Microsoft has just released the source code for one of its operating systems… but don’t worry. Hell hasn’t frozen over. It’s just that a lot of time has passed and the software isn’t really all that useful anymore.

Working with the Computer History Museum, Microsoft is making the source code for MS DOS 1.1 and 2.0 and Word for Windows 1.1a available for non-commercial use.

ms dos

Microsoft says the goal is to “help future generations of technologists better understand the roots of personal computing.”

MS DOS was originally developed by Microsoft in the early 1980s and it was designed to run on IBM personal computers. It wasn’t the first operating system of its type, but it quickly became the most popular.

Early version of MS DOS provided the framework for running other programs using text-based commands. But there were no windows, desktops, or Solitaire video games.  You couldn’t even give files names longer than 8 characters.

In later years DOS provided the foundation for early versions of Microsoft Windows, the company’s first operating system with a graphical user interface. But even the earliest versions of DOS were capable of supporting a range of applications including word processors and spreadsheets — and Microsoft has agreed to release the source code for Word for Windows 1.1a as well.

More than 3 decades after MS DOS 2.0 was launched, odds are you can find a more powerful open source operating system to run on your PC. So it’s unlikely Microsoft is worried about losing trade secrets by releasing the code for some of its earliest products. But the move gives us a pretty good look at where one of the most powerful technology companies got their start.

via Hacker News

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11 replies on “MS DOS and Word for Windows source code released”

  1. So now every father programmer can tell his son programmer: If you don’t behave, I will give you a DOS 1.1 source code for Xmas.

    1. I think that would be far more useful than open sourcing MS-DOS or Word. Some one could use it for a basis that would be great for older netbooks and notebook and desktop computers. Since that probably won’t happen, I have been watching ReactOS and have hopes for it.

  2. Yea, they ‘released’ the source…. but even though the server is collapsing under the load and I can’t read the actual text, we can assume that it is released under a license that makes it useless for actual work and probably contaminates anyone who does make the mistake of looking at it from ever working on a project like FreeDOS.

    At this late date it is not all that helpful. Especially when one considers the linage of MS-DOS and that it came from Digital Research’s CPM almost without change in the initial 1.0 version. Digital, after several changes of hands, has long made the source to their own DR-DOS available under a similar gimped license.

    At this late date, anyone who actually needs a ‘DOS’ product will almost certainly be happier with FreeDOS.

    Too bad they released Word for Windows instead of one of the old DOS ones, that would have been a better fit and allowed someone to run Word on an old machine running FreeDOS. That would be hard core retro.

    1. As far as I understand you can’t use the source code for commercial purposes so, yeah, it’s a bit restrictive. Still, the Microsoft we knew under Ballmer would never make this move. I think the new CEO is shaping up pretty good. I hope he can whip MS into shape (and relevancy) again.

  3. There is an open source version of DOS called FreeDOS. . IIRC, it is way more advanced than the MS-DOS that Microsoft had way back then. It would be – IMO – like giving Ford giving away the blueprints to the Model T.

  4. Microsoft originally licensed what would be MS-DOS/PC-DOS
    from Seattle Computer Works (SCW). Legend has it that IBM,
    went to see Microsoft after trying to negotiate with, and
    failing to do so with Digital Research, the purveyor of CP/M,
    one of the more dominant OSs at the time, At the time,
    MS’s main product was MS BASIC, which ran on CP/M.

    Legend also has it that even MS BASIC wasn’t really an
    MS product, Bill Gates merely translated it from Digital
    Equipment Corp.’s BASIC.

    Bill Gates was only too happy to accomodate IBM, signing
    an agreement to provide an OS, even though he didn’t have
    an OS. He then rushed to SCW, licensing their product.
    Interestingly, as MS licensed the SCW DOS to IBM, SCW
    was selling its DOS in Byte Magazine.

    SCW later sued MS and the whole affair was taken to
    court, where MS was ordered to pay SCW a higher
    licensing fee, which pales with the gazillions MS made
    from IBM and other computer manufacturers.

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