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DOS under Android (Announce)

posted by Dennis(R), 22.05.2016, 04:57

One of the devices in my collection is a generic 7" Android tablet, from Yet Another Chinese Manufacturer targeting the consumer electronics market.

It has a 1.3ghz quad-core Allwinner23 CPU (An ARM Cortex 7 design), Mali graphics displaying on an 800x480 screen, 512MB RAM, 8GB Flash, and runs Android KitKat 4.4. It has a microSD card slot, and a 32GB card installed.

There are several Android ports of the DOSBox emulator, intended to let users play old DOS games on newer machines, with graphics and sound support. DOSBox implements a DOS virtual machine with DOS kernel and COMMAND.COM, and DOS functionaliy required to load and run games.

The one I settled on is Magic DOSBox free, based on a port of DOSBox 0.74.

I wasn't concerned with playing DOS games on the tablet. I was interested in running DOS character mode applications. The first target was Eric Meyer's VDE, a freeware clone of the WordStar word processor that was first developed for CP/M and later ported by Eric to MSDOS. The problem I ran into was that other DOSBox ports did not pass Ctrl-key combinations through to the application. WordStar makes extensive use of them as editing commands, and VDE uses the WordStar command set, so a DOSBox port that doesn't pass Ctrl-keys through to the application makes the app unusable. It is apparently possible to fix that in other DOSBos versions by modifying the keyboard config file used. But on Android, that file lives in the root file system, and you must have a rooted device to be able to access and modify it. (My device is rooted, but you still have to find the file and know what fiddles to make.)

Magic DOSBox Free relieves the need to do that, and passes Ctrl-keys as installed.

The freeware version of MDF only allows you to configure one application. If you want to configure more than one, or create collections of configured apps, you need the donate version. That's not a limitation here. Multiple configs and collections assume games where you will want to configure them independently and run them from icons in the MDF main screen.

My DOS programs are installed in sub-directories under an MSDOS directory on the microSD card. The configured entry in MDF mounts that directory as C:, and opens DOSBox in the mounted drive at a command line. I can CD to the desired directory, and run the DOS app. When I exit from it, I can change to a different directory and run the app that lives there. I have an external USB keyboard connected to the tablet via an OTG adapter, and programs can all be used with the keyboard.

VDE runs fine, and lets me create, read, edit, and save text files on the tablet.

The question becomes, what all else might run? I have DOS versions of the old adventure, dungeon, VMS Empire and Unix Larn games, and all run fine. Several other editors work as well, like MS Word for DOS 5.0, Daniel Lawrence's MicroEMACS editor, and Tony Baldwin's T editor. So do things like Vern Buerg's LIST file browser.

The most recent test is 4DOS. Binaries installed from Luchezar Georgiev's 8.0 released based on Rex Conn's 7.50 sources run fine. The 4DOS install routines fail because they can't create the custom AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files they try to make, but 4DOS.COM, invoked from the command line, runs and behaves as expected.

There are some DOSBox imposed quirks. One is that pipes are apparently not implemented. I can't do "dir /s | list /s" in the MSDOS top level directory. I must do "dir /s > dirlist.txt" and then "list dirslist.txt" instead.

DOSBox apparently doesn't support DOS extenders like CWSDPMI, either, so apps run under it must be real mode only.

And DOSBox loads TSRs high, but doesn't support DOS drivers normally loaded in CONFIG.SYS.

I'm still playing to see what works and what doesn't, but given the limits mentioned above, most things work.

If you have an Android device and want to try it, you can get Magic DOSBox Free from Google Play at The app homepage is at



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