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21st century nostalgia

I don't know why exactly, but I was just hit with a wave of nostalgia for my first golden age of computing, 1991 to 1996. Then, the dream died and Microsoft bought our souls.

Norton Commander: There was a lot of struggle, many errors, low memory, batch files...but it was real, an no words can describe it. In the end, Neal Stephenson was right: this, what we have right now, all this GUI, is fake...but there is no other way.

Maybe there is a reason why I still keep a copy of NC5 around. It's pretty much useless, of course—as you can see from the screenshot below, it doesn't even calculate memory and hard drive space correctly, anymore. Its days of glory are long gone and all that FAR crap just doesn't cut it for me. Simply put, NC5 will always have a place in my heart.

By the way, I was surprised to find out that tomorrow, February 6, is NC5's ninth birthday. Weird. Could it be that many others like myself felt a point of anguish and somehow projected it into the noosphere, or does NC5 have a psychic presence among us? I haven't the slightest idea, but here's to you, old buddy!


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Comments (89)

dmitry:

Hear hear!

Paul:

Good job! Back to the good ol' days.

Mike:

*sigh* Yeah, the good old days.

Vladimir:

Norton Commander rules, baby!

Mike:

Rock on! ;)

Dim:

I have NC 5.0 in it's 3 installaton floppies. I seek NC 5.5 (which has Long File Names Support). I have found the German version but not the English one. I have left my e-mail, if anyone can help an old-NC user, please feel free to e-mail me :)

Mike:

Installation? I only had it in the "installed" form. ;) I still have all 4.43MB of NC 5.0 on my hard drive.

Now, did NC 5.5 ever exist? As far as I know, they made a couple of versions for Windows after 5.0, but I've never heard of NC for DOS supporting long file names. Could it be you are thinking of FAR Manager? It could also be possible that you came across one of those unofficial, "fake" NCs.

Well, if I ever find anything, I'll be sure to let you know.

andy:

Wooorp! I still have it, cuz it runs on all my platforms:
MacOSX, Solaris, WinNT, Linux, nBSD, etc.
OK, it's not the good old NC anymore, but there is help for people like me that HATE to use other file managers like these.
For those using NC for DOS/WIN platforms that have no support for long file names I suggest the use of mc4NT which is the midnight commander for WinNT. If you cannot find it on the net I recommend the usage of cygwin - there you have the fully-loaded packages for your daily use, including the mc which is a wonderful clone of the NC in the past times!

Mike:

Awesomeness. Perhaps I should look into that Midnight Commander thing again. What exactly is Cygwin, by the way?

TurricaN:

Norton Commander 5.5 for DOS with Long File Names really exists. Look at Wikipedia to proof that is true.

Mike:

Well, turns out you are right, TurricaN. I don't know if it was you, but the other day a guy e-mailed me a copy of NC 5.5 with LFN support.

I have to say that I was severely disappointed in this version. Unlike NC 5.0 and its predecessors, NC 5.5 needs to be installed and cannot be moved around with ease; it does not interact well with Windows, crashes a lot and is very slow.

P.S. TurricaN, just because someone says something on Wikipedia, it is not necessarily true.

TurricaN:

NC 5.5 inability to move and crashes exists only in NT line of WIndows, while in Windows 9x/ME this is not in the case. For Windows NT better use NC 2.01for Windows.

Mike:

Win 9x/ME is utter crap, without argument; the first good, stable Windows version was Win2K, which is NT-based. I will have you know that NC 5.0 works perfectly on all NT-based systems, even though it does need tweaking to work with LFN.

Now, if I still wanted to use an orthodox file manager, I'd use FAR, by far (pun not intended) the superior NC clone, in all regards; NC for Windows is not a true OFM.

ACEfan:

If you want 100% NC-like archiver, use Commandline ACE - mentioned in one of links inside Wikipedia NC article.

Mike:

I would, Acefan; if I hadn't been lured by the power and compatibility (and increasing ubiquity) of WinRAR over the years. ;)

Guti:

I used to use NC 2.0-4.0, but then I discovered DOS Navigator.

