March 6th, 2017

Hard Stare

Follow-up: the family links between DOS, OS/2, NT and VMS

My previous post was an improvised and unplanned comment. I could have structured it better, and it caused some confusion on https://lobste.rs/

Dave Cutler did not write OS/2. AFAIK he never worked on OS/2 at all in the days of the MS-IBM pact -- he was still at DEC then.

Many sources focus on only one side of the story -- the DEC side, This is important but only half the tale.

IBM and MS got very rich working together on x86 PCs and MS-DOS. They carefully planned its successor: OS/2. IBM placed restrictions on this which crippled it, but it wasn't apparent at the time just how bad this would turn out to be.

In the early-to-mid 1980s, it seemed apparent to everyone that the most important next step in microcomputers would be multitasking.

Even small players like Sinclair thought so -- the QL was designed as the first cheap 68000-based home computer. No GUI, but multitasking.

I discussed this a bit in a blog post a while ago: http://liam-on-linux.livejournal.com/46833.html

Apple's Lisa was a sideline: too expensive. Nobody picked up on its true significance.

Then, 2 weeks after the QL, came the Mac. Everything clever but expensive in the Lisa stripped out: no multitasking, little RAM, no hard disk, no slots or expansion. All that was left was the GUI. But that was the most important bit, as Steve Jobs saw and nobody much else did.

So, a year later, the ST had a DOS-like OS but a bolted-on GUI. No shell, just a GUI. Fast-for-the-time CPU, no fancy chips, and it did great. It had the original, uncrippled version of DR GEM. Apple's lawsuit meant that PC GEM was crippled: no overlapping windows, no desktop drive icons or trashcan, etc.

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