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25 Years of IBM's OS/2

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the back-in-the-day dept.

IBM 342

harrymcc writes "On April 2nd, 1987 — 25 years ago today — IBM announced OS/2. It was supposed to be the next-generation operating system that would replace DOS. It never did. But for a famous failure, it's doing okay — it still runs the computers that manage the New York Subway's Metrocard fare cards, for instance. Over at TIME.com, I've taken a look at its occasional triumphs, frequent tribulations and enduring legacy."

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When OS meant Computer (4, Interesting)

alphatel (1450715) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548097)

In 1995, OS2 desktop was as popular as Macintosh. Now the field is pretty much 85% Windows with 10% Mac and under 2% Linux.

Re:When OS meant Computer (4, Interesting)

Theophany (2519296) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548187)

I guess it's testament to the machine that is Microsoft - their sheer unrelenting power in the marketplace. It also creates that feeling of support for Big Blue as an underdog, something you wouldn't really associate with them. Still, TFA is just a romanticisation of fierce and underhanded business tactics. Either you win big or you're blasted into mass insignificance by the big boys when it comes to the consumer desktop OS market.

In a way, it's almost like RIM and Nokia/Symbian's rather tremendous falls from grace, care of Apple and Google; i.e. they never stood a chance.

One.Word (4, Interesting)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548525)

CONFIG.SYS

Well, there's a longer story. Anybody interested should look into the blind luck and frustration that led to MS building Windows as "PM lite" and chancing into Dave Cutler's expulsion from DEC. The book "Big Blues" is a decent start.

When IBM pivoted hard toward PS/2 and 16-bit computing, Gates took one of the 3 or 4 intuitive gambles that defined both his success and that of Microsoft.

There's ONE simple use case, that illustrates the technical failing of OS/2, vs Windows NT - particularly in face of the claim IBM made for a "Better Windows than Windows". > > >. OS/2 didn't perform a special trap for that key sequence. Nor could it - without the 32-bit native, 'Virtual 8086" mode of the 386 processor. This simple illustration exposes the huge architectural gulf that OS/2 was unprepared to cross as 16-bit. Bill's certainty that 32-bit architecture was demanded by multi-task/multi-user computing in 1989 paid off. Inheriting the VMS brain-trust allowed him to execute, while leveraging the design and code contributions his team had made to the OS/2 project.

Besides that? CONFIG.SYS. Really! A whole /etc directory reduced to the parsability of one file! In this context, the follies of the Windows registry appear to be, comparatively enlightened.

Re:One.Word (2)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548551)

Slashdot ate my angle-brackets. The >>>> is CTL-ALT-DEL.

Re:One.Word (2)

Alioth (221270) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548707)

I thought David Cutler left DEC to join MS, I didn't think he was fired... where did you find this information?

Re:One.Word (3, Interesting)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548789)

I remember in at least one version of OS/2 that I used to run (2? Warp?), if you sorted the driver lines in your CONFIG.SYS alphabetically, your boot time would improve dramatically.

I loved OS/2 back in the day.

Re:When OS meant Computer (5, Insightful)

Another, completely (812244) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548717)

fierce and underhanded business tactics

My memory is that you could buy Windows for $60, or OS/2 for $500 or thereabouts. Always thought that might have had something to do with it.

Re:When OS meant Computer (2)

datavirtue (1104259) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548753)

Indeed, I do not accept the notion that OS/2 failed. Hell, it has binary compatibility with Windows APIs and it is still in use! IBM failed at this endevour and couldn't even see the advantage that they had regardless of the short-term situation. Now the two products are so divergent it is nearly impossible to leverage the binary compatibility.

Re:When OS meant Computer (1)

crazyjj (2598719) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548259)

I actually considered abandoning Windows myself for it, after a friend showed me what OS/2 Warp could do (its multitasking blew away Windows 3.1, and unlike Mac's, it could run DOS games/software). It may have succeeded if it Warp had come out just a couple of years earlier. As it was, it only beat Win 95 to market by a year or so, and so most people just held out for another year and stuck with Windows.

os/2 was not able to windows 32 bit apps just 32s (1, Insightful)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548285)

os/2 was not able to windows 32 bit apps just 32s v 1.25, Now with it where able to run windows 32 bit apps then it may of killed windows 95.

But MS played it's tricks and os 2 was not pre loaded on that many systems.

Re:os/2 was not able to windows 32 bit apps just 3 (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548401)

you might have a valid point in there somewhere - but, sadly, your grammar and punctuation are so poor that it is lost

congratulations, your written english is even less readable than perl!

