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Portable DOS computer?

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Hey guys... I'm looking for something that I can load DOS onto, that has a built in DOS-compatible sound card. Something portable like an 11.5" laptop, that is fairly compact, and that I can play old DOS games on.

 

Any idea?

 

Most ideal would be a small 11.5" HP Stream, but I'd really prefer something a bit more vintage so I didn't have to deal with UEFI and all that other Jazz, and I don't think I can use the built in sound card in DOS.

 

 

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That's a tough one. I'd say your best bet would be an early Pentium laptop from the mid-90s, when manufacturers were just starting to make the transition to Windows 95 and still provided DOS drivers and DOS-based configuration tools.

 

I wish I still had my Toshiba Portege 610CT, for example. It was a 90MHz Pentium laptop that came with (I believe) 64MB of RAM; it shipped with either Windows 3.1 or Windows 95. If I remember correctly, it used a SoundBlaster-compatible ESS sound chip that had DOS drivers, and a Chips & Technologies graphics chip that was supported by Display Doctor, so it would be a good choice for DOS games. I used to use it with a combo Xircom Ethernet and 33.6K modem PCMCIA card, both of which were also supported by DOS. Toshiba sold a port replicator which added the usual legacy I/O ports (PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, serial/parallel ports, VGA, etc); I used to use an NES-compatible controller wired to the parallel port with an adapter.

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Get a Libretto! I dual boot an old Linux distro and MS DOS 5. It looks great running the original Tomb Raider for DOS.. without 3D accelerated graphics. Laura has really pointy boobs.

You likely don't need one with a faster CPU unless you want to run a modern linux. For old DOS games it's perfect. I really treasure my Libretto! The only accessories you may need are either a PCMCIA CD-DROM or PCMCIA Ethernet as it only has a winmodem built in.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toshiba_Libretto

 

Front_1920.jpg

Edited by thetick1
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The HP Stream 11 is perfect for what you want. Run DOSbox on it and you can simulate any sound card you want, and install sound fonts too. It has plenty of power for ancient games, and storage is adequate with an SD card inserted.

 

That's what I do. The keyboard is surprisingly good for a cheap laptop, and the power consumption will be far better than any vintage machine. No fan, runs quiet.

 

You don't even have to pay much attention to the host OS if you aren't networking it.

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The HP Stream 11 is perfect for what you want. Run DOSbox on it and you can simulate any sound card you want, and install sound fonts too. It has plenty of power for ancient games, and storage is adequate with an SD card inserted.

 

That's what I do. The keyboard is surprisingly good for a cheap laptop, and the power consumption will be far better than any vintage machine. No fan, runs quiet.

 

You don't even have to pay much attention to the host OS if you aren't networking it.

 

Oh wow Walmart even has them for $199.

 

https://www.walmart.com/ip/HP-Stream-11-6-Laptop-Windows-10-Home-Office-365-Personal-1-year-subscription-included-Intel-Celeron-N3060-Processor-4GB-RAM-32GB-eMMC-Storage/54056479

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I have had a couple of dos laptops from the 90's. You're going to be hard pressed to find one where the screen is any good. Also the battery won't hold a charge anymore, and you probably won't find any new old stock that still works so you'll have to make a pack. I've gone down that rabbit hole. I'd do emulation if I was you.

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I bought the 13" for my kid for $200 from the Microsoft Store ("signature edition," no extra crapware) for $200 years ago when they were new, and liked it enough that I got an 11" on eBay for $70 for myself as a retro thing.

 

I'll bet you can find a decent used deal -- lots of people give up on them because they're slow and have small storage, but they're still great for old GOG games.

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I have had a couple of dos laptops from the 90's. You're going to be hard pressed to find one where the screen is any good. Also the battery won't hold a charge anymore, and you probably won't find any new old stock that still works so you'll have to make a pack. I've gone down that rabbit hole. I'd do emulation if I was you.

My Libretto battery "died" a while back. I had it "rebuilt" and that gave me another 3-4 years. I had it "rebuilt" again and only got about a year or so. I use AC power on it now as new "rebuilt" battery is very expensive.

 

Making a homemade battery pack is a necessity if want to retro laptop with mobility.

