back to article Trying out Microsoft's pre-release OS/2 2.0

The earliest known release of Microsoft's 32-bit version of OS/2 is now out there, and intrepid code archeologists have it running. It's a glimpse into an alternatve computing universe. The long-lost Microsoft OS/2 2 – BNIB, as they say on certain popular online auction sites. The long-lost Microsoft OS/2 2 – BNIB, as they …

  1. Omnipresent Bronze badge

    Pints' on me Brian

    Now, let's rebuild this into "what should have been".

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Pints' on me Brian

      [Author here]

      > Now, let's rebuild this into "what should have been".

      Not unless Microsoft releases the source code. And I doubt MS still even has it.

      The only way I can ever imagine this happening would be this:

      Forget lobby groups. Get enough people together to crowd-fund salaries for a team of programmers to go through the code, identify any elements belonging to 3rd parties (that is, not MS and not IBM) and remove that code. This would, realistically, need to be incorporated as a company, and that company and the programmers would need to sign NDAs and corporate confidentiality statements.

      You'd need to get _both_ IBM _and_ Microsoft on board to agree to this.

      It's a vast job, and I am sure it would never happen.

      What _might_ be doable would be to assemble such a project, and get enough people and money to buy DeviceLogics and DR-DOS, and to buy what's left of Multiuser DOS and open source that.

      Maybe resurrect the Multiuser DOS Federation?

      As far as I can tell, a kitchens company in Thacham UK (!) ended up the last owners of Multiuser DOS source code that was still around, and since I contacted them in 2022, they may have gone under.

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: Pints' on me Brian

        The company is still alive. It is called ISKF Limited, Company Registration No. 06893056. The registered office is their accountants in Aldermaston.

      2. karlkarl Silver badge

        Re: Pints' on me Brian

        Track down Peter Howkins (Flibble) and see if he is interested.

        He managed to herd all the weird cats in order to get CDE released open-source after all!

    2. ITMA Silver badge

      Re: Pints' on me Brian

      Am I the only one who remembers OS/2 as "Oh Shit 2"?

      1. ScottishYorkshireMan

        Re: Pints' on me Brian

        Pretty sure we called it OS/Half

        Does anyone remember Barclays Bank ATM's used to run on it for years?

        1. fromxyzzy

          Re: Pints' on me Brian

          It was an extremely common ATM OS well into the 00's, eventually replaced with XP. You used to see them crash once in a while.

          1. Daniel Gould

            Re: Pints' on me Brian

            All the Amex ATMs used IBM OS/2 2.1 for many years.

      2. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Pints' on me Brian

        >Am I the only one who remembers OS/2 as "Oh Shit 2"?

        I used it a lot, clung on to it as my primary desktop for far too long.

        It was quite good for embedded work too. I used to install it headless (with a bit of manual trickery) on x86 VME cards. Bear in mind that at the time Linux wasn't a thing, and "standard" full fat 32 bit multiprocessing multithreaded OSes for VME cards were kinda pricey. OS/2 was a pretty good option.

  2. Mage Silver badge

    Very Different

    There would never have been any 32-bit versions: no Windows NT, no Windows 95; no Explorer, no Start menu or taskbars. That, in turn, might well have killed off Apple as well. No iPod, no iPhone, no fondleslabs. Twenty-first century computers would be unimaginably different.

    Interesting article, but this paragraph is hyperbolic nonsense.

    Also Win95 was two years AFTER NT and should never have existed. The Explorer shell was separate and was on preview on NT 3.5x

    It's got nothing to do with the Mac. Nothing to do with iPod, iPhone or Tablets and a Win 3.1 Tablet existed. (iOS, Linux, Android, Windows 10).

    Lisa, precusor to Mac, was released on 19th January 1983. Development started earlier. This MS OS/2 SDK was 1990. I think there was an MS OS/2 from 1989.

    CPUs with 32 bits and flat addressing meant OS for them would be developed. Intel was behind.

    Most of the WIMP GUIs were inspired by 1970s Xerox.

    Apple iPod succeeded because of iTunes 99c track deal. They were late into PMPs/MP3.

    The iPhone a success due to the data contracts. It was 9 years after smart phones came out and 2 after Nokia politics killed their better than S60 GUI on Symbian.

    MS was shipping Xenix in 1982. All internal Microsoft email transport was done on Xenix-based 68000 systems until 1995–1996, when the company moved to its own Exchange Server product.

    MS doing NT was inevitable. The IBM - MS "partnership" on DOS and then OS/2 was never going to last.

    Nokia switched from 486 to ARM for Communicator 9210 in 2001. The ARM CPU was first used in desktop Archimedes and also funded by Apple (and usein Newton, started in 1987 and released in 1992). Acorn's ARM made it possible to have decent battery life on PMPs, Smart phones and Tablets.

    Acorn's Archimedes had RiscOS and Unix by 1988, running on ARM


    Alan Kay's Dynabook "A personal computer for children of all ages (1972)"

    PDAs were an early form of tablet and I was designing one in 1987-1989, with aspects inspired by Dynabook, Project Xanadu, Apple Hypercard, the digital cordless system that later became DECT, and DOS based FutureNet CAD/CAE (which used hyperlinks).

    Hitachi patented a touchscreen tablet in 1979.

    Atari 1992

    EU / Acorn Newspad 1994-1997.

    1992, IBM shipped the ThinkPad 700T running GO Corporation's PenPoint OS.

    1992 MS also had a Pen version of Windows.

    OS/2 was interesting. I did some support on MS OS/2 with LanManager server maybe 1992 and migrated IBM OS/2 Textmode applications for a Finance Dept to NT4.0 in 1998. I played with OS/2 Warp and the kids had Win9x for games consoles. We were installing NT 3.5 servers, then NT 3.51 after Win95 came out, migrations from Xenix or Netware. Installing WFWG 3.11 as workstations with Win32s till NT4.0 came out.

    1993 AT&T's EO Personal Communicator on the Hobbit CPU

    1993 launch of Apple Newton on ARM

    Intel was behind on 32 bits and the 8088/8086 wasn't even a real 16 bit. That held PC OSes back for years. The 80286 was first real 16 bit PC, and 386 the 32 bit. But DOS, win3.x and Win9x started them in 8086 mode. Win95 executed older code natively, but NT, already 2 years old, used a VM for 8086 code (pseudo 16bits because segments). It ran only 32 bit. Win9x killed the Pentium Pro because it had no simple switch back to native 8086 mode.

    IBM was caught out with PCs being successful, but the PS/2 and OS/2 were typical IBM dead ends. They were selling AS/400 computers shrunk to a PC Tower format when OS/2 and PS/2 were both essentially dead.

    The MS OS/2 with Lanmanager was probably always going to be a stop gap as servers for Win 2.x. They obviously decided Xenix was never going to be what they wanted as they sold it to the original SCO (I installed that once!). Not the later litigating SCO.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Very Different

      Sorry, win 3.x (the win 2.x was less use than DR GEM) and my 1987-1989 project had a pen.

      Pens with digitisers are "in" again. Apple Pencil, Wacom's pen on Android, reMarkable & Kindle Scribe (not PC graphics tablets, though had been on a 1990s tablet), NTrig/MPP on MS Surface and some Kobos. The USI2.0 Pen on Android tablets.

      Google's off-line Gpad handwriting conversion does work with a finger, but a pen is better.

      All these things were envisaged and worked on before IBM even did one 8088 PC with Microsoft's "wide boy" bought in DOS. MS had made a success with BASIC ported from Dartmouth College. IBM only picked MS because they were not actually serious about the PC, almost built out of a catalogue and the 8088 barely more than an 8080, which is why it was so easy to port CP/M, Wordstar, Dbase, Supercalc etc. 64K segments and similar instruction set. The 8088 could even use the 8 bit 8085 bus/peripherals. IBM didn't use the more expensive 16 bit bus 8086.

      So OS/2 was a belated IBM attempt to cash in on the unexpected PC success. Some good ideas, but too late. The 32 bit Intel 80386 launched in 1987 and crippled by legacy 8086 mode.

      Intel had good manufacturing. But the x64 being from AMD, selling off their ARM portfolio (most from DEC), getting suckered into HP's Itanium all suggest Intel is living on past reputation. What happened to Optane?

