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Back in the bad old DOS days, instead of creating a file format for saving/loading the configuration of the text editor, I simply wrote out the image in memory of the executable to the executable file. (The configuration was written to static global variables.)

Running the new executable then loaded the new configuration. This worked like a champ, up until the Age of Antivirus Software, which always had much grief over writing to executable files.

It's a trick I learned from the original Fortran version of ADVENT.




Readers may be familiar with the TI-83 programmable graphing calculator's assembly language functionality (especially those who took high school math classes in the mid-to-late 1990's). The TI-83's only user-writable storage was 32K of RAM (there was a small lithium battery to keep it powered when you changed the AAA's; also some of the RAM was used for system stuff so somewhat less than 32K was actually available for user purposes).

You could write hex values in the program text editor, then you could tell the calculator to execute the hex codes as machine code. I understand the previous models, TI-82 and TI-85, were hacked / backdoored to run user-supplied assembly language, so TI responded by including an official entry point and developer documentation for the TI-83.

People later wrote loaders which allowed programs to be stored as binary instead of text (using half the space). Some loaders also had the capability to run binary programs by swapping them into the target address rather than copying them (theoretically a third option would be possible, running programs in-place if they weren't written to depend on their load address, but this wasn't a direction the community went in. gcc users may be familiar with -fPIC which produces code which can run from any address, and this flag is necessary when compiling code for shared libraries.)

This allowed people to create massive 20K+ applications (an RPG called Joltima comes to mind), that used most of the available RAM.

The fact that this loading scheme made static variables permanent was also quite convenient. (And most variables were static; stack-based addressing would be tough because the Z80 only has two index registers, one of which is used -- or perhaps I should say "utterly wasted" -- by the TI-83 OS.)

The next generation, the TI-83+, included I think 256K of flash ROM, and a special silver edition was released which contained 2 MB.


Reminds me of the approach taken by Xmonad where the configuration is compiled into a new executable and then run.


Thank you for that anecdote, it made my day. Simply awesome.


I forgot to mention, on a floppy disk system, saving the configuration in the exe file made for fast loading of the program, since it didn't need to do extra floppy file operations to load the config.


I learned a heckuva lot from reading the ADVENT Fortran source code. I was floored when I figured out how it was saving its configuration - such a brilliant idea. And in DOS it could be implemented in about 5 lines of simple C code. (Code size was critical in the old 64Kb days.)

The other huge thing I learned from ADVENT was polymorphism. The comment in the source code "the troll is a modified dwarf" was an epiphany for me.




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