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MS DOS: A Eulogy 794

roadhog95 writes: "Love it or hate it, I'm sure everyone's got a love story or traumatic memory of the infamous MS-DOS. Byte magazine reports on the passing away of DOS in light of the recent Windows XP launch. Even Regis Philben stopped by to pay tribute: 'Bill... Is that your final command prompt?'"
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MS DOS: A Eulogy

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  • by MrBlack ( 104657 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @08:49AM (#2496483)
    While it was around I could always use this joke..."I know DOS's SOD". I guess I'll need to find/think up/steal some more material.
    • Please insert sense of humour into drive a:
      (L)augh, (R)etry, (F)ail.

    • Remembering DOS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Delph ( 149273 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @09:48AM (#2496728) Homepage

      Even through I now solely use Linux I will miss DOS. It was my first operating system and my lifeline whenever the users on the network screwed up with their Window$ boxes.

      With DOS and Doom I learned syntaxsis, options and commands. It gave me the challenge and the boost necessary for me to head towards an IT career.

      So long DOS, you were Window$ last hope!

      • Re:Remembering DOS (Score:5, Insightful)

        by stevey ( 64018 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @10:05AM (#2496787) Homepage

        Even through I now solely use Linux I will miss DOS. It was my first operating system and my lifeline whenever the users on the network screwed up with their Window$ boxes.

        I often think its funny how a lot of people cite the use of the command line as being a factor in slowing its spread.

        Back in the "old days" everybody use DOS, and the command line ruled.

        Maybe my friends weren't typical - but I remember in Windows 3.1 days many of them would say "Oh, that'd be easier in DOS".

        Now with the GUI spread of Windows people are being taught to think of command line utilities as old fashioned - and less powerfull, which is clearly a mistake.

      • Re:Remembering DOS (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Rentar ( 168939 )

        I agree with what you most of what you say, but ....

        So long DOS, you were Window$ last hope!

        Don't confuse DOS with the command line. DOS itself was a horrible cludge. The command line (contained in was not much better, but much better for some tasks than the Windows GUI. Windows NT & 2000 left DOS out long before XP and they both still had a Command Line (not as useful as a bash, but better than nothing).

    • If I'd known this event was due to happen, I would have got in first and typed

      doskey exit=@for %a in (%windir%\*) do start "DOS LIVES!"$Texit

  • Just because xp doesn't use it, doesn't mean I am not going to use dos.

    Yet another reason NOT to go to Microsoft for new software.
    • No MS_DOS prompt is just one more reason I wouldn't move to XP, not that I even plan to. Still on 98 and I've been re-discovering some of my favorite old software and games from 386 days (remember Scorched Earth []?) Much of these require the DOS shell, even if you have to fool around with slowing the computer or something.

      Can't expect old dogs like me to leap on the bandwagon just because there is one. Maybe someone will write an MS_DOS emulator for XP ;-)

  • FreeDOS / DOSEmu (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CmdrPaco ( 531189 )
    Hopefully FreeDOS and the DOSEmu will live on!
  • If I never have to rename my autoexec.bat and config.sys files to play Wolfenstein again, I could die a happy man. You know, there's a reason they called it the dosHELL.exe =)

  • In lieu of flowers, we respectfully request that you make contributions to the charity of your choice.

    Good plan! Let's donate to open source projects in honor of the death of DOS.

    Mmmm... irony. Good stuff.
  • by Thomas M Hughes ( 463951 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @08:56AM (#2496516)
    This just sounds like a Microsoft publicity stunt more than anything. A sort of "We have evolved beyond needing prompts, and are now fully graphically inspired."

    Still, I'd be willing to argue that the removal of legacy DOS functionality isn't always a good thing. You break functionality with code that used to run on previous MS Operating systems. Furthermore, I'd imagine everyone who's been working in computers for awhile has watched the Windows GUI break, and then need the command prompt to fix it.

    Now on the other hand, this may be a plus. Microsoft might actually believe that Windows is stable enough that you don't need the DOS prompt anymore. Stability is always good. But even on the most stable platform in the world, I'd still rather not have something crippled from my operating system just because MS doesn't think I need it anymore.

    But back to this little tid bit of a story...just a marketing ploy, not really news.
    • Furthermore, I'd imagine everyone who's been working in computers for awhile has watched the Windows GUI break, and then need the command prompt to fix it.

      Well I haven't seen the GUI "break," but I do still use the commandline, and it's still in Windows XP. It's just not DOS any more... Big whoop.
    • Now on the other hand, this may be a plus. Microsoft might actually believe that Windows is stable enough that you don't need the DOS prompt anymore.

      Microsoft has believed that since 1993, when Windows NT 3.1 came out.

      Anyway, this isn't about "not needing a command prompt" as NT (and 2000 and XP) have always had one. It's about finally having a Windows operating system for the home that isn't kludged on top of ye olde DOS. (Instead, ye olde DOS is kludged on top of Windows NT. :)

      • Microsoft has believed that since 1993, when Windows NT 3.1 came out.

