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At the very beginning of the PC history most of these systems used a MDA or CGA graphic card which was able to display 256 characters in text mode. These characters were not programmable. So it was not possible to show any chinese characters in text mode and showing them in graphic mode wouldn't have been easy.

So my question is, were these kind of computers used or did they have their own line of computers, or just another operating system which displayed everything in a graphical way?


Thanks for all the answers, but I still don't get how was it possible for a PC clone to show Chinese characters and still be compatible with MS-DOS. In the text-mode of early graphic cards there was no possibility to show more than 256 characters. Using "wide" characters would increase the amount of characters you can theoretically store in memory, but most Chinese characters are not composed of two simple radicals displayed side-by-side so the amount of displayable characters wouldn't be that big.

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  • There are many Chinese character solutions before Win 95 even Win 3.1, e.g. UCDOS, at that moment, internal system is still single byte, but a Chinese is encoded with 2 bytes, so that system can merge adjacent 2 bytes into single character and look up its font glyph for rendering, but after you pressed once 'backspace', you can find only right half of it is purged from display, and after you entered another Chinese character, remaining left half + left half of the new character is used for rendering and leave right half of the new character shown as an uknown symbol there, it is funny. Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 0:39
  • @DanielYeung, Yeah, that is an interesting memory.
    – sfy
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 5:04

3 Answers 3

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Before Windows 95, we used "倚天中文卡" to input, handle and display traditional Chinese in Dos environment.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ETen_Chinese_System

Such a long time ago :)

enter image description here

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  • You sound like you have experience... :)
    – Mou某
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 16:58
  • 1
    of course lah :) before that, i still remember apple II with the green monitor, and the cassette tape recorder 😼 Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 17:05
  • 2
    This reminds me of WPS by Kingsoft ...
    – pjhades
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 20:43
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There was also another Chinese system called 國喬 (KC60), which is similar to the 倚天 system mentioned in another answer.

It is not a native system that comes up when you boot up the computer. After you boot up with the English DOS system, you will have to run the command to start the ET3 or KC60 system just like running other applications.

After you start it, there will be an extra status bar (task bar?) at the bottom of the screen that shows that you are now in the Chinese system You can then change to different Chinese input methods like Changjie (倉頡), Dayi (大易)etc by pressing Ctrl+Shift and type in Chinese.

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I have found an instruction to build a virtual DOS environment: Construction of assembly environment under windows10 (Wang Shuang compilation)

Chinese DOS screenshot

They refer to:

The downloaded compressed package file name is:vmwareWang Shuang assembly language learning environment.7z

Unfortunately I don't know where to get this file. They say it has mutually exclusive ccdos and pdos TSRs. But if someone finds them, it's possible to make an investigation. Quite handy, it has DOS debug utilities built-in.

My thought is that screen fonts are altered. On VGA it is possible to have 512 distinct characters on the screen. 80x25=4000, and 512 is one quarter of the screen. Maybe if there are not so many distinct glyphs on the screen at once, font reprogramming engine can handle them all. Or it's all just a graphic mode.

Also I have heard about Hanka language card. If they replace MDA/CGA videocard, they can provide unusual text modes. But this is just a speculation.

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