      1. IvyKing

        Re: Very Different

        Glad to see you differentiate the 8088 from the 8086, which was a 16 bit processor. From my feeble benchmark tests, code ran about 3X faster on an 8MHz 8086 than the 4.77MHz 8088. The ease of porting 8080/Z-80 CP/M programs to DOS was due to Intel making the 8086 source code compatible with the 8080 (which was an upgrade to the 8008) and Tim Paterson writing DOS to support CP/M OS calls.

        1. david 12 Silver badge

          Re: Very Different

          Both the 8088 and 8086 were 16 bit processors. Feeble memory-bound benchmark tests ran much faster: the 8086 had a 16 bit memory bus, so memory at 8MHz ran 4 times as fast as 4MhZ memory at sequential access.

          1. Mage Silver badge

            Re: 8088 & 8086

            Not proper 16 bit. Only 64 k segments. The 80186 was maybe Intel's first real 16 bit in that family? However the 80286 was a real 16 bit CPU (usable without 64 K segments) The 8088 and 8086 really only differed in I/O bus. There were real 16 bit cpus. IBM even had one (i.e. flat addressing without 64K boundaries). The 8088 & 8086 were closer to 8080 & 8085 than to a 80286.

            1. captain veg Silver badge

              Re: 8088 & 8086

              80286 still had 64k segments. The difference is that they were accessed via a selector rather than a real-mode segment.

              Of course 64k is 2^16, so they were all "16-bit". The fact that 8-bit processors could also, generally, address 65k is because they had 16-bit address buses. The bitness is a measure of word size, not addressability.

            2. Mister Anderson

              Re: 8088 & 8086

              The 8086 was indeed a "proper" 16-bit processor. And internally, so was the 8088. The only difference between them was that the 8088 had an 8-bit data bus. That meant that it only moved 8 bits in and out at once. That allowed it move interoperate with common 8-bit hardware at the time—which was the real reason Intel made it, and why IBM chose it over the 8086. Newer 16-bit peripherals were not only more costly, but scarcer.

              Your objection over the segmented architecture is orthogonal. The segments were 64 kB precisely **because** of the 16-bit registers. With 16 bits, you can only count from zero to 65,535, so you can directly address 65,536 bytes, commonly abbreviated using pseudo-SI units as 64 kilobytes (Wikipedia wants us to use the word "kibibytes", but that sounds like a brand of dog food).

              Using segments was a clever way to allow the processor to address **more than** 64 kB. The segments served as a multiplier, adding 4 bits to the total address space, allowing 2^20 or 1 MB of addressable memory. Intel could have chosen a greater multiplier. In the 8086, the segments were shifted left by 4 bits, making them only 16 bytes apart from each other. If they had instead chosen to shift them by 8 bits, making them 256 bytes apart from each other, that would have theoretically given the CPU access to 16 MB of memory. And by shifting the segments by 16 bits and making them not overlap at all, the 8086/8 could theoretically have accessed 4 GB of memory. But just adding that many address lines to the CPU pinout would have been a greater complication, and expense, than could be justified by the computing needs at the time. This CPU was already a huge improvement over pretty much every other CPU available at the time, including the 8085 it succeeded, which could typically address only 64 kB **in total**.

              The 286 was no more of a "real" 16-bit processor than the 8086/8 (or the 80186, for that matter). It still used 64 kB segments. But in protected mode, you had to set up a descriptor for each segment you used, which included, among other things, a 24-bit segment offset, giving the CPU access to up to 16 MB of memory.

              The 386 still had segments and selectors like the 286 (as do its descendents today). But they're practically always set up to start at zero and then just ignored, since the address bus and register width are now the same size.

    2. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: Very Different

      It's worth mentioning that Windows NT was, at one point, called OS/2 version 3.


      1. Doug 3

        Re: Very Different

        but IBM's OS/2 v3( Warp ) was an amazing compute platform. Windows NT not so much. OS/2 Warp had full client and server networking capabilities and shipped with a ton of networking servers and clients. But it was the CORBA based desktop and fast multi-threading in the kernel which made OS/2 Warp a great compute platform. The system UI was hardly ever stalled with an hourglass when an application was busy. If an application wasn't multi-threaded(all OS/2 apps were required to be ) you could switch to another app while that one finished doing its work.

        Even the web browser, Web Explorer was heavily multi-threaded so you could start reading pages while other features on the page was loading and rendering.

        Aslo based on CORBA was the OpenDOC application platform which also had no equal 20 years later and application windows are still square.

        And when you put the multi-processor capable server kernel on the Warp desktop OS it outperformed all other OS's on the same hardware.

        I can still see the video of the Microsoft employees bowling down a row of OS/2 Warp product boxes when Windows 95 finally shipped a year later.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Very Different

          OS/2 really was quite a solid OS for the hardware it ran on. I worked for a number of years on a middleware product that had versions for MS-DOS, Windows (from 3.0 in real mode on up, as successors appeared), OS/2 from 1.1 EE onward, various UNIXes, Linux, OS/400, OS/390 (with variants for batch, CICS, IMS, and TSO), and CICS/VSE. We had quite a few customer installations of our OS/2 product, running distributed applications with other components on various combinations of those other OSes. There were few reports of stability issues.

          I built a distributed source-code control system using RCS and our middleware platform with an OS/400 client and OS/2 server, so that we could have source code control on the AS/400. Worked a charm.

          Prior to (IBM) OS/2 2.0, it's true that it was a PITA if the single DOS Box hung, because while you could generally switch back to OS/2 applications, whatever was in the DOX Box was stuck until you rebooted. But that minor quibble aside, it worked quite nicely. And having TCP/IP in OS/2 1.2 EE around 1990 was a big improvement over Windows with its assortment of fragile third-party TCP/IP implementations. A lot of our networking was SNA (because that's what a lot of our customers were using), and OS/2 was good1 with SNA as well, but particularly for interop with UNIX having a good TCP/IP stack was great.

          1Well, as good as things got, with SNA. Many's the hour I spent pouring over SNA traces through the long winter nights. And short summer nights. And the rest of the time, too.

        2. guyr

          Re: Very Different

          Doug 3: "If an application wasn't multi-threaded(all OS/2 apps were required to be ) you could switch to another app while that one finished doing its work."

          Not true. I worked on an IBM OS/2 app from 1991-96. I was in Hong Kong on a customer support assignment. Scanner code was locking up. By running the code in a debugger, we were able (with some remote support from a large company in Redmond) to determine that the scanner code had been linked incorrectly, without the /MT flag. So, OS/2 apps were not required to be multi-threaded, though the overhead was so slight, that *should* have been the default behavior.

          The task switching you describe worked because the OS itself was fully multi-threaded. Though even to the very end, OS/2 (including 2.0) had a single input queue for desktop GUI events - mouse clicks, etc. - so completely locking up the desktop was very easy and happened frequently. That was also true of Windows, but MIcrosoft finally fixed it in NT.

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Very Different

      I thought the same when I read the paragraph. The really bad part is that Liam didn't even explain why he wrote that, so I just have to guess. My best guess is that his theory goes something like OS/2 is great -> Windows is unnecessary -> everyone buys OS/2 computers, and they like it more than Windows -> nobody buys a Mac, not even those people who in our world did -> Apple actually goes out of business instead of coming close -> Apple isn't around to make other things. Do I believe any of that would happen? No, but that's the most logical way I could go from an OS/2 release to no such thing as an iPhone. I don't think whatever was intended there is accurate, but I also just don't know what was intended there at all.

      1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: Very Different

        [Author here]

        > The really bad part is that Liam didn't even explain why he wrote that, so I just have to guess.

        "Always leave 'em wanting more." ;-)

        The article was long enough as it was, and I didn't want to ramble on for paragraphs more. But you more or less have it right.

        OS/2 1 was a flop. IMHO it should have been 386-native from the start. Even the text-mode-only OS/2 1.x with multitasking DOS sessions would have been useful in 1987-1988. My employers around then were selling IBM PS/2 Model 80 machines as servers with 2-4MB of RAM. Some ran 3Com 3+Share, some SCO Xenix, but the point is that 386DX machines with multiple megs of RAM were shipping products in the late 1980s.

        Even Amstrad, UK pioneers of cheap PC clones, launched the PC2386, a 386DX with 4MB of RAM, in 1989.