        I thought that the first NT was actually version 3.51, or am I wrong. Either way, MS did think it was stable since then :)
        • NT Started at NT 3.1 (Score:5, Informative)

          by alexhmit01 ( 104757 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @10:58AM (#2497030)
          Come on, don't you remember all the OS/2 vs. NT 3.1 articles when NT 3.1 shipped? NT 3.1 was a flop, mostly used as a testing ground for people interested in keeping up with MS's new plans.

          NT 3.51 was the first successful version of NT. NT 3.51 SP 5 was amazingly stable... it would be interesting to put an NT 3.51 SP 5 machine up against a Windows 2000 SP 2 (NT 5 SP 2) machine and compare.

          Win32s was the backwards port of the core of the Win32 API to Win3.1. The two goals were:
          1) Get new applications written against the Win32 API so NT (the future) would have some applications
          2) Break OS/2 Windows compatibility layer... they kept changing Win32s until they broke OS/2, then they released apps for Win32s.

          Windows 4.0 (Chicago AKA Windows 93 AKA Windows 95) was the version that combined DOS/Windows (to stop the DR-DOS onslaught) and introduced the Win32 API as the standard API. Win95 resulted in the Win32 apps that allowed NT to show some success on the desktop. NT 3.51 had some success as a server (very useful environment for managing Win3.1 desktops without the cost of Novell).

          Win95 had some new APIs, which were mostly ported to NT 4 (except DirectX > 3 APIs). When I was at Citrix (MS Blocked WinFrame 2.0, then basically bought it to become Terminal Server), we couldn't support newer versions of IE because WinFrame 1.x was based upon NT 3.51, and IE required Win95/NT4 APIs.

          Cairo was supposed to be the end of Windows with NT 4. Two years late and without a lot of functionality, NT 4 had (and still has!) some good server-side support and corporate desktop standing. When NT 4 lacked a lot of the functionality, MS declared that Cairo was a set of projects, not a release, and that some of them would be in NT 5. NT 5, two years late as Windows 2000, finally made a nearly API complete NT to match their home desktop dominance.

          Windows XP appears to use a nearly identical system, focusing on a new user experience based on MacOS's improvements.

          Microsoft has finaly achieved its 8 year goal of eliminating DOS support, ME was the end of the DOS based Windows, and it looks like all the old DOS games are finally dead. MS kept promissing better support for DOS apps/games in the next version of NT, but never delivered, instead stalling on their demise. Oh well.

          Interestingly, NT 3.51 (I don't recall NT 3.5) was extremely portable, commercially supporting 4 processor families (this continued until NT 4, but the other platforms failled to take off).

          The DOS support in NT, the NT VDM, emulated a 286, albeit much faster. This is the reason that you couldn't run fancy things in the DOS emulation, if it was a protected mode DOS API (386 DOS app), the NT VDM couldn't handle it.

          Hopefully a better solution than VMWare (overkill, complexity, etc.) will exist to run old DOS games in emulation. My brother bought me the commercial version of Abuse (at one time a favorite) as a present, but I got it about 2 weeks after I migrated to NT 4 fulltime. Well, my new HTPC (home theater PC, just for gaming, I got me a progressive scan DVD player already) is going to be 98SE or ME based for gaming compatibility, so I guess I'll be able to play the old classics there.

          • Well, my new HTPC (home theater PC, just for gaming, I got me a progressive scan DVD player already) is going to be 98SE or ME based for gaming compatibility, so I guess I'll be able to play the old classics there.

            Actually, XP has a feature that lets you choose what operating system the application is supposed to run under, for compatibility. I beleive you can choose from 95 up to ME. It should fool any game into thinking it is running in that OS.

    • It's a publicity stunt, but it's also slightly wrong:
      at least on XP RC2, you can easily get to the command line.

      I use it for Perl stuff sometimes, and ping and things. It might not be full DOS (oh, the loss of that extreme power will be sorely felt), but it is a command line.

    • I'd like to comment on all of your points.

      (1) this article is a marketing ploy
      (2) removing MS-DOS from XP breaks backward compatibility
      (3) command line necessary restore to working order
      (4) stable enough withouit CLI

      But i'll handle them out of order.

      (2) Removing MS-DOS from XP breaks backward compatibility
      If you're interested in backward compatibility of DOS-based progranms, then you shouldn't upgrade to XP in the fist place. Successive versions of Windows from 95 on have successively had less DOS-compatuibility then it's predecessor. By now, if I need DOS functionality, I wouldn't upgrade to XP even if it had a CLI. (Actually, if I needed MS-DOS compatibility, I FOR SURE would not have gone past 98, if even that far.)

      (3) Command line necessary restore to working order
      Yeah, I'll agree. Or, you could alternately do what most people do: ctl-alt-del, then reset button if that doesn't work (and then for me, there was one time I had to pull the power cord because even the reset button was frozen). Admitedly, if it's important enough that I don't want to reboot, then a CLI is very necessary. But when I'm in Windows, and it crashes, then I normally won't be able to bring up a CLI anyway, nor would I even be able to fix it should that be possible.

