Discussion Who here thinks that Microsoft revolutionised personal computing in the eighties?

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
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To begin with I think it's reasonable to say that claims of "revolutionising" have to largely revolve around "company X did it first and succeeded".

I'd argue that the IBM-compatible PC hardware spec and standards for it revolutionised personal computing, and that MS-DOS's only virtue was that it was the de facto standard OS for IBM-compatible PCs. AFAIK Microsoft's only claim of being first might be accurate for technically being the first to produce operating systems for IBM-compatible PCs (my knowledge of that era of computing is rusty admittedly, so I'm happy to be corrected), otherwise other companies succeeded at being first in selling OS implementations that were ahead of DOS/Windows.

Thoughts?
 
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crashtech

Lifer
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I'm not sure if we can really know. It seems to me that if MS hadn't been at the right place at the right time, some other company or companies would have filled the vacuum, since the technology was ripe and is not like there was a real shortage of various OS software that could have filled the role. OS/2 comes to mind, though Microsoft had a hand for a while in its development, it would have still existed in MS's absence and would likely had been a suitable alternative to Windows in some alternate timeline.
 

Tech Junky

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Probably as the first GUI but, that allowed any idiot to connect to the Internet. When I first got online it was a BBS and command line. Manual atdt commands to dial in. Those commands came flooding back when I got a 5G modem and had to configure it to auto connect to the cell network. It's always been a fight though between msft and apple for GUI progression.
 
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Considering that Linux never really caught on in the consumer space and MacOS still lags far behind in the corporate world, I would say Microsoft did do something different. Whether a lot of unethical actions were involved in keeping them on top, is a moot point because they spread like a virus and the word Windows became synonymous with the word PC.

I'm not saying that Windows is the greatest thing ever (maybe it would be if Microsoft stopped messing with it) but it's the most familiar thing out there in almost every country other than some of the pariah states like Russia, China, North Korea etc.

I think one reason for their success is the sheer number of products they made. They made sure there was enough useful first party software available to turn Windows into a necessity and most important of all of them was/is Microsoft Office.

Then things like drivers being available for the gazillion hardware devices, API standards like DirectX and the crazy amount of coding possibilities with their insanely bloated Visual Studio suite along with certifications for Azure/Dotnet/Windows Server Administration/Active Directory etc., made sure that millions of professionals flooded the market, all enchanting the same thing: MicroSOFT. MicroSOFT. MicroSOFT!
 

crashtech

Lifer
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The PC world is based on more than one technology that probably shouldn't have won. The X86 instruction set always struck me as bizarre, for example. Microsoft's inherently insecure, proprietary OS is another. But it's what we got,so...
 

manly

Lifer
Jan 25, 2000
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Christie's? WTF do they know about computing? Why don't we ask Playboy? :p


I'm not sure if we can really know. It seems to me that if MS hadn't been at the right place at the right time, some other company or companies would have filled the vacuum, since the technology was ripe and is not like there was a real shortage of various OS software that could have filled the role. OS/2 comes to mind, though Microsoft had a hand for a while in its development, it would have still existed in MS's absence and would likely had been a suitable alternative to Windows in some alternate timeline.
Definitely right place, right time. Although Microsoft ultimately cheated a lot to maintain its OS dominance, Bill Gates was a brilliant businessman. There was nothing revolutionary about MS-DOS (or the IBM PC for that matter); but that alone illustrates Gates' imagining of the PC industry going forward. Not only did he purchase QDOS for a song ($50k), he licensed it to IBM non-exclusively, which is what set up Microsoft for blistering success.

At this point in time, the "killer app" was much more important than the OS. People bought microcomputers pre-1983 just to run Visicalc, not for a specific OS. And from 1984+, they bought PC compatibles to run Lotus 1-2-3 (or dBASE). MS-DOS was just a means to an end, but it ultimately was the largest beneficiary.

The infamous story is that if Gary Kildall wasn't off flying his plane when IBM's suits came calling and met his wife, Kildall's CP/M could have been the OS chosen for the IBM PC 5150. This is mainly urban legend, but also supports the point that Gates was more shrewd in dealing with IBM.
 
