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Microsoft

Cringely On Gates' Free Software Connection 303

cworley writes: "Slashdot recently reported on Gates' paternity claims over Open Source at a recent shareholders meeting. Although Gates' actual statement didn't make a great deal of sense, it looked as an attempt to revise history to portray himself as the creator of Open Source by initiating the PC's open architecture (or reverse engineering the BIOS to wrestle exclusive control of PC system sales from IBM). In Cringely's weekly article, he attempts to find the truth in Gates' statement. IBM's Jack Sams provides an historical perspective of Gates' role in the genesis of the PC's open architecture. "
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Cringely On Gates' Free Software Connection

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  • Treasure! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 20, 2001 @11:23PM (#2594087)
    Why would Cringely try to find the truth behind Gates' statement? Couldn't he look for gold at the end of the rainbow or something? There's a better chance he'll find it.
  • Paternity? (Score:4, Redundant)

    by Cruciform ( 42896 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2001 @11:27PM (#2594104) Homepage
    Of course Bill Gates is the father of Open-Source. Apparently he used the same midwife that Al Gore did when he gave birth to the Internet.
    Next thing you know Rosie O'Donnell is going to claim that she invented the chubby, annoying talk show host.
    • I hope you aren't deliberately suggesting this analogy, SAT-style:

      Bill Gates : open source software :: Al Gore : Internet :: Rosie O'Donnell : chubby annoying talk show host
      • Of course, the clueless really beleive Bill.

        After all, as time goes on, the people who know where the bodies are buried will start to disappear. And what will be left will be the Microsoft Press version of The History of the Open Source Movement By Bill Gates II (the grandson or something), without a single mention of Linus.

        or maybe it will just be the MS History of the World

      • Are you certain that it wouldn't be:

        Bill Gates :: open source software
        Al Gore :: Internet
        Larry Ellison :: RDBMS

        -jerdenn
    • Re:Paternity? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DaoudaW ( 533025 )
      Interesting that you used the term midwife because I've suggested the same analogy with regard to Al Gore and the Internet. No, Al Gore isn't the father of the Internet, but given that for several decades it was developed nearly 100% on government money and that Al Gore was the politician that best understood and supported it through those early years, I for one believe that Al Gore does deserve the title midwife of the Internet
    • Al Gore may not have invented the internet, but he is the father of computer science. Thats why code procedures are called "Al Gore'isms"
  • Open Source might not have started if that greedy fool hadn't published crap, charged an arm and a leg for the software, establish a monopoly, place gags on hardware manufacturers and software developers making sure stuff will ONLY run on Windows, and slowly reach total vertical and horizontal integration through ruthless tactics of toying around with the companies so that they can buy them cheap (sorta like a cat playing around w/ it's prey just to be cruel). If Gates wasn't so anal-retentive about licenses, about losing $50 here and there and if he didn't choke the market to fill the world with his bloatware, then Open Source wouldn't be where it is at right now, if even invented. It sorta goes like this- resistance groups don't form when everybody is happy, and when crap isn't thrown at you. In this case, we pay $500+ for a single piece of bloatware that has a total uptime of about 30 sec before it crashes, and when it does run, its still shaky with all the overly expensive Microsoft bloatware Office programs that run on it. THEREFORE a group of people rise to the occasion and flip the finger to "the man" and go off and create something that works, costs next to nothing (sorry, you still have to buy the hardware and the internet connection), without over commercialization. Thank you Gates for filling the market with crap. If you hadn't, then the best OS wouldn't be where it is today, and we would only learn how to program from college courses, not hacking code and seeing how stuff works. Thank god for the FSF
  • Gates' Comment (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Lemmus ( 414090 )
    I read the original statement, and, frankly, it didn't sound to me like Gates was claiming credit for Open Source. What he said was that if it hadn't been for M$ standardizing computing with DOS, there wouldn't be a market for Open Source now. However much I may disagree with M$ policies and coding today, I would tend to agree with the thought behind that statement.

    Anyone who remembers computing in the early '80's should recognize that the industry wasn't going anywhere. $5000 for an Apple 2? The only software is rudimentary databases and word processors. Games are less sophisticated than those on the Atari 2600. Monitors are monochrome. Apple is enforcing a closed source policy which improves the quality of the machines, but hampers development.

    It was the pairing of M$'s DOS with IBM PCs, and an open policy towards clones, that allowed the explosion of PCs seen in the mid-80's. Without that expansion, we'd probably still be looking at a computer in every 100th home, and no gaming or online community to speak of besides Nethack, university email accounts, and usenet.

    While Gates is hardly responsible for coming up with the idea of Open Source, he was certainly a key person in the expansion of the computer industry. It was that expansion which resulted in so many educated, trained, computer users that people started being able to program their own systems. If we still had to use machine language and punch cards, there wouldn't be open source.

    Gates' comments were perhaps worded less specifically than they should have been, but the Open Source community is likely also guilty of jumping on the comment more than necessary.

    At the very least, it's worth considering.
    • Re:Gates' Comment (Score:5, Interesting)

      by 90XDoubleSide ( 522791 ) <(ten.liamliah) (ta) (ediselbuodxytenin)> on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @12:19AM (#2594248)
      What he said was that if it hadn't been for M$ standardizing computing with DOS, there wouldn't be a market for Open Source now.

      Open source doesn't require that everything be standard as in the same, it only requires that everything be open; look at how many platforms open source OSes run on.

      $5000 for an Apple 2? ... Apple is enforcing a closed source policy which improves the quality of the machines, but hampers development.

      The Apple II was an open machine. Sorry if you didn't like the software, it was the first mass-adopted personal computer, and did give rise to some of the killer apps that put the computer in offices and homes, and had the first games written in BASIC.

      It was that expansion which resulted in so many educated, trained, computer users that people started being able to program their own systems. If we still had to use machine language and punch cards, there wouldn't be open source.

      Woz was the person that most directly created the human-usable computer; Gates did some work in it but all the original Apple IIs used Woz's code, including his completely original implementation of BASIC.

      Now I must say that I agree with the more balanced viewpoint the article puts out, you are just trying to spin it to make it look like Gates invented things he didn't. I'm afraid it is all to common now for everyone to assume that Gates must have invented the computer and everything on it.

      • Open source doesn't require that everything be standard as in the same, it only requires that everything be open; look at how many platforms open source OSes run on.

        What I'm thinking is that either I misunderstood your response, or you misunderstood the original post. Either way it won't stop me from speaking my mind, cuz I'm a /.er!

        Anyway, I don't thinkg anyone tried to make the point that Open Source means everything should be standardized. It seems to me the quote simply means that if MS had not standardized the PC desktop into the typical Dos/Win setup, there would have been no reason for us weirdo geeks to so zealously pursue an alternative, ie Linux.

        If there were hundreds of desktop types scattered through offices and used widely, MS would not have had their stronghold on the market, which would have led to a higher quality of MS's products, which would NOT have resulted in everyone looking for a stable OS, which would be Linux, which is pushing OSS along.

        Eh?
      • The Apple II was an open machine. Sorry if you didn't like the software, it was the first mass-adopted personal computer, and did give rise to some of the killer apps that put the computer in offices and homes, and had the first games written in BASIC.


        Nop. They were written in Assembler - I had Apple II (followed by Apple II+ (it took me time to find the switch that lets me reset the machine with CTRL Reset)).


        remember: call -151 ? ;)

    • Geeze, you're making me think that I'm the world's only 18-year old curmudgeon. Son, in my day, there was DOZENS of computers on the market, and software written for one wouldn't run on the other.Hypothetical scenario:

      "What's that? Uncle Pah's got a new spreadsheet" Why don't we give it a whirl and see if we can whittle somethin' on his cousin's Commodore?"
      "Because we have an Atari 800, son, and it won't run on that computer."

