Originally published at: http://www.howtogeek.com/188980/pcs-before-windows-what-using-ms-dos-was-actually-like/
Consumer PCs didn’t always run Windows. Before Windows arrived, PCs came with Microsoft’s MS-DOS operating system. Here’s what the command-line environment was actually like to use.
Oh yes, I remember my 1st computer. An IBM XT I believe it was, back in the early 1980's. Got it home, set it up, turned it on, saw the C:\ and said to myself...now what do I do? We have come a long way haven't we.
I remember the days of DOS well.
"The Windows desktop is now regarded by many people — even Microsoft themselves — as a relic that’s out-of-date in an age of simplified mobile interfaces and touch screens. But there was a time when the Windows desktop was the new, user-friendly interface."
Mobile interfaces and touch screens don't pull heavy workloads. They are convenient and fun, but useless for databases, spreadsheets, serious word processing, and a disaster running many apps at once. But yes, it is painfully clear what Microsoft thinks of those of us who have faithfully used their OSes for all these years.
Oh the memories.
Anybody here remember Tandy Deskmate? That was my first GIU
My first word processing machine was pre-DOS and had two 8 inch floppy drives (but no RAM). There was just a program disc and a data disc and to do word processing one had to use dot commands (eg .lf was the line feed and .rt was the return command). People were just amazed when I introduced personalised sales and marketing letters in Australia in 1982. Prior to that I was using punch tape to drive a video based photo-typesetter (exposing negs, contacting to positive and then sticking the type down onto art board with "gumbo" glue. We then took a negative of the imposed layout and produced a litho plate for printing on a rotary press. We have come very far since 1972!
My very first IBM clone was a NEC 386SX machine which was shipped with Windows 386 (the predecessor of Windows 3.0). I never used Windows until many years later when 3.0 was released as Windows 386 was buggy at best and utterly useless at worst. I remember writing .bat programs to semi-automate my system which was light-years ahead of the Commodore 64 that it replaced!
You know, all this makes me feel sad that I wasn't born earlier so I could use this stuff. I started computing with Windows XP, so I never got the real DOS myself. Nearest I came was a DOS 5.0 virtual machine on my laptop (it's surprising, at least to me, how quick an operating system could run with 32 MB of RAM).
You're making it sound a lot more difficult than it actually was. And DOS had one great advantage--it booted almost instantly. I could push the power button and with one key press I could fire up my comm program, press another key, and in less than a minute from the time I turned on the computer I had all my mail and messages read to read.
Microsoft spent a lot of time bad-mouthing their own product and making people feel like they were just too stupid to cope without point and click. And a lot of people believed they were just too stupid to figure it all out.
You can still do a lot of things in what passes for DOS (the command line) in more modern versions of Windows that you can't do in Windows itself. Just don't go convincing yourself you're too stupid to figure it out.
My first computer was a 386 20mhz (Not GHZ!) with a 80MB (not GB) HD and 2MB (not GB) of RAM. With the upgrades it was top of the line at the time and cost me $5000! Really.
I ran DOS on it and never ran Windoze on it. I did do "Multitasking" under DOS using a program called QEMM. It allowed me to start more than one program at a time and to switch between them, including doing copy and paste. Although it was not a GOOEY it was superior at multitasking even to Win 3 and 3.1.
In several ways the first computer I owned back in 1992 (a 386 SX-16 with 2MB RAM running MS-DOS 5.0) is faster than the quad-core i5 laptop (with 8GB RAM and Windows 7) I'm typing this reply on. Boot times on the 386 were almost always under 15 seconds; shutdown times were non-existent - get to a prompt and turn it off!
The LotusWorks 1.0 office suite that came with it could run 9 separate windows for database, spreadsheet, and word processing and switch between those windows nearly instantaneously.
Sure, it wasn't as elegant as today's computers, but if what you wanted to do was work with documents and the like it did the job.
OMG...I forgot about DeskMate....I LOVED IT!! I had a server with a full hard drive and most of the interfaces wouldn't open. Dropped out to DOS, went into different folders and deleted enough unneeded files to boot and work long enough to share files again until another server could be installed. Good Ole DOS...
Geeks who would like to see how MS-DOS really worked can download the source code here:
Good article my first home PC was 386 sx33 also an NEC/IBM Clone and 14" NEC Multisync monitor with a math co processor and ega graphics.
I put a 28.8 modem in it and VGA graphics bigger hdd, added some ram got it to 4MB !
I remember dos and win 3.0/ 3.1 very well ...........don't miss either one !
I use Win7 x64 and Linux Ubuntu 12.04 LTS now both work well.
I miss WordStar and Lotus 123 !! (Sad Face)
My first computer was a Timex Sinclair 1000. Stored data on an audio cassette. Most programs you had to enter the code and save it to the cassette. It had 2k of ram but I built circuit board addition which added 64k! Then I got a floppy based computer with 512K of memory and DOS 2.1 Programs were on Floppy and later I wired in a 20Meg hard drive. DOS worked well and there was one thing it never did that todays OS's always do........CRASH!
I'm in full agreement. "Mobile interfaces" are only useful on phones or tablets, putting them on desktops or laptops is absurd. Thanks to the UI changes for Win8 the first thing I did when I got my new laptop was to remove the Windows infection and install a Linux distro. Now I have a proper desktop to work with and all is well
Oh yeah, I remember QEMM. It drove several of my friends nuts.
My first PC (I had a Sinclair ZX-80 and three Commodores before that) was an XT with a 32 meg RLL hard drive. To this day I don't use a hard drive for dead storage.
If Linux born a couple years earlier, neither MS-DOS or Windows would had reason to exist.
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