Episode 85 – 86 MS DOS

Msdos-icon.svg
Dedicated to Little Pocok

MS DOS acronym for Microsoft Disk Operating System, also known as Microsoft DOS) is an operating system for x86-based personal computers mostly developed by Microsoft. Collectively, MS-DOS, its rebranding as IBM PC DOS, and some operating systems attempting to be compatible with MS-DOS, are sometimes referred to as “DOS” (which is also the generic acronym for disk operating system). MS-DOS was the main operating system for IBM PC compatible personal computers during the 1980s, from which point it was gradually superseded by operating systems offering a graphical user interface (GUI), in various generations of the graphical Microsoft Windows operating system.

IBM licensed and re-released it in 1981 as PC DOS 1.0 for use in its PCs. Although MS-DOS and PC DOS were initially developed in parallel by Microsoft and IBM, the two products diverged after twelve years, in 1993, with recognizable differences in compatibility, syntax, and capabilities.

During its lifetime, several competing products were released for the x86 platform and MS-DOS went through eight versions, until development ceased in 2000. Initially, MS-DOS was targeted at Intel 8086 processors running on computer hardware using floppy disks to store and access not only the operating system, but application software and user data as well. Progressive version releases delivered support for other mass storage media in ever greater sizes and formats, along with added feature support for newer processors and rapidly evolving computer architectures. Ultimately, it was the key product in Microsoft’s development from a programming language company to a diverse software development firm, providing the company with essential revenue and marketing resources. It was also the underlying basic operating system on which early versions of Windows ran as a GUI.

History

StartingMsdos.png

MS-DOS was a renamed form of 86-DOS – owned by Seattle Computer Products, written by Tim Paterson. Development of 86-DOS took only six weeks, as it was basically a clone of Digital Research’s CP/M (for 8080/Z80 processors), ported to run on 8086 processors and with two notable differences compared to CP/M: an improved disk sector buffering logic, and the introduction of FAT12 instead of the CP/M filesystem. This first version was shipped in August 1980. Microsoft, which needed an operating system for the IBM Personal Computer hired Tim Paterson in May 1981 and bought 86-DOS 1.10 for US$75,000 in July of the same year. Microsoft kept the version number, but renamed it MS-DOS. They also licensed MS-DOS 1.10/1.14 to IBM, which, in August 1981, offered it as PC DOS 1.0 as one of three operating systems for the IBM 5150, or the IBM PC

Within a year, Microsoft licensed MS-DOS to over 70 other companies. It was designed to be an OS that could run on any 8086-family computer. Each computer would have its own distinct hardware and its own version of MS-DOS, similar to the situation that existed for CP/M, and with MS-DOS emulating the same solution as CP/M to adapt for different hardware platforms. To this end, MS-DOS was designed with a modular structure with internal device drivers (the DOS BIOS), minimally for primary disk drives and the console, integrated with the kernel and loaded by the boot loader, and installable device drivers for other devices loaded and integrated at boot time. The OEM would use a development kit provided by Microsoft to build a version of MS-DOS with their basic I/O drivers and a standard Microsoft kernel, which they would typically supply on disk to end users along with the hardware. Thus, there were many different versions of “MS-DOS” for different hardware, and there is a major distinction between an IBM-compatible (or ISA) machine and an MS-DOS [compatible] machine. Some machines, like the Tandy 2000, were MS-DOS compatible but not IBM-compatible, so they could run software written exclusively for MS-DOS without dependence on the peripheral hardware of the IBM PC architecture.

This design would have worked well for compatibility, if application programs had only used MS-DOS services to perform device I/O, and indeed the same design philosophy is embodied in Windows NT (see Hardware Abstraction Layer). However, in MS-DOS’s early days, the greater speed attainable by programs through direct control of hardware was of particular importance, especially for games, which often pushed the limits of their contemporary hardware. Very soon an IBM-compatible architecture became the goal, and before long all 8086-family computers closely emulated IBM’s hardware, and only a single version of MS-DOS for a fixed hardware platform was needed for the market. This version is the version of MS-DOS that is discussed here, as the dozens of other OEM versions of “MS-DOS” were only relevant to the systems they were designed for, and in any case were very similar in function and capability to some standard version for the IBM PC—often the same-numbered version, but not always, since some OEMs used their own proprietary version numbering schemes (e.g. labeling later releases of MS-DOS 1.x as 2.0 or vice versa)—with a few notable exceptions.

Microsoft omitted multi-user support from MS-DOS because Microsoft’s Unix-based operating system, Xenix, was fully multi-user. The company planned, over time, to improve MS-DOS so it would be almost indistinguishable from single-user Xenix, or XEDOS, which would also run on the Motorola 68000, Zilog Z8000, and the LSI-11; they would be upwardly compatible with Xenix, which Byte in 1983 described as “the multi-user MS-DOS of the future”. Microsoft advertised MS-DOS and Xenix together, listing the shared features of its “single-user OS” and “the multi-user, multi-tasking, UNIX-derived operating system”, and promising easy porting between them. After the breakup of the Bell System, however, AT&T Computer Systems started selling UNIX System V. Believing that it could not compete with AT&T in the Unix market, Microsoft abandoned Xenix, and in 1987 transferred ownership of Xenix to the Santa Cruz Operation (SCO).

On March 25, 2014, Microsoft made the code to SCP MS-DOS 1.25 and a mixture of Altos MS-DOS 2.11 and TeleVideo PC DOS 2.11 available to the public under the Microsoft Research License Agreement, which makes the code source-available, but not open source as defined by Open Source Initiative or Free Software Foundation standards. Microsoft would later re-license the code under the MIT License on September 28, 2018, making these versions free software.

As an April Fool’s Day joke in 2015, Microsoft Mobile launched a Windows Phone application called MS-DOS Mobile which was presented as a new mobile operating system and worked similar to MS-DOS.

Versions

Microsoft licensed or released versions of MS-DOS under different names like Lifeboat Associates “Software Bus 86” a.k.a. SB-DOS, COMPAQ-DOS, NCR-DOS or Z-DOS before it eventually enforced the MS-DOS name for all versions but the IBM one, which was originally called “IBM Personal Computer DOS”, later shortened to IBM PC DOS. (Competitors released compatible DOS systems such as DR DOS and PTS-DOS that could also run DOS applications.)

In the former Eastern bloc, MS-DOS derivatives named DCP (Disk Control Program [de]) 3.20 and 3.30 existed in the late 1980s. They were produced by the East German electronics manufacturer VEB Robotron.

Only to mention some notable versions…

MS-DOS 1.x

DOS 1.x was very limited in what it could do. It could start applications (.COM and .EXE), and process batch files (.BAT). DOS 1.0 worked with 160KB floppies and did not support folders (all files had to be in the root). The command interpreter supported the following commands:

  • DIR, TYPE, COPY, ERASE, RENAME
  • PAUSE, REM

No pipes, redirection, or device drivers were supported. The DOS API in 1.0 was very limited.

MS-DOS 1.25, the equivalent of PC-DOS 1.10, was the first version licensed to OEMs beyond IBM or Seattle Computer Products.

Some vendors labeled their versions of MS-DOS with different names and version numbers. All of the versions here are believed to be based off of MS-DOS 1.25, even if the vendor called it something else.

  • Version 1.10 (OEM) – possible basis for IBM’s Personal Computer DOS 1
  • Version 1.11 (OEM) – possible basis for IBM’s Personal Computer DOS 1.0
    • Compaq-DOS 1.12, a Compaq OEM version of MS-DOS (1.25 or higher)
  • Version 1.14 (OEM) – possible basis for IBM’s Personal Computer DOS 1.0
    • Zenith Z-DOS 1.19, a Zenith OEM version of MS-DOS (1.25 or higher)
  • Version 1.24 (OEM) – basis for IBM’s Personal Computer DOS 1.1
  • Version 1.25 (OEM) – basis for non-IBM OEM versions of MS-DOS, including SCP MS-DOS 1.25

MS-DOS 2.x

Adds support for 5.25 inch 260kb floppy drives, user installable device drivers and the first version to support folders and tree structurable file system.

MS-DOS 3.x

DOS 3.0 adds support for FAT16 partitions up to 32MB, 1.2MB floppy drives, and the IBM AT internal clock.

MS-DOS 3.0x is extremely rare. After the release of IBM PC-DOS 3.0, Microsoft dragged their feet providing MS-DOS 3.x to other OEMs, possibly to appease IBM. Most OEMs didn’t get MS-DOS 3.x until 3.1.

Apricot and Compaq MS-DOS 3.0x versions are known to exist. Zenith and AT&T are suspected to exist.

MS-DOS 3.20 is the first release offered as a “vanilla” boxed set directly to consumers, instead of just OEMs.

