Nineteen years ago today (ok, by now, everyone sees where this one’s going :))

Back in 1995, I was working over in the Northup building.  Valorie had joined me from school, and was working as a tester on Microsoft Word (she tested the Apricot version of Word and the AT&T 3b5 port, and the IBM OfficeWriter converter) and Microsoft Windows 1.0.

I was working on MS-DOS 4.0.  The entire team was ramping up for an October demo with IBM - we were going to pitch MS-DOS 4.0 to them as the next major release of DOS.

It turns out that they liked what they saw.  But not enough to actually buy into the project.  Instead they wanted something that would help them sell more of their newest PC, the PC/AT, which was a 286 based processor.  While the technologies in MS-DOS 4.0 were great, it wouldn't help sell more AT's.  So instead of taking our MS-DOS code, they eventually decided on a much more ambitious program.

They would start phasing out support for real-mode 8088 processors and concentrate on protected mode 286 applications.  Because they knew they couldn't do it all in a single release cycle, they staged it as two releases.  The first release was text-mode only, the second release was GUI based.

Of course, I'm talking about OS/2.

I never did get to work on OS/2, I ended up spending my time working on DOS variants until I moved to the Lan Manager group.


Comments (5)

  1. Psst… That should probably be 1985, not 95.

  2. mschaef says:

    "They would start phasing out support for real-mode 8088 processors and concentrate on protected mode 286 applications. "

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the selection of the 286 as opposed to the 386 for the "next generation DOS". OS/2 shipping a year after the first 386 machines with only 286 support (no V86, no 32-bit flat memory model) always seemed a little anti-climactic. For running DOS applications it made a switch fo OS/2 from Windows/386 or DesqView/386 a step down in functionality.

    Was this a symptom of a schedule slip in OS/2, a deliberate decision to keep system requirements low, or something else?

  3. Carl Daniel says:

    I remember going to a launch event for the original PS/2 machines and thinking at the time "Why did they make OS/2 run on the 286 and not just skip straight to the 386?". Had they done that, I wonder how the computer/software landscape would be different today.

  4. Mike Dimmick says:

    Casting aspersions: perhaps IBM remembered the ‘186, which was by all accounts a horribly buggy chip. Also, remember that at the time Intel were licensing their designs to AMD because Intel didn’t have enough fab capability to produce enough chips to actually satisfy the PC market. My family’s first PC had an AMD 286.

    The ‘386 required 32-bit support chips, which weren’t readily available either. By contrast, the ‘286 could run with many of the existing 16-bit support chips from the 8086. This was allegedly the reason IBM went with the 8088 for the original PC, rather than the 8086 – the 8088 used easy-to-source, well-known 8-bit support chips. Intel didn’t introduce the 386-on-16-bit-bus, the 386SX, until 1988.

    I believe the first IBM-compatible 386 machine was built by Compaq, not IBM.

  5. mschaef: The 386 didn’t exist when the OS/2 decision was made, so there wasn’t any choice involved.

    Also, Mike’s nailed many of the other reasons. And he’s totally right – the first IBM compatible 386 was built by Compaq, not IBM.

    IBM was working on designing the MCA line of computers at the time, and even then they only had one 386 in the original PS/2 line.

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