Wondering about a vintage computer for vintage WP5.1 DOS

I’m pleased to have stumbled across this forum, as I’m hoping for some guidance.

I mostly use the antiquated Word Perfect 5.1 DOS for word processing in a computer not hooked up to the internet, just for text. It was custom-assembled for me by a friend who liked to tinker for fun, and it’s about 30 years old.

It may be finally dying, though, and I’m looking for a replacement–but also something now obsolete: A computer that has both an A-Drive for floppies and a USB port. These were being made probably about a decade ago, apparently especially by Dell. It would be hard enough just to find any floppy-USB combination, but it’s even harder to find one to accommodate WP5.1. And even harder because I’m not a techie myself, and I don’t know the language.

So I’m hoping for something with both an A-drive and a USB port (preferably in front), preferably weighing under 28 pounds, that would be able to have WP5.1, Corel 11, Microsoft Word (preferably an older version), and Excel. I’ve discovered that Dell made some models maybe about 10-15 years ago (Optiplex, Inspiron, Precision), but I don’t know the difference between them, whether they could be used for WP5.1, or how to choose between them. (I called Dell, ending up talking to some guy in India who was no help.)

What sort of questions should I be asking if I find a used option? I’d be grateful for any guidance.

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I am really bad in interpreting q question like this, but let’s give it a try.
what you are looking for is a simple dos machine with a floppydrive. I recently bought an old HP D530 sff office machine. Costed something like 15 euros.
Install freedos on it and all the dos things you want work like a charm.

If you want to toy around, you can get a IDE to SD or CF card adapter (CF is preferable i heard) so that you can run from a CF (or SD) card in stead of a harddisk.

I put MS-DOS onto a netbook (previously XP, with nothing but USB ports and no floppy drive,) which I pulled out of an e-recycling bin. When I plug in a USB floppy drive before powering it up, the floppy drive works. It becomes a DOS computer with a floppy drive.

Well, JustSomeOne, I’m probably bad at even asking the question clearly.

But it’s my impression that I’m not looking for a DOS “machine.” I think I’m looking for a machine with a floppy drive, which will have in it a compatible operating system, where I would install in that the DOS program.

This is a complex set of requirements, and you’ll likely have to pay someone to get it right.

The last machines with floppy controllers on the motherboard were server-class machines from the early 2000s. You absolutely don’t want any of these. Not merely are they loud (they’re meant for server rooms, far away from people) they also guzzle power.

Must you keep using floppies? Unless there’s an accessibility reason you don’t need to share with us, floppies are a format that has gone away. At best, they’re old stock (see floppydisk.com, the last supplier). At worst, you’ve already lost the data on them and you don’t know yet.

You might have to make do with an external USB 3.5" drive. This limits you to 1.44 MB HD floppy disks. You could be better going for a modern-ish small PC (like the Lenovo M93p ThinkCentre i picked up for $100) because it won’t have old capacitors and dust-filled fans.

Your software choice is complicated:


People do still use this, and you can buy new licenses even. But they’re typically doing it to maintain legacy legal documents, so there’s money involved in configuring hardware to keep it running.

Corel 11

This would likely need Windows 10 or so, which isn’t very happy being kept off the network, but would need a recent computer

Microsoft Word (preferably an older version), and Excel

Unless you mean an old version of Word as in Word 5.5 for MS-DOS which was released as freeware in 1999 by Microsoft as part of their Y2K compliance efforts, I’d suggest going as new as you can. Word prior to 2017 or so had a horrific incompatibility that infected tables and complex layouts in newer documents. If you share older Word docs with other people, they may have to rekey them. This may be why Office is now effectively a subscription-only product.

If you’re using a 30 year old computer, you’re probably relying on 30 year old peripherals. Serial and parallel printer ports are no longer a thing. PS/2 keyboards are (curiously) only on gaming motherboards.

I may be over-generalizing, but many of us here on this forum use retro computers because we don’t have to. Floppies are something to get all the data off ASAP and use as little as possible thereafter.

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Great answer!

I wonder what computer he previously had (one or more?)
Corel 11 is from 2002. I think best would be a 32 bit Win XP computer or better laptop. Best of both worlds DOS and WIN and USB.

Or later computer with Dosbox or other VM. Vintage hardware is of course better but for how long?
I also wonder why and if a physical floppy drive is really neccessary. (Is it just for the install?) Can maybe also emulated. All floppies should be saved to harddisc anyway. Limitations are in both cases.

I once had a Fujitsu T-Bird from around 1999/2000.(I guess, I bought this in summer 1999, but I’m not sure.) This had 3.5" floppy drive and USB. Keyboard and mouse were still PS2. I’ve never used this with USB and I don’t know how good USB support actually was.
While not high-performance, it was a common and robust consumer machine, which was exactly what I was looking for. I think, the processor was just a Celeron. (I used this just to review websites under Win/MSIE, running Win98, Win 2000, but also – more on an experimental basis – various Linux distros of the time, FreeBSD, and even Solaris 6. I recall having to swap the graphics card – which was probably an ATI card – for an older one, in order to run Linux.)

This may meet your requirements. (Corel 11 is from 2002, so it should run a machine that was then about 2 or 3 years old. Also, I think, the T-Bird line was available for quite a while.) As this was quite an ordinary machine, I have no idea, if these are still around (certainly, nobody would think of them to be especially worth preserving) or how well these held up. And, while perfectly viable for running legacy software, you wouldn’t want to use this as a daily driver nowadays.

Maybe of interest: As I recall it, the optical drive was CD and not DVD. And there were models with built-in ZIP drives. Ah, yes, not that unimportant then, the BIOS was Y2K compliant! :slight_smile:


A simple DOS machine that ALSO has USB ports.

And cables. I had self built machine that had a usb mother board. The mother board had
USB, but at that time cables from the mother board to chassis was ~ $100.00 each.
I never did get USB for that machine as I/O was from the old system.