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The infamous story is that if Gary Kildall wasn't off flying his plane when IBM's suits came calling and met his wife, Kildall's CP/M could have been the OS chosen for the IBM PC 5150. This is mainly urban legend, but also supports the point that Gates was more shrewd in dealing with IBM.
Gates sent them to Kildall coz he didn't have an OS. He did have Basic so even if CP/M had become what MSDOS became, Microsoft would have found its way into most PCs in the world through Basic and other software. Microsoft's main advantage was Bill Gates' talent scouting ability. The same is what made Steve Jobs special. They could see the brilliance in people and give them the freedom they needed to express their creativity, while making off with like 95% of the profits!

I fell in the trap of such a guy too so no one would know this better than me. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were born in 1955. My previous boss was also born in 1955. In 2012, my CGI C-based company intranet allowed my company to make $1.9M in just the one service that my company offers locally. My boss retired with a handsome sum of $4M in 2015. I'm still just about penniless in comparison:)
 
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jamesdsimone

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Definitely right place, right time. Although Microsoft ultimately cheated a lot to maintain its OS dominance, Bill Gates was a brilliant businessman. There was nothing revolutionary about MS-DOS (or the IBM PC for that matter); but that alone illustrates Gates' imagining of the PC industry going forward. Not only did he purchase QDOS for a song ($50k), he licensed it to IBM non-exclusively, which is what set up Microsoft for blistering success.
Cheating does not make you a brillant businessman. He took advantage of IBM's stupidity that's about it. What idiot signed up for that deal should have been fired.
 

manly

Lifer
Jan 25, 2000
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Gates sent them to Kildall coz he didn't have an OS. He did have Basic so even if CP/M had become what MSDOS became, Microsoft would have found its way into most PCs in the world through Basic and other software. Microsoft's main advantage was Bill Gates' talent scouting ability. The same is what made Steve Jobs special. They could see the brilliance in people and give them the freedom they needed to express their creativity, while making off with like 95% of the profits!

I fell in the trap of such a guy too so no one would know this better than me. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were born in 1955. My previous boss was also born in 1955. In 2012, my CGI C-based company intranet allowed my company to make $1.9M in just the one service that my company offers locally. My boss retired with a handsome sum of $4M in 2015. I'm still just about penniless in comparison:)
Talent scouting? Bill Gates hired his college buddy Steve Ballmer and later made him CEO. :p

How many great hires were interviewed by Gates personally? Charles Simonyi probably?
Anders Hejlsberg? Dave Cutler?

The best part of this is that Satya Nadella has now made Ballmer wealthier than Gates. 🤣


Cheating does not make you a brillant businessman. He took advantage of IBM's stupidity that's about it. What idiot signed up for that deal should have been fired.
Most of the cheating came later, and I'm merely acknowledging what Bill Gates did well overall (he was a ruthless CEO). Also what I'm suggesting is that MS wasn't a superior technologist/innovator (although they eventually got pretty good at products too, by leveraging monopoly). But eventually was much later, and it's crazy talk to suggest MS tech was "revolutionary" in the 1980s. The comparison to Einstein's theories of relativity is outlandish.

Gates was originally a strong programmer. He wrote the original Microsoft BASIC without having actual Intel 8080 hardware (he stole computing time on Harvard's minicomputers and emulated the target platform). This Altair BASIC fit into 4k RAM IIRC. So yeah, even Micro-Soft's genesis was the result of outright theft of resources. 🤣
 
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jamesdsimone

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But eventually was much later, and it's crazy talk to suggest MS tech was "revolutionary" in the 1980s. The comparison to Einstein's theories of relativity is outlandish.
I agree. Why IBM didn't just do the OS in house is beyond me. They handed it to Bill Gates then a few years later said oops everyone please use PC-DOS. Stupidest business decision of the 20th century.
 