      And we liked it that way : P

      Seriously though, while the incompatibility of hardware was a pain for software developers, one nice thing about it was it effectively forced everyone, even big companies, into making multiple versions of software, one for each computer. When everyone "standardized" on PCs, Macs were left out in the cold, and today, because of this same attitude, alternate operating systems on the same hardware platform are neglected. If the level of competition hadn't been so thinned out in the late 80's and early 90's, perhaps we could all be running Photoshop on Linux right now.

      Besides, the industry was getting somewhere. Pardon me for showing my bias, but the Commodore 64 was introduced in 1982, firmly placing it in the "early eighties" region of time you specify, and that machine had amazing games for it's time, and even had a technically astounding disk drive which did not cost an arm and a leg. Yeah yeah, standardized hardware is easier, blah blah blah. I still miss some aspects of the 80's computer age, sonny ; )

    • Re:Gates' Comment (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OmegaDan ( 101255 )
      Im going to reply to your message with the idea that bill gates isn't a great man, but was merely the right person at the right time :) I don't see anything extrodinary in *anything* hes done.
    • Re:Gates' Comment (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Philbert Desenex ( 219355 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @01:12AM (#2594375) Homepage

      I read the original statement, and, frankly, it didn't sound to me like Gates was claiming credit for Open Source. What he said was that if it hadn't been for M$ standardizing computing with DOS, there wouldn't be a market for Open Source now. However much I may disagree with M$ policies and coding today, I would tend to agree with the thought behind that statement.

      If you agree with that statement, you're simply wrong. In markets with a single CPU architecture and operating system (VAX -> VMS, SPARC -> Solaris, x86 -> MS-DOS) people just trade executables, they don't for the most part bother with source. You only need source in markets with a variety of CPU architectures and/or operating systems. The ideas behind Open Source were conceived in an environment of many, often propietary operating systems and CPU architectures, pre-1989, pre MS-DOS dominance. The economies of scale that caused cheap Pee Cee hardware have little or nothing to do with Open Source.

      • by Carnage4Life ( 106069 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @01:51AM (#2594468) Homepage Journal
        If you agree with that statement, you're simply wrong. In markets with a single CPU architecture and operating system (VAX -> VMS, SPARC -> Solaris, x86 -> MS-DOS) people just trade executables, they don't for the most part bother with source. You only need source in markets with a variety of CPU architectures and/or operating systems. The ideas behind Open Source were conceived in an environment of many, often propietary operating systems and CPU architectures, pre-1989, pre MS-DOS dominance. The economies of scale that caused cheap Pee Cee hardware have little or nothing to do with Open Source.

        Actually you're wrong. The issues that caused the rise of Free Software have nothing to do with having to recompile your application for different architectures and everything to do users being free to fix bugs in software they have been sold.

        Here's a history lesson [infoworld.com] or two [beust.com]
    • Obvious Fallacy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by oGMo ( 379 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @01:14AM (#2594377)

      This is a fairly blatant case of a false dichotomy. This basically implies that Gates and Microsoft created the current platform industry standard, but without Gates we would still be using punchcards and mainframes. This is, of course, ridiculous.

      Microsoft has a long history of crushing competition, of course, even before it was Microsoft. We all know how DR-DOS, the main competitor back-in-the-day, ended up. Without Gates, DR-DOS would likely have been the operating system of the x86. Microsoft did not invent MS-DOS, either, as we all know (being bought from the QDOS people). Microsoft did not invent the home computer either, that was Atari, or Commodore, or even Apple.

      In short, Microsoft has never made an original move in its existance that would indicate that, without its presence, the technology and market conditions would be the same or better than they currently are.

      There is always someone else.

    • Re:Gates' Comment (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Watts Martin ( 3616 )

      Yes, I do remember computing in the early '80s. I remember a lot of vibrant hardware and software platforms that were manifestly different from one another, and that indeed most users of those machines were "educated, trained computer users" who were "able to program their own systems." In fact, this strikes me as the biggest flaw in your argument: the standardization on the IBM PC didn't make the microcomputer world open to the programmer, it made it open to the non-programmer.

      If we still had to use machine language and punch cards, there wouldn't be open source.

      No offense, but I can't think of a single microcomputer in the early '80s that could use a punch card even if you wanted one, and most micros only came with interpreted BASIC--if you wanted another programming language, including Assembly, you bought something. I had a BASIC compiler and Forth for my TRS-80, and could have also had Fortran, COBOL, C (K&R, of course) and, of all things, APL. And under CP/M, I could have had another program you might have heard of: Turbo Pascal. High-level languages supplanted assembly as the commercial programming environment of choice not because of the wonders of the standardized IBM PC, but because higher amounts of RAM in computers coupled with faster processors made it viable to program in them. When you only had 64K of RAM to load your OS, application and data, you needed to be real damn efficient.

      I think it's somewhat dubious to say that the standardization on one hardware platform was a panacea for problems in the computing world before that standardization happened. If, say, three or four competing hardware platforms had split the market, I see no reason why computer users would necessarily be worse off. When one hardware/software combination has over 90% of the market, it's easy to blow off the other 10%. If that hardware/software combination only has 50% of the market, you don't blow the other half off so easily. The move toward platform independence for both (source) code and data interchange formats might well have been accelerated in a "no one standard" environment--and that's fertile ground for open source development, isn't it?

      • I can't think of a single microcomputer in the early '80s that could use a punch card even if you wanted one

        Wang. I no longer remember the model but in 1975-6 I took a programming course at the local vocational center as part of my senior year in high school and for part of it we wrote BASIC programs on a Wang desktop system which had a cassette tape drive and an 80-column punch card reader. You could either sit at the built-in terminal and type your program in (frowned upon since there were a dozen students and one computer,) or you could write them out and give them to the keypunch class to key onto cards. At the time the electronics class was building an Altair: we (the programming class) wanted them to hurry the fsck up and get it done before the end of the year so we could play with it, but they (the electronics class) were onto us and fully intended for it to be their toy, not ours.
      • > No offense, but I can't think of a single microcomputer in the early
        > '80s that could use a punch card even if you wanted one,


        some to think of it, me neither. But there were plenty of paper tapes around . . .


        hawk

    • Re:Gates' Comment (Score:5, Informative)

      by JabberWokky ( 19442 ) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @01:36AM (#2594424) Homepage Journal
      Anyone who remembers computing in the early '80's should recognize that the industry wasn't going anywhere.

      WTF are you talking about? There were *FAR* more publishers of software, magazines and far more books about computers being published than today. Hell, CBS wasn't alone in being one of many big media providers that was releasing software. The variety was astounding, especially compared to todays' larger volume.

      $5000 for an Apple 2? Yes, and it came with 4K. I know - it replaced our S-100 frankenstein, and was well worth every penny (okay, my Dad bought it), and it came with several programming environments (some on ROM, some on disk), and *full* *fold* *out* *schematics*, plus a manual that listed every IO memory address and gave a tutorial on how to access them. It's probably the most open personal computer in history, and likely will remain so.

      The only software is rudimentary databases and word processors.

      Ruimentary, possibly because they ran in the aformentioned 4K (64K later in the game)? Yes. But there were entire GUIs that fit in that 64K, on a 100K diskette (or two) like Geos, or fantastic apps like Print Shop that were testiments to user friendliness that have yet to be beat. Loads of educational programs, starcharts... other than things that were impossible on that days hardware, everything was available that is today. And you would be very impressed by what *was* possible on that day's hardware.

