history is hard (was: Microsoft open sources GWBASIC)

Jecel Assumpcao Jr jecel at merlintec.com
Sun May 24 21:32:34 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 had heard that Microsoft had licensed Xenix before the IBM thing. Bill
thought he had a gentleman's agreement with Gary to not intrude in each
other's turf and then DR came out with CBASIC. Furious, Bill got into
operating systems in retaliation.

When IBM came to Microsoft for an OS they had specs for a machine that
was in no way up to running Xenix. So it is just simpler to tell the
story as "Microsoft didn't have an operating system". Adding DOS
complicated things for Microsoft so they planned to evolve the two
systems towards each other until there was a single one. The January
1982 Byte says instead that there would be 3 systems: Xenix at the high
end, DOS at the low end and a hybrid in the middle. MS-DOS 2 was
essentially this hybrid (so most system calls have two versions: a CP/M
one and a Unix one).

Hmmm... here it says that though CBASIC was developed in 1976 it only
became a DR product in 1981, which is too late for the story I told
above to make sense:


> 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.

I have just watched a talk with Gary where he introduced DR Logo. It
wasn't much cheaper than that. And at the end somebody asked about the
soon to be introduced C compiler and the answer was that it would cost


> 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.

They installed barbed wire in the air ducts going into the room with the

-- Jecel

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