The Legacy of MS-DOS [Editorial]


MS-DOS attained popularity because its relative ease of use, flexibility, and configurability. However, it also had its idiosyncrasies. Perhaps the most (in)famous aspect of DOS was the error prompt Abort, Retry, Fail?. As any DOS user would testify, this single error prompt could drive anyone to insanity. Not only did it appear with an annoyingly high frequency, but it was also frustratingly pointless. Retry often didn’t do anything productive, and abort was invariably the sole option left for the user. The Fail option, which was supposed to allow programs to recover from errors, failed with alarming regularity to yield the desired result.

MS-DOS-FailAbort, Retry, Fail?is one of the first pop-culture contributions from Microsoft, and in many ways the precursor to our love-hate relationship with the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death). However, that is not the only unfortunate resemblance between Microsoft of today and Microsoft of 1980s. Here’s a super weird MS-DOS 5 update promo video released by Microsoft. It’s painful to watch, but is still less disturbing than the Zune advertisement that Microsoft released a few years back.

Microsoft’s DOS wasn’t really Microsoft’s, and it will probably be overdramatic to claim that MS-DOS changed the PC industry forever. The fact is that if Microsoft hadn’t supplied MS-DOS to IBM, IBM probably would have found another similarly capable alternative. However, DOS did change the fortunes of Microsoft forever. By the mid 80s, more than 80% PCs were running MS-DOS due to its affordability, ubiquity, and superior hardware compatibility. The success of IBM PCs powered by MS-DOS also helped standardize the PC architecture. MS-DOS was the giant on whose shoulders Windows flourished. MS-DOS was the giant on whose shoulders Microsoft flourished.

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Pallab De

Pallab De is a blogger from India who has a soft spot for anything techie. He loves trying out new software and spends most of his day breaking and fixing his PC. Pallab loves participating in the social web; he has been active in technology forums since he was a teenager and is an active user of both twitter (@indyan) and facebook .