      Incidently, jumping back to the topic, quite a bit of it was open source as well - some of it was even published in magazines like Nybble, and typed in.

      Games are less sophisticated than those on the Atari 2600. Monitors are monochrome.

      First off, in those days, many computers used TVs as monitors, and thus were full color. Games, imho, were far far *more* sophisticated. It's *hard* to write a good game that is fun to play. It's easy to write one that looks impressive nowadays, but still equally hard to write one that plays well and is fun. And back then, clones were notable things - most games were very unique in certain ways. Nowadays, the differences between Alice, HalfLife and Halo are miniscule in general overview, but back then, most games really stood out from one another (or were semi exact clones by rival publishers).

      Want Final Fantasy VII circa 80s? Use Ultima for the world map and fights, and Kings Quest for the side view sequences. Sure, the graphics are way better, but you're working with an incredible 33 Mhz and megs of memory for FFVII.

      Apple is enforcing a closed source policy which improves the quality of the machines, but hampers development.

      *Shrug* They are using closed source on BSD. Running any closed source app on Linux is the same, IMO: not a sin, unless you follow brother RMS. Not a great thing either, but I'm kicking HancomOffice's tires to see if I want to buy. But then, Apple has jumped around under many different management philosophies over the years, so I'd imagine there is a very schitzophrenic nature to their decision making process. My last Apple was a Mac LC, and I had long since switched to an Intel box as my primary computer. The titanium powerbook may tempt me in the future... my laptop's screen died, and I've vaguely been thinking when I get a bit more disposable income...

      --
      Evan

    • Re:Gates' Comment (Score:5, Informative)

      by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @01:44AM (#2594443) Homepage Journal

      Anyone who remembers computing in the early '80's should recognize that the industry wasn't going anywhere. $5000 for an Apple 2? The only software is rudimentary databases and word processors. Games are less sophisticated than those on the Atari 2600. Monitors are monochrome. Apple is enforcing a closed source policy which improves the quality of the machines, but hampers development.

      I don't know what parallel universe you were living in, but this isn't my memory of the early 1980's computing scene at all.

      The Atari 2600, though popular, was sorely limited. Complex games simply weren't possible. Conversely, Apple-][ games were getting good graphics, and very deep game play. Brøderbund built its entire business on selling high-quality Apple-][ games that beat anything you could get for the Atari 2600.

      Apple-][ systems only cost $1500, but that was for the base machine. Disk controllers, drives, and additional RAM were extra. Even though Commodore-64's were going for $300, Apple never lowered the price of the ][ line. You're also forgetting the other major players at the time: Atari with the 400, 800, and 1200 series systems; Commodore with the PET, VIC-20, and C-64; and Cromemco's line of S-100-based systems (popularized by the writings of Jerry Pournelle in BYTE Magazine). I'm probably forgetting a few others, but you get the idea.

      Color monitors, though expensive, were quite common. Amdek was the big name in those days.

      Apple's "closed policy" didn't really start until the release of the Macintosh in 1984. Prior to that, all the inner workings of the machine were published. I have on my bookshelf a copy of the Apple-][ System Manual, which comes complete with ROM monitor source code, and a fold-out schematic of the machine. Following Apple's lead, IBM likewise published the source to the ROM BIOS in the system manuals (tiny little three-ring binders). The only evidence of a "closed-source" policy at Apple prior to this was when they sued Franklin Computer for manufacturing an Apple-][ clone.

      In many ways, the industry was more forthcoming with system and software information than it is now. Back in the 1980's, a request for hardware programming docs would be granted without a second thought. Now they look at you as if you're some kind of foaming-at-the-mouth lunatic.

      Schwab

    • Re:Gates' Comment (Score:5, Informative)

      by CaptainCarrot ( 84625 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @02:09AM (#2594528)
      Anyone who remembers computing in the early '80's should recognize that the industry wasn't going anywhere.

      I worked for a shop that made most of its money selling CP/M boxes with customized software back in the early '80s, and what you say here is completely wrong. The industry was going great guns. There were dozens of players in every conceivable niche of the market, and some of them did very well for themselves indeed. Remember Altos? Eagle? Lotus? DBase II? Apple?

      True, the market was a bit more fragmented than it is now. If you worked someplace that had a small system doing the bookkeeping, it probably ran CP/M or MP/M. When you went home, if you had a computer, it was probably an Apple, Commodore, TRS-80, or some such. There wasn't the crossover you see today. But so what?

      It was the pairing of M$'s DOS with IBM PCs, and an open policy towards clones, that allowed the explosion of PCs seen in the mid-80's.

      No. I remember clearly the introduction of the IBM PC. Sure, it had a 16-bit processor, but it also had an architecture that largely failed to take advantage of it, and there were huge libraries of existing products for 8-bit CP/M machines. The IBM PC took over the market for one reason alone: the nameplate. It was a trusim in those days that nobody ever got fired for buying IBM, and it overcame the reluctance of many organizations for adopting small computers.

      The OS? Obviously a CP/M ripoff of some kind, and completely irrelevant to the decision to buy.

      While Gates is hardly responsible for coming up with the idea of Open Source, he was certainly a key person in the expansion of the computer industry.

      Nope. He was a key player in the contraction of the computer software industry, at least in terms of the number of major players. ("Major player" being defined as companies with a significant percentage of market share, not in terms of absolute size.) The dominance of MS in the software market will, I'm sure, be cited someday in economics textbooks as a classic case of market failure through the application of unfair and predatory business practises. Learn for yourself what happened to DR-DOS, just to mention one early competitor in the field of PC operating systems.

      If we still had to use machine language and punch cards, there wouldn't be open source.

      I programmed on a variety of boxes before MS came along, and I never once had to resort to either machine language or punch cards. And none of the users for any software I ever developed needed to be particularly sophisitcated, either. As it turned out, you didn't need to be a genius to use a menu-driven system.

      Gates' comments were perhaps worded less specifically than they should have been, but the Open Source community is likely also guilty of jumping on the comment more than necessary.

      The "Open Source community" should do whatever it takes to keep BG honest.

      • "Remember Altos? Eagle? Lotus? DBase II? Apple?"

        I remember all of them. Do you remember Osborne, Wordstar and Kaypro?

        Even so, what the other poster says is correct. The computer market in that time was boring and incredibly frustrating.

        "The dominance of MS in the software market will, I'm sure, be cited someday in economics textbooks as a classic case of market failure through the application of unfair and predatory business practises. "

        Just like the same thing is said today of General Motors?

        Oh wait. Damn there goes that argument of yours.

        I think what amazes me is people like yourself who apparently lived through those early days of the PC, and actually still yearn for that crap.

        *blech*
    • Re:Gates' Comment (Score:3, Informative)

      by morcheeba ( 260908 )
      > Anyone who remembers computing in the early '80's should recognize that the industry wasn't going anywhere.
      Obviously, you don't ;-) (just warning that I'm going to be harsh, but harsh in a friendly way!)
      $5000 for an Apple 2?
      1978: Apple II is $1295. 1979: Apple II+ is $1195 [theapplemuseum.com]. Maybe you're thinking the Apple III ($4340-$7800, yikes!)

      > The only software is rudimentary databases and word processors.
      Like visicalc, in 1978. Or appleworks, an integrated office suite.

      > Games are less sophisticated than those on the Atari 2600. Monitors are monochrome.
      Apple II was color and much better than the 2600. If you're talking early PC graphics (monochrome, CGA), yeah, they sucked. But it wasn't microsoft that improved them.

      > Apple is enforcing a closed source policy which improves the quality of the machines, but hampers development.
      Like publishing the schematics and ROM source code? Most of the demo code is written in listable basic, and code magazines (like nibble [apple2.org.za]) flourish.

