MS Dos retail boxes

Microsoft as we know it really started to take hold of the computing world with Windows 3.1 and Windows 95, two operating systems which changed the paradigm for personal computing on a much deeper level than Apple had in mind with their competing Macintosh and Lisa desktop computers. But before that, Microsoft’s tiny team of less than 100 employees was given the contract by IBM in November 1980 to take the concepts of the CP/M operating system and produce a version of it for the IBM Personal Computer. Microsoft bought a CP/M clone for the project for $75,000 (86-DOS, whose creator was also hired by Microsoft) and their end result was MS-DOS, which was licensed again by IBM and rebranded as PC DOS.

Thus began the very long and very lucrative relationship between the two companies. To celebrate their long history and to educate younger minds about the history of the computer, Microsoft has released the source code for MS-DOS 1.1 and 2.0 and Microsoft Word for Windows 1.1a.

Although this doesn’t sound like much, many companies don’t get the opportunity to revisit their older products, look at their innards and squirm at how behind the times it appears today. Despite the entire OS only being 300KB in size it’s pretty easy to lose source code through iterations of the same product being built onto the foundation over time. Luckily, Microsoft had the sense to preserve it and the code is now widely available on the internet and kept safe with the Computer History Museum of Mountain View, California.

“MS-DOS and Word for Windows built the foundation for Microsoft’s success in the technology industry,” said Roy Levin, engineer and managing director for Microsoft Research. “By contributing these source codes to the Computer History Museum archives, Microsoft is making these historic systems from the early era of personal computing available to the community for historical and technical scholarship.”

“It’s mind-boggling to think of the growth from those days when Microsoft had under 100 employees and a Microsoft product (MS-DOS) had less than 300KB (yes, kilobytes) of source code. From those roots we’ve grown in a few short decades to become a company that has sold more than 200 million licenses of Windows 8 and has over 1 billion people using Microsoft Office,” Levin added.

MS-DOS interface

So many memories…

Some things are truly mind-boggling when you compare what things were like back then to today’s world. MS-DOS 1.1, once booted up, took an astounding 12KB of operating memory, services and all. By contrast, its not uncommon to see a fresh copy of Windows 7 64-bit suck up almost a gigabyte of system memory alone. It also booted up in less than a minute which is still the benchmark for OS usability today.

As for Microsoft Word for Windows, their first attempt at a word processor wasn’t very good. It stood no chance against WordPerfect at the time but Microsoft took all this to heart, dominating the office landscape in 1989 with the latest release of Word for Windows. Its quite interesting to see how far things have come – from the clear, concise command prompts and text to the Modern UI interface with a traditional desktop hiding in the background.

Still, despite all the shiny new things available, I know many system administrators who prefer to live in the command prompt than the GUI.

Source: Technet blogs

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