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posted by hubie on Monday February 26, @03:41PM   Printer-friendly
from the Rolling-Stones-and-computers-gather-no-moss dept.

OS/2 was a joint operating system project by IBM and Microsoft, which was intended for IBM's own Personal System/2 (PS/2) PCs. (If you've ever seen the old circular ports used by keyboards and mice on old PCs, those are also called PS/2 ports— because they're inherited from this.)

While OS/2 comes after the original IBM PC DOS and MS-DOS, we know today that the partnership between IBM and Microsoft would not last in that form. Microsoft eventually stopped working with IBM in 1992 when it dropped Windows 3.1, a direct competitor of the OS/2 software IBM paid it to make.

OS/2 was intended as a protected-mode successor of PC DOS targeting the Intel 80286 processor. Notably, basic system calls were modeled after MS-DOS calls; their names even started with "Dos" and it was possible to create "Family Mode" applications – text mode applications that could work on both systems. Because of this heritage, OS/2 shares similarities with Unix, Xenix, and Windows NT.

Up to $990 million per year was spent developing OS/2 and its replacement. OS/2 sales were largely concentrated in networked computing used by corporate professionals; however, by the early 1990s, it was overtaken by Microsoft Windows NT. While OS/2 was arguably technically superior to Microsoft Windows 95, OS/2 failed to develop much penetration in the mass market consumer and stand-alone desktop PC segments.

IBM discontinued its support for OS/2 on December 31, 2006. Since then, OS/2 has been developed, supported and sold by two different third-party vendors under license from IBM – first by Serenity Systems as eComStation since 2001, and later by Arca Noae LLC as ArcaOS since 2017.

If you're reading this before April 15, 2024, and wish to dig into OS/2 computing history, you're also advised to check out the Hobbes OS/2 Archive while it still exists. The Hobbes OS/2 Archive is the longest-lived host of OS/2 software, but the decades have finally caught up to it, and it's set to close in April.
      https://hobbes.nmsu.edu/

Submitter remembers buying OS/2 Warp ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OS/2 ) (although, not really sure which version) : The box I bought (if memory serves... which it doesn't Batman...) came with a CD and like 10 diskettes. I didn't have a CD drive at the time, so had to install from the many diskettes, which didn't always install failure free. Finally got it installed and tried it out some, but, again if memory serves, had so little hard-drive space that i couldn't install much else to fool with to test compatibility.

Then Windows Whatever came along (remember "Start me up" from the Rolling Stones?) and then finally found Linux and never looked back.

If only IBM had had better marketers....


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  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 26, @04:41PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 26, @04:41PM (#1346326)

    http://bitsavers.org/pdf/ibm/pc/os2/OS2_1.x/ [bitsavers.org]

    Including Letwin's "Inside OS/2" with a picture of him with a crystal ball on his desk.

    Magic crystal ball says "Answer Fuzzy, Try Again Later"

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by jasassin on Monday February 26, @04:55PM (3 children)

    by jasassin (3566) <jasassin@gmail.com> on Monday February 26, @04:55PM (#1346328) Homepage Journal

    The reason OS/2 only lasted a day on my system was because during downloads with the terminal program Telix when I would Z-Modem transfer files it couldn't handle the interrupts properly so it had massive CRC errors and was totally useless.

    Off topic, I had a Quantum Bigfoot hard drive (some people called them Quantum Clubfoots) on a Linux machine and I noticed every time the hard drive would write the modem would get CRC errors. I emailed Theodore Tso of kernel developer fame and he actually wrote me back with the command "hardparm -u 1 /dev/hda1" (something to do with interrupts) and it fixed the problem! I asked him where I could send him a donation, but he didn't respond...

    Back on topic. Since I only used OS/2 for such a short period I am curious... did OS/2 run any of the MS-DOS games?

    --
    jasassin@gmail.com GPG Key ID: 0xE6462C68A9A3DB5A
    • (Score: 5, Informative) by turgid on Monday February 26, @06:00PM

      by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 26, @06:00PM (#1346339) Journal

      OS/2 Warp was pretty good. Someone I knew bought a copy. It could multitask properly (DOS, Windows and OS/2 programs) including letting you do something else while formatting a floppy or writing to a CD, something that Windows 98 still couldn't do.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Monday February 26, @06:07PM

      by VLM (445) on Monday February 26, @06:07PM (#1346343)

      Telix

      Whoa, that's a blast from the past.