      > It was the pairing of M$'s DOS with IBM PCs, and an open policy towards clones, that allowed the explosion of PCs seen in the mid-80's.
      Did you read the article? IBM fought the clones vigourously... Compaq spent $1 million to make a clean-room bios.
    • Re:Gates' Comment (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ncc74656 ( 45571 )
      Anyone who remembers computing in the early '80's should recognize that the industry wasn't going anywhere. $5000 for an Apple 2?
      Your average Apple II system ran closer to $2000-$2500, nicely equipped. The base system (just the computer, no floppy drives or monitor) ran about $1000.
      The only software is rudimentary databases and word processors. Games are less sophisticated than those on the Atari 2600.
      Let me guess...you were a Commodore user, and you're taking the opportunity to bash the II since the younger folk (damn, I'm only 29 and I sound like an Olde Pfarte) won't know any better.
      Apple is enforcing a closed source policy which improves the quality of the machines, but hampers development.
      Now you're really showing off your ignorance for all to see. I have several books on the shelf with source code (!) for various bits of Apple II software and firmware. The Apple IIe technical reference, last revised in 1987, has the source code for all the ROMs in that machine (except BASIC, which Apple obtained from Microsoft) and complete schematics, timing diagrams, etc....basically everything you could possibly need to know to design hardware or bare-metal software for the Apple II, and a few more books (like the ProDOS 8 technical reference) would do the same for writing applications. Comparable documentation was available all the way back to the original Apple II that was introduced in 1977. Code that wasn't published in source form by Apple was often disassembled, analyzed, and published...Nibble magazine ran a series for a few years that took apart DOS 3.3 and ProDOS, for instance, and Apple never went after them for that. Even BASIC was disassembled (and the really odd bit is that Microsoft didn't go after the people who did that). Until the Macintosh came along, Apple was very much an open-architecture type of company (and the Mac didn't sell worth a damn until Apple loosened its grip somewhat).
    • That the success of DOS was that it was easily "pirated" and moved to other systems by doing a sys on a floppy, zipping up the DOS directory and adding fdisk, format and pkunzip to your floppy. The resulting install was pretty straight forward and easier to deal with than the install program that came with DOS.

      Microsoft didn't bitch much about said pirating. It was pretty well impossible to buy a PC without a license of DOS anyway. Some things never change. They didn't really get serious about piracy until they'd established complete and utter market domination.

    • Weird. I do recall writing programs on my Atari ST back in 85/86 without ever having been in contact with a PC. I also recall friends doing the same with their Amigas ..


      Bill Gates? Yeah, heard about him ine the ninetees when I reluctanly bought my first PC.

    • > What he said was that
      >if it hadn't been for M$ standardizing computing with DOS, there
      >wouldn't be a market for Open Source now. However much I may disagree
      >with M$ policies and coding today, I would tend to agree with the
      >thought behind that statement.


      Except that this is one of the silliest parts of the whole argument.


      Plain and simply, ms-dos did *not* cuse the standardization. Instead, it *displaced* the existing CP/M standard.


      We already were running the same binaries on hosts of wildly different 8080 and Z-80 machines. With recompilation, thay alsoran on the 6800 and 8086 versions of CP/M.


      Also, having CP/M as a secondary rather than primary OS *slowed* the PC's acceptance in the business world.


      hawk

    • "we'd probably still be looking at a computer in every 100th home, and no gaming or online community to speak of besides Nethack, university email accounts, and usenet."

      And you know what?

      WE LIKED IT THAT WAY. :P~

      No spam, no trolls, just usenet porn and hours of nethack and *useful* email...ah, those were the days..
  • It's a real shame that Bowie Poag took down the old "Story of Propaganda" when he moved his site around - that story fit this article perfectly. It asserted that Microsoft and Bill Gates were simply pawns in Jack Kennedy's plan to bring about the Free Software movement.

    Come on Bowie, put Propaganda back up. If you don't have it anymore, may I have permission to put my local mirror online?
  • In a related story, Satan Prince of Lies and All That is Unholy, is the father of Christianity.

    Adolf Hitler is the father of lasting peace in the western hemisphere.

    Ellen Degeneres is the father of Ann Heche's baby.
  • by aratuk ( 524269 ) on Tuesday November 20, 2001 @11:54PM (#2594175)
    It is true that Microsoft's contract with IBM, which stipulated that Microsoft could sell its operating system software to whomever it wanted, allowed Microsoft's creation of a universal operating system which would run on any computer similar to those made by IBM. The popularity of this idea caused other companies to build IBM compatible parts, which started the open system architecture revolution of the mid-to-late 1980's.
    However, Microsoft did not intend to create a level playing field for hardware manufacturers. It did not produce an operating system which would run on a machine which could conceivably be made by any company for the purpose of promoting creativity and competition between hardware manufacturers. Microsoft did what it did so that it could sell as many copies of its operating system as possible. It is hard to believe that a person as anticompetitive as bill gates would claim to have idealistically started the open hardware architecture revolution with the intent of benefiting science or computing or whatever by opening the doors to new influences. This is beyond hypocrisy.
    Microsoft may have played a large role in setting architecture standards with its operating system, but it did so to make a profit, and any benefits to technology ensuing from the hordes of companies who began to make IBM compatible hardware and compete with each other were a side effect to Microsoft's bottom line.
    Open Source software, on the other hand, has the benefit of everyone in mind and is notoriously bad at producing a profit.
    I'll believe Bill when he begins to merrily distribute Microsoft system code, philanthropist that he is.
    • This argument is based on the fact that the IBM PC is "special". As the author pointed out, there were many open hardware platforms long before the IBM PC; there was nothing innovative about making the IBM PC open as well, it was just the pricing and marketing that made it the "standard".

      Also take care not to regard anything in Pirates of Silicon Valley as factual [woz.org].

      • to clarify (Score:2, Informative)

        by aratuk ( 524269 )
        I mean only that the IBM platform is special because of what happened with it, not that it was so because it was any great innovation.
        Pirates of Silicon Valley I think pretty accurately illustrates Microsoft's intent in the portability stipulation in its contract with IBM, despite any of the movie's other shortcomings.
    • When did Bill Gates claim to be a philanthropist?
      • Every time he gives .0001% of his net worth to some school district so that they can install windows so that he can charge them for an upgrade later.
      • Ahem, ahem. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the most important charity in the world, with 21 billion dollars US. It is making progress towards stamping out tuberculosis [economist.com] in third-world countries. After Bill's death, practically all of his vast fortune will go to charity, leaving only (IIRC) 10 million for his children. Bill isn't doing this to improve his image; he could've done that with a fraction of the money.

        So, not only is Bill Gates a philanthropist, he's the greatest philanthropist ever. Microsoft's business practices notwithstanding, accusing him of avarice is misguided.

          • After Bill's death, practically all of his vast fortune will go to charity

          Not if he has himself frozen in carbonite until medical science catches up with his ailments.

          • Bill isn't doing this to improve his image; he could've done that with a fraction of the money.

          Alternatively, Bill could afford a lot more right now. If his wealth is all going to chaaardity, and he can't possibly spend a fraction of it in his lifetime, what's he waiting for?

          • Microsoft's business practices notwithstanding, accusing him of avarice is misguided

          He used to be avaricious. Now that he is already wealthy on an incalculable scale, his priorities have changed. That's commendable and his contributions so far have been astounding, but let's wait and see if he does actually make good on all of his future promises before granting him that sainthood, huh?