Mike:

Interesting. Thanks for the tip, Guti!

Matija:

I'm 23 yrs old and i love NC!!
I couldn't live without it in those days.
I still remember every command...

Mike:

Heh, yeah, good 'ol NC. I still have "ARJ a -rva 1440" stuck in my brain from those days, hahaha. ;)

Eric Pircher:

I'm so glad to find someone else who is nostalgic for the days of Norton Commander. Back in those days, you were either an XTree Gold man or an NC man ... I was definitely an NC man through and through. My fingers would fly through the keystrokes with NC, and hapless customers would stand by open-mouthed :) I was so disappointed when I discovered that NC for Windows was slow and ugly. After a careful search, I settled on Servant Salamander and I haven't looked back since. God bless you, Norton Commander!
PS. Yes, I too keep a copy of NC4 and NC5 on my hard disk for no reason other than nostalgia :)

Mike:

Heh, yeah, I still can't believe Windows 3.11 was once a GUI for DOS. NC was king then. We've come a long way. ;(

Shane:

Found this through wikki... I just had an urge to look up my old pal Norton Commander and found all this. Been a long time... I'll drink tonight in NCs memory. Xtree gold users begone!

Mike:

Mhumm. Come to think of it, NC is a great reason to drink, heh - but not in the way Windows is a great reason to drink, heh. ;)

Karen:

I am trying to find out what person's picture was on the package of the early Norton utilities for a history project. Was it "Commander Norton" - Joshua A. Norton aka "Emperor Norton I". When was the last person's picture on the Norton Products? If not Joshua A. Norton, then who?

Karen

Karen:

Sorry for my last question - I have found more answers than I really needed! Thanks anyway!

Mike:

I know about Emperor Norton I; however, I have never seen the original NU box, having always gotten it in a pirated form, heh. ;) Do share your findings with the rest of us, however.

I know for a fact that Peter Norton appeared on a lot of Symantec product boxes since the early 90s. Who is Joshua A. Norton, however?

Peter Melse:

just growing up with computers (i'm 19 in 2007) norton commander was my first file manager, and I still use mc on the linux servers I run today. awesome program!

Mike:

Cool. ;) Is MC a *nix variant of NC?

microserf:

Yep, Look up Midnight Commander

Mike:

Ah, yes, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midnight_commander. All I can say is that it's not as pretty as the original.

henry:

why nc 5.5 can't copy like nc 5.0
it's very hard to use copy F5

Mike:

First of all, please do not post the same message more than once, or you will be banned. Secondly, you have to describe your system: What kind of OS do you have? Where is NC installed? What kind of files are you trying to copy and form where to where? What does "can't copy like NC 5.0" mean, exactly? Answer these questions and I might be able to help you.

Chris:

I still got a copy of Norton Commander somewhere!

Mike:

Awesome!

Sadly, in the wake of the recent Windows Vista's release, NC's actual usefulness has reached its limit. There is no more DOS, as such; most filesystem operations are too complex for NC to handle. It's been a good run, but all things must end.

Gussan:

The best replacement for NC is "Total Commander". It can handle almost every kind of compressed files via plugins, besides there are tons of plugins that let you do almost everything to manage your computer, from registry editing to a very versatile task manager. At first it may be ugly, but it has to be customized to your needs, like Firefox. I have not found any better replacement yet.

Mike:

How's its WinVista compatibility?

Chris:

Started with version 2 or 3 for Dos. Still using NC for windows 2.01. Can't get use to ANY other file manager. Best program ever.

Mike:

Wow. Hardcore. ;)

Gussan:

Mike, answering your question "How's its WinVista compatibility?"

I do not know, I am still using WinXP, but in TC's help it states that is ready for Windows Vista. Besides, support is great, you get an answer everytime you write to the author, rare in these days?

I I tried (and in fact I have a registered copy) NC for Windows, but it is a very very simple file manager, TC's power gets bigger and bigger as new plugins come out. Everyone should give it a try, as I said before TC's out of the box is ugly, but supercharged with plugins it is superb. You can customize every aspect of TC, from menues, keyboard shortcuts, toolbar buttons, and so on.