        But the story goes:

        1. IBM insists on 286-only OS/2 1.x

        2. OS/2 flops

        3. MS & IBM break up, MS does Win3 instead

        4. It takes IBM years to finish OS/2 2. By then Windows is a hit. It's too late.

        The existence of _MS_ OS/2 2 shows it didn't happen like that and even as MS was getting ready to launch Win3, it had MS OS/2 2, lacking only the WPS.

        Instead of taking another 3Y to get NT out the door and 5Y to get Win95 out, MS could have launched OS/2 2 with IBM in 1990.

        What MS did, and which proved a big hit, was a dual-OS strategy: Windows 9x for the low end and NT for the high end. It took 'til 1995 to get going and ended in 2002 when XP went on sale (after an OEM-only soft launch in late 2001).

        What this product shows is that strategy could have started some 3-5Y earlier, with Win3 as the low-end OS and OS/2 2 as the high-end OS.

        MS versions with the same UI (Program Manager + File Manager) but with integrated networking.

        IBM versions, maybe, without networking but with a snazzy UI instead.

        It was very nearly ready.

        1. Mage Silver badge

          Re: It was very nearly ready

          What this product shows is that strategy could have started some 3-5Y earlier, with Win3 as the low-end OS and OS/2 2 as the high-end OS.

          But it would have made no difference to Apple, phones, Mp3 players, tablets etc, and eventually IBM & MS would have fallen out and there would have been NT, but delayed.

          A better What if, is what if IBM had used DRDOS (CP/M 86), and eventually multidos and GEM?

          Or if MS had never done Win9x, but a game console and NT 4.0 in 1995. Actaually there was MSX in 1983, but wasn't quite right. Win9x should never ever have been sold for business and it's why we ended up with NT security model getting broken, stupid programs that needed you to be admin etc.

          I did use DRMultidos and serially connected PCs in early 1990s for computer lessons.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: It was very nearly ready

            But it would have made no difference to Apple, phones, Mp3 players, tablets etc, and eventually IBM & MS would have fallen out and there would have been NT, but delayed.

            It certainly could have made a difference to Apple. (Since we're talking hypotheticals, it's hyperbolic at best to claim it wouldn't have.) IBM's OS/2 marketing was horrible, and Microsoft had the (anti-competitive) OEM deals; delaying the Microsoft-IBM breakup could have led Microsoft to do a much better job of getting OS/2 sold, and that in turn could have driven ISVs to putting out more and better applications, which could have pulled even more revenue away from Apple in the mid-1990s and caused it to fold completely or get bought during that period's acquisition rush.

            It's fairly daring speculation to claim that it would have destroyed Apple, but it's at least as tenuous to state that it would have made no ifference.

            what if IBM had used DRDOS (CP/M 86), and eventually multidos and GEM?

            DR-DOS was not CP/M-86. DR-DOS was descended, in a sense, from CP/M-86, via Concurrent CP/M, but since it aimed at MS-DOS compatibility it was a substantially different OS from any CP/M variant.

            GEM, originally developed for 16-bit systems in the early '80s and growing out of the earlier GSX, was limited by that legacy. One of the best things about OS/2 was its replacement of the decidedly quick-and-dirty APIs of QDOS1 (and PC BIOS) with a fairly well-thought-out kernel API for applications. Facilities like threading and IPC were done properly, not just in the kernel implementation but in the abstraction presented to applications. OS/2 2.0's HPFS was a big improvement over FAT. And OS/2 had key features for those big enterprise players, such as SNA (with LAN Manager) and TCP/IP (in Extended Edition and later Connect); the revenue brought in by those add-ons helped fund development. Bringing GEM up to the same level, however nice the kernel might have been (I've never looked into it), would have been a major undertaking.

            Also, look at the internal politics in IBM. Even though Future Systems died a horrible death in the mid-70s (though some elements were preserved in the S/38 and then the AS/400), IBM took decades to shake off the conviction that success lay in tying all its systems together. OS/2 fit neatly into SAA, in a way that GEM never would have. OS/2 was enterprisey and, despite its innovations, conservative. GEM was cool and forward-looking. An outfit like SGI or Borland might have tried to sell GEM as a PC OS; the suits at IBM are unlikely to have supported it.

            (Weird historical note: What eventually became DR-DOS started development at Digital Research Europe, in Newbury, Berkshire, UK. Later DR-DS was acquired by Novell, and then Novell by Attachmate Group, and then Attachmate Group by Micro Focus — headquartered in Newbury.)

            1Hence the name.

        2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Very Different

          "The existence of _MS_ OS/2 2 shows it didn't happen like that and even as MS was getting ready to launch Win3, it had MS OS/2 2, lacking only the WPS."

          I'm a little puzzled by this. I too, was around at the time and I was aleays under the impression that Win3 was a bodge job: taking the (beta) OS/2 kernel and running the latest development version of Windows (then a 286-friendly but strictly 16-bit system) in one of the virtual DOS boxes. This explains why Win3's "virtual device drivers" used the same "linear executable" format as OS/2 device drivers. They were basically the same.

          Microsoft's real commercial genius was to realise that there were bog-all OS/2 programs (all 16-bit) but lots of Win1 and Win2 programs, so what people would actually buy was a better way of running the latter, not the former. Win3 was that better way.

          It was also possible, though I can't recall the details, to launch Windows in such a way that only KRNL386.EXE was loaded and not GDI.EXE or USER.EXE. this gave you a DOS session running in the virtual DOS box. It was a nice illustration of how 16-bit Windows was always just a fancy DOS program, but it wasn't actually useful because at the time there was really only one DPMI-capable program in the universe and that was Windows.

        3. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Very Different

          The problem with your summary is that you stated a lot of supposition as fact and didn't really try to back it up with anything. For example, you describe a plausible OS/2 instead of NT scenario, and that sounds like it could happen. However, you provide no reason why the people who, when Windows was the alternative, chose to buy Macs, wouldn't have done so when OS/2 is the alternative. In my summary, I simplified my guess into "Windows is just bad and OS/2 is just great", but I'm not sure that's objectively true and I also have no reason to think that would be the deciding factor. When you make predictions like that and state them as if they're certain or very likely, we try to understand why you said it. If the answer seems to be that you just made it up, it makes you sound less knowledgeable than I think you are, having seen other articles of yours.

        4. Roo

          Re: Very Different

          In the summer of 1990 I saw some sales figures that indicated that volume of 32bit INMOS Transputers shipped *exceeded* the Intel 80386 by some margin...

          At the time the 386 really didn't have the kind of volume in sales (relative to it's even shittier forebears) that made it worthwhile in the eyes of the vendors to ship software for it. The best '386 platform that I came across at that time was the Sun 386i, but even that fell between the cracks... On on hand SunOS made great use of the hardware and it was a pretty capable box, on the other hand it was a waste of time (and money) to run DOS applications on it because UNIX made better use of the hardware than DOS. Furthermore by 1990 you had Solbourne SPARC SMP boxes that kerb-stomped 386s (about 3-4x as fast at the same clock) when it came to running UNIX apps. Going back to a 386 PC after having a (2 socket) Solbourne Series 5 to myself was pretty hard. :)

        5. IvyKing

          Re: Very Different

          One of the ironies of the 80286 based OS/2 v1.x was that it was a very good platform for software development. The descriptor table entries for a segment included allocated memory size and the processor would throw a fault if a read or write was attempted outside the allocated memory. I seem to remember reading that a number of MS developers were using OS/2 for the initial stages of Windows software because of that. In some ways it was kind of a shame that the 80386 version of OS/2 went to a flat memory module as the 80286 way of doing things was potentially more secure - remember that 80386 segments had 32 bits of addressing space.

          One other what-if was BeOS - with reports that it was much better handling multimedia than the contemporary versions of Windows while running on the same hardware. Apparently several PC makers wanted to provide BeOS as an optional OS, but MS had made it very difficult for manufacturers to load anything but Windows on the machines being sold.

          Don't get me started on the "Internet Explorer" trademark.

    4. Steelted

      Re: Very Different

      The author was implying if Windows did not exist, Microsoft would not have been successful, and Bill Gates would not have bailed out Apple in 1997.

      1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: Very Different

        [Author here]

        > The author was implying if Windows did not exist, Microsoft would not have been successful

        No, I was not.

        > Bill Gates would not have bailed out Apple in 1997.

        I laughed out loud at that.