      I remember downloading that from a BBS in the late 80s or early 90s and I remember it had an excellent phonebook and autodialer that would redial a selectable collection of numbers when it got a busy signal, so I'd start with a list of my three favorite local BBSes. I'd eventually log into all of them with Telix handling the redialing. I also remember it had excellent Zmodem autostart which was somewhat unusual in that era. Also, it had excellent scripting language, about as powerful as some commercial "procomm plus" or whatever it was called. Finally, IIRC, which I may not, it had good macro options so I vaguely remember programming in trade routes in Tradewars2000 door game (For the kiddies, this is text-mode Elite Dangerous...) and I'd pretty much alternate hitting two keys to make a modest amount of money.

      Also, it was hdparm and you were likely enabling (disabling?) UDMA. You'd think reliable working DMA would be a solved problem by 1980 or so, but unfortunately, I assure you it was an issue through roughly the early PCI era. You probably should have been setting your DMA settings as a kernel boot line parameter, not by hand, but whatever.

    • (Score: 2) by Tork on Monday February 26, @07:28PM

      by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 26, @07:28PM (#1346367)

      The reason OS/2 only lasted a day on my system was because during downloads with the terminal program Telix when I would Z-Modem transfer files it couldn't handle the interrupts properly so it had massive CRC errors and was totally useless.

      Oh man... this is exactly the use case that got me interested in trying OS2. I do NOT miss tying up the phone line and the computer at the same time. I never got OS2 booted, sadly... but I was a pre-teen at the time without the handy dandy internet to help me. My memory's reaaally corroded but I think I had a bad install disk. Considering how often Murphy's Law bit me when I was an early IBM-Clone user it sounds like I might have dodged a bullet. Guess who learned the hard way why parking the heads was important. :D

      --
      🏳️‍🌈 Proud Ally 🏳️‍🌈
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 26, @05:26PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 26, @05:26PM (#1346331)

    I had one of those.

    I found it at a used bookstore in the Seattle area for about $10 IIRC. At the time my wife was needing a windows compatible machine for her business, but the MS stuff kept breaking, and I was weary of reinstalling it all from scratch weekly. I needed something she could use with some reliability.

    Turns out, OS/2 ran on her computer without a hitch for three years, allowing me to take a job (with NASA) out of state for a while, whilst she held down the hacienda.

    I will ever be grateful for those who produced OS/2. By the time we outgrew it, Windows NT had got to be mostly stable for her, and I was fully functional with Linux - and loving it.

    • (Score: 2) by SomeRandomGeek on Monday February 26, @05:59PM

      by SomeRandomGeek (856) on Monday February 26, @05:59PM (#1346338)

      I had OS/2 on my PC for a while in the mid 90s. My primary memories of it are:
      1. It was a huge pain to install from a zillion floppies.
      2. Once installed, it was basically just like Windows 3, except with the occasional compatibility issue.
      3. It had no killer app. I installed it because it had protected mode, but in practice it had more problems than windows, not less.

  • (Score: 1) by barista on Monday February 26, @05:57PM

    by barista (5219) on Monday February 26, @05:57PM (#1346336)

    Somewhere in my office is a keyboard with an AT keyboard connector from back in the stone ages,... er, 16-bit era.

  • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday February 26, @06:20PM (1 child)

    by VLM (445) on Monday February 26, @06:20PM (#1346348)

    Some quick Google searches indicate it's pretty hard to get the older versions of OS/2 to work properly on Proxmox as a VM, but the later versions are easier.

    At some point, it's easier to install an emulator (on a virtual machine) and run stuff in the emulator, rather than running the old OS on bare metal. This is how I run CP/M, it's a bit easier to emulate a nice Altair than to run CP/M-86 on a VM directly. Although I have not tried running CP/M-86 on Proxmox. OS/2 is probably on the cusp of being easier to run in an emulator than on bare metal for various driver reasons.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 26, @08:41PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 26, @08:41PM (#1346377)

      Why would you install an emulator on a VM? Sounds double.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by VLM on Monday February 26, @06:36PM

    by VLM (445) on Monday February 26, @06:36PM (#1346352)

    While OS/2 was arguably technically superior to Microsoft Windows 95, OS/2 failed to develop much penetration in the mass market consumer and stand-alone desktop PC segments.

