Thursday, June 29, 2017

Happy 23rd birthday to FreeDOS!

Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, I was a big DOS user. I used DOS for everything: writing papers for class, doing lab analysis, dialing into the campus computer lab. I loved the DOS command line. I considered myself something of a DOS "power user" at the time, and I even wrote my own utilities to expand the MS-DOS command line.

So I was a bit irritated in 1994 when Microsoft announced, by way of doing interviews with tech magazines of the time, that MS-DOS would soon go away. The next version of Windows, they said, would do away with MS-DOS. The world was moving to Windows. At the time, "Microsoft Windows" meant Windows 3.1, which was not that great.

I certainly didn't want to be forced to use Windows, not if version 3.2 or 4.0 looked anything like Windows 3.1. I believed I could be more efficient by typing at the command line, not by clicking around with a mouse.

So I decided to do something about that. We could create our own version of DOS, something that worked with programs meant for MS-DOS, but our DOS would be free for everyone to use. Other developers had done the same with Linux, I reasoned, so surely we could do it with DOS.

Twenty-three years ago today, on June 29 1994, I announced to an Internet discussion group what would become the FreeDOS Project:
A few months ago, I posted articles relating to starting a public
domain version of DOS.  The general support for this at the time was
strong, and many people agreed with the statement, "start writing!"
So, I have...

Announcing the first effort to produce a PD-DOS.  I have written up a
"manifest" describing the goals of such a project and an outline of
the work, as well as a "task list" that shows exactly what needs to be
written.  I'll post those here, and let discussion follow.

If you are thinking about developing, or have ideas or suggestions for
PD-DOS, I would appreciate direct email to me.  If you just want to
discuss the merits or morals of writing a PD-DOS, I'll leave that to
the net.  I'll check in from time to time to see how the discussion is
going, and maybe contribute a little to what promises to be a very
polarized debate!  :->

I am excited about PD-DOS, and I am hoping I can get a group started!
That announcement of "PD-DOS" or "Public Domain DOS" later grew into the FreeDOS Project that you know today. And today, FreeDOS is now 23 years old!

While there's nothing really special about "23 years old," I thought we should mark our anniversary by sharing some interesting moments in FreeDOS history. All this month, I've asked others to share their own stories about how they got started with FreeDOS, or how they joined FreeDOS, or how they contributed to FreeDOS, as part of the FreeDOS Blog Challenge. And I was impressed and humbled to see so many people respond to that challenge.

I'd like to highlight the FreeDOS stories folks have shared with us:

  1. Fritz Mueller: How I started with FreeDOS and Contributing to FreeDOS Help
  2. Luca Ferrari: How he discovered FreeDOS
  3. Imre Leber: Becoming a FreeDOS developer
  4. Shane Martin Coughlan: FreeDOS and OpenGEM
  5. Marti Van Lin: FreeDOS and MultiOS
  6. Nickalysis (YouTube): FreeDOS to play classic DOS games
  7. Dr Owain Kenway: Hobby programming with FreeDOS
  8. Pat Villani (on Pat's behalf): Creating the FreeDOS Kernel
  9. N2kMaster: Discovering FreeDOS
  10. Gregory Pietsch: First contributions to FreeDOS
  11. Erwin Waterlander: Joining FreeDOS
  12. Joel Graff: FreeDOS and Linux
  13. Nicolae Crefelean: Translating for FreeDOS
  14. Sparky4: Favorite OS
  15. Nick Gilbert: Playing classic DOS games
  16. Catharinus van der Werf: Backing up with FreeDOS
  17. Rugxulo: My FreeDOS journey

Thanks to everyone who contributed their FreeDOS story! If you would like to share your story about how you use FreeDOS, please send it to Jim (jhall@freedos…) and we'll include it as a follow-up guest post.

Since we've received so many "FreeDOS story" contributions, I plan to collect them into a free ebook, which we'll make available via the FreeDOS website. We are still collecting FreeDOS stories for the ebook! If you would like to add your story to the ebook, send us an essay by Tuesday, July 18.

While everyone has been writing and sharing their memories of FreeDOS, I have been going through the archives to share some interesting highlights from FreeDOS history. Here's a rundown of the history we've uncovered for you:

  1. A brief history of the FreeDOS logo
  2. FreeDOS as banner ads
  3. FreeDOS as web buttons
  4. A timeline of all FreeDOS distributions
  5. A collection of FreeDOS images
  6. Alternative FreeDOS images
  7. The evolution of the FreeDOS website

I hope you enjoyed our memories of FreeDOS as we celebrate the 23rd "birthday" of the FreeDOS Project. For more information, feel free to download our FreeDOS "press kit" (.zip) which announced the FreeDOS 1.2 distribution. Or visit the FreeDOS Wiki. The official home of the FreeDOS website is

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