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The Sad Parable of OS/2 661

Still-in-Mourning writes "IBM's first 32-bit version of its advanced PC operating system was released 10 years ago this month. It was better than anything around, yet it failed. Its hopes were pinned on many of the same things we hope today will bring Linux to the forefront. What lessons are to be learned? Will we learn them? A glimpse of a sorry chapter in computing history."
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The Sad Parable of OS/2

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  • OS/2 (Score:3, Funny)

    by shankark ( 324928 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @06:32PM (#3178082)
    One of my professors in undergraduate school often quipped that IBM's OS/2 was exactly that, an OS by half.
  • by kevin42 ( 161303 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @06:38PM (#3178112) Homepage
    I'm sad to say it, but I think it's true. I was a hard core OS/2 user through OS/2 Warp (I think that was 2.1). It was very good, but when windows 95 came out and was more stable, plus had better application support, I couldn't see why I should continue using it. OS/2's windows compatibility only got worse over time.

    Don't get me wrong, I wish OS/2 took over and we were all using it instead of windows, I think we'd be far better off.

    Hopefully the linux world can learn something from that. If Microsoft ever gets the upper hand in the areas where Linux excels, it will be very bad for Linux. Not as bad as it was for OS/2 though, if for no other reason than the price of Linux.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Windows 95 didn't kill OS/2, the apps did. The apps wouldn't run on OS/2, so people had to use Win95 even though it was less stable. The users needed the apps, but didn't have a stable platform to run them on until 6 years later (2001) when Windows 2000 showed up.

      How they survived those intervening 5 years is a long story, but it has a lot to do with IT people committing massive fraud and computers being horribly unreliable.

      Heh, and now that MS has a stable OS, the apps have all gone down the shitter. You just can't win. Keeps the IT folks employed, though, so you win if you're a MSCE.

      • No one went to a store and saw a box with OS2 on one side, and a box with Windows on the other.

        No, you went to buy a PC and Windows was on it, you had NO OPTION to buy OS2 at all.

        You had no option to buy BeOS.

        The only way to compete with Windows is from your own platform, because Microsoft has a monopoly on OEM contracts.

        How can any OS no matter how good it ever becomes, compete with an inferior OS thats packed in on every machine?

        Face it, if a person buys a computer and it works, theres no reason to ever buy a new OS.

        Sales of Windows95-98-2000 werent from people going to stores and buyingg boxes or the upgrades, most of the sales came from people buying PCs which came with Windows included.

        Perhaps there should be a law, no more OEM contracts period.

        Then let the user actually choose their OS, I guarentee that Windows95 wouldnt have beaten OS2.

        I didnt want Windows95 when i got a computer, I thought OS2 was cooler in every way, but when I got a computer, it already had Windows95, there was no reason to get OS2 because Windows95 worked.

      • Windows 95 didn't kill OS/2, the apps did. The apps wouldn't run on OS/2, so people had to use Win95 even though it was less stable

        Err, what apps? When Windows 3.1 came out all you got was a pretty GUI interface to start your character cell based program. Lotus, Wordperfect and co were both sitting on the fence waiting to see whose GUI O/S would win the battle.

        Ten years ago IBM was considered the big monopolist threat in both hardware and software. When OS/2 launched IBM gleefully told the world that it intended to tie the O/S to its increasingly proprietary hardware systems.

        Microsoft offered the hardware manufacturers a GUI O/S that was not controlled by a competitor. They also cut through the problem of waiting for the applications by writing their own GUI wordprocessor etc.

    • If IBM had the exclusive OEM contracts, then Windows95 would have been destroyed.

      Why do people always ignore the illegal practices of Microsoft? IE is on top because it came with Windows.
      Windows is on top because it comes with every PC.

      Its IMPOSSIBLE to compete with a product which comes with the OS itself, and its IMPOSSIBLE to compete with a product which comes with the PC itself.

      A user is not going to spend money on something they already have. Thats why OS2 didnt sell, why buy OS2 when you already have Windows?

      Now, if Linux can manage to get OEM contracts, Linux can actually compete.

      Apple couldnt / cant get OEM contracts so they sell their own Machines, Linux may have to sell their own box's to be successful, Sun did it, SGI did it, Apple does it, Linux may have to do this if they cant get OEM contracts.

      The key is OEM contracts, thats the key.
      • exclusive EM contracts aren't illegal until you're ruled a monopoly. When Microsoft established these contracts they were not a monopoly. Sure, over time they became one because of the exclusive contracts.

        Dell tried to sell Linux workstations. Their endeavors failed and they dropped the program altogether. They still sell servers with Linux preinstalled but that's it.

        Sun is failing as a hardware/os/software company due to Linux. SGI isn't in much better shape though they have one of the most lucrative industries in the world clammoring for their machines - Hollywood. Apple is doing well though they are having a tough time climbing out of their niche market. Be, well, be was, and won;t be anymore.
        • Not a monopoly in 1994? You are right that the courts didn't RULE they were one but they did sign a consent decree in 1994 with the DOJ. The Justice overseeing the case looked it over and refused to sign it because it didn't do enough to stop Microsofts strong-arming tactics. Judge Sporkin was removed from the case and Judge Jackson was handed the case and told to sign it. He did.

          Judge Jackon is the same Judge Jackson who got the latest case and was he pissed to see what Microsoft did with the first decree.

          Not a monopoly? With billions in cash there seems to be no law you are accountable to. Or so it seems.

          Did you know that USAG Ashcroft received more money from Microsoft than from Enron?

      • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @07:55PM (#3178387)
        Don't forget, in 1995 Microsoft did have a monopoly on PC OS's and what they did to make Windows 95 apps NOT run under OS/2 was anti-competitive and illegal. Microsoft built Windows 95 to load a few resources up at the 1GB memory address just to prevent OS/2 from running Windows 95 apps just like it ran Windows 3.x apps. You see, OS/2 could ONLY access 512MB of address space.

        Let's not forget that in Nov 1994, at COMDEX, HP had 50% of their PC's running OS/2 the night before the show opened. Bill Gates made a phone call and by morning, NO HP computers were running OS/2.

        The list goes on. I blame IBM 10% for OS/2 not gaining more market share and the other 90% was Microsofts anti-competitive nature to do ANYTHING to prevent the consumer from making the choice.

        Speaking of choice, do you remember that Microsoft threatened to pull out of COMDEX because IBM was doing it's keynote speech about choices unless IBMs timeslot was moved to reduce the viewers. I think IBM dropped out of COMDEX the following year and all since.

        Think about it. It took MIcrosoft 10 years to build a version of Windows that is close to OS/2 v2.0... well maybe v2.1 is a better comparison since it had better legacy Windows support and the 32bit graphics system updates. TEN YEARS!

        WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO TODAY??? With Microsoft?

    • Win95 was less stable, cost more and came with less - OS/2 included things like IBM Works (a basic office suite), fax software, web browser, etc.

      What made the difference were the developers. Microsoft did a better job taking care of software and hardware developers. Couple a lack of apps with Microsoft's preload strange-hold and OS/2 was doomed.