        • So, what you're saying is that if I assasinate Bill Gates right now, I'll be doing the world's poor the greatest favor in history?
    • It is true that Microsoft's contract with IBM, which stipulated that Microsoft could sell its operating system software to whomever it wanted, allowed Microsoft's creation of a universal operating system which would run on any computer similar to those made by IBM.

      The only reason that IBM allowed this stipulation, however, is that IBM wasn't serious about the PC. The purpose of Project Chess, as it was called, was really to see what was out there and see if they could make money.

      The group Jack Sams worked with at this time, the Boca Raton group, were something of a rebellion within IBM. The big brass at Big Blue only gave them the green light on Project Chess because they were curious where this would go. IBM was at that time not banking on the PC at all...as far as they were concerned, mainframes were their core business and would remain their core business. The PC was just something to throw out there to see if it would fly.

      So when Big Blue allowed Microsoft to distribute PC-DOS to anyone they wanted, it was more out of ignorance than out of wanting to creating a universal PC for everyone to use. IBM had no illusions of grandeur for the PC, and neither did Bill Gates.

      What? Neither did Bill Gates? That's right. Microsoft's forte was not operating systems. It was languages. Gates only wanted to sell an operating system to IBM because it wanted to sell its languages, especially Microsoft BASIC, to IBM. Gates didn't give a rat's ass about DOS, and only insisted on the stipulation because he figured he might be able to make some money on this thing after all.

      Oh, and the "Pirates of Silicon Valley," while entertaining and partially based in fact, is not historically accurate.

  • And the russian Czars were completely responsible for the Bolshevik Revolution. Funny though--Microsoft acts all non chalant about it but in a few years they're going to be really sorry about their open source illegitimate love child. Then again, I doubt those french speaking Russian Imperialist jerks were too fond of the Bolsheviks. Oh wait, nevermind...they were dead! Har.
  • "At this level, Bill Gates can certainly claim to have "influenced" the open architecture strategy."

    This statement coming from Jack Sams, who is certainly one to be taken seriously. Seeing that he was Gates's point of contact through IBM at this time, he ought to know. It seems that our friend Mr. Gates didn't violate any agreements with IBM either. Sams says "The chip is indeed copyrighted and could be infringed." He then goes on to say "This (DOS +BIOS) open architecture has been public domain since it first shipped...." Guess Bill is covered here.

    Despite these statements, it is quite a claim to say he had more than a minor role in the early open source movement. This is all coming from the same company who called open source a "cancer" and from the same person who called it "communism." I, for one, would not be proud to have created communism.

    Additionally, Sams points out that "the 'open architecture' strategy was entirely deliberate on IBM's part." This reduces Gates's minor role still further since IBM seems to have meant for it to happen.

    IMO most of Gates's statements are too vague to be
    dissected any further. Some of Sams's material is also hard to sort out; I can only say I wish I had been there.

  • by dido ( 9125 ) <dido&imperium,ph> on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @12:15AM (#2594240)

    ...just not in the way he thinks he is. The entire Free Software/Open Source movement mainly began as a reaction to propertarian modes of software production, of which Microsoft eventually became the greatest, most extreme, and most infamous example. Even Richard Stallman says the GNU Project began as such a reaction in his history of the GNU Project [gnu.org].

    All this shuck about open and extensible architectures was none of Microsoft's doing, and the Free Software movement would likely have existed even without it, though it probably would not have grown as rapidly.

  • Basic (Score:2, Interesting)

    Wasn't Gates's Basic compiler unwillingly open-sourced when a copy of the code was stolen?
    I think I remember reading that in one of Steven Levy's books.
  • anachronism (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @12:38AM (#2594305) Homepage
    It's just silly to try to discuss whether Bill Gates was doing open source in 1980. It's like claiming Jesus was a feminist, or Jefferson was a marxist.


    In that era, there was no internet, so there was no easy way to exchange free software even if you wrote some. There were BBS systems, but they were mostly local, not national or international. If you wanted to network two microcomputers together, you went to Radio Shack, bought a cable and a couple of DB connectors, and got a friend to show you which lines to cross and which pins to solder together with a paperclip.

    There was a tiny population of hobbyists who would write code and give copies to each other at users' group meetings, but it wasn't big or visible -- as a teenaged computer hobbyist in 1980, I wasn't even aware it existed. Actually, that scene was probably smaller in percentage terms than it had been in the days of the Altair, etc., because there was starting to be commercial software that you could buy, rather than having to depend on other hobbyists. It was considered a good thing that you could buy a game at Radio Shack on a floppy, instead of having to write one yourself or type it in out of a listing in a magazine.


    Copyleft hadn't been invented, and "open source" would have been a derogatory term. Lots of software was sold as BASIC source code, but not the high-quality business and OS stuff, just games. Yes, it was cool being able to buy a commercially produced game and examine and modify the source code, but those machines were so slow that anything in an interpreted language would run really slow. The really good software was all written in assembly language, which meant it was fast. (There were good compilers for CP/M, but the development tools were a lot more limited on the more popular consumer computers like TRS-80's, Apple II's, and Commodores.)


    What was different and good about Mac and PC-DOS was that the hardware manufacturers didn't try to maintain a monopoly on the application software market, as Radio Shack, for instance, had tried to do.

    • In that era, there was no internet, so there was no easy way to exchange free software even if you wrote some

      Yes there was. Have you forgotten Gate's infamous letter to hobbyists? [mindspring.com] He was complaining because people were swapping software. Some of that was binary, but some of it was source.

      Swapping of software started the day that a single computer architecture was installed at two different sites, and it's continued on to this day.

  • Is it just me or were computers more fun before, Bill(sarcism) OpenSourced the BIOS!

    I hate to get off on a rant here but...

    I mean I miss going into the Software, Etc. and asking for Ultima 4 and being asked, for C64, Apple, IBM, Atari or Amiga? I miss Compute! and all the other great magazines that went with the times! I loved seeing the new and interesting hardware that came out everyday for these systems. I love the small hack! 64K not 64MB (and 64MB isa video card now!) Hell, there are no good programers today that can compare with the hacks of earlier days. Linux and Windows are both blotware when compaired with the AmigaOS! I have a Commodore 128D on my desk next to my Mac and PC and let me tell you the games on it are still better then the newest stuff. I don't know but, PC's today lack soul.

    But thats just my opinion. I could be wrong! (GRIN!)
  • by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @12:49AM (#2594326) Homepage
    Well, nearly open.

    Somewhere back in my parents' house is an original IBM PC Technical Reference manual. I bought it for $65 back when I was in junior high school and $65 was an enormous sum of money to me. The book contained the full schematics of the IBM and specifications on talking to its hardware.

    In the back of the book was a full assembler listing of the IBM's boot ROM. (The ROM BASIC was sadly not provided.) I spent lots of time parsing through the code looking at how various devices were initialized and handled.

    While Compaq may have used a lot of resources making a cleanroom version of the x86 boot ROM, the original was right there, for anyone with a few dollars to see. Microsoft hadn't the slightest thing to do with it.
    • by nabucco ( 24057 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @03:52AM (#2594769)
      This matter is dealt with in another Cringley [pbs.org] article. I infer that the source code was published to make it more difficult to sell an IBM clone while having a legal leg to stand on. That's why Compaq had to spend $1 million to reverse engineer it in a completely legal manner.
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @12:52AM (#2594332) Journal

    He made the SW dominate the HW. You have to make HW that can run his SW or you are DOA. The rise of OSS was an unintended consequence, but there is a causal relationship.

