How Far DOS Has Come

Most people recall the black screen with the blinking green cursor waiting patiently for us to input a command in order to launch an application. It was the Disk Operating System that we loving know as DOS. The 30-year anniversary of DOS was a week ago. Honoring this I thought I would reflect on the history and evolution of DOS, arguably the most significant operating system in the history of computers.

In 1981 IBM released the PC and the following options for operating systems (OS).

  • IBM Personal Computer Disk Operating System – cost at the time: $40
  • Digital Research CP/M-86 – cost at the time: $240
  • SofTech USCD p-System w/Pascal – cost at the time: $695

DOS was the only one of the three that was available immediately and was the most inexpensive and for that reason became the most popular and commonly used. For a few years the public willingly used the no frills interface of DOS. Then in 1985 Microsoft released Windows, which back then, was a Graphical User Interface (GUI) that required DOS as an operating system but allowed for easier access to programs. The first versions of Windows weren’t very well liked but as newer and improved upon versions were released, each one still needed DOS, until 1995.

When MS-Windows 95 was released it do not required DOS but could run entirely independent as it had its own built-in OS. However, it did include some portions of the 16-bit DOS code to function. Like a baby bird, Windows had not quite learned to fly without a little bit of help from DOS.

But all things must change and a year later in 1996, Windows-NT was released. It was the first version of Windows that was fully 32-bit with no 16-bit DOS code in it all.  However, DOS did not disappear from our lives.

Many people still use DOS believing its simplicity to be dependable and efficient. They don’t want all the bells and whistles that come with “user friendly” interfaces. For this reason, newer versions of DOS continue to be developed and sold. Many computer manufactures still sell computers with DOS as the main operating system. Today we see FreeDOS, ROM-DOS, DR-DOS, and many more on the market. It seems DOS will live on as long as the die-hard fans still demand the simple elegance of cmd enter.