Request for Computer Assistance

This is something different — not economics- but I need assistance.

I have a computer problem, but I don’t even know how to search for help on the web.

I write with a 30 year old DOS program.  Yes, but it is the best writing tool I know.  Something happened, so that the non-alphanumeric characters almost all appear as a little box.  Look at the one near entry 735.  This does not happen with the DOS screen is maximized.

In any case, the little boxes replace characters I need to recognize, besides the line feed/carriage return that the 735 box represents.

Can I fix this in the registry; can I repair the whole program?

Any help would be appreciated.  Even if you can’t help, maybe you can tell me how search for help.  I tried Google, but nothing I entered was remotely useful.


DOS problem

6 comments so far

  1. ravi on

    Michael, its not clear to me why you have non-alphanumeric characters (in which I am including punctuation marks, etc), other than LF/CR. What’s entry 735? Is that a blog post? Also, could you give us the name of the DOS program?

    • mperelman on

      Normally, it gives different different characters for underlining, line feed and line feed/carriage return.

      I wish you were here so that I could show you/explain it to you.

      • ravi on

        Michael, you can sign up at YuuGuu or some similar screen sharing service and I can try to debug your problem live. However, the service you choose has to support Macs. And I have to warn you that my knowledge of Windows keeps decreasing by the year ;-).

  2. Bart on

    I’m no expert, but I recall back in the days when I used to run a DOS database in XP, I had to make sure the ANSI.SYS driver loaded during the DOS execution.

    Can you think of any recent event that may have affected your system configuration?

    Your can try to troubleshoot/fix this as follows. Assuming Windows is loaded on your C: drive, and closing your DOS application first:

    Open in Notepad the following file:

    Look for a line of code that looks like this:

    If this line is note there, copy and paste it into the file in Notepad, then save and close the file.

    Try opening your DOS application now and see if it is any better. (I can’t remember if you have to restart Windows when you change a Config file).

  3. Seth Sandronsky on


    Adobe has a feature that allows one person to see what is on another person’s computer screen during a troubleshooting session.


  4. Erik on

    Michael, I am guessing the characters are along the lines of ¶ (pilcrow) and ◇ (diamond) that some word processors display?

    In any case, my first guess would be that the font has been changed t one that does not support those characters, which is why you see empty boxes. If you have changed the font I would change it back. If you haven’t, I might try changing it to something else. There is some information at ( You could experiment with changing the font. Apparently you will probably have two choices, Lucida and something else.

    If it isn’t this, it could be something more complicated that I probably can’t help with. I doubt that the problem is specific to the program, but it might be helpful to let people know what the program is.

    I would never scold people for using old software, but there are 30-year old programs that continue to be updated, which make them in my opinion easier to use. I don’t know what your workflow is, but if you write in this program and then import to Word, etc. to exchange with colleagues, you may find text editors out there that suit you and may even be able to emulate the keyboard commands that you are used to. Programs that are advertised as text editors, often aimed at programmers, are often much better for writers who want to focus on the text that they are writing, not how it looks on a page, and for those who are used to keyboard commands to edit text.

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