View Full Version : Xenix 8088

November 30th, 2012, 09:40 PM
What are the general details surrounding how people used to run Xenix on an 8088?

- SCO Xenix 86 2.1.3 seemed like a popular version
- what kind of media was it distributed on? 5.25" floppys or 3.5"? what size(s)? 360kb?
- where would you get it? mailorder? computer shop? in 1983?
- how much $?
- was it in BYTE?
- how many users roughly?
- what were the documentation/manuals like (compared with IBM DOS)?
- how much memory was required? 640kb? disk space?
- could you boot into a useable system with a floppy?
- did it run DOS .exe's?
- did it support ethernet cards?
- serial console(s)?
- multiuser support?
- networking? file sharing? or anything else worth mentioning?

November 30th, 2012, 10:16 PM
I used to run it back in the day... Here's my original Xenix 86 (for 8086) install set in the photo below (I just got it out of the cupboard and blew the dust off it). As you can see it was six 5-1/4" diskettes in a paper envelope. It's been decades since I last used it but I think they were 360kb floppies. No idea how much it cost originally as I used it to support my company's application running across MSDOS, Xenix and Unix System V.2 and V.3 (written in RM COBOL, the same application binary worked seamlessly across all three platforms).
As for how well it ran, it was acceptable - actually quite amazing - considering it ran in real mode on an 8088. It had a much larger tools and utilities repertoire than Minix, which I used to build and run on a 5150 clone with two floppies a year or two before I used Xenix 86. It liked 640kb memory, I don't recall it ran DOS executables at all. We used it with a multiport serial terminal card with Wyse-50's and a dialup modem (uucp), so no idea about ethernet support. Xenix 286 was a lot better though :)



Ole Juul
November 30th, 2012, 11:05 PM
There are disk images available on the net. I won't post links here, but they're around.

@Steve: Thanks for the picture and info. I'll put that in my archive.

November 30th, 2012, 11:06 PM
I had a set at a former employer so here is what I remember.

Media was 5 1/4" DS/DD in the version there; other systems got disks that matched their included drive. Capacity was whatever Unixy systems did on those disks.
Generally, 8086 Xenix was shipped alongside the hardware it ran on. Later, SCO would do proper box sets which could be ordered or purchased in a store.
Price: Expensive though hard to tell since it came with hardware. I think about $500 was the cheapest Xenix price.
BYTE and the other trades covered it and there was occasional advertising for it.
Users? Do you mean sales? Or users at one system? Not sure, but it wasn't a big seller.
Documentation was good, all in sturdy loose leaf binders. I don't know how it differed from real Unix but it seemed the manuals were for the version of software they came with.
Requirements: I think was 512kB plus a hard disk but really needs more more more.
Floppy only install: Ah, well, only for emergency repairs. Still Unix; still expects expensive iron.
DOS exes: In the box for 8086, no. There were several different commercial add-ons the offered the chance to run some DOS programs. I have no idea if any worked. Later (386+) versions of Xenix included tools that did run DOS apps. Early Xenix could read and write MS-DOS floppy formats though.
Network was available at some point. I think Ethernet but 25 years is a long time.
Serial Consoles and multi-user: Yes, it had them. Not sure it was workable on the 8086; took like a MB per user on the 386.
Was marketed by SCO for use as a file server to MS-NET.

Other remarkable features: MS had adapted some of their commercial software to run on Xenix. Never seen any so I don't know how Xenix versions compared to DOS versions of Word or Multiplan

December 14th, 2012, 11:24 AM
Welcome to XENIX i8086!

Its on my XT's hard drive, boots from rootdev=hd(40,0) ... and wow, this is not your boring MS-DOS -- there's a lot more going on with this system, tons of commands to learn.


And there's all those eXtended packages to mess with!


I'll be back with further updates ...

Ole Juul
December 14th, 2012, 05:12 PM
Welcome to XENIX i8086! . . . I'll be back with further updates ...

