Virtualizing QNX 2

(Note: This is a guest post from Tenox)

Enter 1988… around that time Microsoft just released MS-DOS 4.01 and IBM shipped OS/2 1.1. Compare to the others, this OS was years ahead of its time pretty much on every aspect. Now some 25 years later QNX2 is still found running industrial machinery, clean rooms, avionics and military hardware. Some people report systems up and running non stop for 15 years and longer!

It took me similar amount of time to find and acquire a usable media set. QNX2 never seen life on a desktop machine, so finding these was rather hard and expensive adventure. Fortunately I can finally let it see some daylight. Let’s examine how the system will install on a modern hardware under VMware Workstation.


The install is rather straight forward. Floppy boot comes with a login prompt.


After you log in as qnx you need to swap the floppy disk to Boot Utilities and run install. The script guides you through setup steps.


First you need to select the disk controller. For compatibility mode QNX 2 provides access via int 13 (real mode).


Then you partition the disk. QNX partition type is either 7, 8 or 9. You will be asked to mark it bootable later on.qnx2-vmware-part

Then you have to select the kernel. QNX can operate in real mode and protected mode on AT286. qnx2-vmware-kernel

The install script copies all the data from distribution floppy disks, asks about boot loader and active partition. Finally you get to choose some video options.


The system also asks about networking options. Unfortunately it only works with custom Acnet cards so I skipped this. Once complete you are asked to remove the boot floppy disk and reboot the machine. This is what comes up after first hard disk boot.


I guess what is in the system will be the a subject of another post.

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6 Responses to Virtualizing QNX 2

  1. michaln says:

    Did QNX 2 already use the microkernel architecture later employed by QNX 4?

  2. QNX 2 has a message passing microkernel. I don’t think that the term microkernel was in general use at the time QNX 2 was first written. The boot file for QNX 2 is not as configurable as it is for QNX 4 or 6. If you run “tsk” you will see that the first four tasks (the QNX 2 term for process) listed are:


    You will only see net if you run with a Corman card. These are all OS processes. You will not however see the kernel listed as it is not a task.

    As an historical note, the two founders of QNX (Called Quantum Software Systems Ltd at the founding) Dan Dodge and Gordon Bell studied the Thoth operating system while in college.

    Their interest at the time was to build a commercial real-time message passing OS. The move toward embedded systems came as a practical reality.

  3. Tahir Malik says:

    Is there a possibility that you can provide the running VMWare?

    I’m also searching like hell but can’t find anything.

  4. tenox says:

    Not this one but you can go to this post and chip in to QNX2 purchase fund and receive a floppy disk image. It’s also a never version (2.2) as opposed to this one (2.1).

  5. Paulo says:

    Hello, I works at company and we use 2 machines runnig qnx OS in old Desktops. These system was installed at 2001 and stiil running very well. I intent virtualize this system, because the hardware is obsolet. I was tried whif vmware converter but I have some errors. Example: when virtualized machine starts the “?” appears repeatedly. Any tip?

  6. Michal Necasek says:

    I fear I can’t help you much. I’d suspect something like a geometry mismatch, but that’s just a wild guess. It all depends on what the original hardware is like, and how well it translated into a VM. Which QNX version is that anyway? QNX 4.something?

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