DOS: The Never Ending Story

Most of us recall the black screen with the blinking green cursor waiting patiently for us to input a command in order to launch an application. It was the Disk Operating System that we loving know as DOS. The 30-year anniversary of DOS was last week. In honor of this I thought I would reflect on the history and evolution of DOS, arguably the most crucial operating system in the history of computers.

In 1981 IBM released the PC and the following options for operating systems (OS).

  • IBM Personal Computer Disk Operating System – cost at the time: $40
  • Digital Research CP/M-86 – cost at the time: $240
  • SofTech USCD p-System w/Pascal – cost at the time: $695

It’s easy to see why DOS quickly became the OS of choice. It was the most cost effective and it was also the only one of the three that was immediately available. DOS dominated the realm of OS until the release of Windows in 1985. Windows, a Graphical User Interface (GUI), required DOS as a platform to run on but people quickly fell in love with its graphics and flash. Each version of Windows that was released thereafter needed DOS as a platform less and less.

When MS-Windows 95 came out it was released as a standalone system containing its own OS. It still contained a bit of 16-bit DOS code; I guess it still needed some help from its friend.

But all good things must end. In 1996, Windows-NT was released and it was 100% 32-bit code. Though DOS and Windows parted ways it did not leave our lives.

There are many who are faithful to DOS.  They think that its simplicity is both efficient and less problematic. Many feel that GUI’s have too many graphics that can muck up their systems. This is one reason why we see some computer manufactures installing DOS as the main OS in their computers. Current versions of DOS include: FreeDOS, ROM-DOS, and DR-DOS. Much like many people will always love and collect records, people will always love DOS and I see it celebrating birthdays for a long time.

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