Text Editors – Part III (The DOS Years)

As part of an initiative to make our studies more productive, one of our programming teachers in college, managed to get a deal with a local computer shop for us to buy IBM XT clones at a discount.

(Remember this one of the lone computer sitting in the corner that I predicted would take off.)

The more people that went in on it, the cheaper it would be. My total cost was $1605.00 CDN

It it included a CGA card (Colour Graphics Adapter) and an amber monitor. It was an 8088 based system, with a 20meg 5 1/4″ drive. Later I bought another 20meg drive, and a 286 Card.

I can still remember the names of my favourite software:

DOSamatic, which I eventually repace with ARCmaster (you can still find this one online) it was like Midnight Commander or Norton Commander on steroids.

Turbo Basic

Turbo C

Turbo Pascal

All those Borland products can be found online also.

I became a big fan of Desqview, when I finally moved to a 386 system.

The first editor I became really proficient with was one called Qedit. (the exe was Q.exe)

It had Wordstar keystrokes

Let’s digress a little (kind of a rabbit hole)

Back in 1987 the three big software company’s were arguably IBM (For the Lotus 123 spreadsheet), Ashton-Tate (For dBase III+ a database), and Wordperfect Corporation for Wordperfect)

Wordperfect 4.2 was one of the most popular word processing programs during that time. Of course there was version 5 which was fairly popular, and 6 which started to get graphical, but 4.2 was THE program for word processing.

But there was another word processing program called WordStarIt was published by MicroPro International for CP/M (the pre-curser for DOS for the most part) but later ported to DOS.

The interface was… meh, but it’s legacy was it’s keyboard command combos.

To give you an idea of it’s popularity, you may have heard of a little TV series called A Game of Thrones.

The series of books is actually called A Song of  Ice and Fire written by George R.R Martin, and the first book is called A Game of Thrones. Nitpicking, I know.

Anyway he used the DOS version of WordStar 4.0. According to the wiki page he still uses it.

Canadian SF author Robert J. Sawyer uses v7.

The legacy for WordStar though, is that numerous text editors for DOS used WordStar key combinations. You can look them up but ^KS (Ctrl-K S) to save a file. Etc.

I randomly went through a few editors, until someone one one of the BBS’s I frequented (that’s a rabbit hole I could go on for dozen’s of posts, I’ll spare you that) recommended Qedit, which had the Wordstar key combos.

At one point I worked as an Assistant Research Programmer and then Teaching Assistant at the Royal Military College in Canada.

A panicked student came by, and she had a 3.5″ disk with  a “final paper” or something with that kind of importance on disk that she could no longer read on a lab computer.

I used Norton Utilities 5.0 which had a disk reading program that still hasn’t been duplicated today (as far as I know).

This utility let you read the raw blocks on a disk, basically ignoring the File Allocation Table. I was able to pull off anything written to the disk, binary, text, everything.

After that I used Qedit, loaded up the files, and removed all the binary and, and knowing the Wordperfect file format, extracted all her footnotes for her documents.

I handed her another disk with all the straight text. Gratitude doesn’t even describe her emotion.

But word got around that I could save dead disks, and any text that was on it. While I was doing that a colleague worked on writing a C program do extract the text from the files I’d saved.

So I have a soft spot for Qedit. It eventually became TSE (The Semware Editor). Qedit was a shareware program, but I don’t think a lot of people registered it. I found the “trial” version did everything I needed.

I had no problem registering programs, I’ve still have valid licenses for a lot of DOS programs.

I don’t know what it was about Qedit I didn’t like. Maybe it was nothing and I was just curious about what else was out there when it came to text editing.

I wasn’t interested in a word processor. Their forte was a wide selection of printer drivers.

I wanted something that you could edit code with efficiently. Vim for DOS was released around 1991. I think the Amiga version actually came first.

I was used to Qedit, so I looked for wordstar key compatible editors.

Not to toot my own horn but I was very good with editing using Qedit. I held two positions at Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. One as a “Assistant Research Programmer”, where I  helped RMC (as it is known) with their programming homework. and another as “Teacher’s Assistant” where I did pretty much the same thing, but also took on additional duties.

A student came to our room which  had the official name of “Research Center” with a disk of her (I don’t know RMC’s official name for it) thesis. Wordperfect (5.2) could no longer read her files.

My colleague, took the task of  writing a C program (this was before the days when C++ became popular) to pull off the information from the disk.

I used Norton Utilities 5.0 (DOS disk program) to pull off the raw data from the disk, I  loaded that  information into Qedit, and not only pulled out all of her Wordperfect text, but the footnotes for those documents.

When she came back later that afternoon, I told her I was sure I got all of her document,  AND the footnotes. I thought she was going to cry.

Even my colleague who was knee  deep in C code commented on her “gratefulness”.

I never saw her at the college again, but I’m guessing that word got around. The  head of the computing dept. With the apprpriate PHd, asked me to see if there were any Fortran programs on  a disk he could no longer read.

There wasn’t, but the word was out.

In my mind, a new and/or different DOS text editor, has to be able to do that kind of thing for me.

BTW, the closest thing to the Norton Utilities 5.0 Disk Editor is probably Steve Gibson’s “SpinRite”

I think with the larger and larger hard drives, utilities like that became less useful because of the sheer amount of time it would take to process each sector.

Next blog in this series is about my 3 favourite text editors.

Hobbies (Gaming part I)


I’m going to review the games I’ve been playing.

In the approximate order I acquired them, these are my hobbies:

Reading, movies, writing, listening to music, Meccano, playing a musical instrument, RPG gaming, computers (in general), programming, PC gaming, photography, knife making, leatherworking.