      (4) Stable enough withouit CLI
      From (3): "When I'm in Windows, and it crashes, then I won't be able to bring up a CLI anyway." At this point, the only thing I ever use a Windows CLI for is to use ping to see if my network problems are on my end or my ISP's. (it's usually my ISP's: RoadRunner SUCKS! but that's a different thread....) I LOVE my Linux CLI. It's more than a mere "Command Line Interface," but actually a small, on-the-fly, resizeable interpreter with a scrollable history. But the Windows CLI is so limited that it's not really all that useful for me.

      (1) This article is merely a marketing ploy
      Maybe. The conference and celebrity collection probably was a marketing ploy, but it's hard to say whether the article was or not. Either way, this is interesting, and it's hard to deny that (a) MS-DOS is dead (has been "effectively dead" for a while), and (b) it was very important in its day.


  • by fleeb_fantastique ( 208912 ) <fleeb AT fleeb DOT com> on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @08:56AM (#2496517) Homepage
    With the creation of the 32-bit Windows OSes, Microsoft had these relatively unpleasant hacks involving wowexec and system/system32 folders. I suppose they were relatively necessary (although I'm sure folks here could have thought of a better way, but we have the benefit of hindsight).

    Now they're finally leaving 16-bit behind, only to introduce similiar (if not worse) hacks between 32-bit and 64-bit OSes. Instead of following their old design (which at least would have been consistent), they opted to use the system32 folder to hold 64-bit stuff, and to have another folder (is it system64?) hold the 32-bit stuff.

    Confused yet?

    Oh well...
    • by micromoog ( 206608 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @09:42AM (#2496701)
      Oh wait, it's better to have /bin for programs, and /usr/bin for programs, and /sbin for, uh, programs . . . some of which depend on files in various subfolders of /lib (or was it /usr/lib?) . . . much cleaner.
      • Bahaahaahahaha! Don't forget /usr/local/*, and /opt, and /share...

        Linux on the Desktop absolutely has to kill/prune this tangled hierarchy. Explain to me the distinction of "/usr/local" on a desktop machine?? *Everything* is LOCAL.
        • by ethereal ( 13958 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @10:38AM (#2496937) Journal

          /usr/local is for stuff that didn't come with the standard install. /share is actually useful, believe it or not, although I'm not sure where other OSen put user-shared files like that. It's better than /etc, at least. /opt is an abomination and must die, I agree.

          Responding to the parent post: there's a reason for those different /bin directories: /sbin is for statically linked binaries in case your system is really hosed, /bin is for when you don't have /usr mounted, and /usr/bin is for everything else.

          In practice, distributions may not be setting things up quite this way, but IMHO they should. If you're putting everything on just one filesystem, then most of these don't matter, except for /sbin.

          And in case I forgot to mention it, /opt must die. Especially annoying are RPMs that are non-relocatable so that you can't change the install prefix away from that damn /opt. It's a huge pain if you are striving to have the smallest possible root filesystem and then @$%! KDE dumps tons of stuff in /opt. Yes, it's really the RPM makers' fault. No, it still bugs the heck out of me.

      • Tell you what - I'll set up a computer mounting /usr/lib over the network (or off a CD-R, or a ROM device), and you try to mount C:\Windows\ (or was it C:\Windows\System?) the same way, and we'll compare notes on what doesn't break and what does.

        Yeah, it seems crazy, but there are good reasons [] for keeping around most of the Unixisms that Linux still has. There are no good reasons for many of the hacks and 64-bit incompatibilities in the Win32 API, or for Win16 to ever have existed.

  • So Bill Gates typed "exit" and (wow!) the prompt closed, no more DOS, no more unreliable crappy OS's, just XP and .NET - hurray!

    It all began with DOS and DOS will end it as well, or something very much like it - GUI's are overrated. Sometimes you just want a Quick and Dirty Operating System that goes well with scripting, say changing your entire folder of mp3 to use a standard name or just organizing images, perhaps you need to do something that the GUI cant handle. There's nothing a prompt cant handle!

    Long boring story short -> DOS as we know it is dead, but Quick and Dirty Operating System's are the future.

    Long live DOS!

  • by Quazion ( 237706 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @09:04AM (#2496542) Homepage
    here @ []

    I have used it for formating and fdisking fat16
    and fat32 filesystems, or to remove linux
    partitions without a linux bootflop or bootcd.

    And i know people using DOS for there daily
    programming, creation of Embedded Systems and
    ofcourse webbrowsing and chatting....

  • by NZheretic ( 23872 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @09:04AM (#2496543) Homepage Journal
    From "Microsoft the Company"

    * 1982 - Digital Research sues Microsoft and IBM - Wins - . It was obvious MS-DOS and its PC-DOS variant were simply rip- offs of Digital Research's CP/M operating system. It remained only to prove it contained DR code. DR's Gary Kildall sat down at an IBM PC supplied by IBM and, using a secret code, got it to pop up a Digital Research copyright notice.