MS-DOS 3.30 was a very popular version of MS-DOS. Due to the problems with 4.0, and 3.31 only being available via OEM, many users stuck with 3.30 unless they needed larger hard drive support.

MS-DOS 3.31 was only sold through a few OEMs, mainly Compaq.

This version adds support for hard drives up to 512MB.

It also does not use as much conventional memory as DOS 4.x or later, making it a good choice for 8088/8086 based computers.

  • Version 3.0 (OEM) – First version to support 5.25-inch, 1.2 MB floppy drives and diskettes.
  • Version 3.1 (OEM) – Support for Microsoft Networks
  • Version 3.2 (OEM) – First version to support 3.5-inch, 720 kB floppy drives and diskettes.
  • Version 3.22 (OEM) – (HP 95LX)
  • Version 3.3 (OEM) – First version to support 3.5-inch, 1.44 MB floppy drives and diskettes (OEM)
  • Version 3.31 (OEM) – supports FAT16B and larger drives

MS-DOS 4.0

MS-DOS 4 added support for hard drive partitions up to 2GB. It used much more of the base 640K, and was somewhat buggy.

Microsoft had long planned that MS-DOS “4” would be a multitasking-capable operating system, but IBM had insisted on creating a new version of regular DOS for use with their PS/2 computers. The below versions, as released to the consumer market, are based on DOS 3.3x and IBM’s PC-DOS 4.0 enhancements. Although essentially scrapped, some narrow European markets did receive Microsoft’s Multitasking MS-DOS 4.0

Microsoft’s initial 4.00 release (File dates 10/6/1988) was quickly followed up by 4.01, making this an uncommon version. To add to the confusion, most OEMS badged their 4.01 disks as “4” or “4.0”.

Includes a graphical/mouse interface. It had many bugs and compatibility issues.

  • Version 4.00 (OEM) – First version to support a single hard disk partition that is greater than 32 MiB and up to a maximum size of 2 GB
  • Version 4.01 (OEM) – Microsoft rewritten Version 4.00 released under MS-DOS label but not IBM PC DOS. First version to introduce volume serial number when formatting hard disks and floppy disks (Disk duplication also and when using SYS to make a floppy disk or a partition of a hard drive bootable).
  • Version 4.01a (OEM)

MS-DOS 5.0

MS-DOS 5 introduced numerous new features and was a flagship release for Microsoft. A full screen text editor EDIThas replaced the former line editor EDLIN supplied since the early days of DOS. Microsoft QBasic also shipped in DOS 5 replacing GW-BASIC. MS-DOS 5 also supported 2.88MB 3.5″ floppy disks as well as hard disks up to 2GB in size. The memory management was rewritten to allow DOS to utilize the High Memory Area and Upper Memory Area to reduce its usage of conventional memory. Numerous bugs were noticed shortly after launch which lead to the 5.0a update.

Added by Andriy27314 Posted in MS-DOS Version History

This release of DOS was the last of the collaboration between Microsoft and IBM and as a result will be the last result where PC-DOS and MS-DOS are near-identical. This was also the version of DOS used in the OS/2 and Windows NT virtual DOS machine.

When MS-DOS 5 was released the entire market had become dominated by IBM and compatible systems, so specific OEM versions of DOS for machines not using an IBM BIOS were not shipped as in prior releases.

  • Version 5.0 (Retail) – includes a full-screen editor. A number of bugs required re issue. First version to support 3.5-inch, 2.88 MB floppy drives and diskettes. Hard disk partitions greater than 32 MiB and up to a maximum size of 2 GB was now provided by the MS-DOS kernel.First version to load portions of the operating system into the high memory area.
  • AST Premium Exec DOS 5.0 (OEM) – a version for the AST Premium Exec series of notebooks with various extensions, including improved load-high and extended codepage support
  • Version 5.0a (Retail) – With this release, IBM and Microsoft versions diverge
  • Version 5.50 (Windows NTVDM) – All Windows NT 32-bit versions ship with files from DOS 5.0

MS-DOS 6.x

MS-DOS 6.0 includes many new utilities and features, including a disk defragmenter, disk compression, anti-virus, a new backup system, and pc-pc file transfer tools. It was heavily criticized as buggy by the media, primarily due to file corruption issues with DoubleSpace and the lack of tools to repair such issues.

Note that the boot sector OEM ID of “MSDOS6.0” is correct and genuine. Microsoft reverted to using “MSDOS5.0” on later disks.

Microsoft intentionally skipped “6.1” to prevent confusion with IBM’s independently produced PC-DOS 6.1. Microsoft also made a free/inexpensive 6.0 -> 6.2 step up kit available.

This update corrects some major bugs in DoubleSpace, introduces ScanDisk, adds automounting of compressed floppies, and a tool to uncompress DoubleSpace compressed drives.

MS-DOS 6.21
This version was specifically released to remove DoubleSpace due to legal injunction. Their replacement “DriveSpace” was not yet ready.

MS-DOS 6.22
Microsoft DOS 6.22 was the last standalone version from Microsoft. It was also the last from Microsoft to run on an 8088, 8086, or 286.

6.22 adds DriveSpace, a replacement for DOS 6.20’s DoubleSpace drive compression that was removed in 6.21.

There’s a really detailed tutorial located at http://legroom.net/howto/msdos that gives tips on how to customize DOS. We suggest you follow this tutorials suggestions for setting up and customizing DOS. However, if you’re installing to a virtual machine, writing the disk images to actual floppies isn’t really necessary.

Version 6.0 (Retail) – Online help through QBASIC. Disk compression, upper memory optimization and antivirus included.
Version 6.2 – Scandisk as replacement for CHKDSK. Fix serious bugs in DBLSPACE.
Version 6.21 (Retail) – Stacker-infringing DBLSPACE removed.
Version 6.22 (Retail) – New DRVSPACE compression.

Under the Microsoft Windows era

MS-DOS 7.x

Version 7.0 (Windows 95, Windows 95A) – Support for VFAT long file names and 32-bits signed integer errorlevel. New editor. JO.SYS is an alternative filename of the IO.SYS kernel file and used as such for “special purposes”. JO.SYS allows booting from either CD-ROM drive or hard disk. Last version to recognize only the first 8.4 GB of a hard disk. The “VER” internal command prompt reports the Windows version 4.00.950.
Version 7.1 (Windows 95B – Windows 98 – Windows 98SE) – Support for FAT32 file system. Last general purpose DOS to load Windows. The “VER” internal command prompt reports the Windows version 4.00.1111, 4.10.1998 or 4.10.2222

MS-DOS 8.x

Version 8.0 (Windows ME) – Integrated drivers for faster Windows loading. Four different kernels (IO.SYS) observed.[nb 4] The “VER” internal command prompt reports the Windows version 4.90.3000.
Version 8.0 (Windows XP) – DOS boot disks created by XP and later contain files from Windows ME. The “VER” internal command prompt reports the Windows version 5.1.

Localized Versions

Localized versions of MS-DOS existed for different markets.[69] While Western issues of MS-DOS evolved around the same set of tools and drivers just with localized message languages and differing sets of supported codepages and keyboard layouts, some language versions were considerably different from Western issues and were adapted to run on localized PC hardware with additional BIOS services not available in Western PCs, support multiple hardware codepages for displays and printers, support DBCS, alternative input methods and graphics output. Affected issues include Japanese (DOS/V), Korean, Arabic (ADOS 3.3/5.0), Hebrew (HDOS 3.3/5.0), Russian (RDOS 4.01/5.0) as well as some other Eastern European versions of DOS.

Notable MS DOS Applications
( there were so many … )

A System or Operating System / Platform / Architecture is only as good as the Applications available for it.

Text Editors and Office Suites

WordStar - Wikipedia
Wordstar under MS-DOS ( George RR Martin uses Wordstar 4.0)


wp62 font dialog
Corel Wordperfect 6.2 https://thewanderingnerd.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/corel-wordperfect-6-2-for-dos-a-look-back/

Dinosaur Sightings: Lotus Symphony 3.0 - Page 12 - TechRepublic
Lotus Symphony 3.0 for DOS

Microsoft Works 2.0 for DOS


Spreadsheets and Databases

WinWorld: Screenshots for Lotus 1-2-3 2.x (DOS)
Lotus 1-2-3 2.x for DOS – winworldpc.com
File:DBase III r1.0 - Edit.png - Wikimedia Commons
dBase III
Multiplan on DOS
Multiplan under MS-DOS

Development Tools

Turbo CPP 3.0 - About
Turbo C++ 3.0 ( Aimed for the Home Market) – winworldpc.com
Borland CPP 3.1 - DOS IDE
Borland C++ 3.1 (Aimed for the Professional Market) – winworldpc.com

WinWorld: Screenshots for Borland Turbo Pascal 7.x
Borland Turbo Pascal 7.0 – winworldpc.com – I remember We did learn some / little Turbo Pascal in High School. No C++ tough 🙁

File Management

WinWorld: Screenshots for Norton Commander 5.5x
Norton Commander 5.5

Competition

On microcomputers based on the Intel 8086 and 8088 processors, including the IBM PC and clones, the initial competition to the PC DOS/MS-DOS line came from Digital Research, whose CP/M operating system had inspired MS-DOS. In fact, there remains controversy as to whether QDOS was more or less plagiarized from early versions of CP/M code. Digital Research released CP/M-86 a few months after MS-DOS, and it was offered as an alternative to MS-DOS and Microsoft’s licensing requirements, but at a higher price. Executable programs for CP/M-86 and MS-DOS were not interchangeable with each other; many applications were sold in both MS-DOS and CP/M-86 versions until MS-DOS became preponderant (later Digital Research operating systems could run both MS-DOS and CP/M-86 software). MS-DOS originally supported the simple .COM, which was modeled after a similar but binary-incompatible format known from CP/M-80. CP/M-86 instead supported a relocatable format using the file extension .CMD to avoid name conflicts with CP/M-80 and MS-DOS .COM files. MS-DOS version 1.0 added a more advanced relocatable .EXE executable file format.