      The real lesson to be learned is the danger of helping Microsoft. They've since killed off some of the companies they supported back when they needed the application edge over OS/2 and the preload costs aren't anywhere near as competitive as they were back when Microsoft wanted to keep IBM out of that market.
  • by The Gardener ( 519078 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @06:42PM (#3178122) Homepage

    One of these was "warp," which on the television show meant the speed of light or something.

    Dear God, how big is that rock you're hiding under?

    The Gardener

  • Warp funeral (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vrmlguy ( 120854 ) <> on Sunday March 17, 2002 @06:43PM (#3178129) Homepage Journal
    I'm in the process of moving, so I spent the weekend cleaning out my basement. I paused for a moment of silence before tossing my old copy of Warp.


    Warp was a thing of great beauty. With Rexx (IBM's in-house Perl-like scripting language), you could do *anything*. Windows still hasn't caught up, although the scripting shell extensions come close. And the multimedia/real-time support... *sigh*

    I still remember seeing a laptop (I think 486 based) showing a movie in one window while the GUI remained responsive. There was never a flicker or stutter as windows were moved and resized and compiles ran in the background.

    Tossing those CDs left me feeling depressed about the state of personal computing, and then this article shows up just as I was feeling better.

    • I installed warp on a pentium 60 with 24MB main memory, quadruple booting with DOS, WinNT 3.51, and Linux on a 540MB hard disk. Amazing what you used to be able to get on 1/2GB. Anyway I liked Warp a lot except the networking sucked really hard. There was some arduous process you had to go through just to make a LAN card work. Download IBM TCP/IP stack software and put it on floppies. Install said software, making sure to tell it that no, you aren't using token ring, thank you. Reboot and notice your config.sys or what-have-you is hosed. Try again. Over and over. I never did get my LAN card working in Warp, and I was able to get it to work in Linux and DOS/WfW without trouble.
    • Re:Warp funeral (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spudnic ( 32107 )
      I remember going to demo of Warp when it was first released. I don't know if it was just our presenter or a marketing notion throughout the company, but he spent almost the entire time trying to convince us that he could make it look and behave just like Windows 3.x. Not why it was better or anything, but that he could run a Windows file manager.

      Of course nothing happened when he tried to launch it. It just kind of sat there. He made some excuse about it being a Microsoft problem and quickly moved on to the drawing for the t-shirts (which I won one of) and about 5 minutes later the file manager popped up on the projector, then immediately crashed.

      Imitation can be ok in some respects, but making a GUI that imitates what Microsoft has already done on their last release or trying to emulate their underlying API's will never make an OS successfull. You've got to stand out and be better. If you can make the environment a little more comfortable for migrating users then that's ok, but make sure it's just a transition thing and not a design schematic.

      • I don't know if it was just our presenter or a marketing notion throughout the company, but he spent almost the entire time trying to convince us that he could make it look and behave just like Windows 3.x.

        My wife worked at a place that tried to do just that with OS/2 Warp -- make it work with and act just like Windows. Ugh -- I can remember a couple of times sitting down at her PC and being amazed that the company wasn't bankrupt it was so amazingly braindead, hard to use and unreliable.

        I think the business was a huge IBM mainframe shop from way back (it was retail, with IBM cash registers, mainframe apps, etc etc) and somebody never got fired for buying IBM. They switched to NT4 and got all its problems, but at least it had a consistant user interface and one operating environment instead of 2 or 3 (OS/2, Win stimulation, DOS).
    • I just installed my copy of Warp on a 486/33 laptop with 12 megs about 4 months ago! Honest! It's running a terminal program and acts as the console for my Linux fileserver. Most of the time it's turned off.
  • I use to work in a shop that used it exclusively. As I recall IBM let it die on the vine because of threats from M$. Lots of potential there that was wasted.It was really a shame, because I felt that the "flat" memory system that it used caused less problems with software than paging, and you didn't have to work (as much) about things like setting up config.sys or autoexec.bat for weird memory configurations. Rexx was a really cool language too. I wrote a script that migrated the ACL for about 100 users from one server to another. It did the job.
    • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @08:12PM (#3178453)
      I remember running Microsofts Flight Simulator under OS/2 without a problem while my boss spent a full day attempting to get DOS/Windows config.sys configured so it had enough memory to run. When he game me the disk to install it, he said he got it from a friend who worked for Microsoft and that there was no way OS/2 could run it better/easier then Microsofts DOS/Windows. It was made by Microsoft, he said.

      Boy did he shut up 10 minutes later when it was running along with my web server and about 30 other processes.

      I even told the group to start printing thru my OS/2 box because the Windows for Workgroups dedicated print server machine was GPF'ing so much. Never a problem from then on.

      Just think of where we would be today if Microsoft did prevent consumers from making the choice of OS/2? Rmember, OS/2 v4.0 had speech navigation and recognition builtin in 1996......

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 17, 2002 @06:48PM (#3178140)
    Here's a mirror []
  • by The Gardener ( 519078 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @06:48PM (#3178143) Homepage

    "It turns out to be a web of intrigue. The reasons for its failure are not singular, but a complex matrix, and I would put Microsoft -- and IBM -- at the top of the list," says John C. Dvorak.

    The reason Linux will succeed isn't because it's better, but because it's not owned by a single mega-corp. No single corp can out-compete a public (not gov't) standard, in the long run. VHS beat Betamax for that sole reason.

    The Gardener

  • A Few Ideas... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lethyos ( 408045 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @06:50PM (#3178151) Journal
    There's a few other simple reasons OS/2 might have failed. The first was that it was just too robust. You comment in the story that it was 10 years ago that it was begun. Well, think about the machines we had 10 years ago. Most people, if they even had a computer, they were in the 286 or 386 department. OS/2 is a heavy-weight. It compared more to what NT was soon to become back then. Yes, it had smaller hardware requirements, but most people's machines were just insufficient for running it. Other possibility was the amount of DOS software out there 10 years ago.

    Games and multimedia software were mostly written for DOS because authors needed direct hardware access. OS/2, while having excellent DOS support, it was still too slow and unstable to play Falcon 3.0 or what have you (although, I admit I was able to get CrystalDream II by Triton to run... only after a LOT of hacking).

    Aside from that, there were no direct hardware access API's available... ever (as far as I know). When OS had to start competing with Windows 95, Microsoft was introducing the WinG (Windows Graphics) library, the library that eventually lead to DirectX. I'm not saying that OS/2 had no multimedia support (it had a fantastic multimedia model), but it simply was not ambitious enough.

    Too bad. OS/2 was never geared towards people with lower end (average at the time) hardware and those who wanted to play games.
    • Re:A Few Ideas... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by adamsc ( 985 )
      Developer support was a big problem with OS/2, but IBM did have DIVE and DART to provide direct access to video and audio hardware. They never did anything significant with them but there *was* an API.
  • That is...its our way or the highway.

    Everyone took the highway.
  • not even close (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mmusn ( 567069 )
    It was better than anything around, yet it failed.

    Not even close. There were plenty of other operating systems and GUIs around at the time: NeXTStep, UNIX workstations and GUIs, Smalltalk-based systems, to name just a few.

