The most revolutionary OS of all times, DOS.

loocas | miscellaneous,opinions,software | Sunday, January 31st, 2010

MS-DOS

I’m still amazed how useful DOS can be, even in 2010! And the main reason I thin it’s the most revolutionary OS of all times is that it actually brought the entire PC industry to regular folks’ hands.

Now, by DOS, I’m actually referring to the simplest form of OS environment, IO.sys, MSDOS.sys and COMMAND.com. That’s all you need in order to communicate with your system. That’s all you need to actually get some work done! Isn’t it amazing?

Obviously, Windows and MacOS heavily extended the OS functionality and brought something else in the game. But that’s just evolution. However, DOS on the other hand was truly revolutionary. I may be skipping some other important OS attempts, but DOS was the first OS I ever used as a little kid. I remember when I was about 8 or 9 years old, my grandpa had a, at the time, high-end 286 computer, 512KB of RAM, some 30MB HDD, it was a beast! :D and it was running DOS. I learnt a few basic commands, such as CD, MD, CLS, COPY etc… just to be able to run Prince of Persia or Wolf3D :D

A few years later, when I started a high school, one of the computer classes started with a comprehensive DOS course. We learnt all the tricky bits and hidden gems of the OS. We learnt to use batch files effectively, escape sequences, pipes, even a bit of BASIC programming. This was in 2003.

Obviously I don’t have to tell you how much time I spent in DOS trying to configure or repair my Windows 95 or Windows 98 installations.

Then Windows 2000 came along, the first NT OS for the masses, in my opinion, which desperately tried to get rid of DOS for the users. There were several reasons for it. One of them was the NTFS file system. You simply weren’t able to access those NTFS partitions from DOS. Another was security. This is also tied to the NTFS, but security was a big concern. Another reason was the fact that Microsoft, ever since it introduced MS-DOS, tried to get rid of it. They wanted people to use Windows exclusively and not the cheap OS alternative. But even so Microsoft added an RConsole (I believe the name was? I might be mistaking it for the RAdmin in NetWare?).

Funny thing is, even nowdays there are software companies that still write software for DOS. Mainly database systems for large enterprises, like Post Offices, Banks, Account Management companies etc… This really surprises me on one hand, on the other, it makes some sense. You can run DOS on your wristwatch, it doesn’t multitask (well, there are programs that allowed a limited amount of multitasking) which means it can’t run viruses effectively without the user noticing, it’s pretty bulletproof (because it’s extremely simple) etc…

Now, it is 2010 and I still use DOS from time to time. Obviously not that often, but recently with the addition of a dedicated server and a network storage to my studio, I’ve spent a lot of time in DOS configuring the storage controllers, BIOSes and running other little utilities. It’s interesting how important this OS still is. And in my opinion we won’t get rid of it any time soon. It’s so simple, yet powerful, that people still need it for some lower level system configuration. One of the proofs of DOS’s power is the Shell. Sure it existed long before DOS in nix systems, which makes the point even more valid, it’s the simplest way of communicating with the system for the user. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was still using DOS to configure my uber-servers in my, by then, huge VFX facility. ;)

5 Comments »

  1. errr… it seems you entirely forgot Unix, which in my opinion is the revolutionary OS. Dos had many limitations and most of its good features were simply copied from unix-like systems ;)

    Comment by keymaster — February 15, 2010 @ 18:30

  2. You seem to have forgotten that DOS used to be the most widely spread OS and is even being used until present day. That being said, Unix certainly was the shit and it most likely still is. But nobody uses it anymore or at the time. :) And that was the point.

    Comment by loocas — February 15, 2010 @ 18:53

  3. yes, it was, but before then, unix was standard. DOS was successful mostly because it was bundled to the first PC systems. The system itself had many flaws and drawbacks (memory and device management, no multitasking, no multiuser support, no network support, primitive filesystem, ….). Unix was much more potent at the time, but PC+DOS combo was much cheaper.

    The concept of command line predates DOS, and its addition to NT systems does not mean Microsoft tried added DOS, it means that Microsoft added the most simple and natural user interface of OS.

    PS: of course UNIX is still being used.

    Comment by keymaster — February 16, 2010 @ 14:15

  4. oh, i almost forgot: of course there were viruses in DOS. In fact, lack of access rights management, filesystem protection and memory protection allowed them to spread freely. DOS was much more unsafe. It simply relied that any app would handle hardware and memory correctly and that it will eventually end – no possibility to kill stuck process etc. ;)

    Comment by keymaster — February 16, 2010 @ 14:35

  5. :) thanks for the info.

    However, that still doesn’t change a thing on my point. :D

    Comment by loocas — February 16, 2010 @ 15:11

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