Programming Challenge!

Ok folks, this is a challenge. The prize will be a very hackable Polaroid i-Zone Webster ‘scanner’ doohickey. It’s more like a handheld webcam with built in memory, although it can’t do live streaming with the software provided. You can however hack the interface software (TWAIN compliant), hack the casing so it can take photos of stuff without holding it up against the items, and it’s got a simple serial interface (very simple) so I’m sure an enterprising Linux hacker can figure out how to get the data out of it.

What’s the challenge? In 1988, Michael J. Mefford created a utility for PC Magazine called DIRMAGIC, short for Directory Magic. It’s a kick ass little utility, but it has some short comings. It can’t handle large drives (where large is still significantly short of half a gig). It can’t handle more than (approximately) 1k files in a directory. It’s slow full screen due to BIOS call emulation, and even slower in a window. It can’t handle long file names (obviously). Essentially, computers exceeded the programs built-in future-headroom. But, I have never found anything that can take it’s place. So, I issue this challenge. I’m looking for a Win32 Console mode app to replace DirMagic. So that this isn’t a blind challenge, I’m including “screenshots” and a zip of the program. It’s comprised entirely of an 8 kilobyte .COM file. All that functionality in 8k. Obviously, I don’t expect that in the W32 Console mode version. 🙂 Lastly, it would really kick ass if the winner makes it open source. GPL not required, as I like the MPL‘s approach better anyway. Screenshots and the zip are inside.

First, what DM looks like normally (click for larger version):


DM when you select a file and hit F1 to copy:


DM when you select a file and hit F2 to delete:


DM when you select a file and hit F3 to rename:


You get the idea. Here is the original program file. it’s a whopping 8k compressed to a tiny 6k. I imagine a new Directory Magic 32 looking something like this:
Directory Magic 32

Maybe with some color, configurable would be nice. I removed a few commands that are worthless in 2004, made file sizes pretty, etc. Alt-F6 will hopefully work on Archive, Hidden, Read Only and System, it doesn’t currently mess with system attribs. I figure left and right arrow keys could scroll the filenames. Marking is pretty obvious, you marka bunch of files to work on at once, such as multiple move/delete/attrib/etc. Obviously upper/lower case would be great. Etc.

If you want to do something like this, mail me so we can collaborate on UI issues and all, as that’s a rough sketch hacked up in Photoshop. 🙂

I’m language agnostic for this thing, although something easily compilable/editable for others would be nice, so GCC compatible C/C++, Perl or Python (kind of an odd choice, but who am I to judge), etc., is all cool. But stuff like requiring a 20+MB Runtime kit like .Net crap is really not preferred. That’s all I can think of for now.


I always liked that program, and still keep a copy around (renamed as FM.COM for fast typing at a DOS prompt).

I wonder, though, do you have author Mefford’s permission to post it here? There was apparently a warning (see <a href="…"></a&gt; and scroll to the bottom) back in 1992 concerning the fact that it is not considered "freeware" or public domain software. I found both that site and this one by doing a Google search on the names DIRMAGIC and Mefford – to see if such a program as you describe was available.

Looks like I defeated myself by trying too hard to include a live link to the site I was talking about. I shoud have just mentioned it without the added HTML and let the system make a link out of it automatically. I half-suspected that might happen… Anyway,… is the site I was talking about.

I haven’t been able to find current and working contact info for Mr. Mefford.

Also, I guess I should post the "rules" for comment content. Sorry. 🙂

Hi there, what an interesting site you have, never seen anything quite like it, very nicely done though.

Oh wow… I loved Directory Magic back in the DOS days. (I renamed mine to DM.COM for quick access)

I actually started writing a DM clone in Delphi several years ago… but eventually lost interest. 😉

This is awesome. I love Directory Magic Too. If I am not mistaken I got it as a part of PC Mag tools disk or something.
Anyway I am in the process of making a tool like that but with much more functionality. It will allow you to move dir trees or copy them. One cool feature is to copy say all *.log files to an equivalent tree or to one directory. These features were needed because I am incharge of creating a Development, Staging and Production environments for a company and they have thousands of directories and they are all mixed in. I want to create a tool that will help me create the environment then maintain it too.


I have used dirmajic for years and loved it. When I tried to copy to a new computer, something went wrong and the progam is gone with no bakc up. can you help me with the 3 programs viewer, dir listing and comparsion..?????

Just adding my comment “same as everybody else”. Been looking for something like it for years, but still have it on my desktop. Hope somebody finds or does something like it.

Would love this too. Am a longtime dirmagic users to this day. Have found nothing better too. What a fantastic project. Has anyone taken this up?

I have patched so that it works correctly with FAT16 drives up to 2 GB. The original version gave erroneous free space results for any drive larger than 32 MB. The patched version does not handle FAT32 drives correctly, and does not handle long file names.

The patch is really simple. Replace two instructions “mul bx mul cx” with “mul cx mul bx”. In version 2.0 (9/1/88; 8,564 bytes), these two instructions are at offset 18AA.

I have also patched my copy to bypass the “wait for retrace” instructions. This greatly speeds up operation of the program.

DirMagic can be used in Windows 9X DOS box to view or delete a file, even a long filename file. It should not be used to copy, rename, or move a long filename file. The long filename would be lost.

DirMagic does not sort by date correctly if any of the file dates are 2000 or later. Gordon Haff’s Directory Freedom (DF461B.ZIP) is similar to DirMagic, and does handle date sorting correctly.


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