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Talent scouting? Bill Gates hired his college buddy Steve Ballmer and later made him CEO. :p

How many great hires were interviewed by Gates personally? Charles Simonyi probably?
Anders Hejlsberg? Dave Cutler?
Gates put people in charge he knew he could trust and then those people did the same and so on. Company meetings were usually a spectacle where the person shouting the loudest gained Gates' respect and attention. Of course, merely shouting wasn't enough. They had to shout with logic that made sense to Gates.
 

manly

Lifer
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Yep, same reason the IBM PC 5150 essentially used off the shelf parts. IIRC the only piece that truly needed reverse-engineering was the BIOS? It's unknowable, but there's not much evidence that IBM could have written a good microcomputer OS in 1981 if they had wanted to.

My point about Gates' talent scouting is that some of it is probably dumb luck rather than skill. Microsoft was able to recruit talented people to Redmond because it could offer stock options. I'm sure some did want to work for Gates, which is why I named Simonyi.
 
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My point about Gates' talent scouting is that some of it is probably dumb luck rather than skill.
Consistent dumb luck? :p

What about Steve Jobs?

That's why I'm into zodiac and stuff. Dumb luck doesn't explain everything to me. I explain away the success of Gates and Jobs by maintaining that both of them were born in the year of the Goat. People who will be walking down the street and you will think they are ordinary people but their bank accounts will be in millions or billions. Goats rarely show off their wealth, like some nimrods who will get a loan and pretend to be rich by wearing expensive clothes and riding in expensive cars.
 

JackMDS

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It is the “”analyze”” past when most things are grossly different Now .

The IBM PC was the first item that IBM was going with into the Consumer market.

At the time few other Companies were alreadt selling computer to consumers. The most notable Radio Shack and Apple.

They both provide on top of the generic machine language the "Basic" language to help the common user learn something fast and usable.

In order not to lose more time in developing there Languages idea it was easier to do/buy something similar to what the market is already using.

There was at time something better (I forgot the name of the guy that did it) but he refused to sell it to IBM.
If you remember they also came with a PCjt for the beginner market but it was so bad that it was dropped after short time.

BTW the first computer that was independent and small enough that could be on the general market was sold few year earlier by Digital Company was not portable but could be put at Home or office (it did not have a screen) its functional interface was Teletype (https://gunkies.org/wiki/Teletype)

It was the PDP 8e that normal person could buy for $1800

It also was based on Machine language and the Basic Language,

TeleType

200px-Asr33.jpg

PDP-8e

PDP-8.jpg
 

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There was at time something better (I forgot the name of the guy that did it) but he refused to sell it to IBM.
OS or language? CP/M's owner's wife outright refused IBM's restrictive terms and conditions for the deal they offered, if the stories are to be believed.
 

manly

Lifer
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Consistent dumb luck? :p

What about Steve Jobs?

That's why I'm into zodiac and stuff. Dumb luck doesn't explain everything to me. I explain away the success of Gates and Jobs by maintaining that both of them were born in the year of the Goat. People who will be walking down the street and you will think they are ordinary people but their bank accounts will be in millions or billions. Goats rarely show off their wealth, like some nimrods who will get a loan and pretend to be rich by wearing expensive clothes and riding in expensive cars.
Both were excellent CEOs, so I'm not saying it was all dumb luck. There are certainly worse CEOs than Ballmer (Carly Fiorina, Jeff Skilling, many others) but you still have to consider Ballmer a "miss" in the talent scouting department. Jobs is widely regarded as one of the greatest, if not the GOAT, CEOs.

BASIC was basically a toy language; it had no impact on PC commercial software development in the 1980s. If Gates hadn't bought QDOS and licensed it to IBM, I don't think Microsoft would have become successful. DOS riding on the IBM PC's coattails to become the dominant standard (again, shrewd moves by Gates) is what set the table for their future dominance. And obviously, they had to hire talented people along the way to actually pull it all off.

Umm, the PDP-8/e was definitely not a microcomputer. Credit for that generally goes to MITS Altair, which is the system Bill Gates and Paul Allen wrote the first Microsoft BASIC for. Using stolen computing time from Harvard (Allen wasn't even a student there). :p



OS or language? CP/M's owner's wife outright refused IBM's restrictive terms and conditions for the deal they offered, if the stories are to be believed.
As I alluded to, this is some grains of truth spun into an urban legend.