A friend of mine called me yesterday and asked me if knew how to run old DOS applications with Hebrew on a modern machine. This might sound arcane to some of you, but there is an accounting program widely used in Israel called Hashavshevet. The company that developed that program released a new Windows based version, but it is quite expensive and many still want to run the old version.
There are several ways this can be attacked.
The first one is multiboot. You can set up your machine to work with both Windows XP (or whatever you have installed right now) and, say, Windows 98. Old DOS programs run fine under 98, and if you get your hands on a properly localized version (I think it was called “Hebrew enabled”), you’ll have everything working in a couple of hours.
The second option you have is installing VMWare and a Hebrew enabled version of Windows 98 on top of it. This of course requires either stealing or purchasing a license for VMWare, which might cost more than a new version of the program you’re trying to run.
The third, and in my opinion the best option, is purchasing HebrewXP from TAO. They’ve modified DosBox to fully support Hebrew and printing, and I think they can even make old programs that require an LPT plug work like charm (provided you own such a plug of course).
The fourth option, which that is the one I’m going to explain below, involves partially recreating what the folks from TAO did. We’re going to make DosBox (a very nifty open source DOS emulation that was created to run old games) speak Hebrew using some extremely outdated tools of the trade.
The first one changes the font mappings of the BIOS to match OEM-862, the DOS Hebrew code page. The second one allows you to actually write in Hebrew within old DOS programs.
Create a folder named ‘hebrew’ in your DosBox folder and copy the hebvga.com and keybhe.com files there.
Open the dosbox.conf file using a text editor (Notepad should do fine), add the following lines to the end of it:
mount h hebrew h:hebvga.com h:keybhe.com
Now you can run DosBox.
Those lines should run when DosBox starts and allow DosBox to both show Hebrew and accept it as input from the keyboard.
To type hebrew anywhere (including the command prompt), just press Ctrl-Tab. Esc and Enter will cancel the Hebrew mode.
Oh, the old and simple days.
By the way, does anybody have an old copy of QText 5.5? It was a fine piece of software and I’d like to run it using this “time machine” technology.
Many thanks to my roommate Haim that devised this solution.