Most of the machines in the early days of MS-DOS had differing system architectures and there was a certain degree of incompatibility, and subsequently vendor lock-in. Users who began using MS-DOS with their machines were compelled to continue using the version customized for their hardware, or face trying to get all of their proprietary hardware and software to work with the new system.

In the business world the 808x-based machines that MS-DOS was tied to faced competition from the Unix operating system which ran on many different hardware architectures. Microsoft itself sold a version of Unix for the PC called Xenix.

In the emerging world of home users, a variety of other computers based on various other processors were in serious competition with the IBM PC: the Apple II, early Apple Macintosh, the Commodore 64 and others did not use the 808x processor; many 808x machines of different architectures used custom versions of MS-DOS. At first all these machines were in competition. In time the IBM PC hardware configuration became dominant in the 808x market as software written to communicate directly with the PC hardware without using standard operating system calls ran much faster, but on true PC-compatibles only. Non-PC-compatible 808x machines were too small a market to have fast software written for them alone, and the market remained open only for IBM PCs and machines that closely imitated their architecture, all running either a single version of MS-DOS compatible only with PCs, or the equivalent IBM PC DOS. Most clones cost much less than IBM-branded machines of similar performance, and became widely used by home users, while IBM PCs had a large share of the business computer market.

Microsoft and IBM together began what was intended as the follow-on to MS-DOS/PC DOS, called OS/2. When OS/2 was released in 1987, Microsoft began an advertising campaign announcing that “DOS is Dead” and stating that version 4 was the last full release. OS/2 was designed for efficient multi-tasking (as was available in operating systems since 1963) and offered a number of advanced features that had been designed together with similar look and feel; it was seen as the legitimate heir to the “kludgy” DOS platform.

MS-DOS had grown in spurts, with many significant features being taken or duplicated from Microsoft’s other products and operating systems. MS-DOS also grew by incorporating, by direct licensing or feature duplicating, the functionality of tools and utilities developed by independent companies, such as Norton Utilities, PC Tools (Microsoft Anti-Virus), QEMM expanded memory manager, Stacker disk compression, and others.

During the period when Digital Research was competing in the operating system market some computers, like Amstrad PC1512, were sold with floppy disks for two operating systems (only one of which could be used at a time), MS-DOS and CP/M-86 or a derivative of it. Digital Research produced DOS Plus, which was compatible with MS-DOS 2.11, supported CP/M-86 programs, had additional features including multi-tasking, and could read and write disks in CP/M and MS-DOS format.

While OS/2 was under protracted development, Digital Research released the MS-DOS compatible DR DOS 5.0, which included features only available as third-party add-ons for MS-DOS. Unwilling to lose any portion of the market, Microsoft responded by announcing the “pending” release of MS-DOS 5.0 in May 1990. This effectively killed most DR DOS sales until the actual release of MS-DOS 5.0 in June 1991. Digital Research brought out DR DOS 6.0, which sold well until the “pre-announcement” of MS-DOS 6.0 again stifled the sales of DR DOS.

Microsoft had been accused of carefully orchestrating leaks about future versions of MS-DOS in an attempt to create what in the industry is called FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) regarding DR DOS. For example, in October 1990, shortly after the release of DR DOS 5.0, and long before the eventual June 1991 release of MS-DOS 5.0, stories on feature enhancements in MS-DOS started to appear in InfoWorld and PC Week. Brad Silverberg, then Vice President of Systems Software at Microsoft and general manager of its Windows and MS-DOS Business Unit, wrote a forceful letter to PC Week (November 5, 1990), denying that Microsoft was engaged in FUD tactics (“to serve our customers better, we decided to be more forthcoming about version 5.0”) and denying that Microsoft copied features from DR DOS:

“The feature enhancements of MS-DOS version 5.0 were decided and development was begun long before we heard about DR DOS 5.0. There will be some similar features. With 50 million MS-DOS users, it shouldn’t be surprising that DRI has heard some of the same requests from customers that we have.” – (Schulman et al. 1994).

The pact between Microsoft and IBM to promote OS/2 began to fall apart in 1990 when Windows 3.0 became a marketplace success. Much of Microsoft’s further contributions to OS/2 also went into creating a third GUI replacement for DOS, Windows NT.

IBM, which had already been developing the next version of OS/2, carried on development of the platform without Microsoft and sold it as the alternative to DOS and Windows.

Legal Issue

As a response to Digital Research’s DR DOS 6.0, which bundled SuperStor disk compression, Microsoft opened negotiations with Stac Electronics, vendor of the most popular DOS disk compression tool, Stacker. In the due diligence process, Stac engineers had shown Microsoft part of the Stacker source code. Stac was unwilling to meet Microsoft’s terms for licensing Stacker and withdrew from the negotiations. Microsoft chose to license Vertisoft’s DoubleDisk, using it as the core for its DoubleSpace disk compression.[71]

MS-DOS 6.0 and 6.20 were released in 1993, both including the Microsoft DoubleSpace disk compression utility program. Stac successfully sued Microsoft for patent infringement regarding the compression algorithm used in DoubleSpace. This resulted in the 1994 release of MS-DOS 6.21, which had disk compression removed. Shortly afterwards came version 6.22, with a new version of the disk compression system, DriveSpace, which had a different compression algorithm to avoid the infringing code.

Prior to 1995, Microsoft licensed MS-DOS (and Windows) to computer manufacturers under three types of agreement: per-processor (a fee for each system the company sold), per-system (a fee for each system of a particular model), or per-copy (a fee for each copy of MS-DOS installed). The largest manufacturers used the per-processor arrangement, which had the lowest fee. This arrangement made it expensive for the large manufacturers to migrate to any other operating system, such as DR DOS. In 1991, the U.S. government Federal Trade Commission began investigating Microsoft’s licensing procedures, resulting in a 1994 settlement agreement limiting Microsoft to per-copy licensing. Digital Research did not gain by this settlement, and years later its successor in interest, Caldera, sued Microsoft for damages in the Caldera v. Microsoft lawsuit. It was believed that the settlement ran in the order of $150 million, but was revealed in November 2009 with the release of the Settlement Agreement to be $280 million.

MS DOS modern alternatives

Freedos

FreeDOS | The FreeDOS Project

Freedos is still available today and actively developed. Can install it on Virtuablox or on bare metal.

4DOS (4OS2 – OS/2 Version as well and 4NT – 4DOS for WindowsNT)

4DOS — Vikipēdija

4DOS

Interesting Fact / Add-on:

4NT’s TCI – Take Command Interface still exists today as JP Software’s TC (TCI + TCC)

4NT – Copyright http://www.fileflash.com


This program allowed one to attach (thereby reducing screen clutter) and detach tabbed consoles to a single window. This program requires Windows XP or later.

A new version of Take Command extends the original Tabbed Command Interface, expanded with extra windows to allow input to be composed, to graphically navigate directories and files, and extra features. 4NT is bundled as Take Command Console. A light feature-reduced version of TCC is released as a free download.

JP Software then released:

  • TC (full pack of TCI + TCC)
  • TCLE (TCI + TCC/LE) – Full Pak with TCC/LE formerly known as 4NT ( free unsupported version)
  • TCC (just the command utility)
  • TCC/LE – TCC/LE formerly known as 4NT ( free unsupported version)


Dosbox / DOSEMU

DOSBox in DOSBox: dosbox
DOSBox running under Windows

DOSEmu - For Linux
DOS Emulator

Using MS DOS ( or its alternatives) Today

You can install FreeDOS on bare metal or in Virtualbox/Vmware as a VM or 4DOS or other DOS Emulators like Dosbox / DOSEMU or alternatives under most other operating systems: Windows, Linux, Mac. Solaris 10 SPARC even has a working DOSBOX binary ( does not play nice with the Sun keyboard and it should be built with some extra config flags so it is solved but works fine via ssh -X with X11Forward and as long as its not very graphics intensive application ( like a game sensitive to FPS) I can run it just fine.)

