Saturday, December 02, 2006

DOS on a 486 as a viable development platform

I've got this development project underway where the code is straight ANSI C. It reads files does a bunch of magic stuff and writes files back out. For several weeks now I've been using plain old DOS running on an 10+ year old 486DX4-100 as my development platform.

The old 1989 vintage Turbo C 2.0 compiler (ANSI compliant) and Turbo debugger are completely sufficient to do this work. The old BRIEF editor is very fast on a 486. So far the program fits well within 640K and probably will for at least several more months worth of work.

As a practical matter, there's nothing currently that would make me move it to a faster machine or to a different OS. At some point in the future when basic functionality is settled and the most egregious bugs worked out I'll be making sure the code is truly portable among a slew of different compilers and platforms, but for now trusty old DOS and a geriatric C compiler are doing the job just fine.

Software is curious product in that it doesn't wear out, rot, rust, or decay in any discernible manner. Its as good (or bad) today as it was when it shipped originally.

1 comment:

Francis W. Porretto said...

Needless to say, the expansion of the hardware demands made by software is almost entirely due to the emergence of the idiot-proof graphical user interface and its concomitant, graphically oriented on-demand "help."

As an old command-line maven, I deplored the transition as ardently as anyone, while it was in progress. (Among other things, I didn't want to have to learn the immense Windows API, nor the smaller but equally daunting X Window / Motif equivalent.) But though the costs have been considerable, they've also expanded the utility of computers so greatly that a modern household without one is considered say nothing of a desk in a modern business enterprise.

There are drawbacks too. We've created a generation of users that can't tell you how many cans there are in a six-pack without recourse to Google or Wikipedia. Ah, well.