TurboC Guide

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The classic IBM PC XT is a very slow and simple computer by today's standards. When the IBM PC was launched it included BASIC A as it's included programming language and even had a cassette port for saving and loading programs.

The users would write programs in BASIC while a lot of the professional programs were written in assembler.

BASIC was slow and cumbersome for large programs and writing in assembler was a slow and highly skilled process.

While programs like Lotus 1-2-3 and Word Perfect revolutionized the software we ran on our computers, we needed an application to revolutionize software development, many would say that arrived when TurboPascal was released.

What made it different was that it was fast, cheap and easy to use. It had a built in IDE.

It has one disadvantage by modern standards is that Pascal is not a commonly taught or understood language.

Then in 1987 Borland came out with Turbo C. It combined the ease speed, price and ease of use of Turbo Pascal with the power and flexibility of the C language.

Looking back now Turbo C and others like Microsoft's Quick C were a turning point in making professional software development accessible to many.

Getting Started

Turbo C is now available free from here. It will not install correctly directly on the Zet at the time of writing this. So to work round this issue proceed as follows:-

  • Download the TurboC 2.01 zip file from the link above
  • Extract the files to a directory on a donor windows or dos machine (real or a virtual machine is fine).
  • Move all the files from the Disk2 and Disk3 directories in to the Disk1 directory
  • Run the installer in the Disk1 directory and follow the on screen instructions to install Turbo C on to the donor machine
  • Using the Donor PC copy the C:\TC installed directory to your Zet C: Drive (SD or Compact Flash at time of writing) in the same location (C:\TC when back in your Zet).
  • Plug you Zet C Drive back in to your Zet and boot.
  • Add the directory C:\TC to the path declared in the Autoexec.bat file in the root of the Zet C Drive.
  • Type "TC" <CR> at the dos prompt !
  • Turbo C should start and you are on your way.


  • Press F1 in the IDE for help. Pressing F1 twice usually gets you to the root of the help system.
  • Use the ALT key and shortcut key to access the menus.
  • There are some demo programs installed including a surprisingly complete spreadsheet.
  • F10 then cursor keys is another way to access the menu.
  • To get a simple program going write a c program in the editor save it with a name and c extension and hit Control-F9.
  • Learn more about 8086 memory models and near, far and huge pointers to make the most of Turbo C, see this.
  • To use a more than one file create more than one c file then make an extra file with the file names in and save it with a .prj extention set that file in the project menu.
  • tcc.exe is the command line version of turbo c and allows programs to be compiled using a batch file at the dos prompt.
  • tcc.exe can make the tiny model .com files (64K total space)
  • To access the hardware directly see the header dos.h in the help
  • At the time of writing when going back to the IDE after running an application the screen is not fully drawn correctly, use the ZOOM and F10 buttons to work round this.
  • Have fun!