Ah, MS-DOS, you old command-line interface rascal. Those who are old enough will probably remember this OS fondly, that ruled x86 based PCs up until 1995. I knew all its commands by heart, and few people had an equally optimized AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS, which I modified ad absurdum in order to get just a few more Ks of conventional memory (some games required it). I loved messing about with DOS, the feel of it, and all its old-school software. I was 15 when Windows 95 arrived, and while I was heavily against it at first, I of course eventually had to succumb to the new age of the GUI.
Back then, DOS was the best platform for computer gaming, and there was an abundance of great titles available. With the help of an open-source emulator called DOSBox, you can actually play some of these games on your Symbian^1 powered device today, like the Nokia N97 and N97 Mini. It’s preferable if your phone has a hardware QWERTY keyboard, as DOS is controlled with text commands. But you can run it on a device like the Nokia 5800 as well, if you use a virtual keyboard.
Unlike the Nintendo and Sega emulation, and the Quake ports, that provide great gameplay, this is more of a “because you can” and “for the heck of it” sort of thing. You need to have the sound turned off if you want a playable frame rate, and even then the games will be pretty slow. Still, it’s cool that you actually can play them in the first place, and it’s a nostalgic experience for those who played the games back in the 90s.
- 1. Install DOSBox
- 2. The Keys
- 3. Basic DOS Commands
- 4. How to Launch a Game
- 5. Where to Download DOS Games
- 6. Leave a Comment
This guide assumes that your device has a mass memory, but if not, I see no reason why you shouldn’t be able to use a memory card instead.
- First of all, you need to copy the DOSBox configuration files to the Data folder on your phone’s mass memory. Download the config files, and connect your phone to your computer in either the “Mass Storage” or the “PC Suite” mode. Locate the Data folder on your mass memory, and place the two files dosbox.conf and premapper.txt there. If the Data folder doesn’t exist, create it.
- Now create a folder called DOSGames in the root of your mass memory. This is where you should put your games, in separate folders. Here are some excellent sites to download DOS games from. This is what the DOSGames folder looks like on my Nokia N97:
- If you want to install the games to a different location, you can download the configuration files, and then edit the following line at the end of dosbox.conf (just open it in a simple text editor like Notepad): mount c e:\dosgames.
- In order to run DOSBox, you need to install a couple of other files that it is depending on. Download DOSBox_s60_bianry_dependencies.zip, and extract the archive on your computer. The files should install without any prompts, but if asked, install them to the phone memory. These are the files to install:
- You may not be able to install stdioserver_s60_1_3_SS.sis. If this is the case, just skip it. Update: I’ve learned that there’s a newer version of SDL available here, that hasn’t expired and can be installed without signing it first. Install that file instead of SDL-1.2.13-s60-2.3.4_armv5.sisx from the DOSBox dependencies package.
Furthermore, you will probably have to sign SDL-1.2.13-s60-2.3.4_armv5.sisx in order to install it, since your device most likely will complain its certificate has expired. Changing the date on your phone won’t remedy this. Here is a guide to signing Symbian applications. It’s a simple process.
- Now it’s time to install DOSBox. Download the applicaiton and install it to the mass memory. Installing it to another location will probably work as well, but I haven’t tried this myself.
- Now start DOSBox in landscape mode with the keyboard out, and you should be ready to rock!
- Please note: Some of the more advanced DOS games cannot be played, since you will get a “not enough memory” error message. If this is the case, try another game. If you know of a way to increase the memory, please describe it in a comment. Thanks.
Since DOS is controlled with text commands, it’s essential that you know which buttons do what on your QWERTY keyboard. The letter keys should work as usual, in both lower and uppercase. The Function key (blue arrow) that is normally used to enter numbers and special characters, doesn’t do anything. The Sym key right next to it (it’s simply marked Sym) has taken its place, and it switches between the normal mode and number/special character mode.
Press Sym to enter number/special character mode, and press it again to return to letter mode. When you’re in the number mode, these keys will be different:
Keys in Sym Mode
|Top row of keys
|Numbers, as usual.
|Escape/ESC, a key that is needed to quit certain games.
When you have used any of these keys in Sym mode, don’t forget to press it again to switch back to normal mode.
Keys in Normal Mode (in games)
|Will move the mouse cursor
|OK-button (in the middle of the D-pad)
|Left mouse click
|Right mouse click
Here’s a list of basic DOS commands, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it. The commands are confirmed with the Enter button. For a complete list of commands, check out this Wikipedia article.
|Changes to the folder you specify. For example, to enter the Dune folder, type CD Dune
|Go back to the previous folder.
|Shows a list of the files and folders in the current directory
|This command will list all executable files in the current folder. It’s useful for finding the file that will launch the game. Some games are launched with .bat-files, and then you can type Dir .bat instead.
In this example, I launch a game called Alone in the Dark. The game is located in a folder called AloneD, that I have copied to the DOSGames folder on my Nokia N97’s mass memory.
- I start DOSBox, then type CD AloneD and press Enter to switch to the game’s folder.
- I use the Dir .exe command to find out which file I need to launch in order to start the game. This will list ALONE.EXE.
- I type in Alone and this will start the game!
- When I’m done, I can use the CD.. and Dir commands to launch another game, or just type in Exit to quit DOSBox
These sites are great places to download abandonware DOS games from.