS inside of DOSBox, but for some reason I never actually tried to stress the v86 mode of DOSBox from within Windows.

SimCity under Windows 3.0

In this case, I’m looking at the ultra popular Sim series, and their Windows releases.  While I was a big fan of SimCity, especially having played it on an Amiga, when I found out that there was a Commodore 64 version I had bought it immediately as I wanted to play it at home.  And let me tell you, it was a severely underwhelming experience.

SimCIty C64

From the logo it’s all down hill.  I know that SimCity is actually from 1985, and as the first version, the Commodore 64 version is basically the prototype.

SimCity C64

Which was just graphically underwhelming, but I still played the hell out of it.  And then I saw the Spectrum 48k version.  Yes the blocks are ‘buildings’ as the units fill up they will turn into black with only the letter remaining.  Despite the ultra minimal graphics, the game play is there.  And once you get used to the bizarre combination keyboard+joystick controls it is addictive.  I mean it is SimCity!

SimCity Spectrum 48k

But going to the PC, I kind of grew out of SimCity.  DooM was the hot game, and the whole immersive 3d thing.  And of course during that era being on the PC I only knew of the MS-DOS version.  While there was a version for OS/2 Warp released much much later, and by then if I felt the urge there was SimCity 2000 for Windows.

But after getting the kick for SimEarth, and finding the Windows 3.0 version, I was much surprised to find out that there was a version of SimCity of Windows 3.0 as well!

And I can see why I never had seen this for retail, or knew anyone who had it.

Maxis Order Form

That’s right in the included form, the price was $59.95.  And SimEarth was $69.95!  To put that in perspective that would be now $107.17, and $125.04  respectively.  And people think $60 for a game today is expensive!

To get the full experience I went ahead and loaded up PCem, with a 386 and EGA graphics to get that original feel.

Since this requires Windows 3.0, with either EGA or VGA graphics, and 2MB of RAM, I figured I would go with a ‘top of the line’ souped up 386DX.  I tried to load it up with the Wyse700 driver, and the game fails to load resources.  I don’t know if its even possible to make black and white or four colour resources, as I live in the future, and I have millions of colours!

That said, I tested and it has no issues with 8bit depths either.

Installation is pretty smooth, the game is shipped on either two 360k 5 1/4″ diskettes, or a single 720kb diskette. While modern games have so much more, there is many things this game is lacking.  But Maxine isn’t one of them.

Maxine the cow

No really, she is listed as a feature.

The music is through the PC speaker.  Just like the sound effects.  Multimedia integration with Windows that we take for granted today just wasn’t a thing back then.  The version I have is 1.0, Although a pirated version 1.1 that was sent in actually includes WAV sound effects, and a single midi track. However it doesn’t run on Windows 3.0.  So lucky me!

Unrecoverable Application Error

Ah the UAE, the bane of Windows 3.0.  They were so unpopular that Microsoft had to rename the dialog.

SimCity on EGA

Living in the constraints of EGA feel absolutely claustrophobic in today’s world.  640×350 just isn’t enough screen rel estate.  Even 640×480 is far far too small.  And that lead to one issue I found

SimCity SVGA

While using a SVGA driver so I can get that impossible to afford experience of 1280×1024 in 256 colours, but the application was never meant to run in something that wide.  You can easily put child windows ‘behind’ the dead space, and you can never recover them.  You have to save and re-launch. bummer.

Which leads me to perhaps the most famous reputation of SimCity for Windows.  As mentioned on Joe’s site, there was a massive struggle to get games like SimCity running on Windows 95. As Raymond Chen says:

If any application failed to run on Windows 95, I took it as a personal failure. I spent many sleepless nights fixing bugs in third-party programs just so they could keep running on Windows 95. (Games were the worst. Often the game vendor didn’t even care that their program didn’t run on Windows 95!)

Yes, they basically knew it had problems.  In the box they even had this cute flyer:

I sure hope Raymond got something for his efforts!

And yes, rest assured it actually does work.  It even works on Windows 3.00a under Citrix MULTIUSER 2.0.  Pointless as there is no way to have remote graphical displays but nice to see it work.

