Native Development on Small PCs

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Native Development on Small PCs

Postby CommodoreJohn » Thu Jul 22, 2010 8:03 pm

This isn't PCjr-specific, but the general thrust is the same. I have a low-end PC (286, 640KB) that I want to do some development on, and I'm trying to figure out a good set of tools to use. Primary goals here are real-mode operation, small size, and flexibility. My current picks:

  • SHH ED - very small (17KB) text editor that's plenty flexible (the only filesize limit is the available conventional memory.) Unfortunately, the interface is more like WordStar than MS-DOS Edit or nano, which I'd rather have.
  • ArrowSoft Assembler - smallish assembler with OBJ support. Pros: small, can be used to build .EXE files. Cons: limited documentation, MASM syntax instead of NASM, crippleware limitation of 64KB source file size.
As you can tell, I'm okay with these, but I'd like an editor closer to Edit or nano (but smaller than either) and an assembler more like NASM (but able to run in real-mode.) Any suggestions?
Packard-Bell 286 (DOS 3.3, 32MB HD, 2.6MB RAM, HGC/EGA)
Tandy 1000TX (DOS 3.2, 640KB RAM, TGA)
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Re: Native Development on Small PCs

Postby Brutman » Sun Jul 25, 2010 10:43 am

Sorry about the delay - the topic is interesting, but the tile needs to go up in the bathroom.

Almost any editor works fine on that box. Here are a few I've used over the years:

  • IBM had a series of software called "Personally Developed Software", and one of the programs was called PE2 (Personal Editor 2). It was a 90KB or so program, but it had a lot of features and it worked with straight ASCII files - no nasty control codes.
  • Way back when I used WordStar 3.31. I think there was a way to dumb it down so that it wouldn't insert control codes, but I can't remember the trick. A little heavy for a text editor, but it was full features. I know, you hate the interface. :-)
  • DAED.COM or DVED.COM - these were lightweight text editors by a guy called Dewar. They were a joy to use, but the key layout was a nightmare to learn. He must have done them all in assembler because they were beyond fast.
  • I keep hearing about one called 'T', which is supposed to be only 8kb or so. I need to check it out.

Assemblers ... No opinions here. The WASM assembler from Open Watcom might be coerced into running on that machine. Check out the list over at http://www.bttr-software.de/links/ - you might find some interesting ones there.


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Re: Native Development on Small PCs

Postby CommodoreJohn » Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:24 am

Hmm, interesting. About SHH ED, though, it's only Wordstar-like in the interface (or so I'm told;) it edits plain text quite nicely (except that it chokes on tabs and just displays the corresponding CGA character, don't ask me why.) The main reason I'm using it is because it's small and fast, which is a major asset on smaller, older machines, but doesn't impose any kind of artificial restrictions on file size. Problem is, a lot of these newer editors focus more on being feature-rich, which is nice if you're not trying to load the program from an old, slow hard drive on a 5-12MHz machine :/

Update: Sam's Little text EDitor (SLED) is also 17KB, and while it's still not quite as user-friendly/familiar as EDIT (mostly in the block-manipulation-type commands,) it's a lot more straightforward than SHH ED, and still has no size limit except conventional memory.

As for assemblers, Robert Östling's MSA seems like a good choice, since it's ~28KB and real-mode compatible. It's apparently mostly NASM-compatible but missing 32-bit compatibility and all output formats but COM, but that's no great loss for my purposes. Think that's what I'll be going with :) GASM is fully NASM-compatible and <100KB, which is cool, but it's a protected-mode application :/
Packard-Bell 286 (DOS 3.3, 32MB HD, 2.6MB RAM, HGC/EGA)
Tandy 1000TX (DOS 3.2, 640KB RAM, TGA)
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Re: Native Development on Small PCs

Postby Retro » Sun Jan 09, 2011 10:14 am

Ok, here's my preferences...