Dosbox , vDOS , DOSEMU or alternatives can be a quick and dirty/easy way to get up and running quick to run your favourite DOS programs from the era.

True Die Hard Fans are building retro computers or purchasing retro battlestations which are era-appropriate and as a result can find a 486 desktop computer for a price of a new laptop sometimes on sites like ebay. — Remember Old Hardware many times can come with failed or failing parts which might not be easy to source and sometimes even replace them can be a challange ( if you have the skills and you are up to it)

I agree some of them look so good you want to have them. 🙂

Scan from one of the only brochures marketing the Compaq 486c – as you can see, the selling points were the display and the CPU performance. https://www.retropaq.com/the-compaq-portable-486/
Compaq Presario 850  Series 3410 486 Tower Computer
Compaq Presario 850 Series 3410 486 Tower Computer

Use of Undocumented APIs

As a response to Digital Research’s DR DOS 6.0, which bundled SuperStor disk compression, Microsoft opened negotiations with Stac Electronics, vendor of the most popular DOS disk compression tool, Stacker. In the due diligence process, Stac engineers had shown Microsoft part of the Stacker source code. Stac was unwilling to meet Microsoft’s terms for licensing Stacker and withdrew from the negotiations. Microsoft chose to license Vertisoft’s DoubleDisk, using it as the core for its DoubleSpace disk compression.[71]

MS-DOS 6.0 and 6.20 were released in 1993, both including the Microsoft DoubleSpace disk compression utility program. Stac successfully sued Microsoft for patent infringement regarding the compression algorithm used in DoubleSpace. This resulted in the 1994 release of MS-DOS 6.21, which had disk compression removed. Shortly afterwards came version 6.22, with a new version of the disk compression system, DriveSpace, which had a different compression algorithm to avoid the infringing code.

Prior to 1995, Microsoft licensed MS-DOS (and Windows) to computer manufacturers under three types of agreement: per-processor (a fee for each system the company sold), per-system (a fee for each system of a particular model), or per-copy (a fee for each copy of MS-DOS installed). The largest manufacturers used the per-processor arrangement, which had the lowest fee. This arrangement made it expensive for the large manufacturers to migrate to any other operating system, such as DR DOS. In 1991, the U.S. government Federal Trade Commission began investigating Microsoft’s licensing procedures, resulting in a 1994 settlement agreement limiting Microsoft to per-copy licensing. Digital Research did not gain by this settlement, and years later its successor in interest, Caldera, sued Microsoft for damages in the Caldera v. Microsoft lawsuit. It was believed that the settlement ran in the order of $150 million, but was revealed in November 2009 with the release of the Settlement Agreement to be $280 million.

Windows Command Line Interface

All versions of Microsoft Windows have had an MS-DOS or MS-DOS-like command-line interface (CLI) called MS-DOS Prompt which redirected input to MS-DOS and output from MS-DOS to the MS-DOS Prompt, or, in later versions, Command Prompt. This could run many DOS and variously Win32, OS/2 1.x and POSIX command-line utilities in the same command-line session, allowing piping between commands. The user interface, and the icon up to Windows 2000, followed the native MS-DOS interface. It is to be noted that the Command Prompt introduced with Windows NT is not actually MS-DOS, rather a CLI which shares some commands with MS-DOS.

Command Prompt in Windows 10

Earlier Versions of Windows

The 16-bit versions of Windows (up to 3.11) ran as a Graphical User Interface (GUI) on top of MS-DOS. With Windows 95, 98, 98 SE and Me, the role of MS-DOS was reduced to a boot loader, with MS-DOS programs running in a virtual DOS machine within 32-bit Windows, with ability to boot directly into MS-DOS retained as a backward compatibility option for applications that required real mode access to the hardware, which was generally not possible within Windows.[73] The command line accessed the DOS command line (usually COMMAND.COM) through a Windows module (WINOLDAP.MOD).

MS-DOS Prompt in Windows 95

Windows NT

Windows NT based operating systems boot through a kernel whose sole purpose is to load Windows. One cannot run Win32 applications in the loader system in the manner that OS/2, UNIX or Consumer Windows can launch character-mode sessions.

The command session permits running of various supported command-line utilities from Win32, MS-DOS, OS/2 1.x and POSIX. The emulators for MS-DOS, OS/2 and POSIX use the host’s window in the same way that Win16 applications use the Win32 explorer. Using the host’s window allows one to pipe output between emulations.

The MS-DOS emulation takes place through the NTVDM (NT Virtual DOS Machine). This is a modified SoftPC (a former product similar to VirtualPC), running a modified MS-DOS 5 (NTIO.SYS and NTDOS.SYS). The output is handled by the console DLLs, so that the program at the prompt (CMD.EXE, 4NT.EXE, TCC.EXE), can see the output. 64-bit Windows does not have either the DOS emulation, or the DOS commands EDIT, DEBUG, EDLIN), that come with 32-bit Windows.

The DOS version returns 5.00 or 5.50, depending on which API function is used to determine it. Utilities from MS-DOS 5.00 run in this emulation without modification. The very early beta programs of NT show MS-DOS 30.00, but programs running in MS-DOS 30.00 would assume that OS/2 was in control.

The OS/2 emulation is handled through OS2SS.EXE and OS2.EXE, and DOSCALLS.DLL. OS2.EXE is a version of the OS/2 shell (CMD.EXE), which passes commands down to the OS2SS.EXE, and input-output to the Windows NT shell. Windows 2000 was the last version of NT to support OS/2. The emulation is OS/2 1.30.

POSIX is emulated through the POSIX shell, but no emulated shell; the commands are handled directly in CMD.EXE.

The Command Prompt is often called the MS-DOS prompt. In part, this was the official name for it in Windows 9x and early versions of Windows NT (NT 3.5 and earlier), and in part because the SoftPC emulation of DOS redirects output into it. Actually only COMMAND.COM and other 16-bit commands run in an NTVDM with AUTOEXEC.NT and CONFIG.NT initialisation determined by _DEFAULT.PIF, optionally permitting the use of Win32 console applications and internal commands with an NTCMDPROMPT directive.

Win32 console applications use CMD.EXE as their command prompt shell. This confusion does not exist under OS/2 because there are separate DOS and OS/2 prompts, and running a DOS program under OS/2 will launch a separate DOS window to run the application.

All versions of Windows for Itanium (no longer sold by Microsoft) and x86-64 architectures no longer include the NTVDM and can therefore no longer natively run DOS or 16-bit Windows applications. There are alternatives in the form of virtual machine emulators such as Microsoft’s own Virtual PC, as well as VMware, DOSBox, and others.

End of Life

The introduction of Windows 3.0 in 1990, with an easy-to-use graphical user interface, marked the beginning of the end for the command-line driven MS-DOS. With the release of Windows 95 (and continuing in the Windows 9x product line through to Windows Me), an integrated version of MS-DOS was used for bootstrapping, troubleshooting, and backwards-compatibility with old DOS software, particularly games, and no longer released as a standalone product.[74] In Windows 95, the DOS, called MS-DOS 7, can be booted separately, without the Windows GUI; this capability was retained through Windows 98 Second Edition. Windows Me removed the capability to boot its underlying MS-DOS 8.0 alone from a hard disk, but retained the ability to make a DOS boot floppy disk (called an “Emergency Boot Disk”) and can be hacked to restore full access to the underlying DOS. On December 31, 2001, Microsoft declared all versions of MS-DOS 6.22 and older obsolete and stopped providing support and updates for the system.[75] As MS-DOS 7.0 was a part of Windows 95, support for it also ended when Windows 95 extended support ended on December 31, 2001.[76] As MS-DOS 7.10 and MS-DOS 8.0 were part of Windows 98 and Windows ME respectively, support also ended when Windows 98 and ME extended support ended on on July 11, 2006, thus ending support and updates of MS-DOS from Microsoft.

In contrast to the Windows 9x series, the Windows NT-derived 32-bit operating systems (Windows NT, 2000, XP and newer), developed alongside the 9x series, do not contain MS-DOS compatibility as a core component of the operating system nor do they rely on it for bootstrapping, as NT was not with the level of support for legacy MS-DOS and Win16 apps that Windows 9x was,[74] but does provide limited DOS emulation called NTVDM (NT Virtual DOS Machine) to run DOS applications and provide DOS-like command prompt windows. 64-bit versions of Windows NT do not provide DOS emulation and cannot run DOS applications natively.[78] Windows XP contains a copy of the Windows Me boot disk, stripped down to bootstrap only. This is accessible only by formatting a floppy as an “MS-DOS startup disk”. Files like the driver for the CD-ROM support were deleted from the Windows Me bootdisk and the startup files (AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS) no longer had content. This modified disk was the base for creating the MS-DOS image for Windows XP. Some of the deleted files can be recovered with an undelete tool.[79] When booting up an MS-DOS startup disk made with Windows XP’s format tool, the version number and the VER internal command reports as “Windows Millennium” and “5.1” respectively and not “MS-DOS 8.0” (which was used as the base for Windows Me but never released as a stand-alone product), though the API still says Version 8.0.