    It's case won, Digital Research received monetary compensation and the right to clone MS-DOS. This is why Microsoft never sued DR over DR-DOS, but used every other means to destroy it. The settlement was under a strict non- disclosure agreement, so few even know DR sued, never mind that they won.

    Digital Research was purchased by Novel and destroyed by neglect and mismanagement. The products now belong to Caldera, which has filed suit against Microsoft over predatory practices used to destroy DR-DOS's market.

    • The settlement was under a strict non- disclosure agreement, so few even know DR sued, never mind that they won.

      So how do you (or the author of the book) know about it, if the suit and settlement were such a well-kept secret? Sure you aren't making this up on the fly?

    • by sheldon ( 2322 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @12:39PM (#2497634)
      One of the interesting things about most of the anti-Microsoft conspiracies is that they all involve settlements covered under Non-Disclosure agreements. This way there is no way to validate the authenticity of the story.

      It makes it rather convenient.

      At the time there was no secret that the new MS-DOS was very similar to CP/M-80. CP/M is what people were used to using and seeing, and so Patterson designed his new OS for 16 bit processors to behave similarly. But there were also pieces of functionality that arrived into MS-DOS that were similar to Unix.

      It's also entirely possible that it included some similar code. CP/M-80 BDOS could be disassembled and carried in your briefcase. It only took up around 5-7K of RAM and wasn't that complicated at all.

      Besides, if MS-DOS had really been a copy of CP/M, wouldn't it have also implemented the PIP and STAT commands?

      But the real question is... does it matter?

      From everything I've read of Gary Kildall and Digital Research, already at the time IBM first approached them the company was too big for Kildall's liking. He was not a manager, he hated it. But he was also a control freak and couldn't stand someone else running things for him.

      One story I read indicated that he often would walk around the office building afraid to go in, and that at one point he even offered to sell the whole thing to a friend of his for $50,000.

      One of the realities is that some people are willing to grab success, and others aren't. There are a lot of people in this world who purposefully miss an opportunity because they are unhappy or uncomfortable with assuming the responsibility it might entail.

      Kildall was one such person. Obviously Bill Gates is not.

      It's that difference in personalities that is really the secret behind Microsoft.

      Personally, I know that I'm a lot like Gary Kildall in that regard. But knowing this I also try to not be resentful when I pass up an opportunity.
  • Alternate shells (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zocalo ( 252965 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @09:05AM (#2496546) Homepage
    I dumped COMMAND.EXE for JP Software's [] 4DOS as soon as I found out about it - way back when it was on version 2.x. It's evolved a lot since then and the current version, 7.0, gives modern *NIX shells a pretty good run for their money and interfaces very well with the GUI.

    There is still the problem of having to wait for each stage of the pipe to finish before the next can begin, but there is definately life in the old DOS yet and I'll be using JP's shells long after COMMAND/CMD has gone the way of the dodo.

  • Did anyone else notice that the article [] was written by slashdot's very own king of trolls - Jon Erickson ? You don't have to be an Insightful genius to realise what is going on here!

    Is it too much to ask the slashdot editors to check things like this before posting ? This troll is not even worthy of []

  • by Otis_INF ( 130595 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @09:07AM (#2496556) Homepage
    What I always found funny was that when a certain DOS program went bezerk, EMM386 thought to jump in and save your ass with... that's right, shutting down the computer before you could save _ANYTHING_, showing words similar to:

    "EMM386 has shutdown your computer to prevent loss of data".

    Thankfully these days are over... o wait, nv_disp.dll just went into a stop 0xea
  • by klmth ( 451037 ) <> on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @09:09AM (#2496559) Homepage Journal
    Calling MS-DOS an operating system is stretching the concept quite a bit.
    DOS was nothing but a glorified interrupt handler. It wasn't unstable, since there was practically nothing to be unstable with.

    It didn't protect itself from userland programs, which is generally considered a bad thing. Granted, this gave the programmer freedom to completely work around the operating system, but at the same time allowed said programs to royally mess things up.

    From a single-task, single-user system, it was quite good, provided the programs behaved nicely. DOS Extensions even provided it with protected memory, making life a bit easier.
    New command interpreters, like 4DOS, injected new life into the system.
    If you accepted it as a single-user, single-task enviroment, it was adequate.

    I find the decision to remove any and all CLI from Windows a bit odd, considering that Apple went the opposite direction with Mac OS X.

    • I find the decision to remove any and all CLI from Windows a bit odd, considering that Apple went the opposite direction with Mac OS X.

      I find it funny how people are equating "DOS is dead" to "No more CLI in Windows".

      DOS was never a part of WinNT, Win2K, or WinXP. Yet, all three have command prompts.
    • [MS-DOS] didn't protect itself from userland programs, which is generally considered a bad thing.

      How exactly would you implement such protections on processors (eg 8086) which don't support protected memory?

