The core of this story was originally a private e-mail, but I realized that it’s worth sharing with a slightly wider audience.
Readers may know that I’m very interested in the history of PC development tools, especially C compilers, and especially the Watcom C compilers. I therefore know that Watcom C/386 7.0 (1989) was the first Watcom 32-bit C compiler, and in fact one of the first 32-bit compilers for DOS. The first was probably MetaWare High C, which was never terribly popular due to the fact that it was both quite expensive and quite weird; it just never fit into the world of PCs all that well.
The Watcom C/386 7.0 compiler on the other hand was a close relative of Watcom’s award-winning 16-bit DOS compiler (versions 6.0, 6.5, and 7.0) which maintained a good degree of compatibility with Microsoft’s C compilers, and was therefore not nearly as alien as High C. Andrew Schulman took a look at the 386 compiler in a 1990 DDJ article.
One curiosity of Watcom C/386 7.0 was that it did not come with a debugger or even a linker. It was meant to be used with Phar Lap’s 386|DOS extender, or alternatively with the A.I. Architects/Eclipse OS/386 extender, and those supplied their own linkers and debuggers.
The above mentioned DDJ article mentions that the compiler was also distributed by Novell and could be used for developing NLMs for the new-fangled NetWare 386. Novell likewise supplied their own linker.
The Novell mention piqued my curiosity because I’ve been looking for old NetWare development tools. I downloaded Watcom C/386 7.0 from a well-known site and immediately noticed that the images aren’t original, and may have been improperly created (there’s an odd looking ZIP file on the last disk).
A slightly different Watcom C/386 7.0 archive can be found on another site, improperly classified as being “for OS/2”. Although Watcom was an early supporter of 32-bit OS/2 development, Watcom C/386 7.0 pre-dates even the earliest 32-bit OS/2 SDK and of course does not support OS/2 development. But the actual disk images were identical at any rate. So no help there.
I have a clear memory (as clear as it can be after 20+ years) of downloading a copy of Watcom C/386 7.0 from some BBS, probably using a 14.4 kbps modem, and then re-creating the six 360K floppies for installation. Maybe those might be better than the downloads.
So I found my old homemade floppies from the 1990s in the basement, took a good look at the contents… and discovered that they are 100% identical to the ones I downloaded. Even though I certainly never uploaded my floppy images to any of those sites.
That actually explained one oddity about the downloaded disk images — the boot sector is from 32-bit OS/2, certainly not expected for DOS software from the late 1980s. But in 1996 (when the floppies were created), I did use OS/2 Warp, on a 100 MHz Pentium, or maybe a Cyrix 6×86 at the time. So that is where the OS/2 boot sectors came from.
Conclusion, if anyone screwed up the floppy image creation (if it was screwed up, which is unclear), it was me. Not helpful! I wish I could find the “original” files, but so far I’ve had no luck, and it may not even exist anymore.
But while I was looking at the images, I realized that on the first disk there’s a file (LABEL.TOT) clearly showing that the package was in fact the “C Network Compiler/386”, with a long number “735-000641-001” which looks very much like a Novell part number. That’s something I would not have recognized back in ’96.
It appears that NetWare essentially took the Watcom C/386 7.0 disks (four of them), put different labels on them, and added two disks with Btrieve and NLM development kits, respectively. (The first four disks contain no mentions of NetWare to speak of, and look like plain Watcom C/386 7.0.)
And thus the Novell C Network Compiler/386 was born, the first tool to support NetWare NLM development in C. Even though the Compaq Deskpro 386 was already three years old, 386 operating systems on PCs were still very exotic in 1989, but things were at least moving in the right direction. Now who has the original NetWare 386 disks…