Congratulations! I'm looking forward to updates.

December 14th, 2012, 06:30 PM
Generally, 8086 Xenix was shipped alongside the hardware it ran on. Later, SCO would do proper box sets which could be ordered or purchased in a store.

I would be interested in getting Xenix to run on non-PC compatible 8088, does anyone know offhand whether these editions supported some form of generic install?

January 15th, 2013, 12:32 PM

I am reading this manual right now; Chapter 6 on UUCP (unix-to-unix copy programs) is an area of intense interest. I would eventually like to get a remote login over /dev/tty1a. Don't know how hard setting up a serial card on COM1 will be. Minicom should work on the other end.

January 16th, 2013, 04:06 PM
uucp - that brings back memories. The first usenet feed I got was via uucp, on a dial-up line. I set up a local News-server, but first I had to "port" the necessary software (I can't remember if I used INN or something else). Back in those days every portable software was written to be compatible with System V R4, but the unix machine I used ran something based on System V R3, so I spent quite a number of hours getting the software to work.

February 6th, 2013, 04:10 PM
I am also working now to get my Leading Edge Model D to run a version of Unix. I snagged a set of original Xenix 8086 and 2086 disks on Ebay sometime ago. The problem with all of these is lack of standard networking support outside of UUCP or Micnet.

Setting up the card to run on Com1 is not too difficult. I have used two solution successfully. The IBM XT/AT systems sometimes came with a single Serial/Parallel card. Settings were defaulted to COM1/LPT1. By pulling a single jumper associated to the port (serial or parallel), they could be changed to COM2/LPT1 independently. I've also used a Serial/Parallel/Floppy 8 Bit card for Serial/Parallel.

If you do decide to got that route, keep in mind that the UART chip (chip that communicates with the serial port) will usually have the older 8250/16450 chips. These chips won't realistically let the communication go faster than 9600 baud at best (2400 was more common and _MUCH_ slower). By replacing that chip, either by pulling it out of its socket (less likely) or de-soldering/soldering a 16550 UART (more likely), you can really push the speeds up to 56K baud - although XENIX doesn't do much faster than 19.2k baud IIRC.

Mike Brutman, one of the mods, wrote the truely amazing mTCP networking package for 8088+ systems in real mode. I would be interesting to see how possible it would be to modify it for a XENIX 8088/Minix 1.5. If done, then your 8088 can plug in to a network via Ethernet and one wouldn't need UUCP except for historical simulation. And, since any 8088 Unix System is going to run the same hardware mode/memory model (Real Mode with 64K Program/64K Data Stack), it seems reasonable this could be done in theory.

Mike, any comments?

Keep sending those pictures - I'll get inspired to post some of my own!


February 6th, 2013, 04:43 PM
Mike Brutman, one of the mods, wrote the truely amazing mTCP networking package for 8088+ systems in real mode. I would be interesting to see how possible it would be to modify it for a XENIX 8088/Minix 1.5. If done, then your 8088 can plug in to a network via Ethernet....
Of course you would need a packet driver for you're NIC that will run in your OS of choice.

February 6th, 2013, 05:20 PM
Very true! Fortunately, the specification is published and most 8 bit ISA cards have packet drivers for DOS built already with ASM source. Difficult to implement as either a service or user mode software on a real mode 8088 Unix. But I think its possible.


February 7th, 2013, 02:52 PM
What kind of development tools comes with Xenix?
And how about Xenix source?

March 5th, 2013, 04:24 AM
Xenix source is not avaiable.
The development tools... they simply don't come with Xenix :D
They were sold as an additional package (big $$$). Now, for Xenix 386 you can actually find versions of GCC (ftp://ftp.funet.fi/pub/unix/386ix/xenix/) but still you're missing all the headers and stuff, and morever there's nothing like that for 8086 Xenix (and they are not avaiable on the Net).