        He didn't. Apple sued. MS settled out of court. Don't believe the hype. Never ever listen to the marketing lizards. They are paid to lie.

        The famous US$150M payment from MS to Apple was not an investment. It was punitive damages. Microsoft Video for Windows contained code stolen from Apple QuickTime. Apple sued and won; this was MS paying the penalty.

        1. TVU Silver badge

          Re: Very Different

          Thank you very much for the above link providing the interesting story behind Microsoft's actions.

          What we effectively had back then was a diplomatic cover up of the real situation by both parties that avoided scandal, reputational damage and lower stock prices - all highly convenient at that time.

        2. Doug 3

          Re: Very Different

          Apple was in serious financial trouble and Microsoft could have dragged out the court case until only the Apple lawyers were left.

          Why Microsoft settled was because there was an anti-trust case against them which was calling for Microsoft to be split up AND Netscape was becoming the compute platform and ran on all platforms.

          Microsoft kept Apple alive with $150M, kept showing Microsoft Office on Mac showed they were not a monopoly, and Apple immediately started pre-loading Microsoft Internet Explorer for Mac when Apple still had a decent share of the education market.

          But it's a good story to think Apple lawyers beat Microsoft lawyers and got them to pay $150M. I wonder if Corel lawyers thought the same when Microsoft settled that Wordperfect law suit and got $125M from Microsoft. Oh and Corel had to discontinue selling Corel Linux and all of the Corel apps for Linux but I'm sure that too was all about Microsoft lawyers also losing to Corel lawyers.

      2. Knightlie

        Re: Very Different

        Not sure in what universe Bill Gates "bailed out" Apple, but it sure as sh*t wasn't this one. He got caught with his trousers down.

    5. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Very Different

      [Author here]

      > Interesting article, but this paragraph is hyperbolic nonsense.

      I don't think you understood my point at all. That's fair enough.

      Most of this is rambling and not connected with my article at all, so I am not going to even attempt to rebut it. (Gods know I am guilty of rambling myself often enough.)

      > It's got nothing to do with the Mac.

      Apple was nearly killed by Win95. That precipitated the return of Steve Jobs. That caused the iPod, the iMac, etc. You're obsessing on tech and that's not the point. The point is that it was the return of Jobs that caused the renaissance. If Apple had died earlier,

      If the MS/IBM partnership were shipping a 32-bit GUI OS with stable multitasking and networking in 1990, as the product discussed in this article *shows existed*, then my point is that it would have killed off Apple earlier.

      > I think there was an MS OS/2 from 1989.

      It is mentioned in the article.

      > Most of the WIMP GUIs were inspired by 1970s Xerox.

      Inspired by, but Apple made it work.

      > Apple iPod succeeded because of iTunes 99c track deal. They were late into PMPs/MP3.

      1. [[citation needed]]

      2. It's not about what made it succeed. It's about why it happened. Who launched it?

      > The iPhone a success due to the data contracts.

      [[citation needed]]

      > It was 9 years after smart phones came out

      I know. I owned several.

      > All internal Microsoft email transport was done on Xenix-based 68000 systems until 1995–1996, when the company moved to its own Exchange Server product.

      1. [[citation needed]]

      2. So? It ran inventory and sales on AS/400. It ran Hotmail on BSD.

      3. MS Xenix flopped. SCO made Xenix a hit. (Note: SCO != SCO Group.)

      > MS doing NT was inevitable.

      No it was not. Never would have happened at all unless DEC screwed up and killed Prism and Mica.

      > The IBM - MS "partnership" on DOS and then OS/2 was never going to last.

      [[citation needed]]

      As for the rest...

      I deployed Windows 3.0, 3.1, Workgroups 3.1, Workgroups 3.11, NT 3.1 and all succeeding versions in production. I also ran OS/2 2.0 myself. I own 2 Apple Newtons and a first-generation Acorn Archimedes.

      I am not your grandmother, and you can't teach me to suck eggs. :-)

    6. jpennycook

      Re: Very Different

      > The iPhone a success due to the data contracts. It was 9 years after smart phones came out and 2 after Nokia politics killed their better than S60 GUI on Symbian.

      I imagined that the curated app store and a proper touch screen were big advantages of the iPhone over Nokia, plus Apple had a footprint in America where Nokia did not.

      1. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: curated app store

        No. When the iPhone was introduced there was no app store (curated or otherwise) and no SDK for third party developers.

        In my view there were three things that Apple brought to the party.

        1. Brand recognition from the iPod line.

        2. Using 1. to beat carriers into offering data plans at a sensible price -- or they didn't get any iThings.

        3. A touch screen you could operate with your fingers comfortably*.


        * Well, I can't. But I've got short fat stumpy digits and virtually no stereo vision.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: curated app store

          "No. When the iPhone was introduced there was no app store (curated or otherwise) and no SDK for third party developers."

          That is true, but they did have both of them in a year. While the first iPhone got a lot of discussion and people did buy them, I think its success came after, and because of, those additions in IOS 2. The touch screen, in turn, probably drew the attention of developers when the SDK became available because it enabled them to create interfaces that were harder to accomplish using much smaller screens and keypads instead. Had Apple not made that, the iPhone would probably have done much worse.

          1. Doug 3

            Re: curated app store

            Yes, I figured since the iPod was kicking butt in the industry and got iTunes pre-installed on all Windows PC that when the iPod Touch shipped, formfactor of first iPhones it was a small step from iPod Touch to iPhone. And that was a time when PDAs had faded and the best PDA/phone was the Handspring phones with a 320x320 display mostly running 160x160 resolution apps.

            IMO Apple is where it is today because they beat Microsoft at the MP3 market with the iPod and iTunes and it was the mastery of Steve Jobs at UI design simplicity with the iPod Touch then iPhone which took their financials into the stratosphere.

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: curated app store

              The iPhone came first by a few months at least. I'm not convinced that Apple's victory over Microsoft at the MP3 player was that big for the Microsoft side of it. Without the iPod, I think Apple would be in a much worse position, but Microsoft didn't, and still doesn't, have too much in the small electronics business. I think that, had they not tried making a Zune at all, they'd basically be in the same place they are now.

            2. captain veg Silver badge

              Re: 320x320 display mostly running 160x160 resolution apps

              This was my biggest regret after paying good money for a Handspring Treo, that the K800 had 320x240 against my pocketable computer's mere 160 squared.

              I have to report that the pixel deficiency was easily, if not necessarily conveniently, circumvented by the simple medium of scrolling.


          2. captain veg Silver badge

            Re: That is true, but they did have both of them in a year.

            Apple brilliantly consolidated on their initial success.

            It wasn't because the hardware was better. It still isn't.


          3. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

            Re: Touchscreen

            > Had Apple not made that

            Ah, how quickly history gets re-written. It was FingerWorks that made the multi-touch capacitive touchscreen (and, interestingly, the lowercase "i" prefix for products, with their iGesture touchpad in 1998).

            Apple bought FingerWorks, and very quickly wrote them out of the company history, because ego trumps academic credit every time.


            1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

              Re: Touchscreen

              (Although the iGesture pad might have been slightly after the iMac, I can't find a precise date, so perhaps we can continue to lambast Apple for the "i" prefix on everything.)


            2. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: Touchscreen

              I'm not sure why you said any of this, because if you read my comment again, you'll realize that the "that" that Apple made wasn't referring to multitouch technology, but to the IOS SDK and app store, since that's what I contend was necessary for the success of the iPhone. They did actually make those things.

              However, it also doesn't really matter much that Apple bought in a lot of their multitouch technology if what we're comparing is who released multitouch devices. The credit can go to FingerWorks as much as you want, but a lot more people had iPhones than iGestures. By that time, the FingerWorks engineers and technology were part of Apple and thought of as such.

              1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

                Re: Touchscreen

                Well, I just re-read your comment, and your claimed meaning really isn't as obvious as you seem to think it is. But, no matter.

                It matters to me that the touchscreen tech was bought in, because I have had far too many fanbois claim that Apple were geniuses for inventing it. Am I on a bit of a hair-trigger for that now? Yeah, probably. So sue me.


    7. jpennycook

      Re: Very Different

      > MS was shipping Xenix in 1982. All internal Microsoft email transport was done on Xenix-based 68000 systems until 1995–1996, when the company moved to its own Exchange Server product.