    NeXTStep alone beat OS/2 technologically in just about every area. The only major OS that OS/2 was clearly better than was DOS/Windows, but that was not exactly hard to do.

    OS/2 was an attempt by IBM and Microsoft to corner the market with a proprietary operating system and proprietary APIs. It is poetic justice that the effort went down in flames as far as IBM was concerned. It is unfortunate that the effort succeeded as far as Microsoft is concerned, which apparently moved bits and pieces of OS/2 into NT.

    The lesson to be learned from this? Either be the monopolist, or go with open source and open APIs. That's why IBM is pushing Linux now and Microsoft is pushing Windows.

  • I remember when OS/2 Warp 3 first came out. The Commercials were stupid. I mean, sure a lot of commercials are stupid, but at least they show the product they are peddling. IBM's OS/2 commercials just showed a bunch of guys crowded around a monitor going "Wow! I can't beleive it can do that! Wow that's amazing!" but the Camera view was from behind the monitor so you didn't see anything they were doing. Then it had some catchy IBM slogan and that was it. All the commercials I can remember were like that, and I never knew what it was. I did however buy it after seeing it at a local computer shop. I think I bought it at Walmart, all 45 Floppy Disks. It ran BBS's well. It's sad it never made it very far.. I hear banks still use it though for certain applications.
  • IBM killed OS/2 (Score:4, Informative)

    by Eric Green ( 627 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @06:53PM (#3178167) Homepage
    Remember, OS/2 was originally released as part of IBM's PS/2 attempt to re-hijack the personal computer industry. The personal computer industry wasn't buying it -- they had no desire to put themselves back into thrall to IBM.

    It's hard to believe, in today's day and age when Microsoft is the "evil empire", that there was once a day when Microsoft was the scrappy upstart and IBM was the "evil empire", but that's what the situation was like for most of the 1980's. In the end it did not matter how good OS/2 became... nobody was going to put their company at the mercy of IBM again.

    By the time OS/2 Warp (32-bit OS/2) came out, if you mentioned OS/2 to anybody in the computer industry, they'd say something like "You mean that runs on something other than IBM PS/2 computers?". Unlike what somebody else here mentioned, everybody in the computer industry knew what OS/2 was and what it was capable of doing. But a) they didn't know it ran on anything other than IBM equipment, and b) they weren't interested in putting themselves back into thrall to IBM again.

    In the end, politics, not technology, doomed OS/2. The politics of Linux are completely different from the politics that doomed OS/2, and I can't think of any lesson from the OS/2 saga that applies to Linux.


    • Wasn't IBM the business model for Bill Gates to emulate? Didn't IBM wage a battle with the DOJ and didn't IBM use every concievable ploy, including submitting a warehouse of hard documents that numbered so high as to be impossible for the DOJ to ever peruse? With OS/2 and MicroChannel Architecture IBM made a concerted effort to capture the PC market but I think they underestimated the size and the savy of the market.
    • Crap (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @09:31PM (#3178685) Homepage Journal
      2.0 ran perfectly on my OEM Laptop at the time. 2.1 was the ultimate in stability and performance for OS/2. It was down hill from there. Most of the changes in Warp are either cosmetic or lame attempts to hack around the OS/2 shortcomings that the market was demanding fixes to.

      As far as I could tell, no one outside IBM was buying the PS/2. At least, I've never seen a single one outside the company. At the height of its popularity, it was estimated that OS/2 had over 10 million users.

      IBM could have stayed ahead and taken over the industry, but a lot of factors conspired to prevent it from happening. Much of it was due to IBM attitude. First off, mainframe mentality ruled (And still rules, to a large extent) the company. Upper management still viewed the PC as a toy. Certainly they would never have dreamt that a user might actually want to multitask with it, even though OS/2 featured preemptive multitasking.

      Further there was the IBM tendency to do a thing and then sit back and rest on their laurels. They go into maintenance mode and don't continue active research and development of innovative new features. IBM business process is still not geared toward a completed project where live development is still taking place.

      As for marketing, well it is said that IBM couldn't market eternal life if they had sole rights. They had no idea of their target demographic and they tried to market the product to Joe Average User. This resulted in Joe Average User getting pissed off with the painful installation process. And the installation was painful. IBM could have done something about that, but they were resting on their laurels (See previous point.)

      Furthermore, IBM's own software did not strive to show off the operating system at all. Most of the utilites they shipped were straight windows ports. This resulted in poor performance on the platform. I made a comment in a forum at one point that Netscape for Windows 3.1 actually did a better job of multi-threading than the OS/2 web explorer did. I actually ended up using the DOS version of the document explorer that IBM shipped for documentation because the OS/2 version would block the system input queue while it indexed documents, thus hanging the entire system.

      Most people will agree that the death blow was PCCO's refusal to preload OS/2 on their systems (Due to illegal Microsoft bullying.) Since the install process never improved and there was no way to get the system preloaded, that was pretty much all she wrote.

      There are still some companies out there using OS/2, and they're paying IBM a lot of money to maintain the product. It's mostly banks or other shops with other IBM iron. OS/2 always did talk to the mainframes very well. But OS/2 lost its chance to be a (or THE) mainstream desktop OS when Microsoft introduced Windows 95. Windows 95 was less stable, still didn't feature preemptive multitasking for all programs and had a far less robust interface, but it was good enough that most people didn't care.

      • 1.0 vs. 2.0 (Score:5, Informative)

        by Eric Green ( 627 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @10:07PM (#3178863) Homepage
        2.0 was designed from the get-go to run on pretty much any 32-bit hardware out there. IBM had abandoned the notion of trying to hijack the personal computer industry by that time. The problem is that by the time it came out, everybody in the computer industry was operating under the notion that OS/2 was for the PS/2. Which was true, in the beginning.

        Regarding IBM and Microsoft and OS/2, I've read some reminiscing by one of the industry pundits who was there at the meeting where IBM blew off Microsoft. Bill Gates showed up with all these charts showing Windows as a little side project on top of IBM/Microsoft OS/2, and IBM blew him off. Yep, that's right, IBM blew off Microsoft -- NOT the other way around. That was apparently when Bill decided that Windows was going to be a totally seperate operating system not reliant upon anything IBM (Chairman Bill does NOT like being blown off by arrogant IBM execs!), and that was when Bill decided he was going to borrow some tactics out of the IBM monopoly handbook, such as bundling, "vaporware", and per-CPU pricing.

        Now, I'm not going to argue about whether the Microsoft monopoly on personal computer desktops is good or bad. I'll just point out that an OS/2 monopoly would probably have been even worse -- because IBM is a hardware company as well as a software company, and undoubtedly would have used their hardware muscle to squeeze out the kind of white box clone business that kept Linux alive for many years before the major vendors discovered Linux.


  • Mind you I was an IBMer at the time:

    OS/2 on a PS/2, half an Operating System on half a Computer.

    I'm not a big fan of any operating system that doesn't have a native TCP/IP stack.
  • I was in PC hardware design when OS/2 betas were first circulating (IIRC, it was originally called DOS 5 or something similar). This was the first time that PC memory > 640K got a real workout (random access outside of a 64K peephole). Back then, extended memory often was kludged on with things like piggy-back expansion boards.

