Wing Commander was one of my favorite games when I was a kid. It was just all kinds of awesome, from the gameplay to that incredibly entertaining game manual disguised as a military magazine (that manual made me want to write game manuals when I grew up – except well, that would be a dead-end job in this day and age of tutorial levels and PDF files).
It was also a game that pushed the level of graphics at that time, with really cool looking pre-rendered sprites for enemy ships and immersive animations like sparks in your cockpit when your ship is getting shot up.
Anyway, check out this screenshot:
See that hand in the cockpit, and the face of your wing-man in the right MFD? Well, these are only available if you have a certain amount of Expanded Memory.
What the hell is Expanded Memory, you might ask? Well, back then, most computers still only had 640k of RAM and anything above that was either Extended (XMS) or Expanded Memory (EMS). There’s a difference between them, but I honestly have no idea what it is.
What I do know is, that if you want to use either XMS or EMS, you needed to learn how to edit your Config.sys and Autoexec.bat files. Anyone who hasn’t used MS-DOS before will have no idea what they are, but old school gamers will be very familiar with these all-important files.
Config.sys and Autoexec.bat are files that DOS would read to know how to boot your computer up. My burning desire to play Wing Commander with all the bells and whistles switched on made me learn all the basic commands to work these files to maximize my free memory, while still loading the essentials like the soundcard driver, and it’ll look something like this:
And then this will be followed by a whole lot of other device= commands to load up soundcard and CD-ROM drivers. I don’t even know what the files= command is for, but I just know I need at least 15 to play Wing Commander.
The thing is, this isn’t a “do once and relax” ordeal, as you’d have to tinker with these files anytime you get more memory or have to load a new driver. Some games used XMS, some used EMS.
Thankfully, you don’t have to do this stuff anymore, but I dunno… I still feel like it was an important learning experience for a young gamer, like a geeky rite of passage or something. It definitely made me feel more pleased with myself once I finally got my games to work!
Any of you guys remember messing around with config.sys? Do you miss it?