history is hard (was: Microsoft open sources GWBASIC)

Fred Cisin cisin at xenosoft.com
Sun May 24 20:31:42 CDT 2020

Quite true that Gary did not have the ruthless personality to compete. 
If the roles had been reversed, Gary would NOT have become a bill Gates.
Yes, the final outcome was inevitable, although the one incident set the 
path.   It is fairly commonly believed that MS-DOS would not have EXISTED 
without the DR/IBM incompatability.  Would Microsoft have gotten into 
operating systems LATER?   Eventually.  Probably.  But probably not for 
years.   For instance Microsoft Xenix would probably not have happened if 
they hadn't already been doing MS-DOS.

I maintain that IF IBM and DR had hit it off, that CP/M-86 would have been 
cheaper, and available at the time of the release of the PC, or at least 
VERY soon after.

I have heard (unsubstantiated) that IBM did not give DR any units of 
hardware to develop on (they DID provide Microsoft with some hardware), 
so there was very little work on CP/M-86 for the PC until August 1981 
when the PC was released to the public.

It is not clear whether IBM marketing of CP/M-86 was agreed to before 
finalizing the PC-DOS decisions,or whether it was added on as an 
alternative LATER.  UCSD P-System was ALSO added as an alternative.

There are unconfirmed rumors that IBM had not intended to also provide 
CP/M-86, but that DR screamed until they agreed.  The similarities in the 
operating systems were enough that DR could have had a legal case (even 
before current "look and feel" precedents), but Gary was not into legal 
battles, and being sold IN ADDITION was good enough for him.
IBM had nothing to lose by offering other Operating Systems as alternatives.

My recollection (not reliable) was that PC-DOS was originally $40, and 
then went up to $60 with version 1.10 or 2.00.  (Is that right?)
There are also conflicting stories about WHO set the price, and HOW; even 
a conspiracy theory that IBM chose the $240 price to hinder CP/M-86 
competition.  But, $240 was not grossly out of line in those days, so it 
very well could have been set by DR, in which case, THAT was a substantial 
mistake.  At $40 for PC-DOS and $60 or even $80 for CP/M-86, there would 
have been a better chance to compete, but not at $240.

Nevertheless, in August 1981, when the PC came out, PC-DOS was ready (due 
to IBM and Microsoft working with each other?), and CP/M-86 was 
announced as "coming soon".  Of course CP/M-86 "coming soon" but not 
being ready YET, MUCH earlier, was why Tim Paterson had written 
86-DOS/QDOS.  It was largely intended as a place holder and temporary 
substitute to be able to work on the rest of the projects UNTIL CP/M-86 
was completed and available.

MANY people (not all) thought that CP/M-86 would still become the primary 
operating system, in spite of the price differential.  BUT, "PC-DOS is so 
cheap, that I'll buy a copy of it to use and work on my programs, UNTIL 
CP/M-86 comes out and BECOMES the dominant one."   I did.
By the time that CP/M-86 finally did come out, there was an enormous 
installed base of PC-DOS.  "Are you going to sell software to THEM?"  I 
did. "or wait until CP/M-86 catches up?"  Soon there was also an enormous 
installed base of PC-DOS software.  As I mentioned before, porting to it 
was pretty easy.  "I'll sell my program on PC-DOS.  WHEN (and if) CP/M-86 
catches up, THEN I'll sell it on that."

Soon, it was too late for CP/M-86 to catch up.

A plane is real handy for going to business meetings.  And, is tax 
deductible because of that, even if it is primarily a recreational 
activity and hobby, and the "business meetings" consist of going to hang 
out with friends.  It has been stated that the meeting in question was 
with Bill Godbout, whose business was housed in the north buildings of the 
Oakland Airport, along with Mike Quinn, etc.  Godbout was a valid 
business contact (Compupro) as well as a personal friend, and Gary often 
flew up to visit him.

At the time, there was a minor corruption of the story, that Gary had gone 
off to sail his boat.  It has been reasonably established that it was a 
short flight to Oakland.

I personally think that Gary's attitude was that the money (not clear AT 
THE TIME how much) was not important enough to let IBM push him around.
He was a competnet businessman, but not ruthless.

BTW, once Microsoft started work, IBM insisted on upgraded security and 
locks.  For a while, it was referred to as "Project Commodore" as a red 
herring for any leaks.

I only knew a few people at Microsoft; met Bill Gates a couple of times, 
but he would have no reason to remember me; and met Gary a couple of 
times, but he would have had no reason to remember me (other than as one 
of the many pre-PC jerks who tried to convince him to standardize 5.25 
inch disk formats - his response: "The standard disk format for CP/M 
remains 8 inch Single Sided Single Density"). 
So, my opinions are speculation based on third hand perception of the 
elephant's tail.

Grumpy Ol' Fred     		cisin at xenosoft.com

On Sun, 24 May 2020, Jecel Assumpcao Jr via cctalk wrote:

> Fred,
>> To me, the culture clash aspect makes it one of the greatest stories of
>> the time.
>> Was Gary not taking the meeting seriously enough to be there on time, and
>> as a consequence, ending up being $80B behind Bill Gates, the stupidest
>> mistake anybody has ever made?
>> Or the bravest thing that anybody has ever done to stand up to them and
>> put refusal to be subservient ahead of the money by deciding that the men
>> from IBM did not deserve different treatment than other customers?
> The only world I can imagine where Bill wouldn't be orders of magnitude
> richer than Gary would be one where they were equal partners in a single
> company (with Gary either instead of, or in addition to, Paul Allen).
> The difference in their personalities was a far larger factor in the
> results than any particular event, though having a single moment be
> "pivotal" is better drama.
> What I have heard about the "Gary was away flying" story was that he
> used his small private plane to travel to business meetings. The airport
> was open for instrument traffic (like what the IBM folks were arriving
> in) but not for visual traffic (like Gary coming back from his previous
> meeting) so there was no way for him not to be late.
> Given that Bill Gates had called him to say he was sending some
> important people (but he didn't say who) that he should treat well, he
> must have been in his office earlier since this was the era of land
> lines. He could have then cancelled his previously scheduled meeting to
> make sure he would be present for this one even if normally there would
> be plenty of time to come back. But he had no clue who was coming. We
> know who it was and what it meant but it is not fair for us to pan his
> decision based on what he knew.
> In any case he did get the contract. When the IBM PC came out Byte
> magazine called it the Rosetta Stone of computing:
> https://tech-insider.org/personal-computers/research/acrobat/8201.pdf
> We know that CP/M86's $240 price made it lose big time against the $60
> PC-DOS (prices from memory and could be very wrong) but at that time
> there were people betting on a different result. The first network
> operating system in Brazil (NetMB), for example, was compatible with
> CP/M86. Only in its third version did it add MS-DOS compatibility as by
> 1985/1986 the OS war was over (and the UCSD system mentioned in the
> January 1982 Byte lost by a huge margin to even QNX and others). It is
> funny that the DOS-only era was followed by Windows, Linux, BeOS and
> eventually even MacOS as options of the PC making the original prophecy
> come true.
> -- Jecel

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