Editor: Terse
Compiler/Assembler: ForthCMP
Debugger: DOS Debug is all you need :P
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Re: Native Development on Small PCs

Postby Vorticon » Sun Jan 09, 2011 1:11 pm

Microsoft EDIT, especially with mouse support, is very easy to use and has all the editing functions needed, at least for me. However, I have yet to use it for any programming :lol:
Turbo Pascal 3 is still my favorite by far because it runs on practically anything and is easily ported to CP/M. It does include a decent editor too. I have never really needed a debugger for TP because it has some basic integrated debugging capabilities which are sufficient for such a high level language.
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Re: Native Development on Small PCs

Postby CommodoreJohn » Mon Jan 10, 2011 6:36 am

EDIT is definitely easy to use, but it's bulky (especially the geniune article from MS-DOS 5-6 - it's actually just QBASIC locked in editor mode.) And even the lighter versions from Windows 95 and FreeDOS are rather slow.

I've heard good things about Turbo Pascal's IDE, but...it's Pascal, man. I'd rather do my nails with a rusty chainsaw.
Packard-Bell 286 (DOS 3.3, 32MB HD, 2.6MB RAM, HGC/EGA)
Tandy 1000TX (DOS 3.2, 640KB RAM, TGA)
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Re: Native Development on Small PCs

Postby Vorticon » Mon Jan 10, 2011 6:00 pm

Very funny :lol: I do have to disagree with you though regarding Pascal, although language preference is really a matter of personal taste and personality. I learned Pascal in college in 1984 on a mainframe, and it was a pain to use under this kind of environment. However, Borland really made it much easier and certainly as fast as anything out there with their Turbo Pascal series. I bet you I can do anything you can program in C just as well and as fast in Turbo Pascal, and the code will be a heck of a lot more readable 8-)
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Re: Native Development on Small PCs

Postby deathshadow60 » Mon Jan 10, 2011 6:54 pm

Vorticon wrote:However, Borland really made it much easier and certainly as fast as anything out there with their Turbo Pascal series. I bet you I can do anything you can program in C just as well and as fast in Turbo Pascal, and the code will be a heck of a lot more readable 8-)

Which is why when programming for modern systems I've really been loving Free Pascal.... especially with the latest releases having SDL and openGL on SDL integrated into it letting me write graphics code that works on both *nix and windows. -- in theory I should be able to compile that on the quackintosh under OSuX, but for the life of me I can't get the SDL code to compile/work properly -- disappointing after the eight hour download of xCode needed to even TRY and run FPC and build SDL. (Whoever came up with programming under OSX needs a slap with a wet trout -- it's WORSE than dealing with makefiles!)

For me the Borland compilers and offshoots like FPC also provide an easy road to integrate assembly -- and it's worth mentioning that most every version from 4.0 onward includes a command line only compiler that even TP7's version works with only 128k of RAM -- nice when building in a... lesser environment... and of course that TP3 does CP/M 80, CP/M 86, and MS-DOS doesn't hurt.

WAY WAY back I even had a patch that faked the CP/M calls under LDOS on the Trash-80 Model 4, so programs built with TP would run under TRS-DOS6 or LDOS. Kind-of wish I could find that again since I've got a model 4P I'm in the process of repairing.
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Re: Native Development on Small PCs

Postby CommodoreJohn » Mon Jan 10, 2011 7:25 pm

Yeah, I've heard that TP is a whole lot better than straight Wirth Pascal (inasmuch as it's actually not a sanity-shredding exercise in ultra-masochism to write a real, honest-to-God application in it ;P) Still, given my druthers, I'll take a questionable language that was designed for flexibility and real-world use from the ground up over a questionable language that was hacked into flexibility and usability contrary to the entire spirit of the original project ;)
Packard-Bell 286 (DOS 3.3, 32MB HD, 2.6MB RAM, HGC/EGA)
Tandy 1000TX (DOS 3.2, 640KB RAM, TGA)
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Re: Native Development on Small PCs

Postby Vorticon » Mon Jan 10, 2011 9:28 pm

deathshadow60 wrote:
WAY WAY back I even had a patch that faked the CP/M calls under LDOS on the Trash-80 Model 4, so programs built with TP would run under TRS-DOS6 or LDOS. Kind-of wish I could find that again since I've got a model 4P I'm in the process of repairing.


I have a Model 4 that is fully functional and I actually recently developed a couple of programs in TP3 on it for the fun of it (Lunar Lander and Casino BlackJack) under Cp/M 2.2 . I ported the source code to the PCJr and it compiled without a hitch under DOS. If you need software for your Model 4P once it's functional, I can certainly send you a start up kit (LDOS, CP/M, Wordstar, TP3, a few games). Just let me know.
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