      Back in the time of Exchange 2007, I found some Xenix mail documentation, and it looked like Microsoft had changed Exchange to make it more like Xenix mail.

    8. jpennycook

      Re: Very Different

      > PDAs were an early form of tablet and I was designing one in 1987-1989, with aspects inspired by Dynabook, Project Xanadu, Apple Hypercard, the digital cordless system that later became DECT, and DOS based FutureNet CAD/CAE (which used hyperlinks).

      Was the PSION Organiser not a PDA? The Series 3 definitely was, and I wouldn't call either a tablet.

      1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: Very Different

        [Author here]

        > Was the PSION Organiser not a PDA? The Series 3 definitely was, and I wouldn't call either a tablet.


        A couple of years ago, I got my own original 1989 Psion Organizer II LZ back again, 30 years after I sold it.

        I still have a Series 3A and 3C, and a 5MX.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Very Different

        Yeah. The Palm Pilot wasn't a tablet in any sensible definition of the term either, even if you wrote on it with a stylus.

    9. Roo

      Re: Very Different

      "It ran only 32 bit. Win9x killed the Pentium Pro because it had no simple switch back to native 8086 mode."

      FWIW I ran Win9x on a Pentium Pro just fine - the main gotcha with it was some games didn't run quite as quickly as a stock Pentium at the same clock frequency, it was rarely a deal breaker (for me) though. The flip side was doing actual *work* type stuff under Linux was a *lot* faster on the PPro than the Pentium boxes, because the code was optimized for the PPro rather than for a Pentium.

      The Pentium Pro (P6) had a *huge* 256Kb L2 cache that ran at core speed, anything recompiled to take advantage of that cache absolutely blew the doors off P5s (plain old Pentiums). It wasn't much more expensive than the P5 at the time - and was a steal if you were in a position to run code optimized for it. The point of the Pro was to get Intel's snout into the troughs monopolized by the RISC vendors - and it succeeded in that - and also went on to have a long and productive life running Windows 9x & NT in the guise of the Pentium II and Pentium III...

      Those were happy days coding for a processor with a fat, fast *and* low-latency cache. Back then I'd happily trade any P5 for any PPro that needed a home where it would be appreciated. :)

  3. jake Silver badge

    +10 if I could go there. Have a cold one instead.

    You forgot 4.3BSD-Tahoe in 1988, which eventually led to Net/2 in mid 1991 and the late, lamented 386BSD a little later.

    That, and you forgot to mention that so-called "MS Xenix" was just a rebadged, bog-stock, AT&T PDP11 UNIX Version 7. They didn't sell it to SCO, as they didn't own it ... all MS had was a license to sub-lease the source.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re You forgot

      Yes, SCO only bought the code MS added and an AT&T licence, which makes the SCO 2.0 litigation even crazier.

      And BSD, GNU, Linux and actually everything after AT&T/Bell Labs UNIX was because AT&T pissed off all the Uni folk that did most of the work and said, "sorry folks, we entirely own it".

      That's the big what if, not OS/2, but what if AT&T had admitted that too many people not paid by them had worked on it and so it should be "commons", belong to the Human Race, everyone, free. AT&T practically "stole" it.

      MS did to a fair bit to Xenix* to make it run on the rubbish 8086. I'd only seen it on a 386, though I had a giant Wang box that was using a 286 and enormous cards and not the stupid ISA bus, designed for "proper" 16 bit Xenix. They had an extra board that was needed to run DOS and Win 2.x and maybe Win 3.0 in standard mode.

      Have a virtual beer.

      (* Xenix sale Karma? MS later paid out nearly $11 Billion to have a licence for Nokia brand for a year, and get ZERO IP. Then have the cost of shuttering the unwanted phone factories and distribution etc. Whose Trojan was Elop? TCL, who made all the Alcatel phones still has the Alcatel badge and has the Nokia one. Nokia is still there for Infrastructure, the ex-paper and welly boot maker that made TVs and Set Boxes. TCL was #2 in TVs not long ago, but other people's badges on them!).

      1. Ken G Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Re You forgot

        Upvote for though I had a giant Wang

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Re You forgot

          My friend's Dad worked for Wang, back in the 80s. He had all sorts of branded T-shirts and caps. But couldn't use them due to sniggering teenagers. What's wrong with wearing your Wang hat...

          1. Antony Shepherd

            Re: Re You forgot

            Didn't Wang once use the slogan "Wang Cares".

            That would have made for a shocking bad hat!

      2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: Re You forgot

        > That's the big what if, not OS/2

        I am not convinced.

        On the one hand, SCO Xenix was a very good, solid OS. SCO made a lot of money in the 1980s from it, and they earned it. It was a good product, and back then, charging extra for a C compiler, and more for networking, and more still for X11, was viable -- because most people didn't want or need any of that.

        But the real story is that MS and IBM decided that they could go up against the Unix vendors with their own multitasking OS.

        And it's still selling strongly today.

        So, a good gamble, I'd say.

        I like your point about Nokia, though. :-)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft Presentation for the 1989 IBM PS/2 forum

    Microsoft Presentation for the 1989 IBM PS/2 forum

    Apr 1989 Steve Ballmer: “I would like to thank IBM for inviting me to talk with you this morning because it gives me a chance to talk to you about our plans are for OS/2 and try to reinforce some of its benefits.”

    Nov 1991: Microsoft Confidential - Do Not Distribute

    “It is therefore critical that we prevent OS/2 2.0 from eroding Windows momentum and defeat IBMs attempt at gaining a foothold on the desktop with OS/2”

    June 1991: “I have written a PM app that hangs the system (sometimes quite graphically)”

    Apr 1992: “The demos of OS/2 were excellent. Crashing the system had the intended effect – to FUD OS/2 2.0.”

    1. cyberdemon Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft Presentation for the 1989 IBM PS/2 forum

      And then a few years later they did it to themselves

      icon gates_horns, but I can't be arsed to exhume it

    2. mhoulden

      Re: Microsoft Presentation for the 1989 IBM PS/2 forum

      “I have written a PM app that hangs the system (sometimes quite graphically)”

      How unlike modern times where a PIM app called Outlook does the same thing. I remember Outlook 97 was particularly bad.

      1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: Microsoft Presentation for the 1989 IBM PS/2 forum

        > I remember Outlook 97 was particularly bad.

        I mean, yes, it was, but was that not the first ever release?

        1. atheist

          Re: Microsoft Presentation for the 1989 IBM PS/2 forum

          The embarrassing release of Exchange Client with Windows 95, that had to be replaced by Exchange Client for Exchange Server, when they got Exchange working.

          I snorted when I later read the marketing guff for Outlook: Uses less resources than Exchange Client and Schedule Plus combined!

          Before that there's Microsoft Mail. Which bugged out at about 4,000 emails.

    3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Microsoft Presentation for the 1989 IBM PS/2 forum

      “I have written a PM app that hangs the system (sometimes quite graphically)”

      This was a design flaw in OS/2 (or Presentation Manager) which MS avoided in NT. PM used a single thread for keyboard and mouse input (which put it at the mercy of one badly written app. NT decided very early on (that is, entirely within code that they controlled) which app would get the input and maintained a separate input queue for each app.

      I suspect that if OS/2 had won the day then this design flaw would have been fixed. (Perhaps it was. I didn't keep up after it was clear they'd lost the market.) But it was definitely there and MS definitely learned the lesson.

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge

        Re: Microsoft Presentation for the 1989 IBM PS/2 forum

        The SIQ was very frustrating and IIRC it happened to me annoyingly often for the years I used OS/2 at home (2.1 -> Warp 4). I remember someone actually wrote a driver where you could use e.g. joystick port to reset/restart PM - the only other way was resetting the PC and losing all work. Most annoyingly I couldn't replicate this with a specific software or work pattern.

        I don't think SIQ affected the sales in any meaningful way, people just didn't find use for OS/2 - all the software was for Windows (and DOS), and driver support was poor. I also remember my snappy 486/33/8 (with a reasonably fast non-SCSI hard drive) using around 4 minutes to load OS/2 2.1 desktop -- 3 minutes longer than just DOS+Windows.