    Now that BG has this "little problem" with OSS, he has a solution: XBOX. If XBOX turns into a PC, it fragments the HW market which will allow BG to sell different versions of Windows for different architectures, providing a logical set of divisions for MSFT so that the next time the DOJ tries to break them up it can be done in a manner similar to the ATT breakup--very beneficial to shareholders who end up with shares in all the major industry players who must sell more product because competition leads to overlapping purchases. If XBOX does not become a PC, BG just sits on his existing market and/or reaps game and DVD profits. Either way, he wins. This guy is so smart he has you knocked out before you even know you are in the ring and that there is a boxing match. He's 50 moves ahead of your game. You are checkmated before the board is even set up. He makes the rules! The OSS people are foolish to think they have any chance of competing.

    • > The OSS people are foolish to think they have any chance of competing.

      Good thoughts except for this last one. Who exactly is competing? Disregarding vociferous fools ranting on about KDE/Gnome/etc "kicking Windows' ass", Linux isn't exactly competing with Windows. In order to have a competition, you eventually must have a winner and a loser. Windows losing would be easy enough to recognize, but how exactly does Linux lose? By RedHat or SuSE etc going out of business? Linux is where it is today primarily due to motivated individuals driven by things other than money. The only way Linux can lose is if the entire developer community loses interest and moves on to something else--and not by Windows somehow "beating" it. To sum up: Linux can really only lose this non-existent battle due to factors mostly outside of the influence of Microsoft.

      -
      • Good thoughts except for this last one

        I did launch into some hyperbole towards the end. Sorry, bad habit.

        • but how exactly does Linux lose?

        Linux? That seditious and hopelessly insecure and anti-American operating system that's used by a few carefully licensed researchers, but mostly illegally by paedophiles, drug dealers, terrorists, and really dangerous scum like copyright pirates?

        Give it ten years and see if that language is the norm, and Linux has been legislated out of the hands of the US community. That's how Microsoft can "win". They can buy enough politicians and enough laws so that there's only one player in the game in the US, and the rest of the world can go screw itself.

        Fortunately, I live in the "rest of the world". Unfortunately, I live in the UK, so I'll probably have (legal) access to Linux for only a few years more than the US does, once we jump on the bandwagon.

    • I think you're missing one thing: he can't attack open source software as a whole. As long a people want to develop freely available software, they will, and there is absolutely nothing he can do to stop this. He finally has an ennemy he can't stop.
        • he can't attack open source software as a whole. As long a people want to develop freely available software, they will, and there is absolutely nothing he can do to stop this

        Microsoft (and/or the RIAA or MPAA) can buy enough laws to ensure that you'll be able to develop anything you like - as long as you pass the background check, ace the "shareholder value ethics" test, pay the fee, and get the appropriate license.

        You think I'm wrong? I'll bet you fifty bucks against the cost of obtaining a development license in 2010 that I'm not.

    • 1) There has already been versions of Windows for non x86 architectures. WinCE is the only one that actually got even remotely popular.

      2) How does the XBox (a 733 Celeron with an nvidia GPU) allow Microsoft to move to new hardware? It's just a PC in a fancy case.
        • How does the XBox (a 733 Celeron with an nvidia GPU) allow Microsoft to move to new hardware? It's just a PC in a fancy case

        (Xbox is a full PIII, ironic as it's now deceased as a mainstream chip). One of the important differences is that is has a true single memory architecture (system and display) rather than the inefficient PCI or AGP busses. Not a big jump, but I'd find that a welcome development in general purpose boxen.

  • Bollocks! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by small_dick ( 127697 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @01:23AM (#2594396)
    I used one of the last papertape machines in the mid-seventies; we had rolls of free software all over the place, fortran code people wanted everyone to share. Having one's name in the comments made you feel like a real bigshot.

    S-100 and MITS Altair had the first busses that really caught on, and Apple's, of course. I worked on a number of S-100s in the late seventies; upgrading cards that were mostly interchangable from a variety of vendors...compupro, CCS, Cromemco, etc.

    If anything, it was Gary Kildall and Digital Research -- with their extremely hackable BIOS -- that made all the difference.

    The man has a lot of nerve claiming he had anything to do with the roots of computing, other than teaching people it's okay to lie, cheat and steal.

    Computing was above that until Microsoft came on the scene.
  • by stox ( 131684 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @01:25AM (#2594398) Homepage
    IBM wanted the PC to support multiple operating systems. Within a year of release, IBM was shipping PC/DOS, UCSD/P-System, and CPM/86. Soon thereafter, we saw XENIX, QUNIX, Concurrent C/CPM86, and a slew of other operating systems. If Bill Gates had the idea that he "helped" create Open Source, as we know it today, he did so because he still had to compete during that time period. A lesson he should try to remember, today.

    As for the "real" father(s) of Open Source, as we know it today, I would nominate Ward Christensen and Randy Seuss. Both of them created the world's first BBS, CBBS. Ward also created the X-modem file transfer protocol, and Randy later created one of the first public USENET nodes in the country. BBS's provided the framework under which tranfers of files first became onto the radar screen of the public eye. Earlier programs were distributed in source form, not for openness per se, but because it difficult, if not impossible to produce a binary that would run on most machines. You had to be open. The "virus" was born. Well, probably earlier, but that was before my time. ;-) Mr. Gates probably faced this problem earlier on his career, while his basic interpreter was "pirated" to machines that his company did not ship binaries for. Probably faced it again, as an executable written for on a TI PC would not run on a COMPAQ PC, both running MS/DOS.

    Mr. Gates, IMHO, no human being has done more to impede and retard the advancement of computing technology than yourself. Think for a moment how much M$ spends every year on R&D. Look what you have to show for it. Look at the production of NEW ideas in the 60's through the 80's. Then look at the 90's. The reason Open Source thrives is to spite you. Even though you have succeeded in driving every worthy commercial competitor into the ground, we will not stand for it. We demand that our machines ability to do work for us follow the Moore curve, and not the curve of your burgeoning empire. We demand choice. We demand the ability to make up our own minds. We will innovate. As much as you try, we will see our own vision, and not the one you attempt to impose.
    • The reason Open Source thrives is to spite you.

      I beg to differ. =) Linus has said on multiple occasions that he doesn't care about Microsoft, nor Bill Gates. He doesn't even brag at the fact that an OS originally inteded to be run on only his machine has put a dent in Microsoft's monopoly attempt. Just because you hate Mr Gates, and his evil empire, doesn't mean you can attack him with Open Source! The entire Open Source community doesn't hate Bill Gates, some don't even care what he's doing (see: Linus Travolds). Don't use OSS's name to flame Gates and Microsoft, because your voice does not represent the entire Open Source community.

      • You can't argue with the fact that a great many linux-heads out there are linux-heads out of spite for microsoft.
        Without them, Linux would be "just another" interesting graduate student's science project.
  • So Bill had some imput into making the architecture of the original IBM PC open (though it was mostly all already decided by IBM to be an open architecure).

    The question he was asked was whether the open source model was a more efficient one if the goal is to "build an ecosystem of developers (developers! developers!), users, resellers...).

    He did not answer that question, but instead went off on a rant about how he had something to do with an open architecture on a hardware system he had only tangental influence over 20 years ago.

  • by clovis ( 4684 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @01:43AM (#2594442)
    Digital Equipment started the open architecture thing with the PDP series in the '60's when most of these characters were still bed-wetters. http://www.faqs.org/faqs/dec-faq/pdp8/
    I worked for Burroughs in the '70's. If you had one you got the source code for the OS (Burroughs MCP) and source for just about everything that went with it. It wasn't free, and you couldn't republish it, but you could (and many did) modify and recompile it to suit yourself. But, I digress. Digital really gets the credit.

