The most veteran computer users still remember a time when the standard computer interface was not the mouse and a series of windows on the screen, but the keyboard and a long list of commands that we had to know and memorize in order to work . MS-DOS
Among command-line operating systems, we can highlight one above all, for its enormous popularity, for marking a whole era before Windows and its graphical interface, and for taking over our computers in 1995: MS-DOS.
MS-DOS (acronym for Microsoft Disk Operating System) is a DOS-type operating system produced from 1981 to 2000 by Microsoft.
It belongs (or rather belonged to) the DOS operating system family , which included a series of operating systems with a command interpreter, compatible with each other and which, in addition to MS-DOS, also included DR-DOS or Free DOS.
Its history goes back to IBM’s first PC, as the prestigious manufacturer was visited by two young entrepreneurs who went by the names of Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, and who founded a software company called Microsoft.
At that time, also with its first microcomputer about to hit the market, IBM was looking for an operating system to be equipped.
At IBM, they firmly believed that the future of the business was to sell hardware and not software, so they were willing to give part of the business to a third party in order to get rid of the latter.
The best part of the case is that Gates and Ballmer went to the IBM offices to sell small talk, as they had nothing or next to nothing on their hands, just as the Big Blue assignment (nickname IBM was known) became became firm, they had to improvise a solution so as not to disappoint their client.
And this solution was to buy the operating system they knew in Seattle, called 86-DOS, which cloned certain aspects of functionality and the way of working from the operating systems of the big mainframes, but moved it to the x86 chip on which the first PCs ran. .
Renamed PC-DOS, it was included as the operating system on the first IBM PC. Gates and Ballmer made a masterful move by getting a favorable deal from IBM, from which they could license their operating system to third parties.
It turned out that, for reasons of patents and rights, the IBM PC hardware was easily cloneable – legally and leaving aside technical issues that also facilitated copying – being the only thing that other manufacturers’ computers required to function, as well as IBM’s original PC was the same operating system.
Microsoft had taken a masterful move to deprive IBM of the ability to sell the software to others, so IBM PC clones that were sold at a fraction of the price of the original machine were fully compatible with the software being used by the same. operational system.
This, in turn, led to the proliferation of “compatible IBM PCs” that built different hardware but required the same operating system, which would underpin Microsoft’s future dominance.
Interestingly, Windows NT (the former Windows XP and later saga of Windows versions) also left Microsoft’s relationship with IBM, this time to create its successor, the so-called MS-DOS.
But, let’s not deviate from the subject. Since the launch of the IBM PC, MS-DOS has evolved and, through its various versions, incorporated technologies such as support for hard disks and file systems that allowed to store increasingly larger amounts of data , internationalization support, multitasking ( from system version 4.0) or a text editor (under MS-DOS 5.0).
MS-DOS would still be around until Windows Me, after which Windows XP would come from the previously commented Windows NT and therefore cut off the legacy of MS-DOS.
In its years of dominance, MS-DOS would also release a few clones to rival it, such as Digital Research‘s DR-DOS, which had its fleeting moment of glory but never managed to build a firm alternative in the MS-DOS market
With the popularization of graphical environments, operating systems whose interface was a command line had their days numbered.
For example, in my case I remember that from a certain time on I hardly touched the DOS interface, but went directly to Windows 3.1. It had even modified the system startup so that, automatically, once DOS was loaded, it would run Windows.
Currently, FreeDOS keeps alive the way DOS systems work, with a lot of compatibility with MS-DOS (even if not total), being able to see it installed with some OEM PCs at low cost . There are also a plethora of emulators for various platforms that take us back to the microcomputers of the 80s and most of the 90s.