        Software offerings was poor all around. Things like terminal emulators for dialing into the BBS's were lacking in basic features (ANSI, Zmodem) for a long time until i found ZOC. Interestingly my 14400bps ISA modem (with crappy UART) suffered from buffer overruns under OS/2 all the way to my later Pentium box with Warp 3/4 - but when I made the move to NT4 the problems vanished - better multitasking I guess.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Microsoft Presentation for the 1989 IBM PS/2 forum

          Fixed (more or less) in OS/2 Warp 4 Fixpack 17.

          (I thought I remembered they had finally done something about it, and some searching turned that up.)

  5. milliemoo83

    Also Compaq

    1992, IBM shipped the ThinkPad 700T running GO Corporation's PenPoint OS.

    1992 MS also had a Pen version of Windows.

    As featured on the Compaq Concerto, which could also be used as a tablet.

  6. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

    Ah ha

    .. finally, a clear, genuine reason for the OS/2 debacle/implosion. None of the tech reasons stand up for a moment ("why didn't they just do that, then?"), but BOY have we seen endless corporate suicides via this:

    >It had promised those customers OS/2.[...] and can attest that most of those customers neither knew nor cared

    Until you've worked at exec level in the big boys you CANNOT BELIEVE the sheer anti-reality obsessiveness of the insularity. Inspiring stories trumpeted at each other is the ONLY reality, and the level of pushback you get from even considering the generalities of current market reality is beyond insane.

    But if you try going a step further and actually suggest TALKING to clients' front-line, the actual determiners of what succeeds, (incl. potential clients), you suddenly flip into them losing what control they have, the mask dropping, and as sershal meeja has it: "REEEEEEE!!!!"

    Mad white-out panic rejection.

    "Rejection", there, doesn't begin to address the DEGREE of the emotion. Or the reaction. Or the cold campaigning thereafter to snuff it, snuff even the possibility.

    Imagine an English person if a cloud of wasps swarmed the table, or if they walked into a massive web and a dozen spiders dropped on their face.

    It's like that. Screaming, flailing, panicking, attacking, fleeing.

    Absolutely surreal to watch. Every time. The resulting rationalisation gymnastics, likewise.

    So, yeah: ignoring the pointy-end, or even the customers, or even just the general market, in favour of ticking a random Virtue box on an internal list in senior mgt --even if the necessary consequence is the evaporation of that product-- makes absolute sense, matches endless empirical reality, and finally provides a concrete, valid reason for the OS/2 debacle.

    Thank you, Liam.

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      Re: Ah ha

      Trivial example which doesn't require HUGE amounts of context:

      While jackrabbited unexpectedly into turning around a debacle: my (inherited) senior exec in charge of Client Services had been singing me to the high heavens for a year+ for turning things round, but all the time raging that she/her dept wasn't allowed to simply visit customers LIKE THEY *NEEDED* TO DO!!! (Which was true.) Per her: I was A GENIUS (? just common sense) but she/they were CRIPPLED by evil senior mgt.

      (Looking back on it now, of course, I recognise the age-old standard tactics of two-faced wannabe-elite/down-treaders: Drama! Unjustly confined! Someone higher status holding us back, holding us down! Good&Evil! Black&White! Us&Them! I'm fighting The Good Fight to help the plebs! THIS ONE SINGLE THING! If only SPECIAL PEOPLE LIKE US were in charge, everything would be fixed! etc)

      I finally cracked the pushback at top-level: walked up in the open office, announced with everyone hearing that FINALLY she/dept were allowed to visit clients, unrestricted budget.

      She went white.


      Box of spiders in her face.

      Then what the psychs call a "microexpression" of sudden twist into what could only be called pure hatred.

      I had Become EVIL.

      I had pulled her out of The Narrative into Reality. And into real-world Consequences: personal responsibility.

      Nothing to hide behind. She'd actually have to do what she said.

      Not just The Story anymore.

      (I really wish I had a video of that few seconds. The REVEAL was incredible. Enlightening. A mask torn off unexpectedly. Hard to communicate to people without taking forever or sounding in summary-attempt like a nutter.

      Thing is, I saw a LOT of that. This is just the quickest no-context-needed trivial example.)

      Suffice to say: from that point on, she never visited any client despite having banged the table many many times a week for the year+, nor allowed any staff to. She was in looneytoons caricature mode of hatred vs me (quite surreal to go from Hero! to TDS-alike in an instant of solving someone's problem), worked hard to screw over the whole group, resigned later to take a more senior position elsewhere, and has gone from strength to strength ever since.

  7. Bebu Silver badge

    30 years later...

    The penny dropped that OS/2 never ran in x86 real mode whereas Win 3.0 often did.

    I think Charles Petzold's Window's programming book at the time detailed Windows convoluted fiddling with the call/runtime stack when moving memory segments in real mode to emulate the i286. A bit of a dog's breakfast all round.

    At that point I ditched Windows after trying Whitewater Group's Actor and Zortech's C++ compilers+MS Win SDK. The primary reason was once you needed more than 64k (or anything outside DGROUP) it was just plain painful as those segments could be moved in memory, unless locked, at any time.

    Ironically or exasperatingly some months after ditching the whole MS schmozzle I read an article in Dr Dobbs where the writer had discovered an undocumented feature that allowed the programmer to register an array of segments numbers with windows which windows would update when moving the segment's memory. With C++ you could use this feature to neatly encapsulate this nonsense.

    At that point I was done with MS - one of life's unregretted decisions. :)

    Some years later I installed OS/2 warp from a cdrom attached to computer magazine (APC July 2000 no. 7 vol. 5) and was actually pleasantly surprised.

    Trousers of Time* - unfortunately we all got to know on which side Mr Microsoft dressed. :(

    * this use of the phrase pre-dates Terry Pratchett's Discworld use for the Everettian Many Worlds interpretation.

    1960s BBC Radio "Professor Prune and The Electric Time Trousers" travelled the universe in the Time Trousers encountering dreadful jokes. (Alas generally called "life.")

    1. simonlb Silver badge

      Re: 30 years later...

      I went to a computer fair in Birmingham (UK, not Alabama) many, many years ago with a friend. He was so impressed with the demo of OS/2 2.1 that IBM presented on their stand he bought a copy, but when he got home he was completely unable to get it to install on his PC, a 486DX2/66. Despite numerous attempts it always popped up an error message that he was never able to get past, but which didn't indicate what was causing the issue. He eventually gave up in disgust and reinstalled DOS 6 and Windows 3.1.

      Later on, I also acquired a copy of OS2/Warp from the cover of a PC magazine and tried to install that on three completely different HP desktop machines I had access to at that time and it also never installed, giving a mix of error messages which again didn't indicate what the issue was.

      I decided then that if IBM couldn't get their own OS to install on a non-IBM PC, it must be because they had a reason for it, so bollocks to them.

      1. John Styles

        Yes, this was the problem

        The closest I ever got to throwing a PC out of a window was trying to install OS/2 on it. Every time I tried it somehow bailed out earlier, obviously cunningly writing something to the disk to "help" the installation

        1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          Re: Yes, this was the problem

          [Author here]

          Yep. I bought OS/2 2.0 and 2.1 with my own money. I also tried the eval of OS/2 Warp.

          Amazingly hard to install and giving away a time-bombed OS release is _such_ a bad idea! In the unlikely event that you do get the bally thing it to install, it _will_ turn itself off and brick your PC a month later!

      2. neozeed

        Re: 30 years later...

        For a while you could make good money for installing OS/2.

        It was either a snap, and no big deal once you knew how to deal with the timing issues of the floppy drives, or you just added a second hard disk, and did the double backup/restore trick, and restored a prior installed version, and swapped drivers as necessary.

        I have no idea why IBM could never fix the floppy driver, yet at the same time, I never had any issues (other than TIME) for installing Windows NT 3.1/3.5 from floppy disks.

      3. captain veg Silver badge

        Re: 30 years later...

        > the demo of OS/2 2.1 that IBM presented on their stand

        Would that be the one where they played a clip of a Michael Jackson song while simultaneously formatting a floppy disk? That certainly impressed me at the time.


      4. AndrueC Silver badge

        Re: 30 years later...

        I used Warp to develop DOS programs for data recovery. It was really handy because if you crashed the VDM (not uncommon when you're processing corrupt data) you could just open a new one. No rebooting required which allowed you to have other applications running on the desktop. It also supported low level BIOS calls but there seemed to be a bug in that it spun the floppy when you were accessing a device with an ID of 128 or higher. It even supported ATAPI in a VDM.

