Yesterday MS-DOS had it’s 30th birthday!
I remember when it was all CP/M round here. Well not really but I do recall using one of those God-awful Amstrad PCW256s with the green screen and utterly non-standard 3″ disks. Almost everything Amstrad ever made was maliciously non-standard. When they took over the Spectrum from Sinclair they switched pins on the standard Atari joystick port so you had to buy an Amstrad stick. Of course adapters came along but…
Anyway. I remember howls of outrage at the bloatededness of DOS 4.01 (as compared to 3.3). I remember people saying Windows would never catch on. I would argue before 3.1 (scaleable fonts!!!) that was not an unreasonable idea.
And I remember the 640K limit and loading drivers into the high memory area (between 640K and 1024K) and creating boot disks to get games to work. Try explaining this to the iJobs and PS3 generation and you might as well say you started out with a wooden difference engine made by getting a Victorian beadle to force workhouse orphans to gnaw the cogs with their teeth.
My last real memory of MS-DOS is instructive, perhaps. I was setting up a laptop for a neighbour. As tends to be the way with laptops the OS (Vista in this case) came freeze-dried and had to self-install on first run. This was also my first experience of Vista (or Fistula as I came to think of it). Anyway during this process this factory-fresh HP crashes. And for one brief instant I see on the screen an MS-DOS version number (can’t recall it). Still chained like the mad woman in the attic then. Still turning the wheels down in the engine room like the gimp it truly is. I would not bet against it still railing against the dying of the light in Windows 7. It’s like re-capitulation in embryology. It’s the appendix that rumbles but never quite bursts. It is the id to the ego of Windows.
My own first real experience of DOS was with my first PC – a second-hand Elonex “laptop” (Mains only – it was a size too – it looked like it had done the digital equivalent of eating it’s way through an entire branch of Greggs, 16 shades of orange plasma screen, 4 Meg RAM, 105 Meg HD, 386SX-16). I came to MS-DOS from AmigaDos which is/was very Unix-like in syntax and methodology. You could set-up pipes and things. DOS was a rude awakening I can tell you.
Oh, well happy birthday DOS! You were always bloody awful but you were there at least.
And if this is a day late… Well, that is fitting.
Abort, Retry, Fail?