If you hop to Canada, you can cop a PlayBook for a mere $US200. But even discounted, is it worth it? If you install 20 year old software on it, sure! That’s right. I’d rather have a PlayBook running DOS.
It’s not a terrible exaggeration. The PlayBook has more hardware oomph than it knows what to do with. In fact, it’s doing very little with it! RIM’s lacklustre slate still fails to offer elementary basics like email, and the scope of app selection is like an ugly kid’s birthday party. So when I saw that someone had craftily ported DOSBox onto a PlayBook — an emulator for the 20-year-old operating system — it occurred to me that it might be more than a novelty. The sad truth is decades-old software gives you a more interesting device than RIM’s job.
Let’s get the staples out of the way: you can send and receive email with DOS. You can listen to MP3s with DOS. You can watch videos in a variety of formats with DOS. You can even — yes, believe it, sister — browse the internet with DOS. It ain’t pretty — but then again, neither is owning a PlayBook out of the box.
And then there are the games. Oh, the games. Bringing you back to an age when you might not have even hit puberty, or were perhaps still in your physical and sexual primes, DOS gaming was a halcyon era. Doom. Wolfenstein. Commander Keen. X-Wing. X-Com. Sim City. Monkey Island. All of the LucasArts games. There are enough games for DOS to keep you at least mildly entertained for the rest of your eyesight-capable years. They’re almost all freely available as abandonware. Yours for the taking. Yours for the enjoying — no need to worry about bugs or compatibility or pricing — no need to worry about an app store or terms of service or patches or anything. You’re dealing with software that was perfected over years of use and then quietly tucked away into a vault.
Now of course you’ll be missing out on the last couple decades of progress in computing. But you know what? Even if you buy a PlayBook today, you’re still missing out on some of the past couple of decades in computing. You’re dealing with an overpowered, underfed device run by a company that doesn’t quite seem to understand parenting. You’re getting a 21st century mistake — so how about a 1980s funbox? You might actually be able to play with your PlayBook. A novel thought.