        As for compatibility I remember a discussion on CompuServe about that and the IBM engineer in the thread wrote something like:

        "When we program(?) the refresh rate of RAM we expect that we will get what we ask for not something 'fairly close'."

        It's too long ago to remember exactly what they were saying. I think they said OS/2 read the configuration information from the mboard then reprogrammed the refresh rate but they might have just been saying that they assumed that the configured value was correct when they used it for something else.

        Mind you I also remember issues with joystick support because IBM had followed the spec and expected the joystick to be set up for bi-directional communication where most - understandably - were input only. Also with printers. IBM initially assumed that all printers were bidirectional for flow control.

        Whatever the issues I never had any problem installing or running Warp on clones. One of my favourite memories is of me downloading messages from CompuServe in the background (multithreaded thanks to Golden Compass) while I was playing Geoff Crammond's Formula One Grand Prix in a VDM.

        I also remember getting a set of floppies out of the blue one day. It turned out that I'd reported a superfluous '.' on the splash screen and when the bug was fixed I automatically got the version that included the fix. That quite impressed me. Another time I remember they issued a patch to work around that fact that a DOS golf game of the time hammered the sound card with thousands of samples a second.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge

          Re: 30 years later...

          I've found this while doing a bit of research this page. It provides some interesting information on the original PC design and might explain the comment I'm remembering.

          Elsewhere the article also mentions that the IBM PC uses the DMA controller for memory refresh. What is omits to mention is that DMA channel 0 is the one used for memory refresh in the IBM PC, which makes memory-to-memory DMA quite problematic, given that channel 0 would be also required for memory-to-memory transfers. You can do memory-to-memory transfers, or you can keep the DRAM refreshed, but not both.


          As an aside, using the DMA controller for memory refresh has an implication for IBM PC initialization. Although the PC has no complicated memory controller and no memory timings to set, immediately after power-up RAM can’t be used because it’s not being refreshed yet. During POST, the BIOS sets up the DMA controller (and timer, which is also involved) to perform the refresh function, but until then, there’s no RAM, and therefore notably also no stack.

          Given that OS/2 2.0 kicks the BIOS out perhaps it (re)programs the refresh rate. Perhaps IBM discovered that on clones they didn't get the DRAM refresh rate they were expecting. Another possibility is that OS/2 was just more sensitive to overclocking.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: 30 years later...

      I think you are confusing two things. Win3 could run in "real mode" where it did indeed do all that shuffling. It was a fantastic overlay manager and ran quite happily on an actual 8088. Sane users ran in "386-enhanced" mode where the windows kernel was a protected mode OS moving segments by fiddling with descriptors.

      Then of course there wasthe third thing, where DOS device drivers were "supported" by running them in the first VM and redirecting all device I/O from other VMs into the first one so the poor little DOS driver never had to worry about being "instanced".

      Impressive, in a depressing way, that it ever worked.

  8. IvyKing

    Versions of MS-DOS did support more than 32MB partitions

    Compaq DOS 3.31 had no trouble supporting a 76MB partition. I can't help but wonder if MS took away Compaq's right to make their own version of DOS after Compaq broke the 32MB barrier before MS did. Joe Boykin of the SCP Users Group was working on supporting a 100MB hard drive on MS-DOS back in the DOS 2.0 days - don't think it required any changes in the API as the 86-DOS API used 32 bits to store the file size. OTOH, the 12 bit FAT had to be changed.

    What really changed the whole PC industry was the rise of the cloned IBM BIOS, with one of the most popular written by veterans of Technical Design Labs.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Versions of MS-DOS did support more than 32MB partitions

      [Author here]

      > Compaq DOS 3.31 had no trouble supporting a 76MB partition.

      You are right. And indeed a lot bigger than that; I tried it extensively, and I think I had a *single partition* DOS setup on the biggest HDD I could find: 330MB.

      There is a little more to it than that, though.

      Several vendors' versions of DOS 3.3x could do that. The difference is that the Compaq edition was the only one I knew that did it _the same way that later official DOS versions did._ So it was forwards- and backwards-compatible: DOS 4/5/6 could read Compaq DOS 3.31 hard disks, and Compaq DOS 3.31 could read DOS 4/5/6 disks.

      This may be connected with the fact that IBM did PC DOS 4.0, and Microsoft was more or less forced to adopt the changes.

      Aside: I supported a lot of 3Com 3+Share servers then: a DOS-based NOS. It was terribly crippled by 32MB DOS 3 partitions. I tried it on Compaq DOS 3.31 but it couldn't read them. :-(

      It only supported a single big-partition tool: V-Feature Deluxe from Golden Bow Systems. (How the blazes I remember this nearly 40 years later I don't know.) Most of my customers wouldn't buy that as well as the not-cheap NOS, so for one customer's new server -- maybe the same one I mentioned above -- I ended up partitioning the Model 80's 330MB disk as drives C:, D:, E:, F, G:, H:, I:, J:, K:, and L:.

      Trying to usefully map all those shared volumes was... not fun.

      > I can't help but wonder if MS took away Compaq's right to make their own version of DOS after Compaq broke the 32MB barrier before MS did.

      An interesting speculation. It's possible! But gradually IBM and MS versions of DOS absorbed all the changes that the OEMs made.

      I think DR was pivotal in this.

      MS was lazy and complacent. So was IBM. Maybe _because_ they wanted to push OS/2.

      Then DR came along and made good business selling the first ever retail DOS upgrade, DR DOS 5.0, with big disk partitions, built in 386 memory manager, a HIGHLOAD command, a graphical file manager/program launcher (ViewMax), and so on.

      This jolted MS awake and resulted in MS-DOS 5 which copied all those features.

      So DR did DR-DOS 6, which bolted on disk compression and automatic memory optimisation as well. That resulted in MS-DOS 6, which again copied that stuff. (Literally copied: it included code taken from STAC's Stacker disk compressor. That's why MS-DOS 6.2, 6.21 and 6.22 happened.)

      Novell bought DR and did Novell DOS 7, which bundled Netware Lite for peer-to-peer networking.

      (But it ate RAM. MS responded with Windows for Workgroups, moving the network stack out of DOS and into Windows, a much better move.)

      1. simonlb Silver badge

        Re: Versions of MS-DOS did support more than 32MB partitions

        "This may be connected with the fact that IBM did PC DOS 4.0, and Microsoft was more or less forced to adopt the changes."

        This might also explain why MS-DOS 4 had a reputation for being unstable/unreliable and people waited until MS-DOS 5 to move from MS-DOS 3.x: MS probably deliberately crippled some of the functionality in v4 so that when they released v5 they could say they fixed something inherited from IBM.

        Pure speculation on my part, but I wouldn't put it past them.

      2. IvyKing

        Re: Versions of MS-DOS did support more than 32MB partitions

        And to top it off, MS updates of Windows included code that prevented Windows from running on top of DR-DOS. FWIW, I had experience with DR-DOS at work and was impressed - also impressed at how the arrogant DR of CP/M days morphed into a more costumer friendly company, while MS outshone DR on how to be arrogant bastards (no relation to the Stone Brewery product).

        Another memory from the mid-90's was chatting with our company marketing officer and his comment that just about everybody who did business with MS felt like they got shafted. Sublogic and Lattice are a couple of examples from the 1980's.

  9. Just an old bloke

    Does no one remember C/PM machines running dumb terminals via stat mux’s. No GUI, cheap kit just pure function. All forgotten. <sad face>

  10. Long John Silver


    On the one hand, I recollect frustrations arising from the restricted memory addressing of DOS. On the other, I marvel at the ingenuity which enabled running useful programs for many purposes despite RAM limitations. Those were the days when 'software bloat' was not an option.

  11. Not Yb Bronze badge

    I have a copy of IBM OS/2 Warp.

    On approximately 38 (yes) 3.5" 'floppies'. Thankfully it also came with a CD-ROM so "please insert disk 35" was not a required part of installation.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: I have a copy of IBM OS/2 Warp.

      [Author here]

      > I have a copy of IBM OS/2 Warp.

      Good for you.

      For what it's worth, in a box somewhere, I have O/S 2.0, 2.1, 3.0, 4.0 and Warp Server 4.5.

