Using the U.S. Census Bureau's GO Software


The CDs for the 1990 Census were developed in the very early 1990s, before Apple's and Microsoft's graphical user interfaces (e.g. the Apple desktop and Windows) had become the standard interface on personal computers. They were designed to run on the MS-DOS operating system which was the standard non-Apple operating system at the time. In the years since, Microsoft has discontinued MS-DOS. Current versions of Windows operate in fundamentally different ways than MS-DOS, but Microsoft has (so far) recognized and accommodated users' continued need to use DOS products.

This guide describes what users can expect when using the GO CDs in current versions of Windows operating systems. It's primary target audiences are users who've never dealt with text-only DOS interfaces and users who may have used text-only DOS interfaces in the past, but need a refresher.

Browse the CD

This is a typical directory on a GO CD, which you can look at by double-clicking on the CD drive on your computer. In general you will find that

  • data and supporting tables are .dbf or text files.
  • provided they aren't too large, both file types can be opened in MS Excel (65,536 rows by 256 columns) or Notepad (64 K maximum). Sstf1.txt, at 553 MB, is way too big to open in either program.
  • you don't have to install anything on your computer to use the CD. Just double-click the Go.bat file.
  • the documentation is all in the "Document" Directory.

Check Out the Document Directory

The documentation is where you find out what all the codes in the data files mean, whether there are any errors in the data and what the definitions are for the concepts used in that particular file. All of the 1990 Census Document directories follow a standard set of conventions.

  • The files are plain text files, but the Census Bureau habitually used "*.asc" file extensions rather than the standard "*.txt".
  • You can read the files through the GO software, but if you decide you don't want to use GO, then you'll have to come to this directory to read these files
  • These directories can also be found in print. You can look them up in library catalogs using a keyword search and the terms "1990 Census technical documentation".

Start the Program

Double-Click on Go.bat and you'll see this window appear on your desktop.

Note that the mouse is not used in this program.

Users navigate via Function Keys, Named Keys (e.g. "End" and "Page Up") and regular keys.

Use the Program

Users advance through the software by making choices from each screen and hitting the "Enter" key. As they advance, their choices are listed at the top of the window.

Once users have the information they want on screen, they can print it or create their own file (the Copy command).


  1. If users decide to copy a CD's contents to their hard drives, they will have to modify Go.bat. Go.bat is written with the assumption that it's in the CD drive, so it must be adjusted to reflect the actual file paths as in the example below: Original Go.bat: ECHO OFF 1990EEO %1 //F:29 //E:000 //SWAPPATH:'C:\' //TEMPPATH:'C:\' Go.bat if Copied to C:\EEO1: echo off CD\EEO1 1990EEO %1 //F:29 //E:000 //SWAPPATH:'C:\' //TEMPPATH:'C:\'
  2. Occasionally, users may need to adjust their system files for the GO CDs to run properly. The Census Bureau has a web page devoted to this called Running DOS programs in Windows.
Last Updated: Aug 17, 2021 9:57 AM