So what went wrong?  Where was all the follow up games for Windows?  Obviously the hardware needed was incredibly expensive.  A 386 or even a 286 with a few megabytes of RAM was expensive.  VGA or EGA monitors were also very expensive.  Even mice were expensive!  Putting together a low end PC basically barred you from this high end premier experience.  I can’t imagine that Maxis sold many copies of this.  As mentioned above I’m pretty sure there is a reason why I never saw this in the wild.

Awesome Windows 386/486 machine prices February 1992

Spending $3000 in early 1992, which is $5197.95 in today’s money. I can’t even begin to imagine spending over $5,000 to play a game.  It’s no wonder when older machines show up on eBay people want far too much for them.

In a strange way I like to watch SimCity animate in the background.  It’s like a fish tank, or staring out into a busy street.  With the advantage that I can summon a giant lizard to destroy it at my whim.

Windows 3.0 Debug Release 1.14

Well from popular request I finally got around to loading this up.  I went ahead with my favourite retro emulator, PCem for this, as it can nicely emulate an EGA display, unlike most emulators which do VGA, however when it comes to older versions of Microsoft products they really can detect the difference between EGA and VGA.

So to start off, I downloaded from the project page, this version of PCem, compiled it, and installed MS-DOS 4.01 , from April of 1989.  The Windows 3.0 Debug Release 1.14 itself is dated from February 22nd, 1989.  Which I figured is close enough to the time period.  I’m using the 486SX2/50 because I’m too impatient for the 386 speeds, but it does work fine on 386 or higher emulators.  It does NOT work with any 286 emulation. I’m also using the HIMEM.SYS from MS-DOS 4.01 vs the one with the Windows 3.0 (Alpha? Beta? Technical Preview?) since it is slightly newer.

There is no setup program per say, rather it just xcopies all the files to a directory, and from there you run ‘d.bat’ and away you go.  This version is hard coded to an EGA display, which again is the reason I went with PCem.  Once you start it up, you are greeted with:

Windows v3.0 Debug Release 1.14

And it identifies itself as Windows Version 2.1

Look at all the memory!

And first thing to notice is that on my setup with 8MB of ram, I have over 6MB of RAM free.  Compare this to regular Windows 2.1 which gives me 399Kb of ram in my current setup.

Windows 2.1 running in real mode
Windows 2.1 running in real mode

And with Windows/386 Version 2.1 it provides 383Kb of real memory, along with 6.7MB of EMS memory, as the Windows/386 Hypervisor includes EMS emulation.

Windows/386 memory
Windows/386 memory

Of course the major limitation of Windows 2 is that it runs in real mode, or in the case of Windows/386 an 8086VM.  As I mentioned a while back in a post about Windows 3.0,  This was game changing.

As now with Windows running in protected mode, all the memory in my PC is available to Windows, and I am using MS-DOS, with nothing special.

Besides the limitation of being EGA only, the Debug version of 3.0 is that there is no support for MS-DOS applications, as WINOLDAP.MOD is missing.

NO MS-DOS for you!
NO MS-DOS for you!

This is clearly an interim build of Windows 3.0 as mentioned in Murray Sargent’s MSDN blog Saving Windows from the OS/2 Bulldozer.  As mentioned from the article they began their work in the summer of 1988, so considering this is early 1989 it shows just how much progress they had made in getting Windows 2 to run in protected mode.  Along with Larry Osterman’s MSDN blog post Farewell to one of the great ones, which details how the Windows 3.0 skunkworks project was writing the new improved 386 hypervisor, and how Windows 3.0 got the green light, and changed the direction of not only Microsoft but the entire software industry.

I’ve been able to run most of the Windows 2.1 applets, however I’ve not been able to run Excel 2, or Word 1.  I suspect at this point that  only small memory model stuff from Windows 1 or 2 is capable of running.  Although at the same time, when 3.0 did ship, you really needed updated versions of Word 2 and Excel 3 to operate correctly.

Windows 3.0 Debug Release 1.14
Windows 3.0 Debug Release 1.14 on a 12MB system

The applets from Windows 2.1 seem to work a LOT better than the one from Windows/386 2.1 if that helps any.

This is an interesting peek at an exceptionally early build of Microsoft Windows.