EeePC with FreeDOS

Hardware Aug 04, 2019

Introduction

What makes this combination unique? And old, very slow netbook combined with an even older operating system. On a paper it's a horrible idea. Even the simplest smartphone can beat that easily. It could even emulate DOS. But that's where the theory ends and meets the real life experience.

There is a place in my hearth for a DOS. Not because it's easy to use but because it's fast. It was fast in the days and still can't be beaten today. I need a machine that is light, have keyboard and simple word processor. If I can program on it that's added bonus. And EeePC with DOS is just that. FreeDOS exactly. Is free and open source, installation was easy and ends with a fully featured operating system.

Hardware Stack

EEEPC 701SD + External Floppy Drive

EeePC is super slow in today's standards. But with FreeDOS I can start writing in a meter of seconds from cold boot. It runs on SSD so no moving parts. Screen is "just" 7 inches. But as a typewriter it's just enough. It is not connected to the net. No multitasking. No distractions. With USB support I can use my mechanical keyboard and read SD cards.

Software Stack

FreeDOS mem command.

All the software was written for a much, much slower hardware. This makes everything buttery smooth. Battery should also runs much longer. Helpfully ASCII standards was the thing and exchanging text files is easy. All I need is a word processor. For now I'm using edit. Best thing with writing is that all I need is ability to put letters. And save them. Any text editor can do that and edit is a no exception. I don't think I need anything more when I use markdown. Beside that it's a gad dammed DOS. I can run anything that was made for it. Not that I need but BASIC is another thing I love. And there is nothing better than Microsoft QuickBASIC and it's IDE: QBASIC.

Edit (FreeDOS)

All this software is in it's best versions. It was time without online updates. When it was shipped it was shipped. That's why it was tested by testers not users. Also whole stack is simple. One user, one session and one application run. All text based.

But how it all happened?

KBC Poker 2 w/ Brown MX Cherry 

I always wanted to have a mobile typewriter machine. And in this digital age better if it produce .txt files in the end than inked paper. There is a perfect device: Freewriter. But it's barely use it's potential. And here I have a same experience (Brown MX Cherry and almost instant power up). I bought EeePC and tied different Linux distros. Debian wins. But after a longer usage I found that all I need is a descent word processor.

Keyboard closeup

Booting full Linux takes ages on this specs. That's why I jumped to the DOS. I forgot how old systems were fast. Booting time? BIOS takes 90% of the time. OS boots in second. I think I hit the end game in that department.

Bottom line

If you're old enough to know DOS and have some old netbook consider combining them. I did and I'm very happy with the result. Just imagine a forest, lake, hammock and you. Now add a full DOS laptop to that. You can't beat that.

Bonus

1.44MB Floppy

I'm using (external) floppy drive and keep this post file on a real floppy. Why? For that moment when I hit CTRL+S and hear the most awesome sound of PC era: floppy head moving and writing data to a floppy. The more I write between saves the more noises I got.

This also reminds me to save often.