something interesting in early computer history


I'm reading a recent book on Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft with Bill Gates. When IBM developed their personal computer, they asked Microsoft to develop the programming languages and the operating system for it. Bill Gates told them he had not developed an operating system before and referred them to Digital Research and Gary Kildall who had developed CP/M. The IBM reps went to Digital Research for a meeting. Gary Kildall was traveling on that day, so they met with his wife who was also involved with the company. IBM asked her to sign an NDA; she refused and asked them to sign Digital Research's NDA. IBM came back to Bill Gates and said they could not work with the Digital Research people, and Bill Gates agreed to develop what would become MS-DOS.

It's interesting to think what might have happened had Ms. Kildall just signed the NDA.


Just to think of it makes me feel very sad.

I agree, to bad Ms. Kildall didn't jump for it!


What actually happened after the Kildall incident was M$ purchased the rights to Tim Paterson's Seattle Computer Products' QDOS for $50,000 and the rest as they say is history...


After the "Quick-and-Dirty" had been removed out of the name QDOS, it was named Microsoft (for MS-DOS)!

If they would have named it Software or even Mega-Soft, that would have been a bold exaggeration ...

10E-6 microSoftware

10E-0 Software

10E6 MegaSoftware

(I did it again, couldn't resist ;-)


10E-6 microSoftware

10E-0 Software

10E6 MegaSoftware

10^99 Google


Edited: 26 Apr 2011, 9:17 a.m.



10^99 Google



One Question: What is the reason to use the acronyms "TSS" for "10^99-Software" or "TAS" for "the expensive place to bet for vintage RPN calculators"?

Maybe I sould search the archive, but I beg on your grace to shed some light on this tread (or should I say treat, or even threat?!)

thanks in advance


IMHO, it all evolved from TOS, being a well established acronym in this forum for a site whose name must not be mentioned here (see older posts, and books of J.K. Rowling).

TAS: There were repeated discussions about to weight of that electronic concave costal section in the forum. Taking into account that forum discussions are archived and distributed on DC/DVD, links to that site will be broken soon and turn useless. Some forumers decided to circumvent the original name of that site (erroneously assuming this name itself triggered anger) and soon TAS arose, pointing to That Auction Site. In fact, there even was a decision some years ago that pure auction stuff should not spoil this forum.

TSS: I guess that was created in analogy, calling it That Search Site.




From Google:

1 googol = 1.0 × 10100


From Google:

1 googol = 1.0 × 10100

very sharp!

Because it's not anymore just TSS but also gmail, maps, earth, translator, picasa, ...

we now speak of a comPLEX G-world:

1 googolplex = 1.0 × 10googol


Gary Kildall was traveling on that day

I always thought that rather than travelling he "blew off IBM to gallivant around in his airplane". Business Week



I always thought that rather than travelling he "blew off IBM to gallivant around in his airplane".

That's a myth. The IBM'ers met with Dorothy McEwen, who was married to Gary Kildall and was marketing director of Digital Research, as well their corporate counsel (Jerry Davis, if I recall correctly). I understand the stumbling block was the IBM non-disclosure agreement.


--- Les




The story I heard that time was Kildall went flying in a small plane when the IBM came to see him. They felt snubbed and left. Also Bill gates purchased something like QDOS (a rival for CP/M) for $80K and sold it (or a variant of it) to IBM as PC-DOS.



Namir, according to Paul Allen, Kildall said he was flying on business that day. And, yes, IBM purchased QDOS from Seattle Computer Products for $10,000 plus a royalty fee of $15,000 for every company that licensed the software from Microsoft, which initially was only IBM, so Bill Gates immediately paid $25,000 to Seattle Computer Products.


At the time, Microsoft was doing a tidy business in BASIC interpreters for various microcomputers, including Apple. As I heard it, IBM asked them to create a BASIC interpreter for the PC, but IBM didn't have an operating system for it at the time. MS quickly realized that they needed an OS before they could do much of anything with BASIC.