Once you buy the license you do not need to pay for updates, like Directory Opus (a very expensive one). I have TC since version 4.0, and I have not paid anymore.

Mike:

This sounds pretty cool, actually. How much is a single license, out of curiosity? Also, are there any screenshots of it anywhere?

Gussan:

Mike, please visit www.ghisler.com (official home page) for price. And also www.totalcmd.net where you will find almost all the plugins TC supports. TC supports four kinds of plugins, you will find out. Sorry, answers are not very fast, my work does not let me use internet very often.

Regarding screenshots, let me tell you that TC interface is very simple, but customization, its internal functions and plugins makes it very powerful. One thing I like very much is that TC uses a ini file to store all its settings, it means it is portable, you cant take it wherever you want, also in its home page you will find a U3 installer.

Mike:

While I appreciate all this information, I am disappointed to see that Total Commander was designed to only work inside Windows. I was actually thinking about console-mode file managers. Thanks anyways, though.

Gussan:

No problem Mike, then maybe NC is still the best options for DOS or older Win versions. However if you want to work inside Vista in console mode, then FAR is an excellent freeware file manager (http://farmanager.com/). It works really well with WinXP, and I hope in WinVista. Lots of plugins that extend the functionality of FAR. I know you know it, from your previous post.

But If you find a better alternative let us know.

Regards.

Mike:

Mhumm. Perhaps I could give FAR another shot. I remember it being bulky and buggy, but, then again, that was a long time ago. Thanks again.

Bill:

Did not see anyone mention FC/W (File Commander Windows) by Brian Harvard in Australia. by far the best of all of these with windows support. I started with NC 1.0 and have used them all.
website is http://silk.apana.org.au/fc.html

Mike:

FC/W? I've never heard of it before. It seems interesting, but I don't see the point of an orthodox file manager in the era of GUI OSs.

Yeah Mike,
It was around 20 years ago when Norton Commander starts the band to play....
Got my XT clone with DOS 3.3 diskette, manual and a box of 10 empty diskettes. Exited, turned it on .... BASIC, oh, forgot to insert the DOS bootable diskette.. reset and voila....!
IBM PC DOS 3.30 A:> .... starred back at me.... sucks! Then a friend came by with WordStar 4 and .... NC 1.02D (I really thought Peter Norton was a German). The rest is history.

Mike:

AHAHAHAHA! Awesome! Nice site, by the way.

Thanks ..... Just something to fill my boring week-end with. Also was curious how Excel would do on-line....;). Btw, pls try click at 15-07-1988..... Brings back lots of memory...

Mike:

Excel online? What do you mean? AHAHAHAHA! I get it:

<meta name=Generator content="Microsoft Excel 12">

Heh, you lazy bastard! You actually pulled it off! Nice. ;)

Oh, man, thanks for the ad! This is classic: "Look at DOS. It looks back at you. It makes you do all the work. You need the Norton Commander." Awesome. They've even got the hat and everything. Thanks again, man! ;)

Well I was "lazy" man.... even since way "good ol times" back then... Damn too "lazy" having to repeat typing DIR, MD name, CD name, COPY A:*.ext B: over and over again and having to remember all those DOS Command syntaxes.... Thats why I used NC the first place.... HA..HA..HA....

"Never send a human to do a machine's job."

Mike:

Fair enough sir. Hey, I still have "arj a -rva 1440" stuck in my head, heh. Ah, ARJ...I still remember when you were better than PKZIP and WinRAR was not even in existence. I am an old man! ;)

orknexus:

I would disagree about FAR. I use FAR on my Windows Vista when I get sick of waiting forever for it to complete a simple file move operation which used to take split second in Norton Commander in Old Good Days...

Mike:

Actually, orknexus, you are very right in this regard. First and foremost, WinVista turned out to be a WinME-style clone of WinXP - all bells and whistles - every little task takes an enormous amount of time.