When creating a DOS startup disk on Windows Vista, the files on the startup disk are dated April 18, 2005 but are otherwise unchanged, including the string “MS-DOS Version 8 Copyright 1981–1999 Microsoft Corp” inside COMMAND.COM. Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 can also create a MS-DOS startup disk. Starting with Windows 10, the ability to create a DOS startup disk has been removed and so either a virtual machine running MS-DOS or an older version (in a virtual machine or dual boot) must be used to format a floppy disk, or an image must be obtained from an external source. Other solutions include using DOS compatible alternatives, such as FreeDOS or even copying the required files and boot sector themselves. With Windows 11, the operating system does not support NTVDM as it’s only 64-bit, thus removing any remaining support for MS-DOS or it’s applications from Microsoft.

MS-DOS 6.22 was the last standalone version produced by Microsoft for Intel 8088, Intel 8086, and Intel 80286 processors, which remain available for download via their MSDN,[80] volume license, and OEM license partner websites, for customers with valid login credentials. MS-DOS is still used in embedded x86 systems due to its simple architecture and minimal memory and processor requirements, though some current products have switched to the still-maintained open-source alternative FreeDOS.

In 2018, Microsoft released the source code for MS-DOS 1.25 and 2.0 on GitHub. The purpose of this, according to Microsoft, is mainly for education and experimentation with historic operating systems and for new programmers to gain an understanding of how low-level software works, both historic and current. According to program manager Rich Turner, the other versions could not be open-sourced due to third-party licensing restrictions.[81]

Due to the historical nature of the software, Microsoft will not accept any pull requests to the code; only pull requests for modified and translated documentation will be accepted. Users, however, are allowed and fully encouraged to fork the repository containing the MS-DOS source code and make their own modifications, and do whatever they like with it.

Legacy Compatibility

From 1983 onwards, various companies worked on graphical user interfaces (GUIs) capable of running on PC hardware. However, this required duplicated effort and did not provide much consistency in interface design (even between products from the same company).

Later, in 1985, Microsoft Windows 1.0 was released as Microsoft’s first attempt at providing a consistent user interface (for applications). The early versions of Windows ran on top of MS-DOS. At first Windows met with little success, but this was also true for most other companies’ efforts as well, for example GEM. After version 3.0, Windows gained market acceptance.

Windows 9x used MS-DOS to boot the Windows kernel in protected mode. Basic features related to the file system, such as long file names, were only available to DOS applications when running through Windows. Windows NT runs independently of DOS but includes NTVDM, a component for simulating a DOS environment for legacy applications.

Closing Thoughts


I like especially the era of the 80s and 90s of computing and the home computer boom which occurred throughout the world. OK , fair enough I was born in ’82 and it left me with no choice in the matter. But I have always thought it was a conscious decision form my part.

The speed and leaps computing evolved at those times when it came to hardware or software was something magical.Each month and year brought something significant , something new , something we thought just some time ago that it can not be done or seemed impossible to achieve.

Performance , disk space , new peripherals
usenet, bbs then the internet and email and the rest became history

One particular part I really miss and love about this era that computers could and were important tools which let you focus on the task at hand you had to handle without distractions. Think of word processors or office suites applications for handling spreadsheets or making a presentation or write a program.

No ads, nagging updates and not another 300x popups and messages from various parts of the system and from other applications ( you did not even realized before those things were your computer ) or system updates trying to take your attention away from what You were actually doing just a minute ago.

In this sense the 80s always reminds me this era of simplicity like a typewriter. The beauty in doing less or sometimes only a single function ( perhaps at a time…) but letting you immerse in that experience and focus and concentrate.

Today the user interfaces are so colorful it sometimes becomes a distraction so many things trying to grab my attention like I mentioned. It can be very overwhelming very quickly. Messages, popups, notifications, ads, more ads…. ah.

When All I want sometimes is to achieve one single thing:
being it writing my thoughts down or to do a presentation , perhaps make some simple calculations or just one and only one task at a time but to do it well.

There is beauty in simplicity and being distraction free.

This is the reason I like to just go back sometimes into MS-DOS and bring up one single application at a time and just use it to do one single thing and not let anything else taking me away from that….

It also reminds me of Modern Cars Vs Classic Cars 🙂

Links

https://dos.fandom.com/wiki/MS-DOS_Version_History

https://www.computerhope.com/history/dos.htm

https://www.kirsle.net/msdos

https://freesoft.dev/program/148467749


http://www.columbia.edu/~em36/wpdos/

https://vetusware.com/download/WordPerfect%20Suite%206.2/?id=3797

https://jpsoft.com/products/tcc-cmd-prompt.html

4NT

Episode 79 – 80 – OS/2

W4Desktop-001.png
Clean desktop where we see the Control Center’s (Object Desktop) information area (drive space, swap size, time, can also have CPU meter, etc.). Those 4 “bitmaps” up there are virtual desktops.
The Tab Launchpad (Object Desktop) and Control Center can be arranged, placed and duplicated at will. Object Desktop’s Window List also includes a command history, for frequently executed commands.
Both MOD and MID (on Desktop) are shadows of actual folders somewhere else (you can locate them in a click) containing the data, but they act exactly like their big brother folder.
CC – https://www.os2world.com/
Introduction

OS/2 is a series of computer operating systems, initially created by Microsoft and IBM under the leadership of IBM software designer Ed Iacobucci. As a result of a feud between the two companies over how to position OS/2 relative to Microsoft’s new Windows 3.1 operating environment the two companies severed the relationship in 1992 and OS/2 development fell to IBM exclusively. The name stands for “Operating System/2”, because it was introduced as part of the same generation change release as IBM’s “Personal System/2 (PS/2)” line of second-generation personal computers. The first version of OS/2 was released in December 1987 and newer versions were released until December 2001.

OS/2 was intended as a protected-mode successor of PC DOS. Notably, basic system calls were modeled after MS-DOS calls; their names even started with “Dos” and it was possible to create “Family Mode” applications – text mode applications that could work on both systems. Because of this heritage, OS/2 shares similarities with Unix, Xenix, and Windows NT.

IBM discontinued its support for OS/2 on 31 December 2006. Since then, OS/2 has been developed, supported and sold by two different third-party vendors under license from IBM – first by Serenity Systems as eComStation since 2001 and later by Arca Noae LLC as ArcaOS since 2017.

Development History
1985-1989: Joint Development

The development of OS/2 began when IBM and Microsoft signed the “Joint Development Agreement” in August 1985. It was code-named “CP/DOS” and it took two years for the first product to be delivered.

OS/2 1.0 was announced in April 1987 and released in December. The original release is textmode-only, and a GUI was introduced with OS/2 1.1 about a year later. OS/2 features an API for controlling the video display (VIO) and handling keyboard and mouse events so that programmers writing for protected-mode need not call the BIOS or access hardware directly. Other development tools included a subset of the video and keyboard APIs as linkable libraries so that family mode programs are able to run under MS-DOS and, in the OS/2 Extended Edition v1.0, a database engine called Database Manager or DBM (this was related to DB2, and should not be confused with the DBM family of database engines for Unix and Unix-like operating systems). A task-switcher named Program Selector was available through the Ctrl-Esc hotkey combination, allowing the user to select among multitasked text-mode sessions (or screen groups; each can run multiple programs).

Communications and database-oriented extensions were delivered in 1988, as part of OS/2 1.0 Extended Edition: SNA, X.25/APPC/LU 6.2, LAN Manager, Query Manager, SQL.OS/2 1.1 was the first version to feature the Presentation Manager GUI.

The promised user interface, Presentation Manager, was introduced with OS/2 1.1 in October 1988. It had a similar user interface to Windows 2.1, which was released in May of that year. (The interface was replaced in versions 1.2 and 1.3 by a look closer in appearance to Windows 3.0).

The Extended Edition of 1.1, sold only through IBM sales channels, introduced distributed database support to IBM database systems and SNA communications support to IBM mainframe networks.

In 1989, Version 1.2 introduced Installable Filesystems and, notably, the HPFS filesystem. HPFS provided a number of improvements over the older FAT file system, including long filenames and a form of alternate data streams called Extended Attributes. In addition, extended attributes were also added to the FAT file system.

