Native DOS with modern hardware

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  • Kazashi


    I was wondering if there was anyone in here who had experience with retro gaming sans DOSBox et al.

    Obviously one option would be to source era-appropriate hardware and build some old systems; I know some people on the podcast have done exactly this.

    I had a quick look at x86 microcontrollers, however so far I unable to find anything quite suitable. The next option appears to be using low-powered modern hardware, such as a mini-ITX setup.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.



    Not sure how modern you’re wanting..
    ..but there are plenty of Mini-ITX platforms with cheap VIA chips that could work excellently.
    Shouldn’t be too difficult to get PC speaker support going and as long as they have an LPT port you could go with an OPL2LPT to get Adlib support.
    Drop the L1/2 caches and you’ve got something slow enough to play even 286/386-era games!


    That sounds like a good idea: I especially like the concept of dropping cache to slow down the system. While most of the games I would be interested in running come from the mid-late 90s, I would appreciate the ability to also run time-locked games.

    By modern I’m thinking more about new hardware that would be readily available on the current market, as opposed to looking around for older hardware second hand. I do have some older hardware available to me, but I’m also interested in what can be done when that older hardware just isn’t there.


    DOS games didn’t have virtualised memory, while modern operating systems do. This may cause problems like “data execution” errors, where the DOS game tries to do things which aren’t allowed anymore. Even Win95 games may not run native on modern windows for this same reason.

    But getting closer to your question…
    You may also have trouble with sound on modern hardware. In the 1990s, sound cards used to be configured at Port 220h / IRQ 5or7 / DMA 0or1, with little deviation possible.

    Since the early 2000s, sound hardware has been done differently (modern HDAudio standard vs old AC97 standard), and I’m not sure these old configurations can work anymore.

    Installing a virtual sound driver may be possible, to remap the ports on your modern hardware to something your DOS games recognise, but don’t expect success.

    If your hardware has a free PCI slot, you may be able to install an era-correct sound card, but I cannot guarantee this would work either.


    Thanks for the reply.

    As you mentioned, one hurdle faced with modern hardware is that the sound configuration is different. Looking around, it seems that pretty much all attempts to enable sound resort to a SB-compatible PCI card. There seems to be some software/drivers around to extend DOS support to devices like Intel HDA but I need to investigate that further.

    Another issue I have come across is VGA/VESA support in newer hardware. Support is not perfect, since it’s not really expected these days.


    Hey, have you checked ?

    These guys even have it in their name: “Very Old Games On New Systems”.

    I bet you’ll find many valuable resources over there. (I haven’t checked personally, because I prefer old systems :-p)


    I haven’t seen that site, though I do recognise Phil from his Youtube videos.

    Thanks for the resource.


    Let us know what solution(s) you come up with!
    VOGONS should have every resource you could possibly imagine lol


    You can always pick up a cheap thin client on ebay… quite a few of them will run dos.

    You would be best running dos 7 on it.


    Thanks for the comments. I’m going to try resurrecting a slightly older mini-ITX system I have here first before looking into buying anything new. There are still plenty of older parts I have in stock to play with, so I’ll see how that goes when I get some time.

    Ultimately I would like to have a few PCs networked up in classic LAN party style, so I imagine affordability will play a large part in what hardware is used.

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