Having actually used FAR myself to cut through Vista's crap (up until reinstalling WinXP last week), I fully retract my earlier comments. FAR FTW!

Nice article. Touches the exact points of NC nostalgia. It's the same here, I still keep NC installed and with a shortcut in the quicklaunch. I very rarely use it, unfortunatelly, since the multitasking enviroment of XP doesn't do it much justice. It still has some usefull purposes, like deleting the files that Windows Explorer won't, managing diskettes... I remember of the kind of control I used to have with it, NC practically represented the true GUI, the system was NC. I started out on the spectrum 48k clones and when I went up to the PC, a 386 at 40MHz with 8mb RAM, the DOS 6.22 NC 5.0 and later as an extra the WIN 3.11. RAR in those days used to have the same interface as NC, they worked so good together. But NC still was the system. It was so fast and offered so much control over your system, just a nice dream today. I tried FAR too, but it proved somehow too unmanageable for me, I used to know every little bit of NC and I get lost in configuring all this new file managers, trying to make them behave like NC. At one point, out of frustration, I made a design doc for an updated version of NC, the way I wanted to see it evolve. Those were the good old days. It seems we go deeper and deeper in a swamp of stupid, unreliable and un-controllable GUIs. Long live NC.

Mike:

Welcome, fellow NC fan! This is a good story (though I'm a bit surprised to hear than anyone still has a floppy drive these days; I haven't had one for years now). RAR, eh? All I had back then was ARJ.

As for GUIs, you are absolutely correct: Vista, the current (supposed) OS pinnacle, is a horrible, terrible travesty. I guess Neal Stephenson was right: we sold out to the comforts of the GUI too easily (well, everyone except you, Mite). ;)

Mooie:

Yay!

Well, some history from me then;

Started off in like 1992 or so with the Swedish version of NC3. That was by mistake, actually. Was doing some education which involved CNC (or in short... NC). We had some applications running on the PCs at the school and I thought I'd play around with them at home. Brought a couple of floppies and.. umm.. made a backup *nods* of that nice little C:\NC directory. But it turned out not to be an CNC application at all, but a nice file manager. I was since then stuck.

I then got hold of an upgrade to the Swedish version of NC4, which is my favourite. Was simple and lightweight, but also had support for recursion. Alas, one of the floppies of it died on me, so today I only have access to the English version. Ah well, I run English versions of most applications anyway, but of pure nostalgia, I'd so love to get hold of the Swedish version sometime.

I have played with NC5, but never really liked it. Okay, it had better integration to, at the time, popular network environments, such as Novell NetWare, but that wasn't anything I used at home at the time. We shall probably not speak of the Windows version - way too cumbersome to handle and the looks of it... just a bar rip-off from the proper DOS versions. Okay, one can configure it to use Monospaced fonts, but still... there's something that's just wrong.

Ah well. Have since then started writing my own "clone", but it'll probably never see day's light, if I know myself right. :P Am working on a small single-file application that runs in DOS mode, at least from DOS 3.3 and upwards, as well in Windows UI mode, but will either emulate text mode or use text mode.. have not decided yet... it'll also be bootable from a floppy... I.e. without any underlying OS. Okay, that latter will need a separate boot sector, but still. There, some ads for something that doesn't exist. *grins*

Anyway, thanks for a nice "forum" and I wish you all a most enjoyable holiday.

Mike:

Hey! This is an awesome story. It would be nice to see some screenshots of the Swedish NC and of your own NC clone. Do you have a website?

Mooie:

I do unfortunately not have a web page worth mentioning at the moment. Never really given myself the time to do anything about it, but some time I'm sure I will. :-) Am currently abroad, so cannot help with screenshots, but will do when I get back home next year. My own clone is not in a workable state at the moment, only bits and pieces which I need to glue together into something that resembles anything usable, so no screenshots of that either, I'm afraid.

Anyway, I'll come back with pictures next year. :-)

Mike:

Well, it all sounds very interesting. Best of luck with all of it in the new year, indeed. ;)

Koah Fong:

I have been using NC since the early 1990s till today. I used it more extensively than the Windows File Manager. It's most useful when comparing directories quickly and copying/moving files in my programming work.

