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DOS Through the Decades

Business Technology | August 5, 2011

Remember DOS, with its black screen and blinking cursor eagerly waiting for your command. The Disk Operation System (DOS) celebrated its 30th anniversary a week ago. DOS has arguably been the most important OS of all time and in honor of it turning thirty, I would like to reflect on where it has come from and where it is going.

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

DOS was the only one of these three that was available right away and was the most affordable and for that reason became the most popular and commonly used. For a few years the public willingly used the no frills interface of DOS. Then in 1985 Microsoft released Windows, which at that time, was a Graphical User Interface (GUI) that required DOS as an operating system but allowed for easier access to programs. The earliest versions of Windows were not very popular but as newer and improved upon versions were released, each one still needed DOS, until 1995.

When MS-Windows 95 was launched it do not required DOS but could run completely independent as it had its own built-in OS. However, it did include some portions of the 16-bit DOS code to function. Like a baby bird, Windows had not quite learned to fly without a little bit of assistance from DOS.

But all things must change and a year later in 1996, Windows-NT was released. It was the first version of Windows that was fully 32-bit with no 16-bit DOS code in it all.  However, DOS did not disappear from our lives.

Many people still use DOS believing its simplicity to be reliable and efficient. They don’t want all the bells and whistles that are included in “user friendly” interfaces. For this reason, newer versions of DOS continue to be developed and sold. Many computer manufactures still sell computers with DOS as the main operating system. Today we see FreeDOS, ROM-DOS, DR-DOS, and others on the market. It appears DOS will live on so long as the die-hard fans still demand the simple elegance of cmd enter.


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