      I'll agree that there are many thing that MS-DOS did not do, but in most cases such things were impossible on x86 hardware until the 286 (and the 386 if you wanted to do things properly).
    • Calling MS-DOS an operating system is stretching the concept quite a bit.
      DOS was nothing but a glorified interrupt handler. It wasn't unstable, since there was practically nothing to be unstable with.

      Hmmm? You seem to be saying it didn't support multitasking or protected memory so it wasn't operating system. By your definition, CP/M isn't an operating system, Apple DOS and Apple ProDOS aren't operating systems.

      What is an OS? An interface between the application program and the hardware right?

      DOS was all of that. It had an API even (INT 21h). It did the file management, disk access functions, even some rudimentary memory management. (Better memory management came in later releases. EMM386.EXE is surely part of DOS, right? :-)
  • by ksp ( 203038 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @09:09AM (#2496561) Homepage
    [Bil Gates] stated, "It's the end of the MS-DOS era," referring to the exorcism of 16-bit code from the Windows code base.

    What, again??
  • In announcing MS-DOS's demise, Microsoft founder Bill Gates typed "exit" at the MS-DOS command line during the launch of Windows XP.

    A prize to the person who provides an explanation for how Billy Boy typed "exit" at a command line that doesn't exist?

    I haven't had a chance to get at an WinXP machine to check, but the command line must still be there. There's too many reasons that it's necessary, e.g. SQL Server has loads of command-line utilities. Just because MS have taken it off the start menu doesn't mean that it can't be accessed by someone with half a brain.
  • DOS was good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ankit ( 70020 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @09:22AM (#2496606) Homepage Journal
    People keep complaining about DOS all the time... about autoexec.bat, config.sys, and what not. IMHO, DOS was and _is_ one of the best and cleanest operating systems to learn about the intel architecture. Where else can you issue BIOS interrupts, and play around with system memory? Linux doesnt let me do that unless I compile a kernel module, and what not.
    Trey, DOS wasnt the best desktop/server/handheld Operating System, but it surely was a great learning experience for all who used and programmed for it.

    I still use TurboC on DOS when I need to try out some small program, and dont want to wait for linux to load.

    Another point, I dont think you can ever have a successful operating system without any command prompt. Copying and moving files can never be as easy using a dumb GUI file manager.

    • >DOS wasnt the best desktop/server/handheld Operating System, but it surely was a great
      >learning experience for all who used and programmed for it.

      It was certainly an education!

      - look what dros we can actually sell!
      - Oh look you're computer has crashed again!
      - Clashes between TSR programs anyone?
      - 640K limits anyone?
      - horrible command line interface
      - needed half a dozen separate programs to make it even faintly usable- and not really even then.
  • Does Byte still exist as a print mag? I don't remember seeing it in any bookstores recently. Last I remember, it was a pretty thin excuse for a magazine where once it was thick with articles and advertising. :-(
    • It went to online only a couple of years ago, but Jerry Pournelle reports that it's being resurrected. Even in its last years it had great stuff in it. Go to your library and look at the April 98 issue, "Why Pc's crash, and mainframes don't". They could re-publish it today, just changing the dates, and it would be just as true.
  • at a Msft sales, uh, 'technical presentation' here in '96. The showman said, and I quote, "Lets have a moment of silence for DOS... " altho what he was refering to was dropping support for DOS as a seperate product.
  • by weave ( 48069 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @09:34AM (#2496655) Journal
    What is on the floppy when I get a BIOS driver update disk from Dell or other manufacturers? Oh, it boots DOS. Golly. Will Microsoft refuse to license bootable DOS floppies now? Are they now free? Do they have an alternative solution that boots some minimal OS to do firmware upgrades or other needed tasks?

    Somehow I don't think DOS is as dead as they make it out.

  • by cobyrne ( 118270 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @09:36AM (#2496666) Homepage

    I guess this means we will now never know the correct answer to -

    Error reading drive A:
    Abort, Retry, Ignore?

  • by cr@ckwhore ( 165454 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @09:40AM (#2496690) Homepage
    Here's my reality... and I'm not kidding about this, but feel free to mod up to "funny".

    I work for a software company, maintaining 15 year old DOS Software. The company is owned by older people that can't move fast enough to be in this industry... but somehow, we're still managing to sell this software to unsuspecting people.

    We have 2 applications... both of which are touted as "high-end", mission critical apps. A typical installation could cost the client somewhere around $50,000 USD, sometimes more. Here's what they get:

    1. A nasty DOS app written in Qbasic, using a Btrieve database on a Novell Server, all running over our favorite protocol, IPX.

    Sounds good? Well, its my nightmare!!!

    When win2k was released, a lot of little things in our DOS app stopped working. Our company's president refused to believe that MS-DOS was anything less than cutting edge. Now that XP was released, and more things are broken, our company's president refuses to believe that microsoft would abandon DOS.