Re:os/2 was not able to windows 32 bit apps just 3 (5, Funny)

project5117 (2550152) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548549)

10 I
20 REM FIXED CAPITALIZATION
30 might have a valid point in there somewhere - but
40 REM EXTRA COMMA REMOVED
50 sadly, our grammar and punctuation were so poor that it is lost.
60 REM PERIOD ADDED

70 Congratulations,
80 REM FIXED CAPITALIZATION
90 my written english is even less readable than INTERCAL!

100 COMEFROM: 10
110 Fixed that for you.
120 And congratulations on learning INTERCAL, I'm still stuck in BASIC dialects.
130 SYSTEM

Re:os/2 was not able to windows 32 bit apps just 3 (2)

nonnald (1397251) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548659)

no GOTOs? That's not real BASIC

Re:os/2 was not able to windows 32 bit apps just 3 (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548619)

You can also argue that their excellent support for Windows applications contributed to their downfall.

Where I worked, we made the decision to support only Windows because OS/2 could run it just as well (actually better). There was no point in supporting OS/2 natively for us.

Re:os/2 was not able to windows 32 bit apps just 3 (4, Interesting)

dryeo (100693) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548673)

Microsoft used to update win32s every week it seemed then IBM would fix OS/2 to run them. Finally with Win32s v1.30 Microsoft hardcoded some DLLs to load in high memory and as OS/2 only supported 512 MBs per process, no more Win32s support without a lot of work.

Re:os/2 was not able to windows 32 bit apps just 3 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548713)

How come you remember all that but don't remember that it's means it is? Too complicated?

Re:When OS meant Computer (5, Interesting)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548581)

IBM was pushing OS/2 Warp to compete with Windows NT. I was in college at the time and did a co-op with IBM that year. I had to opportunity to go to COMDEX and IBM gave lots of people a t-shirt that said "Nice Try" (with the N and the T really emphasized) on the front and "OS/2 Warp, Up and Running, Not Up and Coming" on the back. We were to wear the shirt in the audience of Bill Gates keynote when he officially announced Windows NT.

I still have that T-Shirt.

My old fart rant. Ex-IBM'er contractor. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548843)

I was in college at the time and did a co-op with IBM that year.

My group used to call you CO-OP guys "NOP"'s - no operation - as in assembly 'NOP'.

You were easy to pick out - shirt and tie for the first week on your NOP job.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we gave you punks a hard time, but it was out of love, man. You were sharp and ambitious and would end up as our boss. We had to take our shots while we could.

I still have that T-Shirt.

Me too.

I was in my local NAPA auto parts store and this old guy (even older than me) saw that shirt and said, "That's a really old T-Shirt."

Long story short, he was one of those guys that took an early retirement.

When I was at Boca, I watched all those "out of date loser" mainframers come down from NY to do shit jobs. I smugly thought, "That's what you get for not staying current!"

How arrogant I am. And I'm ashamed for it.

I escaped to a so-so business back office programming job while others were poached by Microsoft - the smart ones which wasn't me (Peter, peter rice eater - you rock man! I hope you're a MS Millionaire because you deserve it!).

The ironic thing is that the Hartford Insurers (who still train, btw) need some mainframers.

I met the most obscenely talented and genius people at IBM.

Looking back, it was the most humbling experience ever - and I was too arrogant to take that lesson in at that time. Then again, we have to be arrogant to get jobs in this fucked up industry, don't we? Saying, "I don't know." is the kiss of death.

Re:When OS meant Computer (3, Interesting)

Flammon (4726) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548641)

Well, I tried Warp and the problem for me was RAM. You see, at the time, a 386sx40 with 4MB of RAM and a 170MB HD was an average machine but it wasn't enough to run Warp decently. Warp just didn't run at Warp speeds on that hardware. If Warp would have appeared a few years earlier, the problem would have been worse.

Re:When OS meant Computer (4, Interesting)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548947)

I actually considered abandoning Windows myself for it, after a friend showed me what OS/2 Warp could do (its multitasking blew away Windows 3.1, and unlike Mac's, it could run DOS games/software). It may have succeeded if it Warp had come out just a couple of years earlier. As it was, it only beat Win 95 to market by a year or so, and so most people just held out for another year and stuck with Windows.

I don't think it was the timing of Warp's release - after all, even OS/2 2.1 was superior to Windows 3.1. Problem was that OS/2 had double the memory requirements, which was a major showstopper at the time. Although it supported all DOS device drivers, there was always the problem of which systems wouldn't run it.