Depending how I’m feeling, I jump around to whatever hobby appeals to me at the time. Right now it’s writing. 🙂

I won’t go through the history of my gaming (gah, i don’t think i’d want to read that myself 🙂 Speed history: burnt out on text adventures/RPG style games, didn’t really like side scrollers (although Impossible Mission and Lemmings was interesting), I liked simulation games (Simcity and the other Maxis games).

I’m a big fan of empire building games, from simple to complex. I like d Galactic Empire Builder on the C64 so much, I added AI to it, and eventually ported it to a Palmpilot.

Ok, rabbit hole 🙂 This is what the C64 version looks like. I installed a C64 emulator and found the game.

Should be a darker background and more colour.I don’t know what it is about the game I’m fascinated with, but I also have the basic of a Windows version. I wrote it in Tcl/Tk. I think I’m gonna have to work on it again. I still have the Palmpilot code I wrote and all the enhancements I I wrote for it (Adjustable AI, Orbital ships, etc.). I have the start of a Pebble watch version of the game …

I have a version I started in python. Looks like this:

I need to get back to it. Again, one of those hobbies that strikes me..

Eddie Van Halen

Given the nunber of music posts I’ve written, I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t post on this subject.

My mind was changed when he first got married and they showed “Valarie and Eddie at home” He was sitting on the couch playing an acoustic guitar, and I saw that he was good. ‘Course then he lied through his teeth saying the groupies were over. For some reason thought they didn’t have long as a married couple. I was surprised when I found out they were married 26 years.

Full discloser: He wasn’t my favourite guitarist. At first I thought he was too flashy (a la Jimi Hendrix teeth picking the guitar but not showing any other skill than that).

Van Halen’s firt album is great. Shows off his talent, blah blah. But then the rest of the Van Halen albums came out. Each invidiually sucked in their own way.

C’mon fanboys (or girls) listen to the first album, and then ANY of the other albums. They are too commercial. Don’t even come close to showing off his talent.

Frankly I’m surprised he didn’t want to put out a solo album of guitar work.

The list of people who invented tapping is long. Sure, he took it to a technically proficient level. But Billy Shehan does the same thing on bass.

And Tina S. plays “Eruption” like is was a plain ordinary daily dump.

Just sayin’

Who is my favourite guitarist. I have a few for different reasons. For Blues style, Robin, Trower, Stevie Ray Vaugn, Rory Gallagher

For that “boogie shuffle rhythm” Johnny Cash or Marc Bolan

For technical profiency and for a guitar lead that “fits” the song. Ritchie Blackmore, Ace Frehley-ish, Tony Iommi, Kelly Johnson, Samantha Fish. A few others

So my list of NOT the best guitarists who are and will ever be forever in the whole universe, goes like this: Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen.

Yup, not a popular opinon, but I go by good output, not the hype.

Sure. Prove me wrong… I’m waiting…


At work we’ve been using a configuration management system called Ansible. Great software, but not that name. Unfortunately the name comes from a book I won’t name, because the author is a racist homophobe.

Yeah that guy.

Orson Scott Card.

Don’t take my word for it. Google it. I’m ashamed that he claims to be an SF author.  I will not ready anything he has written. Obviously his views will permeate the work.

As my friend, Julie would say… Onwards.

With Ansible, you  can configure Linux systems to your liking. You do ALL the work upfront. But, when you are done, you have an idempotent configuration “script” (YAML but close enough).  It’s exactly what you want, because you have to do  every step the way you want it. No shortcuts.

This brings me to assembly as a language.  You get to control every single thing your program does because you have to write every single step yourself. Logic errors are rare because you have to think at a much lower level. Sure syntax errors will happen. Worst case scenario, your compiler (in this case your assembler) will catch it. Middle case, your syntaxy highlighting editor will catch it. Best case YOU catch it. 🙂

So i’ve been wanting to get back into assembly. Way back when I bought a copy of  QuickC/QuickAssembler 2.51. But it was infected. I could never use it. It was expensive at the time, and getting it replaced was going to be more expensive.

After my dosbox experience, I thought  why not install it  under dosbox. QC251 wasn’t that hard to find.

the img files were not as bad to deal with as i’d been reading. Find a virtual floppy driver, mount an disk1.img as  A: copy disk1 files over, do the same thing for disk2.img, and disk3.img

mount that disk A: in dosbox, run the setup. Woila! you have QuickC/QuickAssembler ready to go after answering some questions.

I was so happy with results I had to write this. 🙂

Does this age me? Sure, don’t effing care. 🙂















Text Editors – Part II

I mentioned the Amiga, because of Commodore inept executives, everything Commodore went belly up.

’nuff said about that.

The editor I used to use on it was called Cygnus Ed. It’s probably considered primitive by today’s standards, but it was a lot better than the one that came stock on the Amiga OS.


Although you could do quite a bit with it if you took the time to learn it.

I was a Vi user, and by extension Vim. At first I used the ‘Z’ editor that came with the Manx C Compiler, but it was vanilla Vi. You get spoiled using Vim, but by the time it was usable on the Amiga, I’d already moved on to  OS/2 based computers.

I miss my Amiga though. I’ve wanted to dabble in WinUAE off and on over the last few years, but the effort doesn’t seem worth it.

One of the things that surprised me when the Amiga was going the way of the dodo is that Amiga users drifted to Windows 95 as opposed to OS/2. They were very vocal about how much better Amiga’s were than Microsoft’s OS. And then a good number of them turned into hypocrits.

I went with OS/2. I miss that OS too, but probably not as much as the Amiga.

Next up, digging into DOS editors.