The Extended Edition of 1.2 introduced TCP/IP and Ethernet support.

OS/2- and Windows-related books of the late 1980s acknowledged the existence of both systems and promoted OS/2 as the system of the future.

1990 – Breakup

The collaboration between IBM and Microsoft unraveled in 1990, between the releases of Windows 3.0 and OS/2 1.3. During this time, Windows 3.0 became a tremendous success, selling millions of copies in its first year. Much of its success was because Windows 3.0 (along with MS-DOS) was bundled with most new computers. OS/2, on the other hand, was available only as an additional stand-alone software package. In addition, OS/2 lacked device drivers for many common devices such as printers, particularly non-IBM hardware. Windows, on the other hand, supported a much larger variety of hardware. The increasing popularity of Windows prompted Microsoft to shift its development focus from cooperating on OS/2 with IBM to building its own business based on Windows.

Several technical and practical reasons contributed to this breakup.

The two companies had significant differences in culture and vision. Microsoft favored the open hardware system approach that contributed to its success on the PC; IBM sought to use OS/2 to drive sales of its own hardware, including systems that could not support the features Microsoft wanted. Microsoft programmers also became frustrated with IBM’s bureaucracy and its use of lines of code to measure programmer productivity. IBM developers complained about the terseness and lack of comments in Microsoft’s code, while Microsoft developers complained that IBM’s code was bloated.

The two products have significant differences in API. OS/2 was announced when Windows 2.0 was near completion, and the Windows API already defined. However, IBM requested that this API be significantly changed for OS/2.Therefore, issues surrounding application compatibility appeared immediately. OS/2 designers hoped for source code conversion tools, allowing complete migration of Windows application source code to OS/2 at some point. However, OS/2 1.x did not gain enough momentum to allow vendors to avoid developing for both OS/2 and Windows in parallel.

OS/2 1.x targets the Intel 80286 processor and DOS fundamentally doesn’t. IBM insisted on supporting the 80286 processor, with its 16-bit segmented memory mode, because of commitments made to customers who had purchased many 80286-based PS/2s as a result of IBM’s promises surrounding OS/2. Until release 2.0 in April 1992, OS/2 ran in 16-bit protected mode and therefore could not benefit from the Intel 80386’s much simpler 32-bit flat memory model and virtual 8086 mode features. This was especially painful in providing support for DOS applications. While, in 1988, Windows/386 2.1 could run several cooperatively multitasked DOS applications, including expanded memory (EMS) emulation, OS/2 1.3, released in 1991, was still limited to one 640 kB “DOS box”.

Given these issues, Microsoft started to work in parallel on a version of Windows which was more future-oriented and more portable. The hiring of Dave Cutler, former VAX/VMS architect, in 1988 created an immediate competition with the OS/2 team, as Cutler did not think much of the OS/2 technology and wanted to build on his work on the MICA project at Digital rather than creating a “DOS plus”. His NT OS/2 was a completely new architecture.

IBM grew concerned about the delays in development of OS/2 2.0. Initially, the companies agreed that IBM would take over maintenance of OS/2 1.0 and development of OS/2 2.0, while Microsoft would continue development of OS/2 3.0. In the end, Microsoft decided to recast NT OS/2 3.0 as Windows NT, leaving all future OS/2 development to IBM. From a business perspective, it was logical to concentrate on a consumer line of operating systems based on DOS and Windows, and to prepare a new high-end system in such a way as to keep good compatibility with existing Windows applications. While it waited for this new high-end system to develop, Microsoft would still receive licensing money from Xenix and OS/2 sales. Windows NT’s OS/2 heritage can be seen in its initial support for the HPFS filesystem, text mode OS/2 1.x applications, and OS/2 LAN Manager network support. Some early NT materials even included OS/2 copyright notices embedded in the software. One example of NT OS/2 1.x support is in the WIN2K resource kit. Windows NT could also support OS/2 1.x Presentation Manager and AVIO applications with the addition of the Windows NT Add-On Subsystem for Presentation Manager.

1992: 32bit era

OS/2 2.0 was released in April 1992. At the time, the suggested retail price was U.S. $195, while Windows retailed for $150.

OS/2 2.0 provided a 32-bit API for native programs, though the OS itself still contained some 16-bit code and drivers. It also included a new OOUI (object-oriented user interface) called the Workplace Shell. This was a fully object-oriented interface that was a significant departure from the previous GUI. Rather than merely providing an environment for program windows (such as the Program Manager), the Workplace Shell provided an environment in which the user could manage programs, files and devices by manipulating objects on the screen. With the Workplace Shell, everything in the system is an “object” to be manipulated.

DOS Compatibility

OS/2 2.0 was touted by IBM as “a better DOS than DOS and a better Windows than Windows”. It managed this by including the fully-licensed MS-DOS 5.0, which had been patched and improved upon. For the first time, OS/2 was able to run more than one DOS application at a time. This was so effective, that it allowed OS/2 to run a modified copy of Windows 3.0, itself a DOS extender, including Windows 3.0 applications.

Because of the limitations of the Intel 80286 processor, OS/2 1.x could run only one DOS program at a time, and did this in a way that allowed the DOS program to have total control over the computer. A problem in DOS mode could crash the entire computer. In contrast, OS/2 2.0 could leverage the virtual 8086 mode of the Intel 80386 processor to create a much safer virtual machine in which to run DOS programs. This included an extensive set of configuration options to optimize the performance and capabilities given to each DOS program. Any real-mode operating system (such as 8086 Xenix) could also be made to run using OS/2’s virtual machine capabilities, subject to certain direct hardware access limitations.The OS/2 2.0 upgrade box

Like most 32-bit environments, OS/2 could not run protected-mode DOS programs using the older VCPI interface, unlike the Standard mode of Windows 3.1; it only supported programs written according to DPMI. (Microsoft discouraged the use of VCPI under Windows 3.1, however, due to performance degradation.)

Unlike Windows NT, OS/2 always allowed DOS programs the possibility of masking real hardware interrupts, so any DOS program could deadlock the machine in this way. OS/2 could, however, use a hardware watchdog on selected machines (notably IBM machines) to break out of such a deadlock. Later, release 3.0 leveraged the enhancements of newer Intel 80486 and Intel Pentium processors—the Virtual Interrupt Flag (VIF), which was part of the Virtual Mode Extensions (VME)—to solve this problem.

Windows 3.x compatibility

Compatibility with Windows 3.0 (and later Windows 3.1) was achieved by adapting Windows user-mode code components to run inside a virtual DOS machine (VDM). Originally, a nearly complete version of Windows code was included with OS/2 itself: Windows 3.0 in OS/2 2.0, and Windows 3.1 in OS/2 2.1. Later, IBM developed versions of OS/2 that would use whatever Windows version the user had installed previously, patching it on the fly, and sparing the cost of an additional Windows license. It could either run full-screen, using its own set of video drivers, or “seamlessly,” where Windows programs would appear directly on the OS/2 desktop. The process containing Windows was given fairly extensive access to hardware, especially video, and the result was that switching between a full-screen WinOS/2 session and the Workplace Shell could occasionally cause issues.

Because OS/2 only runs the user-mode system components of Windows, it is incompatible with Windows device drivers (VxDs) and applications that require them.

Multiple Windows applications run by default in a single Windows session – multitasking cooperatively and without memory protection – just as they would under native Windows 3.x. However, to achieve true isolation between Windows 3.x programs, OS/2 can also run multiple copies of Windows in parallel, with each copy residing in a separate VDM. The user can then optionally place each program either in its own Windows session – with preemptive multitasking and full memory protection between sessions, though not within them – or allow some applications to run together cooperatively in a shared Windows session while isolating other applications in one or more separate Windows sessions. At the cost of additional hardware resources, this approach can protect each program in any given Windows session (and each instance of Windows itself) from every other program running in any separate Windows session (though not from other programs running in the same Windows session).

Whether Windows applications are running in full-screen or windowed mode, and in one Windows session or several, it is possible to use DDE between OS/2 and Windows applications, and OLE between Windows applications only.

1994 – 1996: The “Warp” Years

Released in 1994, OS/2 version 3.0 was labelled as OS/2 Warp to highlight the new performance benefits, and generally to freshen the product image. “Warp” had originally been the internal IBM name for the release: IBM claimed that it had used Star Trek terms as internal names for prior OS/2 releases, and that this one seemed appropriate for external use as well. At the launch of OS/2 Warp in 1994, Patrick Stewart was to be the Master of Ceremonies; however Kate Mulgrew of the then-upcoming series Star Trek: Voyager was substituted at the last minute.

