I was a c programmer back in the mid 80's, last working in a Microsoft C development environment under DOS 5.0 (as I recall)--programming the database interface to a Novell LAN dBase server with some dBase c tools (forget who made them) for a proprietary telecom product (distributed DOS PC monitor and configuration stations shared the database that configured/monitored a big telecom switch) at the time.
I would like dabble a bit with c (or c++) in the current Windows 98/ME/XP environment, but without having to buy anything <bg>. Do the free compilers, e.g., Borland 5.5, Bloodshed Dev 4.0 and Digital Mars, support creating code that can run as full-fledged Windows protected mode processes? I want to do more than run in a DOS simulation command window, in other words. Do I need Microsoft SDK (haven't even checked to see how much they want for that yet)? Pardon my probable naivete (or antiquity) in posing this question, but it would be helpful to know whether what I am contemplating is practical or possible before investing much time in it.
I would appreciate any comments or advice.