TMCnet Feature
July 28, 2011

MS-DOS Turns 30 - 'You Say You Want a Revolution'

By Peter Bernstein, Senior Editor

The story by now is legend. In 1980 IBM (News - Alert) approached Digital Research (DR) to license a version of its CP/M (Control Program for Microcomputers) as the operating system (OS) for a new IBM product to be known as the IBM Personal Computer. Gary Kildall, developer of CP/M and head of DR, could not find common ground with IBM on a non-disclosure agreement. IBM, without an OS of its own, turned instead to Microsoft (News - Alert).



On July 27, 1981, Microsoft gave the name MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System) to the OS it bought on that day from Seattle Computer Products.  It had previously gone by the name 86-DOS, aka QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System), and Microsoft paid $25,000 for an initial license and for another $50,000 bought it outright. The rest, as they say, is history. IBM launched the PC (which for trivia buffs was known as project “Acorn”) on August 12, 1981. The personal computing revolution was off and running, and doing so on DOS.

For those of you too young to remember, here is what the pre-graphical user interface world looked like courtesy of MS-DOS:

It wasn’t fun. However, it was functional and enabled the personal use of early word processing and spreadsheet programs.  Note, also, that this was before mice and back when floppy disks really were floppy. And, just because it was not pretty did not mean it was not popular. MS-DOS not only became synonymous with the IBM PC brand and the dominant OS for business as well as personal use for years to come, but the PC world became an IBM clone world, further cementing MS-DOS’s market position and Bill Gates’ (News - Alert) rise to the top of the list of the world’s wealthiest individuals.

For those of us of a certain age, it is difficult to believe how fast time has flown and how much has happened in that time period.

Happy Birthday MS-DOS! 


Peter Bernstein is a technology industry veteran, having worked in multiple capacities with several of the industry's biggest brands, including Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent, Telcordia, HP, Siemens, Nortel, France Telecom (News - Alert), and others, and having served on the Advisory Boards of 15 technology startups. To read more of Peter's work, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves
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