The tech community has recently witnessed a historical discovery as Gene Buckle, a code archivist and flight simulator expert, has successfully recovered the oldest known version of 86-DOS, known as version 0.1-C. This operating system is recognized as a direct predecessor to Microsoft's MS-DOS, which powered the rise of the IBM PC-compatible computer industry.
From Humble Beginnings To Industry Domination
86-DOS, initially called QDOS or “Quick'n'Dirty Operating System”, was not a product of Microsoft itself but rather licensed from Seattle Computer Products (SCP). Microsoft then rebranded and licensed it to IBM, catalyzing the PC revolution. Developed for the SCP-200B, a board using the Intel 8086 microprocessor, 86-DOS aimed to make transitioning from the CP/M — the dominant OS for 8-bit CPUs like the 8080 and Z80 — to the then-new 16-bit environment easier. Despite rumors, 86-DOS was not derived from CP/M's source code but was merely meant to be API-compatible to facilitate software porting.
Microsoft's adaptation of the FAT disk format was another departure from CP/M's disk structure. The FAT (File Allocation Table) system originally paired with Microsoft's Standalone Disk BASIC enabled enhanced disk access and efficiency, further distinguishing the systems.
Preserving Digital Heritage
Buckle's discovery comes from a larger effort to confirm and archive vintage computing artifacts. His findings include multiple 86-DOS and MS-DOS 2.00 versions. The conservation of these digital relics — covering 8-inch floppy disks, MicroPro products like WordStar, and CompuPro operating systems — provides invaluable insights into the evolution of computing technology.
This groundwork is particularly significant in dispelling myths and clarifying the dense and sometimes controversial history surrounding DOS. It's through the meticulous efforts of code archaeologists like Buckle that tech historians can anchor their understanding of how today's computing landscape was shaped. With continued work, the technical community eagerly anticipates further revelations from Buckle's substantial catalog of historical digital media.
In 2018, Microsoft released the source code for MS-DOS onto its GitHub platform. Back in March 2014, Redmond released MS-DOS 1.25 and 2.0 source code to the Computer History Museum. The historic MS-DOS has a prominent place in the development of the personal computer. It was a leading operating system for x86 during the 1980s and 1990s before Microsoft ceased development in 2000. Not just that, MS-DOS was a driving force behind Microsoft's growth into the leading PC software vendor.