    My financial services industry employer used OS/2 in the 90s. The killer problem with OS/2 was ironically my employer in a general sense. They didn't mind paying $250+ per seat for the OS/2 license and IBM was addicted to that delicious revenue stream, whereas MS was licensing to desktops at like "a hundred bucks". I vaguely recall my future wife dropped $50 on a Win95 to Win98 retail shrink wrapped package, whereas OS/2 wanted a TON of money until the very end.

    If you had a large SNA network and multiple 3745/3746 controllers, you probably could afford OS/2 licensing fees and there were excellent mainframe integration software systems for 3270 emulation, etc. Everyone else installed Windows so inevitably OS/2 went away.

    I DISTINCTLY remember talking to coworkers in the late 90s that the OS/2 Warp experience was just like Linux except OS/2 Warp retailed for $249.95 and there were more hardware compatibility problems. Windows being cheaper killed OS/2 in the business/consumer market, but Linux was the OS/2 killer in "enthusiast" circles. If IBM had GPL'd OS/2 Warp that would have been interesting to see.

    IIRC this financial situation was also the death of DEC. They LOVED to charge like $5K for a Pascal compiler, just the software, which was already more than dedicated PC hardware plus a copy of Turbo Pascal. OS-8 on a PDP-8 was about a decade earlier than MSDOS, and about a decade ahead of MSDOS technologically, but DEC was financially addicted to licensing OS-8 for more than the cost of an entire PC including a DOS license, so DEC went away.

    I think in the era of retro enthusiasts having fun with copyright violations, we sometimes forget how even a small SSD in 2024 can easily hold licensed software that used to retail in total for a good chunk of a million bucks. A full MVS/390 (not the free MVS/360, but the Z-era stuff) cost quite a bit of money at one time ... My father worked for an employer that dropped six figures on Borland compiler licenses in the 80s for his small department, whereas everyone's post 1992 experience with Linux makes us assume all development environments "have always been completely free".

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Samantha Wright on Monday February 26, @06:54PM (7 children)

    by Samantha Wright (4062) on Monday February 26, @06:54PM (#1346358)

    I'm impressed that the submitter waxed so nostalgic about OS/2 that they apparently forgot the link to the main article of the story... and the editor didn't notice, either. Is this boomer sniping at its finest?

    • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Monday February 26, @07:40PM (5 children)

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 26, @07:40PM (#1346369) Journal
      Direct hit! Good shooting.
      • (Score: 3, Informative) by Samantha Wright on Monday February 26, @07:51PM (4 children)

        by Samantha Wright (4062) on Monday February 26, @07:51PM (#1346370)

        El Reg [theregister.com] appears to be the source of the story, FWIW, though based on the headline wording it's probably via Tom's Hardware [tomshardware.com].

        • (Score: 2) by Samantha Wright on Monday February 26, @07:55PM (1 child)

          by Samantha Wright (4062) on Monday February 26, @07:55PM (#1346371)

          ...and following up on that, the headline is incorrect; the item sold is a MS SDK for OS/2 2.0. It does not include a beta of the OS proper, which was never released with MS branding.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 27, @12:56AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 27, @12:56AM (#1346412)

            sold for $2000

        • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Monday February 26, @07:55PM (1 child)

          by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 26, @07:55PM (#1346372) Journal

          Thank you. Submitters don't have to provide a link, however in this case I think your find is spot on.

          I will apply a light bandage to the appropriate editor's wound.

          • (Score: 4, Interesting) by anubi on Tuesday February 27, @12:47AM

            by anubi (2828) on Tuesday February 27, @12:47AM (#1346410) Journal

            Good story and discussion though. I quite enjoyed this little trip down memory lane.

            Reminded me of my first exposure to computers...a. IBM360 at University, a PDP 11/20 and EAI 580 ( Analog ) in the computer lab, and the first computer I actually owned, built from a kit, sold by Solid State Music in San Leandro, California: IMSAI 8080. Which I still have.

            I was working at the Chevron Oil Refinery in Pascagoula , Mississippi, at the time...right out of school. Green as any valley. Chevron had the pleasure of "breaking me in" to become a useful person after years of academia. I still wonder how companies can afford to do this, if I am any indicator of the expense to whip practical common sense into college graduates.