Long live NC!

It's just happens that I have to fix a few really ancient computers and owner never thought to make any backups. Now these are production equipment of small company, but the owner resuses to get any new hardware, because "these have been working just fine". I almost refused, but nostalgia won...

Of course, I've already forgotten where my software toolkits including NC are, so quick googling landed me to vetusware page and saved me from longer search. Without NC I would be in trouble, since it's been ages from my last hand-on experience with the good old DOS... ;)

Mike:

Good stuff, guys, good stuff. ;)

File Commander really is the best file manager for Windows. The fact that it is a console application gives it a huge edge over any graphical file manager. And not just because it looks just like good old Norton Commander :)

Personally, I hate Windows Explorer and use FC all the time. One of the reasons is that Explorer hides too many things (even with all the options tweaked), and FC just shows things as they are. FC is a lot faster to use (because it is a console application, no graphical nonsense, icons or anything that is difficult to draw), and once you learn all the NC type hot keys and menus it is blazingly fast to use. No clicking and guessing with a mouse, keyboard is the fastest way to get things done. An integrated viewer and editor are very handy, it supports all common file archives, and I won't even get started on the benefits of having a command line easily available. I don't care what GUI I'm running, there is always use for a command line.

Just try it. If you really loved Norton Commander, I'm sure you'll love File Commander. If you work in system administration or do anything remotely related, this is one tool you really need. Trust me, it will make your life a lot easier. I've used FC for about 13 years with OS/2, Win9x/2k/XP and Vista. Back when I was a SysAdmin, it saved me countless times with it's built-in features and speed of getting things done.

(And no, I'm not being paid by the author of FC to write this stuff :P )

Mike:

File Commander, eh? Man. It does sound quite enticing, but I'm afraid I've been spoiled by the glitz and glitter of the Windows UI. Orthodox operating systems were quite something, though, eh? *sigh*

IX:

Nothing was more fun and exciting to me than the black DOS prompt and the blue - impressive in that time - NC...The true golden days of computers...
Now all that GUI stuff makes computers more like video games...!!!

Mike:

The later versions of BASIC were blue...and so was Lexicon (the Russian DOS word processor). Hey, I wouldn't mind all these flying and rolling away window tricks if my goddamn Vista-preloaded tablet didn't run so slow with a 2GHz dual-core CPU and 2.5GB of DDR2.

microserf:

haha, with linux, your tablet would be flying!

Mike:

Yes! And I could kill you and bury you in the garden. Kidding. ;)

But seriously, what the hell would I run on *nix?! I ain't re-learning a brand-new set of programs.

microserf:

hmm good point............

Mike:

Meh. ;)

I still work with this tool, it's great and yes from the old days , if we can speak from the old days
thankx for sharing

Eric Pircher:

To add to my much earlier comments about NC, I'd like to also raise a glass to 40-row mode, my preferred resolution for running NC and any other DOS programs. This was the Goldilocks resolution - 25-row was too big, 50-row too cramped, but 40-row was juuuuust right. Salad days!

Mike:

Why the hell not? We all have our favourite NC feature. Cheers! ;)

(I, personally, liked the fact that NC supported the mouse.)

Repomancer:

I could not have written Mech 2 without it, back in the day. One of the most massively useful pieces of DOS software ever concocted. Windows 3.0 and 3.1 were best handled by ignoring the horrible File Manager, and running NC in a window. Fast, stable, clean, and small.

Mike:

You wrote MechWarrior 2?! Please hurry to confirm or deny this fact, for it is an exciting revelation, indeed. As for the Windows 3.11 File Manager, I too believe it was designed by a one-armed monkey on experimental steroids. NC FTW!

jamil:

pleese send me on the programe nc softwae i am very thankful to u .

Mike:

Although, needless to say, it is quite misleading to some individuals, I am not "teh Googel," and so, to conclude, fuck you and have a great day!

mostafizur:

i need nc5 software

Mike:

I need a blowjob. Want to help me out?