    These guys all know this history and are not being honest when they pretend to have a part in creating the open source movement. In fact, they've done more than anyone except Apple to set it back - The only open part was publishing a subset of the API. Hell, Microsoft did not even document all the switches to DOS commands (fdisk /mbr), much less release a complete list of the system calls.
    ...grumble
  • One can get standardisation in the market without a monopoly. Much of the internet is now driven by the stand components found in Netscape Navigator. This has largely displaced third-party special purpose software [like the AOL client and the MSN client], with a high level of interopterability. It also did in a lot of BBS programs.

    And this choice was made by the market, not by some monopoly.

    In the end, you see a high level of standardisation going on, whether or not this is driven by regulation or a monopoly. Even refills for Parker pens are now a standard product that fits a range of pens.

    M$ may have hastened the adoption of a standard, and that may have become entrenched, but in the long run, their incessant desire to keep fiddling with it may be their undoing. OS/2 and Linux do quite nicely because their APIs are very stable and established. [Shell scripts in OS/2 2.0 still run under the latest version, 10 years later.]

    What may also force the issue is the tieing of multiple parts together. One can not use POP3 to clients other than OutLook, yet this has many serious bugs. This, and the restraint of trade it imposes, may do MS more damage.

  • by nyet ( 19118 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @03:23AM (#2594724) Homepage
    Anybody who buys Bill's rediculous assertion that he created Open Source needs a severe beating with a clue stick.

    History lesson: Bill's first reaction to an "Open Source" effort was the following (infamous) letter:

    An Open Letter to Hobbyists

    To me, the most critical thing in the hobby market right now is the lack of good software courses, books and software itself. Without good software and an owner who understands programming, a hobby computer is wasted. Will quality software be written for the hobby market

    Almost a year ago, Paul Allen and myself, expecting the hobby market to expand, hired Monte Davidoff and developed Altair BASIC. Though the initial work took only two months, the three of us have spent most of the last year documenting, improving and adding features to BASIC. Now we have 4K, 8K, EXTENDED, ROM and DISK BASIC. The value of the computer time we have used exceeds $40,000.

    The feedback we have gotten from the hundreds of people who say they are using BASIC has all been positive. Two surprising things are apparent, however, 1) Most of these "users" never bought BASIC (less than 10% of all Altair owners have bought BASIC), and 2) The amount of royalties we have received from sales to hobbyists makes the time spent on Altair BASIC worth less than $2 an hour.

    Why is this? As the majority of hobbyists must be aware, most of you steal your software. Hardware must be paid for, but software is something to share. Who cares if the people who worked on it get paid?

    Is this fair? One thing you don't do by stealing software is get back at MITS for some problem you may have had. MITS doesn't make money selling software. The royalty paid to us, the manual, the tape and the overhead make it a break-even operation. One thing you do do is prevent good software from being written. Who can afford to do professional work for nothing? What hobbyist can put 3-man years into programming, finding all bugs, documenting his product and distribute for free? The fact is, no one besides us has invested a lot of money in hobby software. We have written 6800 BASIC, and are writing 8080 APL and 6800 APL, but there is very little incentive to make this software available to hobbyists. Most directly, the thing you do is theft.

    What about the guys who re-sell Altair BASIC, aren't they making money on hobby software? Yes, but those who have been reported to us may lose in the end. They are the ones who give hobbyists a bad name, and should be kicked out of any club meeting they show up at.

    I would appreciate letters from any one who wants to pay up, or has a suggestion or comment. Just write to me at 1180 Alvarado SE, #114, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87108. Nothing would please me more than being able to hire ten programmers and deluge the hobby market with good software.

    Bill Gates
    General Partner, Micro-Soft


    What a ringing endorsement of the principals of Open Source.

    Why am I not suprised that Cringley is ignorant of this letter?
      • What hobbyist can put 3-man years into programming, finding all bugs, documenting his product and distribute for free

      Er, the answer's in the question, Bill. A hobbyist.

      • Nothing would please me more than being able to hire ten programmers and deluge the hobby market with good software

      Well, that's honest enough at least. Appropriate, extend, control. Bill learned that lesson early.

      Thanks for posting this, and good luck with preserving it in the face of Bill's historical revision. Best wishes for your karma.

  • by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @05:08AM (#2594904)
    Let me see if I get this right. Somebody asked Bill:

    "It appears to me that the open source movement is gaining momentum, and as I understand it, the key to success of a softwareproduct involves efficiently building an ecosystem of developers and users,resellers, and so forth. Isn't the open source model a more efficient paradigm forbuilding such a community around your products, and isn't perhaps Microsoft maybe on the wrong side of that trend of long-term?"

    To which Bill answered:

    "Let me start out, really the reason that you see open source there at all is because we came in and said there should be a platform that's identical with millions and millions of machines, and the BIOS of that should be open to everybody to use, and all the extensibility should be there. And so it was very predictable that once we had gotten the PC going, and going and gotten hundreds of millions of machines out there, that it had always been sort of free software and the universities would flourish and there would be more of that... Blah, Blah, Blah"

    Fistly Billys answer sounds like something from the mouth of Dan Quale or Ronald Regan (in his altsheimer phase). Secondly It also seems to me that confused as his staement is that Bill is not claiming to be the originator/father of the Open Sourcre movement. He did not say "I came in" He said "we came in" so depending on what he meand by we that statement may include IBM. At best he is claiming to have helped create the "ecosystem" refered to in the question. This statement has been ripped out of context and nobody seems to have bothered to post Bills entire answer. Is there a transcript of the debate somewhere. I'd like to see the place where he says "It is a little known fact that Microsoft actually invented the open source movement y'know" and not some badly formulated comment that can be read a dozen different ways depending on how much you hate Bill Gates.
  • Maybe Bill will claim he is the creator of idea idea of a pie-in-the-face. It would make sense since open source is pretty much doing the same thing to his empire.
  • by Cat Mara ( 211617 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @06:09AM (#2595006) Homepage
    [Open Source exists] because we came in and said there should be a platform that's identical with millions and millions of machines, and the BIOS of that should be open to everybody to use, and all the extensibility should be there.

    Sorry, Bill, but that doesn't hold up. Anyone else here remember the DEC Rainbow? The Rainbow was an MS-DOS machine but it wasn't PC-compatible. There were a few machines like this in the early '80s, but they were displaced when the true clones appeared. It seems to me that the early vision for MS-DOS was for it to become the Unix of the microcomputer world: a common API that ran on a number of different architectures where porting applications was (theoretically, anyway) a recompile away. The fact that MS fought IBM for the right to sell DOS to OEMs bears this out.

    But the IBM PC succeeded, not because of Microsoft, but because it had IBM written on it and that made the suits all tingly inside.

    One could also point to those early MS products like Multiplan (the forerunner of Excel) that were written in some sort of pseudocode so they could be easily ported to different micros. I'm sure Bill would claim that these were compromises in the Great Vision (computer on every desk yadda yadda) and that what he wanted all along was for the PC to succeed. But MS didn't care what machine succeeded, so long as there was MS software running on it and their early strategy of backing every horse in the running demonstrates this.

    • And in those early days, who's software wouldn't run on non-IBM MS-DOS systems? That's right, Microsoft's. Until clones stablized, the standard program to test how IBM compatable a clone was, was Microsoft Flight Simulator.
  • The first company to do a lawywer-proof "clean room" re-implementation of IBM's BIOS was Compaq. Other cloners were less scrupulous, many copying the IBM roms outright, sometimes leaving in the copyright tags. Phoenix technologies, makers of the well known Phoenix BIOS, was another early player in the BIOS arena.

