The evolution of DOS

Do you remember DOS, with its simple black screen with the patiently blinking cursor? Its full name is Disk Operating System and last week marked its 30th birthday. To celebrate, I thought we should reflect on the changes it has undergone in the past three decades. DOS may be past its prime but is it gone from our lives? Was it merely a stepping-stone in the evolution of other operating systems?

 In 1981 IBM released the PC and the following choices 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

It’s easy to see why DOS quickly became the OS of choice. It was the most cost effective and it was also the only one of the three that was immediately available. DOS dominated the realm of OS until the release of Windows in 1985. Windows, a Graphical User Interface (GUI), required DOS as a platform to run on but people quickly fell in love with its graphics and flash. Each version of Windows that was released thereafter needed DOS as a platform less and less.

When MS-Windows 95 came out it was released as a standalone system containing its own OS. It still included a small amount of 16-bit DOS code; I guess it still needed a little help from its friend.

But all good things must end. In 1996, Windows-NT was introduced and it was 100% 32-bit code. Though DOS and Windows parted ways it did not leave our lives.

There are many who are faithful to DOS.  They feel that its simplicity is both efficient and less problematic. Many feel that GUI’s have too many graphics that can muck up their systems. This is one reason why we see some computer manufactures installing DOS as the main OS in their computers. Current versions of DOS include: FreeDOS, ROM-DOS, and DR-DOS. Just like many people will always love and collect records, people will always love DOS and I see it celebrating birthdays for years to come.