MLP:

Sure. wanna whip it out? oops. no too teeny to reach me. ;)

Doesn't someone already have that on their job description?

Tracy:

I LOVED Norton Commander! It took me a long time to convert to Windows because I was so hooked on NC. I used it all the time running our BBS, to view text files and images, edit text files, sorting, searching, etc. It was a priceless tool. I wish it was still available. :)

Mike:

MLP: Dammit! ;) Uh...nevermind that; it seems the person wasn't right for the...position to begin with.

Tracy: BBS, eh? I somehow never really got into the whole BBS scene, growing up in Israel in the 1990s - how was it?

I use mcedit EVERY DAY at work and home, for just about everything. I can't stand vi/vim.
I use mcedit via SSH on my smart phone!
Heck, I even used it for my main programming editor up until about a year ago (I needed a multi-file editor, so I switched to Kate)

I didn't even realize it was a clone of Norton Commander.
Hurray for good old software that "just works".

Some other great command-line apps that I use all the time: ncftp, rtorrent

Mike:

If it works, it works, eh? ;) God bless Peter Norton.

Richard:

I was sitting here waiting for something to finish, and Midnight Commander (a modern console based NC Clone) was, as always, sitting open one of my terminal windows.

And I thought, how long have I been using NC (or a clone).
Good God - 20+ years !!

There isn't any piece of software I have been using for that long, pretty much unchanged.

NC deserves to be in the Smithsonian.

I used Norton Commander in every PC i ever had, until unfortunately Windows decided to be NT-based and kill proper DOS compatibility. Since i also use Linux a lot, as a consequence i use MC. In fact i have MC installed in my VPS which i use regularly via SSH and without MC and MCEDIT it would be nightmare to use.

However MC isn't even close to what NC was. I tried to make a proper NC clone for Linux, but it seems that the terminal wasn't really made for such programs and most of MCs issues are due to the design of terminals (similar problems exist with other "rich" terminal applications, such as FreePascal's IDE).

For Windows FAR is by FAR the best file manager and by FAR faster than Windows Explorer especially when copying files around. Also with the WinSCP plugin you can connect to remote SFTP servers and even issue SSH commands as if they were local (it opens a separate SSH connection at the background). Since it also supports Windows console sizes, you can configure it to use a larger area of your desktop than the default 80x25 (personally i have it large enough to cover most of the desktop at 1680x1050 using 200x80 chars).

Since FAR is opensource now, i hope it will be ported to Linux at some point even if it follows the route of using a graphical pseudo buffer when used under X windows (like the C++ version of FreeVision does).

Sergei "TroubleMaker-DV" Agarkoff:

Good NC clone for X is Gnome-Commander (look for it on Wakoopa.com). It is GUI app, but it supports most of NC convenient functions - ^enter for dropping current file to command line, ^Fx for sortings etc...

Also the DOS clone of NC, the VC (Volkov Commander by Vsevolod Volkov). It is written in pure assembly language, so it is really small and suport most basic functions of NC. It is very convenient to have it on bootable floppy.

Little (useless for now) trick with launching NC from autoexec.bat... NC4/5 was shipped with small programme of NC_EXIT.COM It put given argument into keyboard buffer, added there "keypresses" for "F10 Y Enter", fooling DOS: the DOS thought that the command was typed in manually.
Every program launched from autoexec.bat got own environment copy and PSP, which was a waste of low memory. Using:

cd c:\n5c
nc_exit nc

in the end of autoexec.bat gave me about 1Kb of free conventional memory.

As to FAR... I can't live without it in Windows. And can't understand people, who can't live without maximized windows of (holy shit!) Windows Explorer.

Thank you for the memories...

Mike:

Richard: Good memories die hard, eh?

Kostas: Hey, now that I use Ubuntu, I can't wait!

Sergey, I can't believe your detailed knowledge of NC! You really got me with that nc_exit trick, heh. ;)

As for Far, it will always copy (and, most importantly, delete) what Windows Explorer is afraid to even touch. 'Nuff said.

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