    Of course, many machines in the field promptly croaked when the new OS stressed their extended memory for the first time. Our work ground to a halt for weeks as we tracked down flaky RAM-related problems.

    Chasing those types of ghosts was never any fun: Hook a logic analyzer to the memory bus, let it run overnight, find out that the impedance of the logic analyzer probes suppressed the bug, start again from square 1.

    I'm guessing that memory interface designers today use better engineering practices than we did back then.

  • OS/2 v.s Windows (Score:3, Insightful)

    by garett_spencley ( 193892 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @06:56PM (#3178182) Journal
    I always hear people saying how they loved OS/2 and think everyone would be better off if it had "won" instead of windows.

    However, I believe that it would be no different. It would still be open source v.s the big giant. The big giant would just be IBM instead of Microsoft. Don't forget they too are a huge gigantic corporation with no interest except profit just like MS.

    Everyone would instead say "geez I miss windows. I wish it had won on the desktop instead of OS/2. Sure the application support wasn't as good. And OS/2 compatibility in win9x got a lot worse over time but it was still a far better OS IMO."

    Think about it.

    • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @07:41PM (#3178337) Homepage Journal

      I used OS/2 at work from late 1994 until February 2002, when I finally switched to Linux. And damn, Nautilus (the Windows Explorer clone) is just plain sad. It really is just as bad as Windows, maybe even a little worse, if that's possible.

      If OS/2 had won, then GNOME and KDE would be copying a good GUI instead of copying a piece of shit. Or, to put it more generally: if OS/2 had won, things would be better, simply because the product was better. Sure, the "political" situation for would be the same (maybe even a bit more intense since OS/2 would be harder for "open source" to beat than Windows was), but the user experience would be about a decade ahead of where we are right now. So yeah, I wish OS/2 had won.

  • by shoor ( 33382 )
    I was working for a small software house when version 1.0 (I think that was the version) came out and I was given the job of porting some of our products to it. I was pretty impressed. It was the first time I think I ever programmed with threads, etc. and I got our product working pretty well. Then the next version came out and everything I'd done was broken. I couldn't even figure out a way to fix some of the critical things that needed to be done in the new version which seemed to have a completely different philosophy. I heard stories about a team in England having rewritten it, don't know if any of that is true. But my boss swore off Os/2 forever after that.
  • The author of the article seems to think that windows compatablity played a part in the death os os/2.

    He argues that because programmers could make just one version that one run on both os's, they didnt bother marketing an os/2 only version, which would have be optimized for the os/2 platform.

    I hope this isn't going to happen with wine/linux. Its quite obvious that windows programs will never quite work perfect in wine, and I hope developers dont use wine as an excuse to not bother developing linux applications.

  • I don't get it. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blang ( 450736 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @06:58PM (#3178193)
    From the article:

    Microsoft found it all but impossible to develop a useful multitasking operating system for the 286. This was not Microsoft's fault -- the design of the chip simply wouldn't allow much useful to be done with it.

    What exactly in the in the 286 architecture prevents the use of a multitasking operating system? I seem to remember MS once touted Xenix, and there were also other Unixen out there. There were multitasking versions of CPM before the 286. Is the article writer missing something, or am I missing something. You don't need to have built in multiple instruction pipelines in the proceessor to multitask. It is almost trivial to write that into an operating system. Remember Andrew Tannenbaum's Minix that came on floppies included in his book "Operating Systems"?.

    It appears to me that the article writer is trying to excuse Microsoft's lack of skill by pretending that the task was impossible.

    • In fact, you can implement preemtive multitasking on any CPU that has a way of generating regular interrupts. Even old Apple IIcs and gs's can do it. Just because nobody did it, does not mean it's impossible.

      Granted that the '386 has features that make multitasking a LOT easier.
    • Re:I don't get it. (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What exactly in the in the 286 architecture prevents the use of a multitasking operating system?

      The lack of memory protection. The x86 line didn't have an MMU that could be configured to protect apps from each other until the 386.
    • The biggest problem with the 286 was once you entered protected mode, you couldn't get out again... no DOS compatibility. So MS' problem wasn't that you couldn't multitask but that their operating system was so heavily dependent on DOS there was no way they could do it. This was agruably Microsofts fault, but it's more the fault of history.

    • Re:I don't get it. (Score:5, Informative)

      by steveha ( 103154 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @07:50PM (#3178370) Homepage
      What exactly in the in the 286 architecture prevents the use of a multitasking operating system?

      That was not the problem. The problem was writing a multiasking operating system that would run all the DOS apps (which were important at the time).

      When the 286 was in protect mode, some of the instructions worked differently than when it was in "real" mode (8086 compatibility mode). Result: you could not execute DOS apps; they wouldn't work.

      So, how about making a DOS virtual machine? Well, the 386 has features that make it easy to spin up multiple real mode virtual machines, but the 286 didn't have those features. A purely software virtual machine would be very slow.

      So, how about switching out of protect mode and running real mode code in the 286's real mode? That was the only option, so Microsoft took it. However, Intel had not designed the 286 to do this. There was an instruction to start up protect mode, but no instruction to leave it and go back to real mode! Microsoft wound up programming the keyboard controller chip to actually reset the CPU, many times per second, to switch to real mode.

      Because DOS apps ran in real mode, they owned the whole machine: all memory, all devices, etc. So if a DOS app crashed, it would take the whole machine down with it; a crashing DOS app could trash OS/2, and there was no way to prevent it.

      Even worse, the 286 did not have features that would let you virtualize the hardware, and DOS apps liked to talk directly to the hardware. All DOS apps liked to write directly to the video card, rather than going through the BIOS, and the 286 didn't really help you solve that problem.

      So the OS/2 1.x "compatibility box" could only run a single DOS app at a time.

      Meanwhile, Microsoft sold Xenix 286, which worked perfectly well. Alas your Xenix 286 programs either had to be less than 64KB each, or else they had to deal with near/far pointers (yuck), but Xenix 286 worked. Microsoft never tried to do a GUI desktop for Xenix, but it would have been possible.

      It appears to me that the article writer is trying to excuse Microsoft's lack of skill by pretending that the task was impossible.

      No, it really was impossible to write an OS that would run decently fast on the 286 hardware of the day, would multiask old DOS apps, and would be reliable. The 286 was just too broken.

  • by Captain_Frisk ( 248297 ) <> on Sunday March 17, 2002 @07:06PM (#3178212) Homepage
    I'll give you a hint, it wasn't IBM

    Actually, it was (gasp) MICROSOFT (gasp). Think about that before you flame!

    Here are googles top 2 links with more information.

    1. Link
    2. Link

      and the google search itself []
    • Actually, it was (gasp) MICROSOFT (gasp).

      Yeah, and it's just just coincidence that OS/2 didn't actually become a decent product with a good UI, until the early 90s... after the Microsoft/IBM breakup. Coincidence, I tell ya! :-)

    • by KidSock ( 150684 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @11:01PM (#3179116)
      Actually, it was (gasp) MICROSOFT (gasp). Think about that before you flame!

