• 30 Years of MS-DOS: A Retrospective

    MS-DOS-Application-iconRead time (bolded): 3 minutes

    Read time (comprehensive): 5 minutes


    Strip away the 3D rendering and the translucent menus. Forget about drop down menus, scroll bars, and handy application icons. Abandon your mouse. Get rid of all the flash of the OS interface as we know it, and look back three decades to that iconic blinking cursor.

    It has indeed been 30 years since MS-DOS first came to the personal computer, marking the beginning of a revolution in computer use.  The command-line-based operating system came from the Microsoft purchase of 86-DOS in 1981 (for a mere $75,000), and has gone through numerous versions, up to, and including, bootstrapping capabilities in recent Windows operating systems.


    The crazy part is: DOS is still relative today. Some basic systems (often inventory or POS systems) use DOS based programming for day-to-day operations. Even the command line approach that early PC users familiarized themselves with is used regularly, and is incorporated into every Windows OS. We can also thank DOS for the standard “C:” hard drive nomenclature (A and B were for floppies).

    It has been a long road from MS-DOS’s blinking cursor to the graphic, multilayered Windows 7.

    Windows 1.0 (released in 1985) was essentially a way to run multiple MS-DOS processes at once. Incorporating a 16-bit graphic interface was the first step toward evolving into Windows as we know it today.  With each subsequent version, new applications were added, the graphics became a little more polished. By the time Windows 95 was released, Windows and MS-DOS had become fully integrated with one another. 

    Fast forward to Windows ME, and the first instances of MS-DOS reduced to a pared- down boot-loader, and its successor Windows XP, and we start to see the changing times, where old DOS programs have to be run in emulators or virtual DOS machines.

    While the newest Windows operating systems have all but abandoned their ties to original MS-DOS (development stopped in 2000), any old-school PC user can’t help but remember the days of command-line prompts and floppy disks as a milestone of the computing age, a point at which personal computing really began to come into its own.

    So happy 30th, MS-DOS, you stand as a pillar of the Bill Gates empire, a forefather of the digital age. May your ominous cursor blink on in our memories forever.

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