    Anyway, enough rambling about this. Its a sad fact that there are companies STILL working with DOS programs. Sad. Even worse, is that I'm typing here, rather than working on that Qbasic crap.

    c:\> del *.*

  • by cr@ckwhore ( 165454 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @09:44AM (#2496711) Homepage
    MS-DOS could have survived, if back in the early 90's, Microsoft had wanted to continue developing it. They made it obsolete by choice... I'm sure they could have easily turned it into a multitasking, 32 bit, networked OS, and still could have put a GUI on top of that.

    It just wasn't in their best interested to do so.

    • ... I'm sure they could have easily turned it into a multitasking, 32 bit, networked OS, and still could have put a GUI on top of that.

      Which would have turned it into Windows, surely?

  • by ajs ( 35943 ) <ajs AT ajs DOT com> on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @10:02AM (#2496779) Homepage Journal
    The water is getting muddy, here, so let me explain for those who are lost in the buzzword-bingo:

    First there was DOS (well, not really, but that's where my story begins). DOS was not really an OS so much as a very simple library and some interupt handlers. The command-prompt was a program that came with it, and a very important one (so were "dir", "del" and others).

    When MS decided to build a graphical interface, they did so on top of DOS. DOS was still there as the core interupt handler, but Windows was how the user interacted with the system.

    This posed some problems. Windows was not a multi-tasking OS because DOS was not. Windows faked it by giving applications library routines that let them manage their own time-slices in a cooperative multitasking framework. Any app that wanted to take over the system simply avoided calling those routines, but that would be considered bad form.

    Eventually, MS build may kludges into Windows to allow memory protection and something resembling premptive multi-tasking. These are good things, but 95, 98 and ME are all still DOS-based.

    With NT (2000 and XP are NT versions) MS wrote the whole OS from scratch and did a fairly good job at the low levels (yes, NT is a nice OS down near the hardware where you never interact with it). At the higher levels, they just took the miserable waste of system resources called Win32 (MS' port of Windows to a 32-bit environment) and pasted it on top of NT. Win32 has grown and become more NT-friendly over the years, but it's still the vestige of a DOS-based windowing environment on top of what is arguably a fine OS.

    Woefully, the dream that MS engineers had of creating a flexible mircrokernel platform was also squashed. NT was supposed to have several smaller sub-systems to support many types of application access (the POSIX subsystem is a demonstration of the dismal failure of that plan). In reality, all NT, 2000 and XP apps have to go through Win32 to be useful, and Win32 is what most folks think of when they think Microsoft OS.

    In the end, the recent press about DOS disapearing is actually misleading. DOS may be gone from NT, 2000 and XP, but the legacy of Windows remains, and will continue to taint MS products for a very long time.
    • "dir" and "del" and several other things were not programs that "came with" DOS, but were internal functions of the command interpreter. Some other internal functions included "type", "echo" and "cls". External programs included with DOS covered the more "complex" operations, for example, "format", "fdisk" and of course, "mode"
    • NT is certainly nothing like what it was originally intended to be. I've heard that it was developed on Alphas and then ported to the i386, just to make sure the developers made portability a priority. Look how long THAT lasted...

      However, NT is POSIX compliant, just as much as Linux is, in fact. POSIX is a very general and practically useless standard; it's very easy to implement because it defines very little, and leaves many important considerations out.
    • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @12:05PM (#2497386)
      "MS wrote the whole OS from scratch and did a fairly good job at the low levels"


      Back when IBM and MS were all buddy-buddy still, they started working on a DOS-killer by the name of "OS/2." OS/2 1.x came out from both companies much in the same was as early MS/PC-DOS releases. From there, though, differences in coding opinion brought about a code forking in its successors. On the one hand, IBM went on to make OS/2 2.x, and ever onward to OS/2 Warp.

      On Microsoft's side of the fork, they were working on OS/2 3.0. They took what they had of the code, put the ol' Windows 3.1 GUI on top of it, and released it. However, instead of calling it "OS/2 3.x," they opted instead to rename it "Windows NT 3.x." Ever wonder why Windows XP can run programs that use older OS/2 instruction sets, or why NT up to 3.51 could read HPFS?

      More details are available at a rather interesting article over here [].

      So, I guess I'm just trying to point out that they didn't do a very good job with NT at the lower levels. IBM did.
  • DOS will never die. (Score:3, Informative)

    by walnut ( 78312 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @10:07AM (#2496789)
    MS DOS may now have gone away, but in the land of PC-104s TinyLinux and RomDOS will continue to have practical applications. Any system that needs to continually chug along, fit into a peanut sized Flash ROM and otherwise work happily ever after will have a need. MS may be out of the market, but who cares? :)
  • by jalefkowit ( 101585 ) <.moc.ztiwokfelnosaj. .ta. .nosaj.> on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @10:08AM (#2496802) Homepage
    The venerable MS-DOS is dead... but its kissing cousin PC-DOS [] lives on at IBM []. Yes, Big Blue will happily sell you PC-DOS 2000 [] for the low, low price of only $62 ($50 if you want the download-only version).

