On the 27th July MS-DOS turned 30 years old. No matter how much people claim to dislike MS-DOS it was absolutely instrumental in the mass proliferation in the usage of computers. Microsoft Disc Operating System (MS-DOS) was a renamed version of Q-DOS (Quick-and-Dirty Operating System) which was was written ‘for Intel’s 16-bit microprocessor – the 8086′.
Here is some text from Tim Paterson (the guy behind Q-DOS) as he described the early days of Microsoft’s interest in Q-DOS (from 1979):
In May we began work with Microsoft to get their BASIC running on our machine. I brought the computer to their offices and sat side by side with Bob O’Rear as we debugged it. I was very impressed with how quickly he got it working. They had not used a real 8086 before, but they had simulated it so BASIC was nearly ready to go when I arrived. At Microsoft’s invitation, I took the 8086 computer to New York to demonstrate it at the National Computer Conference in the first week of June.
Here is a bit of MS-DOS history from Microsoft:
In June 1980, Gates and Allen hire Gates’ former Harvard classmate Steve Ballmer to help run the company. The next month, IBM approaches Microsoft about a project code-named “Chess.” In response, Microsoft focuses on a new operating system—the software that manages, or runs, the computer hardware and also serves to bridge the gap between the computer hardware and programs, such as a word processor. It’s the foundation on which computer programs can run. They name their new operating system “MS‑DOS.”
When the IBM PC running MS‑DOS ships in 1981, it introduces a whole new language to the general public. Typing “C:” and various cryptic commands gradually becomes part of daily work. People discover the backslash () key.
MS‑DOS is effective, but also proves difficult to understand for many people. There has to be a better way to build an operating system.
MS-DOS was first run on an IBM PC. Here is the IBM Press Release from12 August 1981:
IBM Corporation today announced its smallest, lowest-priced computer system — the IBM Personal Computer.
Designed for business, school and home, the easy-to-use system sells for as little as $1,565. It offers many advanced features and, with optional software, may use hundreds of popular application programs.
The IBM Personal Computer will be sold through participating ComputerLand dealers and Sears, Roebuck and Co.’s new business machine stores beginning this fall. It will also be sold through IBM Product Centers and a special sales unit in the company’s Data Processing Division.
“This is the computer for just about everyone who has ever wanted a personal system at the office, on the university campus or at home,” said C. B. Rogers, Jr., IBM vice president and group executive, General Business Group. “We believe its performance, reliability and ease of use make it the most advanced, affordable personal computer in the marketplace.”
IBM has designed its Personal Computer for the first-time or advanced user, whether a businessperson in need of accounting help or a student preparing a term paper.
An enhanced version of the popular Microsoft BASIC programming language and easily understood operation manuals are included with every system. They make it possible to begin using the computer within hours and to develop personalized programs quite easily.
Among the new system’s highlights are:
- Features: Available with the system are an 83-key adjustable keyboard, up to 262,144 characters of user memory (16,384 standard), a printer that can print in two directions at 80 characters per second, self-testing capabilities that automatically check the system components and a high-speed, 16-bit microprocessor.
- Performance: Operating at speeds measured in millionths of a second, the IBM Personal Computer can generate and display charts, graphs, text and numerical information. Business applications — including accounts receivable and word processing — can be run on the same system with applications covering personal finance and home entertainment.
- Service: The IBM Personal Computer will be serviced by IBM and by a nationwide network of authorized IBM Personal Computer dealers designed to provide the high standards of service associated with all IBM products.
- Color/Graphics: The capabilities provide users with a text system capable of displaying 256 characters in any of 16 foreground and 8 background colors. It is also capable of displaying graphics in four colors.
- Compact Size: The main processor or system unit — about the size of a portable typewriter — contains expandable memory and a built-in speaker for audio and music applications.
- Expandability: A starter system consisting of a keyboard and system unit can be connected to a home television set with a frequency modulator. It can then be expanded to a system with its own display, printer and auxiliary storage cassettes or diskettes. The computer can be used with color or black-and-white television sets. Information from centralized data banks such as Dow Jones News/Retrieval Service* and THE SOURCE* can be accessed and displayed.
The system’s keyboard comes with a six-foot, coiled cable for flexibility. It can be used in the lap or positioned across a desk top without moving the computer itself. The 83 keys make it easy to write and edit text, enter data ranging from stock analysis to cooking recipes, figure business accounts, or play video games.
The optional IBM display and printer are attachable units. The display has an anti-glare screen, green phosphor characters for reading comfort and controls for brightness and contrast. Automatic flashing and underlining can be used to call attention to especially important information on the screen.
The printer provides 12 type styles. Both printer and system unit can run self-diagnostic checks so users can verify that components are functioning properly.
Software for Business and Home
“We intend the IBM Personal Computer to be the most useful system of its kind,” Mr. Rogers said. “Besides making it easy to set up and operate, we are offering a program library that we expect will grow with the creativity of the Personal Computer users.”
Mr. Rogers said IBM has established a new Personal Computer Software Publishing Department for the system. It will publish programs written by IBM employees working on their own time and those accepted from independent software companies and outside authors.
Program packages available for the IBM Personal Computer cover popular business and home applications. For example, EasyWriter* will store letters, manuscripts and other text for editing or rapid reproduction on the printer. Businesses can use General Ledger, Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable by Peachtree Software, Inc. to generate balance sheets, track accounts and automatically print checks.
VisiCalc* is available for applications ranging from financial analysis to budget planning. Microsoft Adventure brings players into a fantasy world of caves and treasures.
Advanced Operating Systems
IBM, in conjunction with Microsoft, Inc., has adapted an advanced disk operating system to support IBM Personal Computer programs and software development. It has also contracted with Digital Research, Inc. and SofTech Microsystems, Inc. to adapt the popular CP/M-86* and UCSD p-System* to the Personal Computer. These two systems should provide users with the opportunity to transfer hundreds of widely used applications to the IBM Personal Computer with minimal modifications.
The IBM Personal Computer can be tailored to fit the user’s needs. A basic system for home use attached to an audio tape cassette player and a television set would sell for approximately $1,565, in IBM Product Centers, while a more typical system for home or school with a memory of 64,000 bytes, a single diskette drive and its own display would be priced around $3,005. An expanded system for business with color graphics, two diskette drives and a printer would cost about $4,500.
The IBM Personal Computer was developed at the Information Systems Division’s Boca Raton, Fla, facility and first deliveries will be scheduled for October.
The spec sheet of the IBM PC is interesting. When describing ‘VisiCalc* is a problem-solving program package for financial or mathematical forecasting and computations’ IBM notes ‘all data is arranged into a grid of up to 63 columns and 254 rows’ … aaahhhh the sheer power of those early PCs, processors and software!
Anyway, Happy Birthday to the mighty MS-DOS!