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Using Ancient Software Under Win7

I had a need to print out a few calendar pages today, and after thinking about it for a second, I realized that there was a calendar program of some sort on a pile of ancient CDs in the closet that I had not yet dumped. I had actually thrown out a lot of CDs already because they failed to run under Win7, including a few things that I had sorely missed at upgrade time, like the software that came with two of my three scanners. (Thanks to God and all the fates that there is a VueScan X64 that understands both scanners.)

I dug in a box and there it was: Broderbund’s Calendar Creator 7, copyright 1999. It indicated that the software was for Win9x and NT4. I never remember installing it, and honestly don’t recall how it came to me. I have accepted dead or dying computers from other people who had no idea where to take them and didn’t want to just put them out on the curb. Some of these machines came with cardboard boxes full of odd and often broken stuff, with an alluvial layer of software CDs on the bottom. I’m guessing that this was one of them.

So hey, wotthehell: I popped it into my Core 2 Duo/Win7 lab machine, fully expecting it to fail to either install, run, or both. It installed. And it ran.


However, during its first run it actually created a calendar for me, and printed several pages as a test. I edited the page layout a litle bit and printed the three months that I needed. Then I closed the program and went on to other things. A couple of hours later I realized I needed one more month, but when I tried to run it again, it croaked.

I would have shrugged and tossed it, except that it did run once, launched by the installer as soon as the installer had finished with it. Hmmm. Since installers have to have admin permissions to do their jobs, this made a certain amount of sense, and suggested that if I could run the app as admin, it should work. I gave it admin permissions. It worked.

The 16-bit colors look a little weird, but it runs full-screen at 1600 X 1200 with only one glitch: Print preview doesn’t quite reflect reality. Screens that big didn’t exist in 1999, so I can forgive it that much. It did the job I needed, didn’t cost anything, and as best I can tell didn’t mess anything else up. (That’s not universal, and it’s why I always install things first on a lab machine or a VM. At least do a restore point before you install weird stuff like this.)

If you ever find yourself in this situation, here’s how you run old software as admin:

  1. Right-click the shortcut to get the context menu.
  2. Select Properties.
  3. On the Shortcut Properties dialog, select the Shortcut tab.
  4. Click the Advanced button.
  5. Check the “Run as administrator” checkbox.
  6. Click OK.

Keep in mind that not all ancient software will be this cooperative. A lot of old stuff won’t run at all, or even install. However, it’s useful to try running it as admin before you flip the CD into the trash.

I may still go looking for a modern calendar program. However, it was a good memory jogger, and made me acknowledge that whoever wrote that thing did a very good job of anticipating the future. This is not universal programmer behavior, trust me, and I am not exempt: A DOS program listing utility I wrote in Turbo Pascal in 1985 or so would run in a DOS box in NT4 and Win2K…but after 1999 passed into history, it labeled the printouts as occurring in the year 19100. So it goes.


  1. The essence of your problem is that the developers were ignoring Win9x best practices and blithely writing in directories they weren’t supposed to write in. Programming by trial and error has always been way too common. “Hey, it works on my machine!”

    I seem to recall that there was a DOS game that required you to have two 360K diskette drives even though it only used one of them, simply because the developer had never imagined there might be PCs different from his own.

  2. TRX says:

    I ran into that once, when some too-smart-for-his-own-good programmer had written a program that required an 80286 processor. It kept reporting “your machine is not a 286, you must upgrade to a modern computer” or some such snotty message.

    Apparently it wasn’t checking the CPU; it was looking at the keyboard controller, and aborting if it didn’t see an AT keyboard. I was still using my IBM 84-key board, which continued to serve for another 20-odd years…

  3. Jonathan O'Neal says:

    I still run a surprising amount of ancient software on my Win7 x64 system (I’m in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” camp). Sometimes it’s necessary to run as Administrator, sometimes it’s necessary to set Compatibility Mode, sometimes it’s necessary to launch via a batch file that sets up environment variables or other peculiarities. The biggest common issue I’ve encountered is what Michael Covington observed, programs that write where they’re not supposed to, often in their own Program Files directory. My solution to that one is straightforward: in addition to /Program Files and /Program Files (x86), I’ve created /Program Files (Legacy), with full read/write permissions for everyone. When I install one of these oldies but goodies, I use that as the target installation folder. It’s a simple (if a bit inelegant) solution to an “age-old problem.”

    1. Until fairly recently I was still using Office 2000 and Visio 2000, but had to upgrade to 2007 to write chapters for the Raspberry Pi book. I still haven’t warmed to the Ribbon, but it did what I needed it to do, which was get me what could be a very lucrative book contract.

  4. Spook says:

    I’m sure it’s a worthwhile project to try to get that old software going again, and that’s really a separate issue, but for a pretty good calendar page generator (.pdf files) try
    If you have an editor for PDF files, you can annotate the calendar page(s). I found that Xournal works quite well for PDF editing; ymmv.

    1. Way cool! That makes a better calendar than the old calendar app does, and it can be printed a year at a time from the PDF.

      In fairness to the Broderbund app, a lot of it was about adding various holidays and birthdays and stuff, and putting pictures in, etc. none of which I need. So this will do for the time being.

      I’ve started sniffing around for a Lazarus LCL component that can put calendars up on a screen, with data from a database placed on the right days. If I don’t find one, I can probably write one, and that would be a useful exercise all by itself.

      Many thanks for pointing this out.

  5. Tom Roderick says:

    I have two Windows 7 Pro computers that needed to run older software and in XP mode it seems to do just fine. I still think that graphs drawn with Quattro Pro look better than anything I can produce in Excel or the Open Source Clones. I have some medical data on me going back to 1996 in QP and I was going to keep an old Windows 2000 box up and running until I found out this worked.

    Librarians and historians are getting very concerned that there will be no usable digital history from our time since formats, standards and technology change too often. Stone and papyrus seem to be the preferred archival medium.

    1. TRX says:

      If you ever run into an unsolvable problem with version-specific software, you can use VirtualBox to run almost any OS. You can pick up an old Windows CD and license on eBay.

      For more advanced users, you can clone the drive of a running computer, then restore it into the virtual machine. Windows *really* doesn’t want to do that; my success rate is about 50%. (part of it is that it doesn’t expect hardware to ever change after installation, the rest is due to copy protection/ID for licensing)

      VirtualBox will also run more than one VM at a time. And once you create a VM, you can run it on a Linux, Windows, or Mac host.

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