Blast from the Past: A look back at Apple’s DOS Compatibility Cards

Wed, Dec 9, 2009

Apple History, News

Apple’s DOS Compatibility Card is certainly a blast from the past, and you might even call it the first version of Boot Camp! Way back in the day, you know when people actually used floppy discs, transferring data between PC’s and Mac’s was a chore. And to that end, Apple released a DOS compatibility card in the mid-90’s to help System 7 users read, write, and edit MS-DOS and Windows 3.1 files.  The second iteration of the card enabled users to run a Mac and PC desktop concurrently, and switch back and forth between them with a pre-determined hotkey.  Users could also set up a second monitor and have each OS in full view at the same time if that’s how they wanted to get down.

As for a brief history and some specs, the first DOS Compatibility Card for the Mac was announced at Comdex in 1993 and was subsequently released in 1994.  The card was geared for the Centris 610 and Quadra 610 (both released in February of 2003), and came with an Intel 486SX processor running at 25 Mhz.  One of its shortcomings, though, was that it lacked support for sound.  And in case you’re curious, it came with DOS 6 and retailed for $399.  $399!

The second iteration of the DOS Compatibility Card (pictured below), was internally codenamed “Houdini II” and upped the ante with a 486DX/66 processor – though Apple soon changed the product name to Apple PC Compatibility Card. Houdini II was released in early 1995 and came with DOS 6.2.2 while also adding support for Windows 3.1, and get this, Sound Blaster.  This version of the card was geared for the PowerMac 6100 and Performa 6100 models, and though it was never officially supported, this card was capable of running Windows all the way up to Windows 98.

Following the release of “Houdini II”, Apple licensed the technology to the Reply Corporation who would go on to release more affordable cards that supported a wider variety of Mac models, such as Apple’s entire line of Power Mac 6100, 7100, and 8100 computers.  The DOS Compatibility Card for the Power Mac 8100 family, however, was anything but cheap, and came in at a whopping $695.



2 Comments For This Post

  1. Peter Says:

    I had the DOS card for the PowerMac 6100. Worked great. Played WarCraft I using it.

  2. Steve Jobs Says:

    Why ruin a perfectly good machine?!

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