      Actually this isn't exactly true. Originally IBM did contract MS to write OS/2 however by the time they reached version 3 Windows started to gain in popularity so they focused on that and IBM took over OS/2 entirely. If you read the second link a little more carefully it claims IBM re-wrote everything starting from the 1.x base. That became OS/2 Warp and MS took said version 3 and renamed it to Windows NT.
    • by os2fan ( 254461 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @11:01PM (#3179117) Homepage
      Microsoft wrote some, IBM wrote some.

      Likewise, you can say IBM wrote Windows.

      The really good bits (REXX, IPF, WPS, PM, IFS, Program Manager, File Manager) are IBM stuff. The bad bits (the DOS coffin, 16-bit stuff) are Microsoft's stuff.

      IFS forst appeared in the DOS world in PCDOS 4.0. IBM wrote that.

      IBM had virtual machines before Microsoft *existed*. File and Program Manager appeared in OS/2 1.1 or 1.2. Microsoft borrowed these for the Windows 3.x shell apps.

      REXX and IPF are IBM mainframe stuff, using standard bits in different operating systems.

      WPS is IBM's invention: the shell, and even the colours were borrowed by Microsoft. The teal background first appeared in OS/2 2.11, way before Windows.

      And more, IBM tried to support existing machines, and not only the latest and greatest. IE they support the idea of using your OS on an old machine.

    • "OS/2 1.30 (SE and EE) was the first version which was written entirely by IBM. There was still some Microsoft code in it - that would not go away for a couple years yet - but all of the new code and a good portion of the existing code for OS/2 1.30 was written by IBM. As a result, OS/2 1.30 was smaller and faster than previous versions, more stable, and there were far more device drivers available, though still not nearly enough."

      This is from your own link #2. Many users agree that the quality of OS/2 peaked around version 2.1. At this point there was very little Microsoft code left in there. Reading the original article that \. linked to, these early releases weren't very good at all. Only after IBM re-wrote it and brought it beyond the simple *text-mode* support of 1.0, did it gain a following. If Microsoft was able to create a system as good as the OS/2 written by IBM, it wouldn't have tripped and stumbled through NT 3.51 and 4.0 before releasing something decent like 2000. This comment sounds real juicy at first glance but is highly misleading. Sheesh, if only I had some moderator points.
  • by argoff ( 142580 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @07:09PM (#3178223)
    seriously, it is a siple fact that with propriatary technologies - the best one always fails. The whole IT industry is built on the corpses of technologies that were better, but failed because propriatary forces kept them from reaching their maximum potential. think RISC vs CISC, intel vs motorolla, mac gui software vs mirosoft gui software, Amiga vs x86, tcp/ip vs token-ring, novell vs ms networks, etc... We shouldn't be sorry they failed, it is our own fault for beliving that it's ok to gain value by legally restricting the ability of others to copy through crack-pot licensing instead of trying to gain competitive advantages by service and speed of development.
  • by Jack William Bell ( 84469 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @07:09PM (#3178225) Homepage Journal
    Many, far too many, moons ago I started a contract at Aldus Corporation as a SE/T (Software Engineer/Test). My job was to work with one of the first commercial applications developed for OS/2, a new version of Aldus Pagemaker.

    Because no-one at Aldus knew anything about OS/2 (they were pretty much all Mac-heads and sneered at PC's, DOS and Windows) they gave me a brand new computer, a bunch of sticks of RAM and a pile of floppies they got from IBM. "Go figure it out." So I did.

    The developers (who I was never allowed to meet for some bizarre reason) got Yesler (the codename for OS/2 Pagemaker) running about the time I was getting really bored with playing Reversi (the only real application on the OS/2 distribution I had) and I got started doing what they were paying me for; figuring out how to crash Yesler and/or OS/2 and emailing formatted dumps with my comments to the developers. It wasn't hard to find said bugs, although I was told "You can't crash OS/2, it is too solid." Hah!

    Just about the time they got Yesler stable enough that I could put together a demo script the marketroids could use to show off the program (they had to follow it exactly or it would crash) I found a way to make OS/2 have a complete spastic seizure. It involved a fairly complex series of actions that had to be followed exactly, but when you did the last one the computer would freeze and waves of color would wash over the screen. Kind of pretty in a psychodelic way.

    We called it the Colorshow bug and the developers claimed it was an OS/2 problem. This kicked off a shitstorm of finger pointing that ended with the developers working around the bug instead of IBM fixing it. Remember, at this point IBM was actually pretty happy about the Yesler project because it gave their new operating system some street cred, so it really surprised me that there was so much rancor. An earlier problem with printer drivers was fixed in a day from my reporting it.

    But the punchline happened about a week after I found the Colorshow bug. One of the marketroids came by and asked if I could demonstrate the bug for a group of suits that were waiting down the hall. No problem, bring them on (and, yes, I promise to watch my language). So the suits crowd around the desk and I walk the dog and pony (click, click, drag, click, drag, click, colors, "OOOOHH!", nervous laughter). The suits thank me and they leave.

    Then the guy sitting across from me leans over and says "You know who that was?" I shake my head. "That was Paul Brainard," (the CEO of Aldus) "and a bunch of Apple executives up here for a visit."


    Jack William Bell
  • by os2fan ( 254461 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @07:14PM (#3178250) Homepage
    The Linuxers do well to learn from the experiences of the OS/2 and Amiga grass roots campaigns.

    Like Linux, many OS/2 users chose and stuck with their OS because they wanted, and because they changed.

    OS/2 users often multibooted, and were quite familiar with Windows systems. Often far better than the Windows users themselves. :) This is in part because fixing the problems up in OS/2 often required a bit of poking around, and this habit passed onto fixing Windows systems.

    What we do not really need is this "death threat" thing when advocates turned nasty.

    OS/2 trives even now, not because of IBM or Microsoft, but, like Linux, because of the users themselves. It aims at a different market to Linux, but both have vigourous grass roots. No monopolist likes that :).

  • OS/2 was by far the best work that Microsoft ever did.

    There was a wonderful quote from the head of the marketing team for Windows 95 who said words to the effect that " If you asked anyone at Microsoft they could have told you that OS/2 was a far superior operating system to Windows 95 - our job was to keep anyone else from discovering that."

    The Microsoft marketing team did a great job and foisted off on the public the worst operating system ever on any computer.

    By the way - if you doubt that W95 is the worst OS ever - here is a simple test: name an OS that was less stable - less secure - and more virus prone that W9x. There isn't one. Like I said; W95 is the worst operating system ever put on a computer.

    -- I think that Microsoft supporters ought to be known as 'Renfields'. They have similar motivations, and like Dracula's servant they are on an "all the bugs you can eat" diet. --
  • Unfortunately... I think the fate of OS/2 might just befall Java.
  • Theres only one reason why OS2 failed, it failed because Microsoft had an illegal monopoly, exclusive OEM contracts never gave OS2 a chance.

    When I wanted to buy my first computer i tried to get OS2 warp, i even wanted mac. However to get OS2 warp I'd have to spend an extra $200, to get mac I'd have to spend an extra $1000.