OS/2 Warp offers a host of benefits over OS/2 2.1, notably broader hardware support, greater multimedia capabilities, Internet-compatible networking, and it includes a basic office application suite known as IBM Works. It was released in two versions: the less expensive “Red Spine” and the more expensive “Blue Spine” (named for the color of their boxes). “Red Spine” was designed to support Microsoft Windows applications by utilizing any existing installation of Windows on the computer’s hard drive. “Blue Spine” includes Windows support in its own installation, and so can support Windows applications without a Windows installation. As most computers were sold with Microsoft Windows pre-installed and the price was less, “Red Spine” was the more popular product. OS/2 Warp Connect—which has full LAN client support built-in—followed in mid-1995. Warp Connect was nicknamed “Grape”.

In OS/2 2.0, most performance-sensitive subsystems, including the graphics (Gre) and multimedia (MMPM/2) systems, were updated to 32-bit code in a fixpack, and included as part of OS/2 2.1. Warp 3 brought about a fully 32-bit windowing system, while Warp 4 introduced the object-oriented 32-bit GRADD display driver model.

In 1996, Warp 4 added Java and speech recognition software. IBM also released server editions of Warp 3 and Warp 4 which bundled IBM’s LAN Server product directly into the operating system installation. A personal version of Lotus Notes was also included, with a number of template databases for contact management, brainstorming, and so forth. The UK-distributed free demo CD-ROM of OS/2 Warp essentially contained the entire OS and was easily, even accidentally, cracked meaning that even people who liked it did not have to buy it. This was seen as a backdoor tactic to increase the number of OS/2 users, in the belief that this would increase sales and demand for third-party applications, and thus strengthen OS/2’s desktop numbers.  This suggestion was bolstered by the fact that this demo version had replaced another which was not so easily cracked, but which had been released with trial versions of various applications. In 2000, the July edition of Australian Personal Computer magazine bundled software CD-ROMs, included a full version of Warp 4 that required no activation and was essentially a free release. Special versions of OS/2 2.11 and Warp 4 also included symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) support.

OS/2 sales were largely concentrated in networked computing used by corporate professionals; however, by the early 1990s, it was overtaken by Microsoft Windows NT. While OS/2 was arguably technically superior to Microsoft Windows 95, OS/2 failed to develop much penetration in the consumer and stand-alone desktop PC segments; there were reports that it could not be installed properly on IBM’s own Aptiva series of home PCs. Microsoft made an offer in 1994 where IBM would receive the same terms as Compaq (the largest PC manufacturer at the time) for a license of Windows 95, if IBM ended development of OS/2 completely. IBM refused and instead went with an “IBM First” strategy of promoting OS/2 Warp and disparaging Windows, as IBM aimed to drive sales of its own software as well as hardware. By 1995, Windows 95 negotiations between IBM and Microsoft, which were already difficult, stalled when IBM purchased Lotus SmartSuite, which would have directly competed with Microsoft Office. As a result of the dispute, IBM signed the license agreement 15 minutes before Microsoft’s Windows 95 launch event, which was later than their competitors and this badly hurt sales of IBM PCs. IBM officials later conceded that OS/2 would not have been a viable operating system to keep them in the PC business.

Workplace OS

In 1991, IBM started development on an intended replacement for OS/2 called Workplace OS. This was an entirely new product, brand new code, that borrowed only a few sections of code from both the existing OS/2 and AIX products. It used an entirely new microkernel code base, intended (eventually) to host several of IBM’s operating systems (including OS/2) as microkernel “personalities”. It also included major new architectural features including a system registry, JFS, support for UNIX graphics libraries, and a new driver model.

Workplace OS was developed solely for POWER platforms, and IBM intended to market a full line of PowerPCs in an effort to take over the market from Intel. A mission was formed to create prototypes of these machines and they were disclosed to several Corporate customers, all of whom raised issues with the idea of dropping Intel.

Advanced plans for the new code base would eventually include replacement of the OS/400 operating system by Workplace OS, as well as a microkernel product that would have been used in industries such as telecommunications and set-top television receivers.

A partially functional pre-alpha version of Workplace OS was demonstrated at Comdex, where a bemused Bill Gates stopped by the booth. The second and last time it would be shown in public was at an OS/2 user group in Phoenix, Arizona; the pre-alpha code refused to boot.

It was released in 1995. But with $990 million being spent per year on development of this as well as Workplace OS, and no possible profit or widespread adoption, the end of the entire Workplace OS and OS/2 product line was near.

Downsizing

A project was launched internally by IBM to evaluate the looming competitive situation with Microsoft Windows 95. Primary concerns included the major code quality issues in the existing OS/2 product (resulting in over 20 service packs, each requiring more diskettes than the original installation), and the ineffective and heavily matrixed development organization in Boca Raton (where the consultants reported that “basically, everybody reports to everybody”) and Austin.

That study, tightly classified as “Registered Confidential” and printed only in numbered copies, identified untenable weaknesses and failures across the board in the Personal Systems Division as well as across IBM as a whole. This resulted in a decision being made at a level above the Division to cut over 95% of the overall budget for the entire product line, end all new development (including Workplace OS), eliminate the Boca Raton development lab, end all sales and marketing efforts of the product, and lay off over 1,300 development individuals (as well as sales and support personnel). $990 million had been spent in the last full year. Warp 4 became the last distributed version of OS/2.

2001: Fading out

A small and dedicated community remained faithful to OS/2 for many years after its final mainstream release but overall, OS/2 failed to catch on in the mass market and is little used outside certain niches where IBM traditionally had a stronghold. For example, many bank installations, especially automated teller machines, run OS/2 with a customized user interface; French SNCF national railways used OS/2 1.x in thousands of ticket selling machines. Telecom companies such as Nortel used OS/2 in some voicemail systems. Also, OS/2 was used for the host PC used to control the Satellite Operations Support System equipment installed at NPR member stations from 1994 to 2007, and used to receive the network’s programming via satellite.

Although IBM began indicating shortly after the release of Warp 4 that OS/2 would eventually be withdrawn, the company did not end support until December 31, 2006. Sales of OS/2 stopped on December 23, 2005. The latest IBM OS/2 Warp version is 4.52, which was released for both desktop and server systems in December 2001.

IBM is still delivering defect support for a fee. IBM urges customers to migrate their often highly complex applications to e-business technologies such as Java in a platform-neutral manner. Once application migration is completed, IBM recommends migration to a different operating system, suggesting Linux as an alternative.

Third-Party Development

After IBM discontinued development of OS/2, various third parties approached IBM to take over future development of the operating system. The OS/2 software vendor Stardock made such a proposal to IBM in 1999, but it was not followed through by the company. Serenity Systems succeeded in negotiating an agreement with IBM, and began reselling OS/2 as eComStation in 2001. eComStation is now sold by XEU.com, the most recent version (2.1) was released in 2011. In 2015, Arca Noae, LLC announced that they had secured an agreement with IBM to resell OS/2. They released the first version of their OS/2-based operating system in 2017 as ArcaOS. As of 2021, there have been multiple releases of ArcaOS, and it remains under active development.

Petitions for Open Source

Many people hoped that IBM would release OS/2 or a significant part of it as open source. Petitions were held in 2005 and 2007, but IBM refused them, citing legal and technical reasons. It is unlikely that the entire OS will be open at any point in the future because it contains third-party code to which IBM does not have copyright, and much of this code is from Microsoft. IBM also once engaged in a technology transfer with Commodore, licensing Amiga technology for OS/2 2.0 and above, in exchange for the REXX scripting language. This means that OS/2 may have some code that was not written by IBM, which can therefore prevent the OS from being re-announced as open-sourced in the future. On the other hand, IBM donated Object REXX for Windows and OS/2 to the Open Object REXX project maintained by the REXX Language Association on SourceForge.

There was a petition, arranged by OS2World, to open parts of the OS. Open source operating systems such as Linux have already profited from OS/2 indirectly through IBM’s release of the improved JFS file system, which was ported from the OS/2 code base. As IBM didn’t release the source of the OS/2 JFS driver, developers ported the Linux driver back to eComStation and added the functionality to boot from a JFS partition. This new JFS driver has been integrated into eComStation v2.0, and later into ArcaOS 5.0.

Features and Technology

User Interface

The graphic system has a layer named Presentation Manager that manages windows, fonts, and icons. This is similar in functionality to a non-networked version of X11 or the Windows GDI. On top of this lies the Workplace Shell (WPS) introduced in OS/2 2.0. WPS is an object-oriented shell allowing the user to perform traditional computing tasks such as accessing files, printers, launching legacy programs, and advanced object oriented tasks using built-in and third-party application objects that extended the shell in an integrated fashion not available on any other mainstream operating system. WPS follows IBM’s Common User Access user interface standards.

WPS represents objects such as disks, folders, files, program objects, and printers using the System Object Model (SOM), which allows code to be shared among applications, possibly written in different programming languages. A distributed version called DSOM allowed objects on different computers to communicate. DSOM is based on CORBA. The object oriented aspect of SOM is similar to, and a direct competitor to, Microsoft’s Component Object Model, though it is implemented in a radically different manner; for instance, one of the most notable differences between SOM and COM is SOM’s support for inheritance (one of the most fundamental concepts of OO programming)—COM does not have such support. SOM and DSOM are no longer being developed.

