Category Archives: Documentation

VDS: Borne out of Necessity

In July 1990, Microsoft released a specification for Virtual DMA Services, or VDS. This happened soon after the release of Windows 3.0, one of the first (though not the first) providers of VDS. The VDS specification was designed for writers … Continue reading

Posted in 386, Documentation, Microsoft, PC history, Windows | 10 Comments

Learn Something Old Every Day, Part VIII: RTFM

In my quest to understand the intricacies of x87 behavior and especially floating-point exceptions, I pulled out my trusty old Alaris Cougar board. The system board had a 100 MHz Intel OverDrive 486 DX4 plugged in and worked quite well. … Continue reading

Posted in 486, Documentation, Intel, PC hardware, x87 | 9 Comments

Windows 3.x VDDVGA

While working on my Windows 3.x display driver, I ran into a vexing problem. In Windows 3.1 running in Enhanced 386 mode, I could start a DOS session and switch it to a window. But an attempt to set a … Continue reading

Posted in 386, Development, Documentation, Graphics, PC history, Windows | 59 Comments

Undefined Isn’t Unpredictable

The other day I discovered that 32-bit FreeBSD 11.2 has strange trouble running in an emulated environment. Utilities like ping or top would just hang when trying to print floating-point numbers through printf(). The dtoa() library routine was getting stuck … Continue reading

Posted in AMD, Development, Documentation, Intel | 22 Comments

Compaq EGA Technical Reference Guide

A rater nice Compaq EGA Tech Ref recently turned up on archive.org, under the title COMPAQ Enhanced Color Graphics Board Technical Reference Guide. It’s from December 1986, relatively late in EGA’s life (given that it was about to be obsoleted … Continue reading

Posted in Compaq, Documentation, PC history | Leave a comment

Page Too Big

The other day I was able to look at an IBM OS/2 pre-release CD-ROM from early 1992. The CD-ROM appears to have been produced by IBM UK under the DAP (Developer Assistance Program) umbrella. The CD-ROM contains about 250 MB … Continue reading

Posted in Documentation, IBM, OS/2, PC history | 4 Comments

Reconstructing the EGA BIOS

A few weeks ago I had a sudden need to understand certain finer points of the operation of EGA/VGA BIOS. I found common reference materials to be inadequate—they tend to do a good job of documenting the data structures the … Continue reading

Posted in BIOS, Development, Documentation, Graphics, IBM, PC history | 32 Comments

Looking for High Sierra

Some time ago, I thought it would be useful to understand exactly what is the difference between CD-ROMs recorded in the old High Sierra format versus the ISO 9660 standard. This was in part spurred by the fact that I … Continue reading

Posted in CD-ROM, Documentation, PC history | 23 Comments

Learn Something Old Every Day

More or less by accident I found myself writing a very basic DOS utility to read data off of an IDE drive. It started out by just issuing the IDENTIFY DRIVE command and capturing the data, but adding the ability … Continue reading

Posted in Documentation, PC hardware, PC history, Seagate, Storage | 3 Comments

EISA Specification 3.1

While researching the Compaq Intelligent Drive Array (IDA), a circa 1990 EISA-based IDE RAID controller, I quickly established that there’s very little surviving information about it, and most of what there is can be found in two or three patents … Continue reading

Posted in Documentation, EISA | 19 Comments