Thursday, May 4, 2017

Linux and FreeDOS

I grew up in the 1980s, and we were fortunate to have a computer at home. Our first computer was a Franklin ACE 1000, a clone of the popular Apple II computer. My brother and I taught ourselves computer programming on the Apple, and it was here that I developed my first love of technology.

Later, we replaced the Apple with an IBM PC. Throughout the rest of the 1980s and into the 1990s, I was a hard-core MS-DOS user. When I learned C programming, I started writing my own DOS utilities and tools to expand the DOS command line. And of course, you know the rest of the story: in 1994, after Microsoft started talking about how the next version of Windows would do away with DOS, I started the FreeDOS Project so we could all continue to use the command line operating system.

I recently wrote an article for OpenSource.com that tells another dimension to the FreeDOS story. In "How I got started with Linux," I talk about my DOS roots, and how I also used our "Big Unix" systems when I was a physics undergraduate student. I thought Unix was really neat, and it had a lot of great tools and utilities that helped me get my work done. I loved DOS, but I also came to love Unix.

And in 1993, I decided MS-DOS was getting a little stale. I still loved DOS, but I wondered if I could have something more like the Unix systems at school. And that's how I discovered Linux, then only two years old. I installed Linux on my home computer, with a DOS partition that I would use to boot into DOS and run programs and play games.

What I didn't mention in the article is that Linux inspired me to create FreeDOS. I first started using Linux in 1993. A year later, Microsoft announced that the next version of Windows would do away with MS-DOS. At that moment, I thought "A bunch of programmers on the Internet got together to create a free version of Unix. How hard could it be for us to do the same with DOS?"

That thought was the origin of FreeDOS. Without Linux, I don't think we would have created the FreeDOS Project.

I encourage you to read my article on OpenSource.com about how I found Linux. It's an interesting story, with FreeDOS roots.

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