            Had lots of fun hours building stuff for the IMSAI, video ram boards, homemade keyboards, repurposed cassette tape recorder ( first FSK, then Manchester ). And all the analog/digital design and construction to make it do useful things, and exploring how to best do things. There is a helluva lot of quick'n'dirty one can do in code that would eliminate need for expensive hardware. Like Joystick A/D that was just a Schmitt trigger, ( 4093 ) , a transistor, one resistor, one capacitor.

            Same with Manchester code. Do it in software. Drive the tape heads with tristate bus drivers ( Signetics 8T97 ). Read it via the National LM382 made for stereo tape players of the day. Convert back to 1 or 0 and let the computer decode it instead of just waiting for specialized hardware to do it. Then tell me to rewind, FF, play, or stop the transport. Everything was neatly broken down into 256 byte blocks, that matched the 1702 prom chips I was using. Once I had "formatted" a cassette tape, I had a pattern of 256 blocks, each with it's 256 byte start preamble ( to sync on ), it's block number (header), start offset, number of bytes, 256 bytes of data ( fixed, padded with zeroes ), then next start preamble...

            Ok, for the nerd badge...I believe I could reconstruct my entire system from memory...but damned if I can recall the name of any of the dates I went on.

            --
            "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
    • (Score: 3, Funny) by Gaaark on Monday February 26, @09:18PM

      by Gaaark (41) on Monday February 26, @09:18PM (#1346387) Journal

      Heh heh.... i started with the original story of teh $650 thing, then thought the story was better without that part of teh story and dropped it in everything but the headline. Forgot to change the headline, because yeah... got lost in memories of trying it (i THINK i finally got it installed because i bought a CD drive?).

      But yeah, it ate up all my HD space so couldn't really try anything for compatibility.

      Getting lost is nice, but the editors are nicer. Thank you for what you do!

      --
      --- Please remind me if I haven't been civil to you: I'm channeling MDC. ---Gaaark 2.0 ---
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by gznork26 on Monday February 26, @08:40PM

    by gznork26 (1159) on Monday February 26, @08:40PM (#1346376) Homepage Journal

    I was a Microsoftie in the Languages group when they pulled the plug on OS/2, writing docs for the FORTRAN PowerStation product line. Stepping down their hallway was like entering another dimension, where people had greyscale loyalties. We had our own kind of psychosis, though. One product ran on MS-DOS but built executables for Windows. The more interesting one was for what would become Windows NT, because we could define multidimensional arrays in Fortran that broke NT because it couldn't handle sparse arrays, and they didn't care. There was a lot of hubris in Redmond at that time.

    --
    Khipu were Turing complete.
  • (Score: 1) by Chromium_One on Monday February 26, @09:14PM (1 child)

    by Chromium_One (4574) on Monday February 26, @09:14PM (#1346385)

    If only IBM had had better marketers....

    Uh, no. The primary reason for OS/2 not getting that far in market has less to do with marketing itself and more to do with MS deciding they didn't want to share the playpen with IBM, and pitching a shitfit about it.

    --
    When you live in a sick society, everything you do is wrong.
    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Samantha Wright on Tuesday February 27, @03:25AM

      by Samantha Wright (4062) on Tuesday February 27, @03:25AM (#1346431)

      Yes and no; IBM actually flubbed several key strategic and marketing opportunities. It's just that most people only remember what they personally encountered, and no one outside of IBM really knew the whole story of how the OS/2 marketing was fucked up.

      First, IBM disbanded in-house support for application development early on, mistakenly thinking that the commercial software industry would furnish the platform for them. To help this along they had DOS and Windows compatibility, which ran "almost all" DOS and Windows applications—unfortunately this sounds terrible if you're a customer picking between products you don't understand, or were even slightly anxious about compatibility.

      Second, around the same time, they blew a ton of money sponsoring college football, obtaining the naming rights to the Fiesta Bowl for three years. Instead of capitalizing on this mistake, by reselling the ad time to application developers and business partners and making a showcase out of what OS/2 could do, they went into damage control mode and just sold the ad time to local businesses, meaning that when it aired, the "OS/2 Fiesta Bowl [30pin.com]" barely related to IBM or its products... and what did end up airing was almost certainly aimed at a niche professional market that was unlikely to watch college football.

