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30 years later, FreeDOS remains to be holding the dream of the command recommended alive


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Preparing to install the floppy disk edition of FreeDOS 1.3 in a virtual machine.
Magnify / Getting ready to put in the floppy disk version of FreeDOS 1.3 in a digital device.

Andrew Cunningham

Two large issues took place on the earth of text-based disk running methods in June 1994.

The primary is that Microsoft launched MS-DOS model 6.22, the final model of its long-running running gadget that might be offered to customers as a standalone product. MS-DOS would proceed to adapt for a couple of years after this, however most effective as an increasingly more invisible loading mechanism for Home windows.

The second one used to be {that a} developer named Jim Corridor wrote a put up pronouncing one thing known as “PD-DOS.” Unsatisfied with Home windows 3.x and unexcited through the mission we’d come to grasp as Home windows 95, Corridor sought after to wreck floor on a brand new “public area” model of DOS that would stay the standard command-line interface alive as lots of the global left it in the back of for extra user-friendly however resource-intensive graphical person interfaces.

PD-DOS would quickly be renamed FreeDOS, and 30 years and lots of contributions later, it stands because the final MS-DOS-compatible running gadget nonetheless below lively building.

Whilst it’s no longer truly usable as a standalone fashionable running gadget within the Web age—amongst different issues, DOS isn’t truly innately acutely aware of “the Web” as an idea—FreeDOS nonetheless has the most important position in nowadays’s computing firmament. It’s there for individuals who want to run legacy programs on fashionable methods, whether or not it’s working within a digital device or without delay at the {hardware}; it’s additionally one of the best ways to get an actively maintained DOS offshoot working on legacy {hardware} going way back to the unique IBM PC and its Intel 8088 CPU.

To mark FreeDOS’ twentieth anniversary in 2014, we talked with Corridor and different FreeDOS maintainers about its endured relevance, the legacy of DOS, and the builders’ since-abandoned plans so as to add formidable fashionable options like multitasking and integrated networking fortify (we additionally attempted, earnestly however with combined good fortune, to do a modern-day’s paintings the usage of most effective FreeDOS). The arena of MS-DOS-compatible running methods strikes slowly sufficient that the majority of this data remains to be related; FreeDOS used to be at model 1.1 again in 2014, and it’s on model 1.3 now.

For the thirtieth anniversary, we’ve checked in with Corridor once more about how the decade or so has handled the FreeDOS mission, why it’s nonetheless essential, and the way it continues to attract new customers into the fold. We additionally talked, unusual as it could appear, about what the longer term may grasp for this inherently backward-looking running gadget.

FreeDOS remains to be kicking, whilst {hardware} evolves past it

Running AsEasyAs, a Lotus 1-2-3-compatible spreadsheet program, in FreeDOS.

Working AsEasyAs, a Lotus 1-2-3-compatible spreadsheet program, in FreeDOS.

Jim Corridor

If the decade hasn’t ushered in The 12 months of FreeDOS On The Desktop, Corridor says that pastime in and utilization of the running gadget has stayed reasonably stage since 2014. The variation is that, as time has long gone on, extra customers are encountering FreeDOS as their first DOS-compatible running gadget, no longer as an up to date tackle Microsoft and IBM’s dusty previous ’80s- and ’90s-era tool.

“In comparison to about 10 years in the past, I’d say the pastime stage in FreeDOS is ready the similar,” Corridor informed Ars in an e-mail interview. “Our developer group has remained about the similar over that point, I believe. And judging through the emails that folks ship me to invite questions, or the brand new people I see asking questions about our freedos-user or freedos-devel e-mail lists, or the folks speaking about FreeDOS at the Fb team and different boards, I’d say there are nonetheless about the similar selection of people who find themselves taking part within the FreeDOS group someway.”

“I am getting numerous questions round September and October from individuals who ask, mainly, ‘I put in FreeDOS, however I don’t understand how to make use of it. What do I do?’ And I believe those other folks realized about FreeDOS in a school laptop science path and sought after to be informed extra about it—or possibly they’re already running someplace they usually learn a piece of writing about it, by no means heard of this “DOS” factor ahead of, and sought after to take a look at it out. Both method, I believe extra people within the person group are studying about “DOS” on the similar time they’re studying about FreeDOS.”


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