Units of measurement

 Whenever people find out that I work at Microsoft, invariably the next question they ask is “Have you met Bill?” (The next question is: “So what’s with the stock?” – as if I had a magic 8-ball to tell them).

I’ve met Bill socially a couple of times (at various company functions); he doesn’t know who I am thoughJ.  But there was one memorable meeting I attended with him.

It was back in 1986ish; we were presenting the plans for Lan Manager 1.0 to him.  One portion of the meeting was about my component, DOS Lan Manager (basically an enhanced version of the MS-NET redirector, with support for a fair number of the Lan Manager APIs on the client).  My boss and I were given the job of presenting the data for that portion.

One of the slides (not Powerpoint, it didn’t exist at the time – Lucite slides on an overhead projector) we had covered the memory footprint of the DOS Lan Manager redirector.

For DOS LM 1.0, the redirector took up 64K of RAM.

And Bill went ballistic.

“What do you mean 64K?  When we wrote BASIC, it only took up 8K of RAM.  What the f*k do you think idiots think you’re doing?  Is this thing REALLY 8 F*ing BASIC’s?”

The only answer we could give him was “Yes”J.

To this day, I sometimes wonder if he complains that Windows XP is “16,000 F*ing BASIC’s”.

Edit: To add what we finally did with DOS Lan Manager's memory footprint. 

We didn't ignore Bill's comment, btw.  We worked on reducing the footprint of the DOS redirector by first moving the data into LIM Expanded memory, next by moving the code into expanded memory.  For LAN Manager 2.1, we finally managed to reduce the below 640K footprint of the DOS redirector to 128 bytes.  It took a lot of work, and some truely clever programming, but it did work.


Comments (15)
  1. Anonymous says:

    Well he is the guy with the "nobody would ever need more than 64K of memory" guy, so that makes sense…very cool, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    btw, first you said the app was 64K, then at the end you said you reduced the footprint to 640K…did I miss something or was one of those a typo?

  2. Anonymous says:

    > To this day, I sometimes wonder if he complains that Windows XP is “16,000 F*ing BASIC’s”.

    would be great if he actually did.

    > did I miss something or was one of those a typo?

    he meant that the footprint for redirector in LM2.1 is only 128 bytes in the conventional memory (which is the first 640k) it’s a dos thing.

  3. Anonymous says:

    To the best of my knowlege, Bill never ever said "Nobody would ever need more than 640K of memory". I know of another rather famous industry executive in the 1980’s who that no properly designed application would ever need more than 128K of memory (and that no properly designed computer would need a hard disk or a fan), but to my knowledge, Bill never made the 640K comment. Heck, DOS out-of-the-box fully supported 1M of memory, which was all that the 8088 processor could address.

    And my comment was accurate: The amount of memory taken up below the 640K barrier (physical address 0xA0000) by the DOS Lanman Redirector was 128 bytes. Since DOS apps ran in the memory area between the top of the last T&SR app loaded and 0xA000:0x0000, that was the only measurement that mattered.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Wow! I’m really impressed. That you can post an anecdote like that about the richest man in the world and not get fired! (No, seriously, I do mean impressed. Most companies are still far too uptight to let all their employees blog like this. Bravo.)

  5. Anonymous says:

    1986….That’s back in the day b4 the stock went through the roof. I’m surprised you’re not retired and sitting on some beach in Maui 😉

    -Mathew Nolton

  6. Anonymous says:

    That’s back in the day b4 the stock went public actually :). And many people ask me the same thing. What can I say, I love working.

    And I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. Think about the things I’ve done over the past 19 years:

    Worked on two versions of real-mode MS-DOS

    Worked on three or four versions of real-mode Lan Manager

    Worked on Windows NT 3.1-3.5

    Worked on a theoretical research project

    Worked on Exchange 4.0-2000

    Worked on an embedded processor for home automation

    Worked on the windows audio subsystem.

    All while working for the same company. Where else could you find those kind of opportunities?

  7. Anonymous says:

    You are right. You really don’t find that kind of commitment. Nor do you find many companies who stay on top long enough for you to do those types of things for many years. I worked in the R&D area of a B2B company (ClarusCorp) during the heyday. We did a lot (mostly) of Microsoft work. It was amazingly cool stuff and I stayed there for 5+ years. However, that company ran its course. I left before the final demise to do my own thing but it seems most software companies have a limited lifespan. They build, deploy, accumulate customers and get swallowed up or go out of business.

  8. Anonymous says:

    8KB? Is BASIC really 3/4ths of UNIX?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Please don’t feed the trolls. Please don’t feed the trolls. I keep saying that but I never listen 🙂

    I don’t know of any implementation of unix that took up 12K for both code and data. K&R’s first implementation was for a machine with 64K of RAM.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I think the original PDP-7 Ken Thompson used had less than 64K, but then again that was hardly anything like the real UNIX on PDP-11s and such. I could dig up a pointer to Dennis Ritchies page but anyway…

  11. Anonymous says:

    pardon my ignorance..but what does this line mean "REALLY 8 F*ing BASIC’s".. btw, great post

  12. Anonymous says:

    Matt, I don’t use profanity when I speak, and I don’t use it in my ‘blog, so I edited it out.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Not surprisingly, as a peon, I don’t get to interact with Bill very often, so my few interactions are

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