      After this their marketing was such a shambles that they did almost none of it, but even when ideas were handed to them on a silver platter they messed up. They'd gotten into the habit of using Star Trek jargon for project codenames—and when it leaked they'd been calling the next version of OS/2 "Warp," the moniker became a viral sensation among the few evangelists who were still on their side. To generate more hype they booked Patrick Stewart to host the OS/2 3.0 launch event, but forgot to tell Paramount, and ended up in court. Somehow they managed to get Kate Mulgrew to replace Stewart at the last minute, but as Star Trek: Voyager was still in preproduction, no one had heard of her.

      In short, IBM had no idea how to sell to anyone but a room full of hostages held at gunpoint. They could have buried OS/2 without any help from Bill Gates being uncooperative. After the divorce, IBM still got the rights to distribute Windows 3.1 and MS-DOS 6 with OS/2, and tried to sell it as "a better DOS than DOS, and a better Windows than Windows," which was just fine in theory, but it meant that no one bothered to support OS/2; they just trusted that OS/2 customers would be able to use Windows versions. (And even if they wanted to support OS/2, it was rather expensive to get a copy; a lot more than anything Billy asked for.) Once Windows 95 was out, OS/2 had no one to market to but indentured corporate IBM customers in the finance sector; and once Windows NT 4 was out, even the stodgiest banks saw it as a training burden that they could just leave behind.

  • (Score: 2) by Whoever on Monday February 26, @09:35PM (2 children)

    by Whoever (4524) on Monday February 26, @09:35PM (#1346393) Journal

    (If you've ever seen the old circular ports used by keyboards and mice on old PCs, those are also called PS/2 ports— because they're inherited from this.)

    I write this using a keyboard that has only a PS2 connector and is connected to the laptop via a USB adapter.

    I also have several other computers in active use in my house with PS2 connectors.

    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by janrinok on Monday February 26, @09:58PM

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 26, @09:58PM (#1346398) Journal

      I have 18 computers here, and about half of them have PS/2 connectors. I can still upgrade older computers to 8 core / 32GB with motherboards that have PS/2 connectors.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Ingar on Tuesday February 27, @06:01PM

      by Ingar (801) on Tuesday February 27, @06:01PM (#1346495) Homepage

      How to blow up a PS2 port?

      Take barista's AT-keyboard from a few posts up, put a PS2 convertor on it,
      and plug it in while the PC is powered on.

      Worked fine for me.

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by bzipitidoo on Monday February 26, @11:55PM

    by bzipitidoo (4388) on Monday February 26, @11:55PM (#1346405) Journal

    I bought OS/2 Warp 3.0 and regretted it. The cool part was that OS/2 could run DOS software faster than DOS itself could. But the very uncool part was the lack of networking. I paid $99 for Warp, not realizing that the networking was not included. How could a serious OS not have networking integrated? I found it stunning that in the early 1990s, these tech giants were so incredibly slow to catch on to how big the Internet was going to be. MS nearly blew it. Windows '95 should have been Windows '92.

    Network dismissiveness continued for a long time. Remember ISPs trying to restrict customers to one computer, arguing that if you wanted to hook up more, you should get a separate IP address for each one, for big $$$ of course. Then there was computer gaming, another sector that was super slow to catch on to networking. The first MMORPG, Everquest, debuted in 1999. One of the few games that got that LAN parties were cool was Doom. Took the big gaming houses years to catch up to that. Some of the earliest efforts were still turn based, making the networking nearly pointless.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Snotnose on Tuesday February 27, @01:00AM

    by Snotnose (1623) on Tuesday February 27, @01:00AM (#1346413)

    I was very happy with OS/2. I remember in early '95 when Bill Gates said the next Windows would be out by the end of the year. This was Jan/Feb of '95. Around June I went to some big trade show in Vegas, Comdex, CES, or somesuch. There was a big IBM booth there, I made a beeline for it and asked "what are your plans for OS/2?". The salesdroid didn't know what OS/2 was. He asked his buddies in the booth, none of them know what OS/2 was.

    It was at that moment I knew OS/2 was dead.

    --
    When the dust settled America realized it was saved by a porn star.
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