    Because Windows came with the PC itself, to buy or use anything else would be a waste of money, after all windows works, and it comes with the machine so why use anything else?

    Face it, you could have had OSX out back when Windows95 was around and Windows95 would still have won because people never even had the OPTION to choose what OS came with their system, it was Windows95 or Windows95.

    This is why Windows95 won.

    I'm sick of people saying MacOS did this wrong and OS2 did that wrong.

    No, thats not it, Its Microsoft had exclusive contracts and backroom deals.

    Period, thats all it came down to.

    OS2 can be better, it doesnt matter if no machines came with OS2, even IBMs own machines didnt come with OS2!!!
    • You are in fact wrong.

      Wrong, wrong, wrong.

      Go back in time a bit, to when OS/2 was released.

      There was no illegal monopoly. IBM was the giant - not MS.

      IBM screwed up and MS buried them.

      So you can claim "period" all you want. But its not period. Nothing is ever "period".
      • IF IBMs OS2 was packed with every PC sold Windows would have beat OS2?

        You are saying every PC owner would burn their OS2 backup CD, format their harddrive, and run to the store to spend $200 extra to buy Microsoft Windows?

        if the tables were turned, the result would be OS2 is the winner.

        It was the OEM contracts.
    • The comparison with MacOS is interesting, but the title of your post asks us to swallow a pretty big assertion: that MacOS failed. Is 5% market share your definition of "failure?" So far 5% seems to be a big enough pot of money to allow Apple to survive, and not just survive but innovate. MacOS X was pretty pathetic at first, but 10.1.3 is really pretty darn good, aside from poor peripheral support and a couple of bundled apps that are dogs.

      But it does seem to be true that nobody can carve away a big slice of MS's desktop market, due to its use of its monopoly leverage.

      It is interesting to compare the story about OS/2's difficult installation procedure with Linux's installation mess. But MacOS is extremely easy to install -- always has been -- but that hasn't meant that the whole desktop market flocked to it, even in the days when the OS didn't come preinstalled on the hard disk. And anyway, Linux is a different critter, since it's open source. The same rules don't apply.

      to get mac I'd have to spend an extra $1000.
      This is a silly myth. Macs have always been about the same price as a Windows box with similar features. It's just that people compare a mac with 24-bit color against a PC with 8-bit color; a mac with a good OS against a PC with an OS that's 10 years behind it in evolutionary terms; a mac with built-in sound input and output versus a PC with no sound card; etc.

  • OS/2 was a truly great OS. The only other Truly Great OS I can think of is Mac OS X. "Linux+GNU utilities" is a very good OS for a number of reasons, but it's not particularly innovative.

    OS/2 2.0 (the first fully 32-bit version that also supported running more than one DOS session at one time) ran WELL on my 386sx-16 with 6 megs of RAM. Granted, it was slow as molasses, but I was able to run my BBS in one window and do other stuff without a problem. (I still remember my disgust when I tried to do this with Windows 3.0 on the same hardware - it didn't work well at ALL.) The environment was very graphically rich, and the jewel in the crown was the WorkPlace Shell, the likes of which I have yet to see on another OS (even BeOS didn't quite cut it).

    The workplace shell was completely object-oriented; it was so far ahead of its time that most people had a really tough time understanding it which may have helped lead to its demise. You could drag "things" or "attributes" from programs to collections of objects, etc. I could open up the paint or font panel and "drag" color & typefaces over to any part of any open folder or application, and they would stick. The links were stored *in* the filesystem with the objects they affected, instead of a monolithic pseudo-database or oodles of unwieldy text files. As long as programs were written to take advantage of the object-oriented aspect of the WPS, it was a thing of beauty to watch how seamlessly everything worked together. (I used to spend hours customizing colors & fonts on all of my folders & windows by dragging... no OS since then has really been quite as fun to do this with, as they all "feel" very rigid and inflexible in comparison.") WPS also had the concept of templates as stacks of paper that you would literally rip off the top and fill in, not worrying about what the underlying application is. And WPS brought us the first tabbed-divider interfaces, which were pervasive throughout the system.

    But OS/2 was released in a time when PC users were just starting to think graphically and Mac users were almost literally on another planet. Microsoft capitalized on this by releasing version after version of an OS that was essentially a menu-driven system overlaid on top of DOS. OS/2 was so advanced that people simply couldn't grasp its potential. And yes, people viewed IBM as "evil" at the time, and IBM sucked at marketing, etc...etc... there are really a ton of reasons why it didn't make it, but luckily I don't think most of them apply to Linux. No, Linux has a whole list of other problems that will hamper its adoption by the masses, but I digress. :)

    It is a small consolation that OS/2 is still in heavy use in banks, and in Germany (I believe some user groups still exist there). They like their finely engineered products over there. :)

    Like Mac OS X, (and unlike Windows or Linux) OS/2 wasn't simply a "list of features available in an OS" - it was designed from the ground up to deliver a complete & refined experience to the user. It disappeared into the background as you concentrated on the task at hand. It's what an OS should be. It's the last OS I ever used (until Mac OS X) that was truly a joy to use on a daily basis (and this includes several distributions of Linux).

    It's nice that at least Apple finally gets this. :)

  • by steveha ( 103154 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @07:27PM (#3178296) Homepage
    I read through the article, and it was full of weird conclusions. I am very familiar with what was going on in the computer industry during the time period discussed, and I disagree with much of the article.

    The story of OS/2 is what taught me that in the computer industry, revolution is not what the customers want; they want evolution. You can sometimes pull off a revolution (Macintosh) but it is much easier to offer a smooth upgrade path.

    OS/2 was not killed by some weird conspiracy by Microsoft. Some of the other causes of death listed were not doubt contributing factors, but the major cause of death was: incompatible APIs.

    It was not possible to take a Windows application and compile it for OS/2; you had to substantially re-write your app. It wouldn't be quite as much work as re-writing your app from scratch, but it was close. Microsoft didn't want this. Microsoft wanted to make OS/2's windowing API compatible with Windows, but IBM had some other API they thought was better, and they insisted it be used.

    This had the effect of forcing companies to decide whether they wanted to write for Windows, or write for OS/2. That was totally dumb of IBM. If people could have just recompiled for OS/2 and offered an OS/2 version of their app, they would have done so. IBM was asking developers for a revolution, not evolution.

    But let's go back to the first version of OS/2. Because it was written for the 286, its compatibility with DOS apps was poor. OS/2 1.x offered a "compatibility box" for running a single DOS app at a time; it worked poorly, and it was often called the "Chernobyl Box" because it would often crash (and it would take the whole OS down with it). So, any company that wanted to adopt OS/2 had to plan on getting new versions of all their applications.

    But in 1990, Windows 3.0 shipped. It sold like hotcakes. The article makes some bizarre statements about Win 3.0, but the reality was that it would multitask your DOS applications very well. DOS applications were preemptively multitasked, not cooperatively, and DOS apps could very well crash but usually Windows would not crash with them. In other words, Win 3.0 allowed companies an evolutionary upgrade path: they could keep running the same DOS apps they were using, and then phase in Windows apps over time. The same companies that were unwilling to commit to OS/2 were willing to commit to Win 3.0.