    I can understand why they offer it -- there's probably still a few places where legacy DOS apps are in place, and IBM has a long history of never ever backing away from a technology it's made a "strategic commitment" to. Still, it's funny to click on the "System requirements" link and see "Intel 8088/8086, 512K RAM, 6-18MB hard disk space". Kinda takes ya back, doesn't it? (snif)

    -- Jason Lefkowitz

    • Not only that, but the two new versions of OS/2, the Convience Pack (from IBM) and eComStation (from Serenity), both retain DOS support. In fact, in eCS, the standard install forces DOS and Win-OS/2 support (but you can remove it later).

      For the record, OS/2's DOS support is generally superior to PC-DOS itself, with the exception of a few apps (mostly games) that won't run.

  • Two years ago, for my job, I helped develop an application that has to be updated on a periodic basis. The application is installed on various sites across the country, and updates are on CD-ROM. Although I could install the new files in a few seconds, I found that it took pages to explain the process to a technician.

    My solution was a set of batch files that ran when the CD was inserted. The "installation program" was interactive, including a menu with several options. The program did things like selectively copy files, changed permissions from read-only to read write (files copied from a CD were read-only by default), verify network shares and copy files to other computers, and even updated DLLs if necessary (reboot required). It took about a week to develop, but simplified the instructions a great deal (Close program on all PCs, Insert CD, Select 2, Reboot all PCs when done).

    Is MS-DOS really gone, or do they have the same kind of MS-DOS emulation that WinNT has? And, if it is gone, does anyone know of a free scripting language that would perform like DOS Batch files? I'd hate to think if there was a hardware failure I'd have to buy an installation software suite, or convince the customer to install a nationwide secure network...

  • by OmegaDan ( 101255 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @10:15AM (#2496833) Homepage
    Im serious :) who is making games with *great storytelling* like the old dos games?

    Dos games were great because the graphics SUCKED so you *HAD* to tell a good story to keep anyone interested ...

    IMHO, 3d was the worst thing to happen to games. Kids buy games for "Awesome graphics" (tell me what that means someone)... because people are too stupid anymore to tell presentation from content! If you wrap a pile of shit in pretty box they'll pay for it ...

    (end rant)
  • When they finally decided to pull the plug, DOS is rumoured to have responded:

    "Keyboard error, press F1 to resume."

  • DOS is not dead (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Friendly ( 160067 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @10:33AM (#2496913)
    Ever watch a Novell server boot up (well our server here in the office has been up for 516 days so I have not seen ours reboot in a LONG while). The last Novell 5.1 server I setup started it boot-up procedure by loading Caldera DOS.

    Also the company I work for still active sells and supports TWO DOS applications. Both are property management programs. Both have large install bases countrywide. Our main product has finally developed a stable window's version and we are slow converting people, but most of our users are still on the DOS version.

    DOS is not dead, it is just being phased out of the M$ OSes. This is something that they should have done long ago, but from the comments I have been seeing and hearing they did not remove the limitations that DOS placed on the windows products. Seems that while they may have removed the DOS code, they have not gotten rid of the bloat that it created. Once again M$ gives us a half-assed version of what Windows could be.

    As a VAR we will be telling every one of our clients to avoid Windows XP like the plague, if just for the DOS issue. This is hard to do as for some reason small businesses buy computers with Windows ME and Windows XP Home Ed. We still push Windows 98 and have just now started supporting Windows 2000 and now there is a new Windows OS. I am so happy, now I will get to go to sites with Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows XP Home (and pro may be) and a couple Windows 2000s thrown in. All in time for M$ to come in and audit the place for valid licenses. Ridiculous.


    Beer pong, the gentleman's drinking game.
  • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @10:49AM (#2496984)
    This is a classic example of how nostalgia can be stronger than history. MS-DOS was terrible, so terrible, in many ways. It has nothing to do with the 16-bitness of it, or even driver memory crunch hell, but simply that the command prompt side of it was an embarrassment from day one.

    It took over ten years before there was any kind of command history (with doskey, you could finally hit the up arrow to recall previous commands). There wasn't a real alias mechanism until doskey either. And heck--and everyone forgets this--you couldn't even properly edit the command line until doskey came along. File completion was never standard. The batch file commands were braindead and severely limited.

    Sure, some third parties walked in with their own top notch command processors--most notably JP Software with 4DOS, which is still better than every UNIX shell I've ever used--but even with over a decade to work on it, the largest PC software company in the world couldn't manage to write decent command processor given years to do so. And the worst part is that it was so easy it could have been a high school project. Dr. Dobb's Journal even published the source code for a bash-like shell that replaced

    I think the likely answer here is that Microsoft could have written something better, but they spent a decade trying to beat down MS-DOS and replace it with something else. Remember, Windows 1.0 shipped in 1985. So for all that time, MS-DOS users were stuck with an intentionally inferior product. It's difficult to forget the pain of those days.
  • DOS Hardly Gone (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The Borg ( 21809 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @11:00AM (#2497045) Homepage
    Although various system calls and 16bit support may have disappeared, most of the DOS look and feel is still going strong in Windoze.

