Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mark your calendars

FreeDOS turns 15 years old next week. Mark your calendars now!

For me, this is all about remembering how things started. When I was still a physics student at university, I saw a mention on a DOS user group that Microsoft would stop support for DOS, that a new version of Windows would permanently remove DOS from the picture. (Later, we learned Windows 95 still used quite a bit of DOS, but at that time we all had the vision that Microsoft was trying to kill our favorite operating system.) Everyone was pretty shocked. We didn't want to be forced to use Windows, which completely removes the command line. In DOS, everything is done on the command line, and a true command line "guru" can do amazing things there. In Windows, you are stuck with the mouse, and if the menus don't let you do something, it pretty much can't be done. So things were looking pretty bleak. We were all very upset about Microsoft's decision to ditch the DOS platform.

Then, I saw a discussion thread on the DOS groups asking "hey, why doesn't someone write their own free version of DOS?" Remember, this was about three years after Linus Torvalds announced his work on the Linux kernel, and by 1993 Linux had shown that free software can achieve incredible results. So in 1994, the suggestion that we could write our own free version of DOS, and give it away with the source code so others could work with it and improve it, really didn't sound all that far-fetched.

So I decided to give it a go. After I'd written over a dozen utilities that replaced MS-DOS commands, and found some public domain source that implemented other functionality, I realized that you could reproduce what MS-DOS does and make it a free software project. I released what I had for others to try, and the FreeDOS Project pretty much picked up from there.

What are your favorite memories of FreeDOS?

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