    Win 3.0 was what made Microsoft decide to walk away from OS/2. The customers were voting with their dollars, and what they were voting for was Windows. It didn't hurt that Microsoft had covered all bets: they had applications for DOS, Windows, OS/2, and Macintosh. (They even flirted with a few other platforms: my favorite word processor for the Atari ST was Microsoft Write.) When Win 3.0 took off, Microsoft was ready, and sold lots of Word and Excel.

    So, to review: IBM forced developers to choose whether to develop for OS/2 or Windows, and Windows became a runaway hit. That's it right there. That's what killed OS/2.

  • by .smoke ( 167893 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @07:35PM (#3178310)
    I use OS/2 just about every day at work, and i can tell you it's very much still alive and kicking :) when the software that runs our equipment was first designed, windows 3.1 just wouldn't cut it, so the programmers decided to use OS/2. since then, each new version has been built on the last, and new equipments' software borrows elements from the previous generation's. so to this day, all our machines use OS/2 version 3 in their embedded computers, and all field engineers are given laptops that dual boot into Warp 4 to run simulations. (ironically, OS/2 is not supported on these IBM laptops, so it's sometimes hard to find drivers.) it looks like the big push to port everything to windows NT is finally on, though. but it will still be around on all our machines in the field for quite some time to come....
  • OS/2 failed because IBM is a PC-maker and other PC-makers don't like to be dependent on the competition.

    It's that simple.

  • AmiPro Debacle (Score:2, Insightful)

    by saihung ( 19097 )
    Remember AmiPro? Now it's called WordPro, and it's a part of the IBM/Lotus office suite that comes with a lot of computers for free but never, ever gets installed or used. Ever. There was a time, however, when AmiPro was a serious, bona-fide competitor for MS Word. I used to use it on my 286 with Windows 3.0, and it was fantastic. It did everything, it gave me real WYSIWYG (something that I associated with seriously high-end apps like Ventura, but not Word), it was just great. IBM had been promising a native OS/2 version of AmiPro for ages, and this was it - the last hope, the last light for OS/2. This was still a viable product, people were still using it and paying actual MONEY for it, and this was the suite that could (maybe) save OS/2. The release was pushed back time and time again, and when AmiPro for OS/2 finally saw the light of day, everyone wanted to put it back in the ground. It was awful, buggy, evil stuff, didn't install properly, crashed non-stop, ate files, and just plain didn't work. That was when even the faithful started jumping ship. A working version of AmiPro could have made OS/2 an operating system that you could actually accomplish normal office tasks with, but instead gave MS-boosters yet another thing to point to when they dismissed it. Ahh well.
  • I was selling this stuff on launch and the better than anything else tag is hilarious.

    OS2 1 was a disaster

    What about the steepest resource requirements around ? (you didnt have 24mb of ram forget it - in those days the standard systems i sold with 3.1 had 8mb)
    What about random crashes for no reason?
    buggy software ?
    unpredictable performance?
    Installations that wouldnt work for no apparent reason?
    Issues with Vesa equipment ?
    Cryix processor issues ?
    IBM's legendary lack of support?
    price of the OS - well above windows 3.1? ($50-90 more from memory)
    Applications that didnt work properly ?

    and thats just off the top of my head

    I mean come on OS2 Warp was getting there sort of but V1 was a big steaming heap. OS2 never got to the point where it could compete on stability with win3.1 and IBM's half hearted on again off again support and marketing for it didnt help.
  • I was an OS/2 developer and aficionado from Day -1.... That's right, I had OS/2 0.9 running (under NDA) before it was available to the general public. And I can tell you with certainty that it was not just Microsoft that killed OS/2 (though it certainly played a role); it was IBM itself. Many bugs that I discovered in the OS were never fixed, even though I and others reported them many times. Speed and memory issues weren't adequately addressed. IBM shifted its OS/2 operation from Boca Raton to Austin, causing key developers to quit. Support was terrible. And hardware evangelism was even worse.... There were painfully few drivers available.

    IBM's biggest mistake, though, was implementing Windows compatibility. This killed the application market. Why write for OS/2 when you could write for Windows (and OS/2 could then run your product under emulation)? Because of this, OS/2 could never, ever have had a "killer app."

    RIP, OS/2. I wasted a lot of brain cells, time, and money on you. If IBM were smart, it would release all of your code under a BSD license, thus giving every one of Microsoft's competitors -- commercial or not -- a leg up. But, alas, I don't think it's that smart.

    --Brett Glass

  • by NewtonsLaw ( 409638 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @08:23PM (#3178496)
    There's absolutely no doubt that OS/2 was a vastly superior product to Windows (and probably still is).

    The only problem was that IBM really didn't have a very clever strategy for dealing with the competition from Microsoft.

    Their single biggest mistake was to treat developers as a cash-cow rather than a valuable resource.

    I did some development work for OS/2 and it cost me a fortune to tool up with all the necessary compilers, libraries, tools and documentation.

    Most developers at the time already had the tools I needed to develop Windows 3 programs so it made little sense for IBM to raise a barrier to developers by charging like a wounded bull for its tools -- but they did.

    IBM mistakenly thought that they could just spend $50 million on advertising the product to the end-user and ignore the needs, complaints and hearts of the developer community.

    They paid dearly for this neglect -- simply because it resulted in a dearth of good quality "off the shelf" OS/2 applications to rival those offered for Windows.

    Even worse, IBM kept touting its great ability to run Windows 3 programs alongside native OS/2 apps.

    How smart was that? Not very!

    Faced with IBM demanding outrageous prices for new tools (and even more outrageous upgrade fees for the same tools) -- or simply writing Windows code that OS/2 users could run anyway -- the choice was obvious.

    Mainstream programmers kept pumping out Windows applications while almost completely ignoring OS/2. Oh sure, there were small groups of devout OS/2 developers who cherished the technical superiority of the operating system -- but that old catch-22 soon popped up.

    Despite all that expensive advertising, consumers said "why buy OS/2 just to run Windows 3 software when you can buy Windows 3 for less?" Don't forget that OS/2 really needed about twice as much (expensive in 1992) RAM to properly run a Win3 program than did Win3 itself.

    All in all, the public weren't about to pay extra without some real benefits -- and there wouldn't be any such benefits until there were enough native OS/2 apps to rival Windows apps.

    And (here it comes) there wouldn't be enough native OS/2 apps until there were more OS/2 developers -- who were not about to fork out the price of a good used car just to write code for the tiny community of OS/2 users.

    If IBM had half a brain they would have realised that the hurdle to the acceptance of any new OS is the availability of applications.

    In stead of trying to screw big profits out of developers they should have given away their tools, SDKs, etc. This would have endeared them to the developer community (rather than alienate them as they did) and the result would likely have been some damned fine apps that matched Win3 versions for functionality and blew them away from a reliability perspective.

    Of course this is what's happening now with Linux but I fear that it's simply too late to overtake the beast. Ten years ago there were many more large software companies and competing with Microsoft was hard but not impossible. These days you're sunk before you get your boat to the water.