    I havn't used XP yet but I'll be surprised if these DOS features have been removed:

    Directory structures starting with a 'drive' letter

    Text/Binary open Mode for files (the notorious ^Ms)

    The inability to delete a file which is open

    File types based on .xxx extension

    OS compontents still using 8.3 filename format

  • Working with Gary (Score:3, Informative)

    by keath_milligan ( 521186 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @11:04AM (#2497060) Homepage

    From 1990 to 1993, I had the unique opportunity to work closely with Gary Kildall.

    By that time, Gary was already in the process of separating himself officially from Digital Research (did you know it was originally named "Intergalactic Digital Research"?) to pursue other interests, but was still in touch with the company on a personal level.

    It was a great experience and a wonderful way to start a geek career. I originally was hired to help build and test wire-wrapped prototypes (for an internet appliance no less! in 1990!). Quickly from there Gary recognized my coding abilities and I was writing embedded code within a few weeks of starting.

    Microsoft had just released Windows 3.1 and boy was Gary pissed - apparently Microsoft had intentionally modified Windows since 3.0 to specifically not work on DR-DOS (and yes, that's Digital Research DOS, not "doctor DOS"). MS claimed otherwise, but it was enough to pretty much kill DR - DR-DOS never reclaimed the lost market share (the first killer-apps were beginning to hit big in Windows at that point) and you all know the rest of that story.

    Now for some ancient history - I was always cringe when I hear the oft-repeated story that IBM chose MS-DOS over CP/M for the PC because Gary was out flying his airplane when they showed up or some variation thereof. This is at best a half-truth.

    Gary was already a wealthy man by that point. CP/M was licensed by a variety of manufacturers and DR was doing reasonably well. At that time, there was no reason to think that one single computer architecture would rise to completely dominate the industry - you had Osbournes, Kaypros, Apples, Commodore PETs, and a host of other machines all with loyal followings.

    When IBM was designing the PC, they didn't want to merely license a DOS from another company they wanted to own a DOS. This put Gary off, he viewed CP/M as having a future and he didn't want to completely sell out to IBM. Microsoft had no such reluctance. Microsoft sold PC-DOS to IBM and continued to produce MS-DOS - hence MS-DOS vs. PC-DOS. It was a happy relationship for a while, but we all know the rest of that story. DR did go on to license CP/M-86 to IBM as an alternative, but by that time, it was too little too late.

    Also, I wanted to comment on the story that during a visit with IBM, Gary typed in some code on MS-DOS and made a Digital Research copyright notice appear - I'm pretty sure this is just an industry legend. Gary never accused them of stealing actual code, just stealing ideas.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    DOS was never present in the NT kernel. That's one of the reasons it's so much more stable than any of the 9x kernels, because they don't have to support old code.

    Cmd.exe,, and any other variation is -not- DOS. It never was. Not even in DOS 1.0 was, "DOS". It was -always- just the commandline interface to the underlying OS which was DOS. Most linux users would understand that distinction between the OS and the UI, but for some reason Windows users don't always grasps this. ;)

    Oh, and by the way, Windows XP is mostly just Windows 2000 with a pretty interface.. don't let MS fool you.
  • DOS Based Windows (Score:5, Informative)

    by linebackn ( 131821 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @11:29AM (#2497184)
    On occasions I have had to explain to people which versions of Windows really run on top of MS-DOS. It is somewhat confusing because MS changed all the names around. Here is a list that might be of interest here.

    The following versions of Windows run on top of MS-DOS:
    Windows 1.x
    Windows 2.x
    Windows 3.x
    Windows 95 (Bundled MS-DOS 7.00 that is no longer sold as seperate product)
    Windows 95 OSR2 (Bundled MS-DOS 7.10)
    Windows 98 and 98SE (Bundled MS-DOS 7.10)
    Windows ME (Bundled MS-DOS 8.00, but exiting to MS-DOS is now forbidden)

    The following versions of Windows do not run on top of MS-DOS:
    Windows NT 3.1
    Windows NT 3.5x
    Windows NT 4.0
    Windows 2000 (NT 5.0)
    Windows XP (NT 5.1)
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @01:51PM (#2498089) Homepage
    NT, in its various forms, has a "16 bit subsystem" for running 16-bit programs. (In NT 3.x, you could choose not to install it; it was a separate module.) Was the 16-bit capability removed from XP? Finally? Please?

    The thing that looks like an MS-DOS window under NT isn't. That's a 32-bit command line interpreter that runs on top of NT, looks vaguely like DOS, but has no involvement with the 16-bit system.

  • by Webmoth ( 75878 ) on Tuesday October 30, 2001 @01:52PM (#2498096) Homepage
    ...there was QDOS. This stood for "Quick and Dirty Operating system."

    Then, Microsoft bought it, got rid of the "Quick" and kept the "Dirty."

    That left us with MS-DOS.

Stinginess with privileges is kindness in disguise. -- Guide to VAX/VMS Security, Sep. 1984