MS quickly realized that they needed an OS before they could do much of anything with BASIC.

So they were into basic interpreters and not OS's, which only proofs that they should have better stayed with what they (thought they) were good at.

It's us that have to endure the mess out of it!



I was making my living using various pre-IBM PC's all of which ran Digital Research's CP/M back then. When the IBM-PC was released, I appreciated MS-DOS as it was easier to use than CP/M was and got much better over time. It wasn't until Windows that things started to head in the wrong direction, at least as far as reliability is concerned.


I agree. The thing I always disliked about MS Windows was the thousands of files that are required, some of which are undoubtedly needed but many of which, I am sure, you probably don't need, but it's almost impossible to know which is which.

And if you do a CTRL+ALT+DELETE and bring up the list of processes that are running, without an exhaustive Internet search it's hard to determine what all of those are for. Somehow the mentality of the Microsoft Windows designers was that it is OK to have thousands of operating system files present on the user's PC and it is not necessary to tell the user what they are for. I don't like that.

I'm still running Windows XP, which gives you access to the MSDOS prompt. Is that true for Vista and Windows 7?


I have a casual interest in Minix, as an OS it has a "micro kernal" of ~4000 lines of code. This allows the kernel to run more efficiently (such as not running/storing in near memory, drivers that are not going to be used, such as for a lightpen or cassette tape drive). But so far it seems little more than a novelty.

As far as Windows command line goes, I believe Win98 stopped using DOS underpinnings and hence the "command line" simulates a DOS environment. Newer PC processors have RISC cores surrounded by silicon that adapts the x86 CISC commands to the RISC cores.


dona nobis pacem


It was Windows NT which stopped using DOS below the hood, Windows 98 and ME (the "latest and greatest") sticked to the old DOS first, then let Windows take as much control as necessary dogma.


I have a casual interest in Minix, as an OS it has a "micro kernal" of ~4000 lines of code.

If you're interested in MINIX, Andrew Tannenbaum's Operating Systems: Design and Implementation is worth a read. MINIX was written by Tannenbaum to illustrate different principles of OS design, and the above text is essentially an extended commentary on MINIX.

It's also a commonly used textbook in OS design classes, so it's usually pretty easy to find used copies for next to nothing.



I'm still running Windows XP, which gives you access to the MSDOS prompt. Is that true for Vista and Windows 7?

Vista an 7 have a command window that looks very much like DOS.

I mostly use it to run the ping command which isn't in the help that comes up when you type HELP but never the less is useful.


I don't want to start a war about which OS or what preference, just some thoughts of mine:

I agree to what Katie and Don said. DOS was ok, even batch programming had it's sophisticated not so obvious "features" that allowed for powerful scripts too.

But with Windows, it changed to "security through obscurity":
The problem with that approach is, it hinders the innocent user but the malicious mind still finds the holes and hidden information and will do harm.

Unfortunately we can't always freely choose, what OS is running on some computers. Every OS has it's disadvantages, just find the pearls and try to find a way around the ugly.

There are still pearls out there :-)


As a Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie song says, every OS sucks!


Thanks Eric. That guy is really good.


Love it! Every OS does suck, well except for TOPS-20, but they killed that off long ago :(


I'm used to working in the Guardian environment, the operating system created for the Tandem NonStop servers now being HP machines. You really need to get used to it and its paradigms but it has a bunch of features making it ideal for its purposes: Data safety, reliability, performance, scalability. It's a bit of a niche market but working with these machines is more fun than with other commercial offerings. I even have an old Tandem K202 in my basement.


...every OS sucks!

Not Exec 8 Level 27 for the Univac 1108! (1971)

Not the Poseidon Supervisor (affectionately called Pea Soup) for the Poseidon Ballistic Missile Submarine fire control computers. (1972)

Next thing you know, someone will claim that even IBM O/S 360 JCL sucks. (I still remember bumper stickers that read "Honk if you love JCL".)

Edited: 28 Apr 2011, 12:01 a.m.

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