[TUHS] Dave Cutler recollection about Xenix

Jim Geist velocityboy at gmail.com
Mon Oct 23 02:56:01 AEST 2023

This is getting a little far afield from Unix history, it's Windows
history, but for similar reasons MS had to make a huge investment in game
technology. Gaming under DOS was already huge by the time Windows 95 came
out, and without proper support for games on Windows it would be hard to
get a lot of people to leave DOS behind. Game developers were wedded to the
idea of the complete control they had over the machine under DOS. Many were
using DOS extenders to break the 640k limit - basically a small operating
system linked into the game that let them access memory over the 1M line.
Hence the Games SDK, later known as DirectX, and some relatively infamous
industry events to court game developers to start porting their games to

On Sun, Oct 22, 2023 at 10:45 AM Paul Winalski <paul.winalski at gmail.com>

> On 10/21/23, Paul Ruizendaal <pnr at planet.nl> wrote:
> >
> > An interesting set of videos indeed, although I wish they were not all
> > chopped up in 5 minute segments.
> >
> >> I consistently hear from folks the same about Bill Gates pushing for
> >> volume over anything else with Xenix.
> >
> > That was his business model.
> Exactly.  Microsoft was all about volume.  They were willing to leave
> niche markets to third-party software vendors.  Back in the 1990s,
> when Microsoft flirted with the idea of selling Windows NT on DEC
> Alpha and IBM's PowerPC Microsoft sold its Visual Fortran technology
> to DEC, who sold it as Digital Visual Fortran (later to be Compaq
> Visual Fortran).  The market for Fortran compilers was too small for
> MS.
> > Probably that same dynamic was in play for the CLI of Windows NT.
> Moreover,
> > as you already point out, by the time of NT there were tens of millions
> of
> > users of DOS, and numerous books, magazines, etc. explaining it. Throwing
> > away that familiarity for unclear benefits (in the eyes of those users)
> > would serve no business purpose. In a way it is the same dynamic that
> kept
> > C89 and Bash in place for so long: people know it, it is good enough and
> it
> > works everywhere.
> Upward command line compatibility from DOS and Win16 was essential for
> NT's acceptance in both the user and developer communities.  Windows
> NT was a bit of a hard sell to application developers at first.  It
> had a lot of advantages over Win16 (32-bit address space; true
> multitasking), but that came at the price of loss of control.  Under
> DOS, the OS handed over complete control of hte hardware to your
> application and you could do whatever you wanted to, as long as you
> left things in a reasonable state when you returned control to the OS.
> Things were more disciplined under Win16, but it was common practice
> for applications to put hooks into the Win16 code.  With NT, the OS
> was protected against tampering by non-privileged code.  You had the
> Win32 API to work with and that's it--no hooks in the OS or other
> jiggery-pokery.  Some application developers--both inside and outside
> of Microsoft--balked at that.
> I recall hearing that the DOS command line interface was patterned
> after the OS/8 CLI on the PDP-8, which used forward-slash (/) for
> command switches.  That's why, when they decided to adopt the Unix
> conventions for directories in file pathnames, they had to use
> backslash (\) as the directory delimiter.
> -Paul W.
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