The multimedia capabilities of OS/2 are accessible through Media Control Interface commands. The last update (bundled with the IBM version of Netscape Navigator plugins) added support for MPEG files. Support for newer formats such as PNG, progressive JPEG, DivX, Ogg, and MP3 comes from third parties. Sometimes it is integrated with the multimedia system, but in other offers it comes as standalone applications.

Application development

OS/2 also includes a radical advancement in application development with compound document technology called OpenDoc, which was developed with Apple. OpenDoc proved interesting as a technology, but was not widely used or accepted by users or developers. OpenDoc is also no longer being developed.

Networking

The TCP/IP stack is based on the open source BSD stack as visible with SCCS what compatible tools. IBM included tools such as ftp and telnet and even servers for both commands. IBM sold several networking extensions including NFS support and an X11 server.

Drivers

Hardware vendors were reluctant to support device drivers for alternative operating systems including OS/2 and Linux, leaving users with few choices from a select few vendors. To relieve this issue for video cards, IBM licensed a reduced version of the Scitech display drivers, allowing users to choose from a wide selection of cards supported through Scitech’s modular driver design.

Virtualization

OS/2 has historically been more difficult to run in a virtual machine than most other legacy x86 operating systems because of its extensive reliance on the full set of features of the x86 CPU; in particular, OS/2’s use of ring 2 prevented it from running in VMware. Emulators such as QEMU and Bochs don’t suffer from this problem and can run OS/2. A beta of VMware Workstation 2.0 released in January 2000 was the first hypervisor that could run OS/2 at all. Later, the company decided to drop official OS/2 support.

VirtualPC from Microsoft (originally Connectix) has been able to run OS/2 without hardware virtualization support for many years. It also provided “additions” code which greatly improves host–guest OS interactions in OS/2. The additions are not provided with the current version of VirtualPC, but the version last included with a release may still be used with current releases. At one point, OS/2 was a supported host for VirtualPC in addition to a guest. Note that OS/2 runs only as a guest on those versions of VirtualPC that use virtualization (x86 based hosts) and not those doing full emulation (VirtualPC for Mac).

VirtualBox from Oracle Corporation (originally InnoTek, later Sun) supports OS/2 1.x, Warp 3 through 4.5, and eComStation as well as “Other OS/2” as guests. However, attempting to run OS/2 and eComStation can still be difficult, if not impossible, because of the strict requirements of VT-x/AMD-V hardware-enabled virtualization and only ACP2/MCP2 is reported to work in a reliable manner.

ArcaOS supports being run as a virtual machine guest inside VirtualBox, VMware ESXi and VMWare Workstation. It ships with VirtualBox Guest Additions, and driver improvements to improve performance as a guest operating system.

The difficulties in efficiently running OS/2 have, at least once, created an opportunity for a new virtualization company. A large bank in Moscow needed a way to use OS/2 on newer hardware that OS/2 did not support. As virtualization software is an easy way around this, the company desired to run OS/2 under a hypervisor. Once it was determined that VMware was not a possibility, it hired a group of Russian software developers to write a host-based hypervisor that would officially support OS/2. Thus, the Parallels, Inc. company and their Parallels Workstation product was born.

Problems

Some problems were classic subjects of comparison with other operating systems:

  • Synchronous input queue (SIQ): if a GUI application was not servicing its window messages, the entire GUI system could get stuck and a reboot was required. This problem was considerably reduced with later Warp 3 fixpacks and refined by Warp 4, by taking control over the application after it had not responded for several seconds.
  • No unified object handles (OS/2 v2.11 and earlier): The availability of threads probably led system designers to overlook mechanisms which allow a single thread to wait for different types of asynchronous events at the same time, for example the keyboard and the mouse in a “console” program. Even though select was added later, it only worked on network sockets. In case of a console program, dedicating a separate thread for waiting on each source of events made it difficult to properly release all the input devices before starting other programs in the same “session”. As a result, console programs usually polled the keyboard and the mouse alternately, which resulted in wasted CPU and a characteristic “jerky” reactivity to user input. In OS/2 3.0 IBM introduced a new call for this specific problem.

Historical uses

OS/2 has been widely used in Iran Export Bank (Bank Saderat Iran) in their teller machines, ATMs and local servers (over 30,000 working stations). As of 2011, the bank moved to virtualize and renew their infrastructure by moving OS/2 to Virtual Machines running over Windows.

OS/2 was widely used in Brazilian banks. Banco do Brasil had a peak 10,000 machines running OS/2 Warp in the 1990s. OS/2 was used in automated teller machines until 2006. The workstations and automated teller machines and attendant computers have been migrated to Linux.

OS/2 has been used in the banking industry. Suncorp bank in Australia still ran its ATM network on OS/2 as late as 2002. ATMs at Perisher Blue used OS/2 as late as 2009, and even the turn of the decade.

OS/2 was widely adopted by accounting professionals and auditing companies. In mid-1990s native 32-bit accounting software were well developed and serving corporate markets.

OS/2 ran the faulty baggage handling system at Denver International Airport. The OS was eventually scrapped, but the software written for the system led to massive delays in the opening of the new airport. The OS itself was not at fault, but the software written to run on the OS was. The baggage handling system was eventually removed.

OS/2 was used by radio personality Howard Stern. He once had a 10-minute on-air rant about OS/2 versus Windows 95 and recommended OS/2. He also used OS/2 on his IBM 760CD laptop.

OS/2 was used as part of the Satellite Operations Support System (SOSS) for NPR’s Public Radio Satellite System. SOSS was a computer-controlled system using OS/2 that NPR member stations used to receive programming feeds via satellite. SOSS was introduced in 1994 using OS/2 3.0, and was retired in 2007, when NPR switched over to its successor, the ContentDepot.

OS/2 was used to control the SkyTrain automated light rail system in Vancouver, Canada until the late 2000s when it was replaced by Windows XP.

OS/2 was used in the London Underground Jubilee Line Extension Signals Control System (JLESCS) in London, England. This control system delivered by Alcatel was in use from 1999 to 2011 i.e. between abandonment before opening of the line’s unimplemented original automatic train control system and the present SelTrac system. JLESCS did not provide automatic train operation only manual train supervision. Six OS/2 local site computers were distributed along the railway between Stratford and Westminster, the shunting tower at Stratford Market Depot, and several formed the central equipment located at Neasden Depot. It was once intended to cover the rest of the line between Green Park and Stanmore but this was never introduced.

OS/2 has been used by The Co-operative Bank in the UK for its domestic call centre staff, using a bespoke program created to access customer accounts which cannot easily be migrated to Windows.

OS/2 has been used by the Stop & Shop supermarket chain (and has been installed in new stores as recently as March 2010).

OS/2 has been used on ticket machines for Tramlink in outer-London.

OS/2 has been used in New York City’s subway system for MetroCards. Rather than interfacing with the user, it connects simple computers and the mainframes. When NYC MTA finishes its transition to contactless payment OS/2 will be removed.

OS/2 was used in checkout systems at Safeway supermarkets.

OS/2 was used by Trenitalia, both for the desktops at Ticket Counters and for the Automatic Ticket Counters up to 2011. Incidentally, the Automatic Ticket Counters with OS/2 were more reliable than the current ones running a flavor of Windows.

OS/2 was used as the main operating system for Abbey National General Insurance motor and home direct call centre products using the PMSC Series III insurance platform on DB2.2 from 1996-2001.

IBM Products utilizing OS/2

IBM has used OS/2 in a wide variety of hardware products, effectively as a form of embedded operating system.

ProductProduct TypeUsage of OS/2
IBM 3494Tape LibraryUsed as the operating system for the Library Manager (LM) that controlled the tape accessor (robot)
IBM 3745Communications ControllerUsed as the operating system for the Service Processor (SP) and if installed, the Network Node Processor (NNP).
IBM 3890Document ProcessorThe 3890/XP1 was announced November 12, 1988. It initially used OS/2 1.1 Extended Edition on a PS/2 Model 80 to emulate the stacker control software that previously ran on a System 360. IBM later switched to OS/2 Warp.
IBM 473xATMUsed in a range of Automatic Teller Machines manufactured by IBM. Was also used in later 478x ATMs manufactured with Diebold.
IBM 9672MainframeUsed as the operating system for the Support Element (SE). Was also used in later mainframe models such as the IBM 2064 and 2074.
Links

https://www.arcanoae.com/arcaos/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS/2

https://www.os2world.com/wiki/index.php/OS/2_Warp_4_Desktop_Tour

https://www.stardock.com/temp/kwilas/apps.html