    I mention this as historical background to the main point of this post, which is that neither Microsoft nor Bill Gates ever created or sold a clone or IBMs BIOS for the PC. In fact they would have little reason to do so seeing as how they helped create the original BIOS itself. Remember the version of basic that would pop up when you didn't have a boot disk on the original IBM systems? Guess who wrote that? Yep, thats right Microsoft. Microsoft also had input into the design and feature set of the EGA graphics card. I can't say for certain what else they influenced or helped design on the hardware side of things, but I can tell you that they never created a CLONE of the PC's BIOS, at least not any that ever made it out to the public, what they did in house for a lark I can't say.

    I almost expect ignorant journalists to make statements like "Microsoft created the first open BIOS for the PC." But if Gates himself is saying that then someone needs to give him history lesson.

    Lee
  • Evidently Gates has forgotten everything before 1981. To summarize the state of computing on college campuses in 1973-75 (approximately the period when Gates & friends were using free time on Harvard mainframes to develop Altair BASIC, which was Microsoft's first product):

    Proprietary operating systems -- in most cases the source was available, but since it only worked on one machine...

    Commercial applications usually distributed as source and compiled for the target environment.

    Lots of college kids busy hacking and swapping code. This was always source code -- since the hardware wasn't standardized, you had to re-compile for it, often with some tweaks. And the _fun_ was in the tweaks. (I kind of overdid it, spending so much time playing with the Star Trek program that I stopped going to classes. Eventually the college kicked me out...)

    Who thought about copyright when we were having so much fun? Gates...

    Of course, to play in this arena you had to somehow get access to a computer that cost more than a yard full of new Cadillacs. Either you had to be a student at a college that did not limit access to the computers, or you had to have a very tolerant employer. Microcomputers opened this up to everyone who was sufficiently interested. Within a few months of the release of Altair BASIC, hobbyist magazines were publishing hundreds of programs for it. Amd soon there were other microcomputers on the market, and everyone was adapting BASIC programs to them, and these were also swapped freely. Actually, from 1975-1981, Microsoft _was_ a major driver behind open source -- but nobody had invented a name for it yet, and this is certainly NOT what Gates was trying to claim credit for.

    Just one thing Gates is correct about in the PC era -- if it hadn't been for his creation of gigantic monolithic software packages, all bound up in copyrights and security thru obscurity, it's quite possible that all those merry hackers would have simply continued doing their own thing without ever seeing themselves as a "movement" named Open Source, or a need to write the GPL so Gates and his imitators could not absorb code that had been given away freely into proprietary, closed, and undocumented programs...
  • by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @09:46AM (#2595422) Homepage Journal
    The year was 1975, Bill Gates and co. begain porting BASIC (where did they get the source?) to the Altair, but it was taking them longer then they had planned.
    Many had long already paid for it, as they had for hardware they had yet to receive or had gotten but didn't work.

    Well the hombrew computer club.....

    There was a show at some hotel, where the Altair was running Bill's port of BASIC, but many wondered why they didn't yet have it as they had already paid for it.

    Sooooo, someone took a copy of the paper tape and made some copies. Took these copies to the club meeting and gave them out with one requirement. That the
    receiving parties also make copies and bring them to the next club meeting and share.

    Bill didn't want to release his BASIC yet because he claimed it still had some bugs in it. But by the time he did release it, the buggy paper tape version had
    already spread across the country. But not only had it spread, but people were debugging it, learning how it worked and fixing it themselves and even selling
    their bosses and companies they worked for on buying it. Certainly knowing how it worked was a big plus.

    Well Bill got mad that he finally released version of BASIC wasn't selling very well and coined the term "Piracy".
    The matter even made it to the front cover of TIME Magizine as "The Great Software Flap"

    So yeah, Bill Started OSS, But sure as hell, not because he wanted to.

    All this can be found in an early book by Steven Levy like "hacker: heros of the computer revolution"
    • The year was 1975, Bill Gates and co. begain porting BASIC (where did they get the source?) to the Altair

      To squeeze BASIC into 8K of memory, they must have been writing in assembly language -- and since there were no previous 8080 BASIC interpreters, or even any microcomputer hardware capable of supporting a BASIC interpreter, I'd think they wrote the source themselves. Much of that job is in planning, data diagramming, and flowcharting, and parts of that could have come out of computer science textbooks, published docs on mainframe BASIC's, and information that hackers would freely swap. However, compressing it down to fit in 8K was quite an accomplishment and must have involved some genuine originality...

      They also wrote an Altair simulator to run on the college mainframes, so they could get started before the Altair prototype was actually built. I'd expect that many pieces of that program were adapted from other simulators. In those days, simulator programs were more likely to be written as college projects, or for fun, than for profit, and most hackers would be happy to show off their code to anyone interested...

      The slow delivery & cost of Altair BASIC caused the first burst of software piracy, not open source.... Open source already existed (without a name), and unless Gates & company spent their college years wearing blinders they damn well know it.
  • simply has to be Will Crowther's Colossal Cave Adventure, with second place honors to the text "Star Trek". Source was available, and it spang forth in viral fashion on every machine I ever used up to about 1990. While all the OS vendor's source was available, you couldn't carry it somewhere and port it. The scientific guys hadn't gotten it (they are still trying to get license fees for NASTRAN). But these silly text games got carried forth like weeds by people carrying 9 track or DECtapes from site to site. This is a lot closer to the model we really have for open source now, and there was no stinkin license debate either.

    -dB


  • ...more self-absorbedly disconnected from computing reality...

    ...than Robert Cringely...

    ...evaluating Bill Gates' historical revisionism...

    --Blair
  • by JoeBuck ( 7947 ) on Wednesday November 21, 2001 @01:57PM (#2596842) Homepage

    This point has evidently been missed because most of you are too young to remember. The large population of identical boxes isn't what makes open source possible; it's what makes closed source (proprietary binary-only software) possible. The root of open source and free software as it exists today is Unix (even though it was not open source), and in particular the notion of a portable operating system, together with the C language.

    Back in the 80s, there was a huge diversity of machines running some flavor of Unix, with about a dozen different instruction sets and 50-odd distinct Unix-based or Unix-like operating systems in use. For most of these, there were simply too few machines to justify the sale of more than a few applications optimized to that particular machine. The result was that folks needed to learn how to program portably and needed to distribute source code. In many cases the license terms did not correspond to what we now call open source (one common licensing scheme was the single sentence "do whatever you want with this as long as you don't take my name off or try to make money with it"). And there were a number of "gated community" projects (you paid a company to get a source license, and you could compile it yourself).

    Possibly the most significant program Larry Wall wrote in the old days was Configure -- he pretty much invented the concept of querying the system to obtain a portable set of #defines that would then allow the program to be built on many platforms. The original one asked the user too many questions that it could have figured out for itself, but is was chatty and witty and would insult your OS if Larry didn't like it. But in any case the point was that if a program didn't come with source, the users would not be able to use it in all probability, there were too many different machines. Proprietary apps that cost tens of thousands could be sold to those with mainframes or maybe Vaxes, but there was no possibility of a mass market. It was Usenet that drove the culture, though, especially the netnews software itself, which was the first example most folks saw of extremely portable C code. My first free software work was the contribution of a port of the 2.11B news software to an obscure Unix-on-top-of-VMS thingie called Eunice (Larry Wall's Configure had a specific insult if it figured out that you were running Eunice, something about a foul, musty stink).

    Without this pre-existing free software culture in place, mass market machines like the Apple II and the IBM PC would not have produced it; there would have been no need. What would have happened in its absence, if machines got cheaper without converging on one architecture, would be that we'd all be using something like the BSD ports setup: a binary package would be useless, you'd have to download source and compile it locally, using "make world" to keep up to date. But it still could have worked.

FORTRAN is not a flower but a weed -- it is hardy, occasionally blooms, and grows in every computer. -- A.J. Perlis

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