      Part of the reason is that I've been in the PC businesses for nearly 40 years and we get evaluation copies of all sorts of stuff thrown at us for free.

      Except for IBM. I had to buy OS/2 2.0 for my own home computer. Then I bought a mouse driver (for my Prohance PowerMouse, a unique mouse with a numeric keypad on it) and then I think I had to pay for a driver for my parallel-port sound device (a Logitech Audioman).

      Then I had to pay for the upgrade to 2.1.

      Which stopped my sound "card" working, stopped the PC speaker driver working, and stopped my very useful 800*600 in 16 colours screen mode working.

      But such things aside, it was a genuinely world-beating PC OS in its time. It was worth the money. It was worth buying special hardware to run it, just as Windows NT users had to do as well.

      So I paid. Not gladly but I paid. It was that radical, that transformative.

      But later, IBM realised the error of its ways, and it gave away 3.0 and 4.x for the asking. That's why I kept them: as companion pieces to the most expensive piece of PC software I ever bought.

  12. TrueNull

    MS/IBM Golf

    IBM/Microsoft The round of golf where MS told IBM it was now in-charge

    In late summer 1986(?) there was a golf meeting in Westchester County New York between Microsoft (Gates) and partner, and IBM (John Akers and partner). I was at IBM at the time. The lengthy meeting summary was highly selectively distributed inside upper IBM management afterwards, I didn't get to see that summary, I tried; I believe the information was deemed 'insider information'. Any chance someone has the summary of this famous meeting?

    I have difficulty imagining Gates playing golf but that's another story. I was told both companies tried diligently to gracefully lose the golf match.

    In this round of golf/really-a-meeting famously Gates told IBM they were no longer in-charge of the dominant x86 operating system. This was a BIG deal, IBM was told it was no longer the leader in PC systems or its future.

    Any chance someone here has knowledge of this meeting? Forty-years later is a long time to wait for the surprise ending. Thanks.

  13. Randall Shimizu

    I liked OS/2 to for many years. IBM should have hired MS as subcontractor to develop the OS/2 code. This way IBM would have complete control over the OS/2 code. IBM also had this strange aversion to marketing. For some reason IBM insisted on marketing to their existing customer base. So therefore it was hard to attract new customers. IBM was planning a big marketing campaign for OS/2 warp. But tIBM's management pulled back at the last minute. IBM also did not press their advantage during the Win 95 era. OS/2 Warp server client/server technology had a huge advantage over NT. The odd thing is that IBM although Warp server had client server features they did not have a internal C/S marketing strategies. This would have allowed OS/2 to gain a huge market share in enterprise arena. IBM eventually gave up on OS/2 when Lou Gerstner came in. IBM made a commitment however that they would support their OS/2 customers as long as was needed. It actually twice as long to wind down OS/2 was originally projected. Serenity systems took over OS/2 and lied about have permission to make "approved" code modification to OS. When in fact Serenity systems only had access OS/2 GUI code. After this I gave up on OS/2. Today Windows is a very robust and stable OS. Satya Nadella is probably one the best CEO's in the computer industry.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      [Author here]

      > IBM was planning a big marketing campaign for OS/2 warp. But tIBM's management pulled back at the last minute.

      This is not true.

      IBM spent billions on OS/2 including huge amounts on marketing.

  14. Binraider Silver badge

    One feels that this article needs prodding over to Dave Plummer to do some further diving, who obviously joined a little after this but would surely have access to the relevant contacts that were working on this at the time!

  15. spireite Silver badge

    OS/2 Star Trek Edition

    I remember right at the beginning of my career that we had several licensed copies of OS/2 Warp.

    Frankly, it was an excellent OS, and made Windows look silly.

    I was coding in C++ for that in Supply Chain related businesses, and it was head and shoulders above.

    We practically wept when we saw it was Windows taking hold of the market. Very much a Betamax moment when you questioned the sense of companies backing the poorer horse.

  16. wkingston

    What about the Windows Version 2.0?

    Windows version 2.0 for the Intel 80386 processor had multitasking virtual machine capabilities. It was consistent with OS/2 presentation manager. This was the first graphical user operating system I bought for my 80386 computer in 1988. I still have the original box with the user manual and three disks. I used it without a mouse for a while until Windows Version 3.0 came out. I bought OS/2 Warp when it came out. I had two separate computers running each operating system, but eventually started using Windows exclusively. Though I still have the original IBM OS/2 Warp box and software disks. I just wanted to mention this because it was kind of skipped over.

  17. John Styles

    Another problem with OS/2

    Was that IBM were an absolute nightmare to deal with. They couldn't conceal their contempt for the PC / PC software customers.

    I am sure they are great if you are the CEO or CTO of a Fortune 500 company, though I wonder how good they would be at concealing their disdain from the CTO / CEO of the 500th

  18. John Styles

    The big question...

    ... And apologies to Liam if he has answered this but I've missed it... Is what IBM were up to that delayed the release of theirs for another 2 years?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: The big question...

      "what IBM were up to that delayed the release of theirs for another 2 years?"

      IBM and Apple were dating. Look up Taligent and Pink.

      Also known as "Your Brain on Drugs" by those of us with fairly close ties to IBM ... Somewhere I still have the T-shirt with that on the back, and a normal blue IBM logo superimposed over a full-color Apple logo on the front. We were informed we'd be fired if we ever wore them to work again ... Fortunately it never went anywhere, but those of us in the trenches back then really wondered what TPTB were smoking ...

      1. John Styles

        Re: The big question...

        There was a rumour that someone had written a hilarious book about the Taligent debacle, but I haven't seen any sign of it. Maybe lawyered out of existence.

  19. billdehaan

    Be careful with those rose coloured glasses

    I worked at IBM (on contract) doing OS/2 work from 1990 to 1992. I take issue with this statement:

    The surprise here is that we can see a glimpse of this world that never happened. The discovery of this pre-release OS shows how very nearly ready it was in 1990. IBM didn't release its solo version until April 1992, the same month as Windows 3.1 – but now, we can see it was nearly ready two years earlier.

    The phrase nearly ready is completely untrue.

    I was booting OS/2 2.0 and using it for my work from June of 1990 onwards. These were internal builds, from the same code tree as the MS version being discussed here. The OS was certainly bootable, and usable for testing, in 1990, but in no way could it be considered "ready" for consumer adoption.

    It ran great on IBM PS/2 Model 80s, with the MCA bus, but that wasn't what consumers had. That early version of OS/2 2.0 was basically a 32 bit version of OS/2 1.3. It allowed multiple DOS boxes (or "penalty boxes"), where OS/2 v1.3 had only allowed one, and not being limited to the 80286 architecture, it had better memory management and virtualization.

    It was, however, buggy as hell, driver support was almost insignificant for non-IBM hardware, and the WPS (Workplace Shell) development had barely even started. The SOM/DSOM (the replacement for Windows' COM/DCOM) was also in its' infancy.

    I could, and did, run OS/2 at work every day. And I was installing new builds at least twice a week. Stability improved, as did driver support. But it wasn't until the middle of 1991 that I could successfully even install one of those internal builds on my non-IBM home PC, even though it was SCSI based system with an Adaptec 1542-B controller. And even when I did manage to do it, I still couldn't get my ATI video card to go above 640x480 resolution until the GRE update of November 1992.

    Yes, that 1990 build could run Windows programs, but it took almost 8 minutes for Notepad to start up (as opposed to 13 seconds on the same hardware with the a 1992 OS/2 build). It didn't support SVGA. It didn't support WinModems. It didn't support EIDE drives properly. And don't even ask about Stacker, or tape drives.

    What MS and IBM had in OS/2 in 1990 was a bootable kernel that was suitable for development. It was not even close to being "nearly ready" for commercial release.

    It's like saying the Windows 95 was nearly ready for release because there was a beta of Chicago (as it was then known) in 1993.

  20. Mcq tp

    Someone should do a little more historical research

    One of the biggest mistakes IBM EVER made. Getting in bed with Microsoft always has its gambles and this one definitely hit IBM very hard. A lot of the problem with the was the timing of releases. Microsoft and IBM decided the behind the scenes coding language was very different from the coding language that Microsoft itself chose to develop its own OS. So microsoft essentially deadended the development of OS2 by forcibly making it to market first with it own OS.

    The future OS was basically decided in what could be called a covert corporate buyout designed to kill the product.

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