Edited by thetick1

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I bought the 13" for my kid for $200 from the Microsoft Store ("signature edition," no extra crapware) for $200 years ago when they were new, and liked it enough that I got an 11" on eBay for $70 for myself as a retro thing.

 

I'll bet you can find a decent used deal -- lots of people give up on them because they're slow and have small storage, but they're still great for old GOG games.

 

No troubles with windows 10 and updates? My experience is that these kind of laptops will themselves with updates so the 32GB gets filled very quick.

Edited by roland p

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No troubles with windows 10 and updates? My experience is that these kind of laptops will themselves with updates so the 32GB gets filled very quick.

 

I upgraded the 13" to Windows 10 a while back, and am experiencing some of this. I might roll it back to Windows 8 or put Linux on it instead. It's from 2014 so I shouldn't complain too much ... it's almost "classic" now, right?

 

The 11" is still on Win8 and is fine as a host machine for emulators. I wouldn't want to use this for work or as my only machine, but it's awesome for toy purposes.

 

My kid now prefers a $100 Chromebook. I think that emulators and things are easier on Windows.

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I upgraded the 13" to Windows 10 a while back, and am experiencing some of this. I might roll it back to Windows 8 or put Linux on it instead. It's from 2014 so I shouldn't complain too much ... it's almost "classic" now, right?

 

The 11" is still on Win8 and is fine as a host machine for emulators. I wouldn't want to use this for work or as my only machine, but it's awesome for toy purposes.

 

My kid now prefers a $100 Chromebook. I think that emulators and things are easier on Windows.

 

I got a lenovo thinkpad X250 from 2015 for my son (9) when his laptop (a 32gb lenovo netbook) broke. I wanted to replace the keyboard but it's just impossible to do maintenance on these laptops.

 

For myself I got a Lenovo T440P. I got it for Visual Studio, but it runs NullDC and Dolphin too. It even has a CD-ROM which I'm likely to replace with a Blu-Ray.

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Actually, you can pretty much re-task any old netbook into booting Freedos, which will run 95% of the stuff you want to run, assuming you can find one with a compatible sound card. I just use PC speaker, as that's kind of the genuine experience for a lot of the games. No windows to muck with, and it boots in 5 seconds.

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I remember my Toshiba (can't recall the model) from 1994 was an excellent DOS machine. the sound card was Sound Blaster 16 compatible so I could run DOS games perfectly. Sadly, it died recently; it refuse to recognize any hard drive :/

But as a DOS machine it did the job well.

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Actually, you can pretty much re-task any old netbook into booting Freedos, which will run 95% of the stuff you want to run, assuming you can find one with a compatible sound card. I just use PC speaker, as that's kind of the genuine experience for a lot of the games. No windows to muck with, and it boots in 5 seconds.

 

Good point FreeDOS is pretty much polished. It runs about anything DOS other than a few oddball apps like DESQView. I would think all retro DOS games would work fine.

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Good point FreeDOS is pretty much polished. It runs about anything DOS other than a few oddball apps like DESQView. I would think all retro DOS games would work fine.

Yeah, it runs anything I want it to run, so long as you remember how to muck with memory settings under dos, soundcard settings etc. Played dozens of hours of MOO and Civ on an old netbook with Freedos.

Makes for a surprisingly effective distraction free writing environment too.

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I'd say a Portfolio, but for what you want that wouldn't cut it.

 

A few years ago Dell offered FreeDOS as an OS option. Do they still offer it?

 

You could also try eComStation or another OS/2-based OS. They're still supported.

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You guys got me thinking about my Stream 13. I loaded Linux (Mint 18.3 Cinnamon if you care about such things) in about 20 minutes, and installed some emulators from the command line almost instantly. apt-get install dosbox .... done!

 

I wish GOG worked as well in Linux as it does in Windows. I see that Steam is fully supported, and I'm tickled to see that I have 434 Linux compatible games.

 

Yes, I have a Humble Bundle problem, who's asking?

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Why does the new 'modern' keyboard style on these compact laptops remind me of something? Can't quite put my finger on it...

 

post-14204-0-59159000-1522961250.jpg

 

 

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The HP Stream 11 is perfect for what you want. Run DOSbox on it and you can simulate any sound card you want, and install sound fonts too. It has plenty of power for ancient games, and storage is adequate with an SD card inserted.

