Got a sweet MSDOS palmtop in the mail from @ajroach42 the other day and after some small hardware fix ups I am settling in with it. This thing is an _astonishing_ device. I can hardly believe it’s real.

This is a fully functional 7MHz 80186 DOS machine, running MSDOS 5.0, with full CGA graphics support. It runs off of two AA batteries. Apparently for weeks. While constantly powering a RAM disk. I have been using this thing fairly heavily since Wednesday, including large serial file transfers that took well over an hour of constant, sustained use. Battery is still at 7/8 full.

The thing I didn't quite realize until I had the thing in my hands is that it is a _very_ full-featured PDA, with a _ton_ of useful software built into ROM, and a multitasking shell with convenient app-switching hotkeys. Everything you'd expect on a modern smartphone is there - calendar, alarms / reminders, TODO list, contact management, stopwatch...

And then there's a ton of stuff which is kind of above and beyond - spreadsheets (Quicken), finanical software (1-2-3), scientific graphing calculator, full customizable database, full serial terminal & laplink with modem support, _scheduled tasks_! You can write cronjobs that run batch files, and it will run in the middle of the night because the thing is always on and uses no power! This is a far better, more useful DOS machine than my desktop!

I've spent the past year and a half writing DOS games on my desktop, and one thing that was consistently an annoyance is that I had no way to look at my code while my game was running. I've got a full interpreted interactive scripting language with a REPL, but I have to quit to make changes. This thing has a full text editor that I can task-switch to with a single keypress and takes up ~30kb of RAM! This could completely change my entire workflow!

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@darius I mean yeah fine on the one hand most of this stuff is really table stakes for computing in 2020

on the other hand... it's a tiny DOS machine that runs for weeks on AA batteries and thoughtfully solves a bunch of DOS' UX problems

@darius like why did no one tell me in 1995 that I could have a Palm Pilot with a full keyboard that ran DOS games, I would have lost my miiiiind

@SpindleyQ omg that was me being genuinely impressed that someone solved a core DOS UX issues on a tiny device! sorry if it seemed facetious. I want one of these so badly

@darius haha no worries, I basically read it that way, it's just... also undeniably true that Multitasking Was Coming, and now it is Very Much Here, and it's hard not to feel a little sheepish about being so excited for a solution to problems caused largely by my own stubborn refusal to avail myself of modern conveniences

@SpindleyQ I mean I still primarily use an SP-404 instead of my Logic DAW so I am in the same boat in a lot of ways

@SpindleyQ For task switching under pure DOS you can also try using DOSSHELL which shipped with the later DOS versions, it has a built in task switcher

@fraggle I never saw the use for DOSSHELL as a kid, interesting to think of using it as a development tool...

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