Re: Computer Economics Was: Re: Illth

From: John Conover <>
Subject: Re: Computer Economics Was: Re: Illth
Date: 30 Jul 1999 20:01:57 -0000

David Lloyd-Jones writes:
> Micro-Soft, as it was called then, came out with an operating system for
> all the four-bit and eight-bit computers at a time when nobody else was
> doing it. They invented the industry.
> Microsoft DOS competed against the inferior CP/M and the vastly more
> expensive DR-DOS.

When MS did DOS, they were known as Microsoft, and had already moved
from Albuquerque NM to the Seattle area, (changing the company name
from Traf-O-Data, to Micro-soft, and finally to Microsoft.)

Actually, they did not do DOS. It was written by Tim Patterson of
Seattle Computer Products, (and called QDOS,) and was a CPM cone, of
sorts, with many of the same function calls, (so much so, that it is
doubtful that it would pass contemporary copyright scrutiny, depending
on who is telling the story, of course.) It was a 16 bit OS. MS
purchased rights to the source code for about $50,000-probably one of
the best business deals of the century. MS, also, had the foresight
not to sell IBM an exclusive license, although that is what IBM

> Windows offered everything that you could get in a Xerox Star -- for
> roughly $28,000 less.

Except that the Star was a preemptive multitasking OS with a
permissions structure, (with Ethernet/Internet built in,) unlike MS
Windows where everything, including the VM system, ran in user
space-an architectural decision that was to make the system fragile,
and create image problems for the company for almost a decade.

Now, whether the Star was worth about $30K more, depends on one's POV,
since most of the WinTels of the era were used as memo machines,
(about 70% of the PCs were used as replacements for typewriters in the
late 80's, 20% for spreadsheets,) where reliability was a secondary
issue to perceived features.


BTW, Xerox, was issued a lot of patents on the Star, (for example, a
method of doing the blinking cursor, the concepts of the mouse and
windows, etc.,) out of its Xerox PARC research facility in Palo Alto
CA, circa the early 70's. (If I am not mistaken, the blinking cursor
has been the only one Xerox ever enforced.) Ethernet is a TM of
Xerox. The Star really defined what the Internet and Web was going to
be. Functionally, not much has changed. The concepts of the Star can
be traced back to Vannevar Bush's Memex machine, first described in
the 1930's. (A proposal was sent from Bush to Warren Weaver at the
Rockefeller Foundation for such a machine, April 14, 1937.) The
proposal for the Memex machine suggested the use of a hierarchal,
linkable, syntax/language, similar to today's HTML, and inverted index
searching, (similar to the techniques used by the Internet search
engine companies, like Alta-Vista, etc.)


John Conover,,

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