 

That's what I do. The keyboard is surprisingly good for a cheap laptop, and the power consumption will be far better than any vintage machine. No fan, runs quiet.

 

You don't even have to pay much attention to the host OS if you aren't networking it.

 

Yes... I LOVE the HP Stream. My wife uses hers for internet and stuff while she's on the couch, and I use mine for Kali Linux and packet capture and whatever. I feel kind of silly saying this, but I actually forgot that I had a Dell Latitude 2120 Netbook. It's a simple 32-bit laptop w/ 2 gigs of ram, and a 200 gig hard drive. I loaded Windows 7 - 32-bit, and put DOS BOX like you guys recommended, and I am SUPER impressed. DOS BOX has gone a long way since I last used it (some 4-5 years ago). Very impressed. It ran really well. I played Champions of Krynn, and even played Warlords... all played flawlessly. Not too fast, and not too slow. Mine has a 1.6 GHz Atom processor. Super impressed. I didn't have the best experience with the last DOSBOX I tried, so I kind of assumed it wouldn't be much different. But super easy...

 

Anyway, the 2120 is perfect. Perfect size... good battery, I'm pleased.

 

 

Get a Libretto! I dual boot an old Linux distro and MS DOS 5. It looks great running the original Tomb Raider for DOS.. without 3D accelerated graphics. Laura has really pointy boobs.

You likely don't need one with a faster CPU unless you want to run a modern linux. For old DOS games it's perfect. I really treasure my Libretto! The only accessories you may need are either a PCMCIA CD-DROM or PCMCIA Ethernet as it only has a winmodem built in.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toshiba_Libretto

 

That is a SUPER awesome little netbook. I bet they were expensive back in the day.

 

 

DOSBox

 

 

Thanks for recommending it. I ended up giving it a try after reading this.

 

 

 

No troubles with windows 10 and updates? My experience is that these kind of laptops will themselves with updates so the 32GB gets filled very quick.

 

 

On my wife's HP Stream w/ Windows 10, we've run into some issues. It's not something you can't overcome, but it does get frustrating. When the anniversary updates come out, I have to run Scan Disk & Defrag, and Disk Cleanup... and then it frees up enough storage on the 32gig DOM that I can install the updates. Otherwise.. it gives me trouble. Honestly though, for people who aren't "computer people," I wonder what they do... maybe the just don't update.

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Yes... I LOVE the HP Stream.

Is there one with an IPS screen yet? I feel the dim TN screen is the weakest link of mine. It's okay and better than any vintage screen, but not as good as other modern things.

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Is there one with an IPS screen yet? I feel the dim TN screen is the weakest link of mine. It's okay and better than any vintage screen, but not as good as other modern things.

 

If I'm not mistaken, IPS essentially allows you to view the screen at angles with the same clarity as it otherwise would be if you were looking at it "head-on," correct? Or are there other benefits to it?

 

I don't see anything about it having IPS, so I have to assume neither of the two HP Streams that I have, have IPS screens in them. It IS very clear though, I'll give it that. What I love about the HP Stream is that... not only is it insanely quiet (there's no fan), but it also NEVER gets hot... NEVER. And, the battery lasts an insanely long time. You can go 8-9 hours and it never needs charging.

 

 

 

Anyway, I did run into an issue with my Dell 2120... it works flawlessly, but in realizing that it doesn't have a directional keypad, I have no way of moving diagonally... since most laptops don't have a num-lock. For games like Champions of Krynn and stuff like that... there's no way to go diagonally. I don't think I can change the keys for the game, but maybe DOSBOX will let me remap them.

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:lol:

Mushy USB arrow keys!

Silicone Flexible USB 32 Keys Extended Numeric Keypad w/ Retractable Wired Cable http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA1ST3251378

 

Probably feels like a Sinclair Spectrum or similar vintage thing.

 

Yeah DOSbox is infinitely customizable, but what a pain in the ass that will be. I guess playing DOS RPGs is even more so though, hah

 

Someone has probably made a utility or FAQ for this issue? I'm curious now and will poke around when I have more time.

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