    Maybe 20-20 hindsight is a wonderful thing -- but I was telling them this ten years ago -- except they were so arrogant that they felt they didn't need to go out of their way to help developers and that end-users were far more important.
  • by nougatmachine ( 445974 ) <johndagen@netsca ... t minus math_god> on Sunday March 17, 2002 @09:34PM (#3178699) Homepage
    I think I might just have to move to Europe. My favorite part of that article was when it quoted John Dvorak saying he didn't like Europe because they always did their own things and bought Amigas, Ataris, and OS/2s. You know, the cool stuff that the rest of the world is too timid to use.

    So if I got this right, Europe actually gives a shit about their computers. My plane leaves in five hours ; )

  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Sunday March 17, 2002 @10:57PM (#3179097)
    A co-worker had a friend who ran a large Denver CO hospitals IT department. I was running OS/2 and my co-worker saw what it could do and started using it too. He loved it. Now, after a 2 week trip to Denver to help on his families farm, he tells me this friend at the hospital was going to run OS/2 on all the systems there but stopped because he had heard that IBM was pulling the plug. This was before OS/2 v3.0 (1994).

    You see, A PC-Week(UK) "journalist" leaked a story that IBM was killing OS/2 and the news spread all over the world. It got into magazines/print. It made it to Denver. The damage was done because it took months to post a correction and it was usually in the back pages of the magazine. Today, the internet/Web prevents FUD from sticking like it did back then.

    I also remember the front page of ComputerWorld stating that OS/2 did not support long filename and that Microsofts Chicago would have that feature. Front page news my friends.

    They are masters of marketing and leveraging their monopoly, I'll give them that.

  • OS/2 Screenshots (Score:4, Informative)

    by searleb ( 168974 ) on Monday March 18, 2002 @02:11AM (#3179803) Homepage
    In case you have never used OS/2 and you are interested in what it looked like (as I was), this essay is chock full of screenshots [].
  • A simple reason (Score:3, Insightful)

    by forgoil ( 104808 ) on Monday March 18, 2002 @06:51AM (#3180259) Homepage
    There is one very simple reason to why OS/2 failed and Windows did not. Microsoft gave their all to make Windows win, they didn't have hardware sales to worry about as well. Just as Sun today are not willing to put all their eggs in one basket with Java but also wants to push slow expensive hardware and an outdated OS.

    To win you have to want to win, bad. For this is what Bill and Steve wants to, they want to give people what they want (that is normal people, they don't want to pay extra for a bunch of stuff, they want one package, and have all they need. I want that too, and I consider myself a computer geek after all) and they want to win. Though I personally don't think they try to be some "evil empire" and gets accused of a lot of things they haven't done. Anyone dealing with software on that scale knows how hard it is, and interfaces etc are bound to change. Heck, free software is even worse.

    So, this turned into a rant again. So for all you linuxnerds out there. If "Linux" is going to succeed, Mandrake/SuSE/RedHat/etc better join forces and put all their eggs in one basket. Produce one OS that looks and works the same all the time (you won't get away with several desktops, Apple and Microsoft is going to tear you to shreds, with good reasons) with a good set of applications and tools to go with it. Yes, to integrate and bundle *IS* good for the consumer. Anyone who says anything else must be mad. I buy a car, not a bunch of parts to build a car with (we all know the cost for that).
  • by Dragoness Eclectic ( 244826 ) on Monday March 18, 2002 @10:57AM (#3180834)
    Actually, I started with OS/2 2.0 back when the alternative was Windows 3.1. OS/2 2.0 was a bitch to install, and the WPS was a bit on the unstable side--patch o' the week from IBM was the norm---

    --but in 1992 it could multi-task a GUI and input from multiple serial ports at once, without dropping characters on the floor or forgetting to draw on the screen, which was just what certain applications needed that I was writing for the company I then worked for. Windows 3.1 couldn't do that, and DOS sure the hell couldn't.

    A lot of that was fixed with OS/2 2.1, and OS/2 3.0 (Warp) cleaned up the remainder. OS/2 Warp was a dream compared to Windoze 3.11 or 95. Much more stable, and could multi-task cleanly.

    I learned GUI programming with OS/2 (ignoring some early dabbling with X/Motif), and got my first exposure to multi-threading with OS/2. Later, I applied what I had learned from OS/2 to learning Windows programming (that and Petzold's book), and have been stuck programming Windows ever since. (Professionally only).

    I had OS/2 at home, and even wrote some command-line and GUI utilties for my Traveller (RPG) stuff. Some of them are still on my website, but not maintained for obvious reasons.

    (No, I'm not going to link it from here. I pay for bandwidth; it ain't no free Geocities site! Especially since that Altavista spider went amok and tried to download every eBook and zip-file on my site several hundred times every three hours for a month. Had to deny access to the netblock to stop it. Word of advice: if you pay for your bandwidth, check it now and then; something might be eating it up for you.)

    At one time, my home machine dual-booted Win95 and OS/2. One day I found out that this Linux thing I had heard about in college (back in '91) was now available on CDs for a reasonable price. (I had only a 2400bps modem back in the days of Linux 0.96 and the SoftLanding distribution, so downloading all those packages was Right Out). So, I ordered my first Linux distribution, Slackware '96 (or was that my second?)

    It was cool; I fell in love with it right off. It was no worse to install than OS/2 2.0, and in some ways easier: I had fewer hardware incompatibilities. There was no KDE or GNOME in those days; I used FVWM as my window manager. Worked fine. But the greatest thing was the feeling of sheer power I had compiling my own, custom-tailored kernel. You can't do THAT with OS/2, Windows, or DOS!

    Do you know that kernel compiling hasn't changed much since the days of 1.x kernels? Sure, there's new menu options, and they introduced those new-fangled "module" things, and "make zImage" is now "make bzImage", but it's still "make mrproper; make config/make menuconfig; make dep; make bzImage; cp arch/i386/boot/bzImage <somewhere>/vmlinuz; vi /etc/lilo.conf; lilo -v" (and nowdays add "make modules; make modules_install" before the "cp").

    For a brief time, my home computer multi-booted OS/2, Windows 95, and Linux; but eventually I noticed that I never booted OS/2 anymore. I had moved most of my hobby-programming to Linux, and had decided that local web pages were an even better way than OS/2 help files to organize my vast amounts of data, writings, and RPG info. My games were all Windows games, so I didn't use OS/2 for that. Finally, Linux came with lots of free networking stuff, which worked better than the early OS/2 2.x TCP/IP packages, so I didn't need OS/2 for telnet or FTP, anymore. Besides, as I mentioned, the Linux TCP/IP implementation worked better and didn't bog down CPU and memory as much. Frankly, the only reason I still used OS/2 was for the PMTAPE tape backup program, and I eventually moved to LS120 super-floppies. (Now I burn CDs for data backup).

    There finally came a day when I was re-installing my OSs on a new hard disk that I decided there was no point in re-installing OS/2 Warp, because I never used it. In my house, Linux killed OS/2. It's been gone for several years now, but I still have fond memories of it.

    I love Linux!

Sentient plasmoids are a gas.