Also, for PC makers, IBM was a competitor, while Microsoft was not. That too was a part of the decision. Also, IBM took way too long and ultimately aborted Workplace OS, which was to have succeeded OS/2. That turned out to be the death knell for the OS.

After Microsoft merged Windows 9x and NT in Windows 2000, the rationale for OS/2 was pretty much gone. Which, alongside the demise of Amiga, NEXTSTEP, NT-RISC, was some of the tragic reasons for which all we have today is Windows and Unix (I'm considering Linux, BSD, Solaris and all their derivatives as Unix).

Re:When OS meant Computer (1)

chrb (1083577) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548457)

10% Mac

Citation? All of the recent sources say 5%. [venturebeat.com]

Re:When OS meant Computer (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548583)

It all depends on how and what you are counting. I believe the 10% number is usually described as the number of Apple computers and it includes iPads.

Re:When OS meant Computer (1)

kikito (971480) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548511)

In 1995, mobile phones were expensive and clunky bricks used only by a minority.

Now ... well, the figure above is pretty much meaningless if it doesn't include them.

Re:When OS meant Computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548573)

"In 1995, OS2 desktop was as popular as Macintosh."

In 1995, desktop computing did matter ; )

Re:When OS meant Computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548637)

Technically anything built on Windows NT is OS/2. Durning their partnership, OS/2 2.0 was being developed by IBM while 3.0 was being developed by Microsoft. After the split, 3.0 became Windows NT. OS/2 1.x executables actually ran natively on Windows NT-based systems until they were removed (I think in Vista but it may have been XP).

Re:When OS meant Computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548833)

"In 1995, OS2 desktop was as popular as Macintosh."

Yeah, and '95 was probably the height of OS/2 usage, while it may have been the nadir of Mac usage. I ran OS/2 from 1994-2000 so wish it had done better. The single input queue was always a problem. Although the main problem was just IBM's failure to market OS/2. Most other departments within IBM didn't even run OS/2.

Is you is, or is you ain't, a black people? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548113)

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Re:Is you is, or is you ain't, a black people? (0)

knuthin (2255242) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548389)

Really? :o

Brings a tear to my eye (3, Interesting)

xwwt (2475904) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548167)

I spent may hours working in the ICLUI interface building apps for OS/2. For the most part it was good at memory management, tools were mature and the interface was object oriented. I was always frustrated about the MS & IBM split on the interface and I think MS took the wrong route in getting to Windows. Had the alliance stuck around who knows what would have happened to this OS.

Re:Brings a tear to my eye (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548251)

Well, I for one might not be running linux today. OS/2 really was windows done right.

Re:Brings a tear to my eye (2)

xwwt (2475904) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548459)

Funny thing happened on my way to the forum. A few years back I had to get some information out of a OS/2 help file, and had no install. I ended up downloading a copy of the OS from the internet to quickly get access - I did end up uninstalling as I had no other use for the install. Still I wonder if it is worth having a box laying around to tinker with. http://archive.org/details/OS2Warp [archive.org]

Gates schooled IBM... (4, Insightful)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548191)

...on aggressive partnering and OEM tactics. That was his real contribution to MS, nothing technical.

Re:Gates schooled IBM... (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548635)

You are really underestimating Gates and his intellect.

Runs most ATM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548221)

Most ATM's (Deibold, Interbold) run OS/2.

Re:Runs most ATM (1)

TrogL (709814) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548255)

Up until recently, the teller terminals at my bank ran OS/2, but it was basically just a platform to run terminal sessions to the mainframe. Then they switched over to a browser-based front end to a UNIX back end.

Re:Runs most ATM (3, Interesting)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548535)

Up until recently, the teller terminals at my bank ran OS/2, but it was basically just a platform to run terminal sessions to the mainframe. Then they switched over to a browser-based front end to a UNIX back end.

The company I work for still supports old, legacy, OS/2 systems used for telephone menuing systems. It's funny that when there is a problem, many of the employees we support have no idea where the machine is located. It was literally stuck in an office somewhere and has been running completely unattended for years. It never gets updates. It never has to reboot. It just runs... and runs... and runs.

The problem we have now is finding hardware old enough to support it. We have to use 80GB drives for replacement and set up a 2GB partition for the OS and software. The rest just sits there idle. AT motherboards, ISA graphics and PS/2 keyboards and mice are getting harder and harder to find.

Re:Runs most ATM (5, Informative)

dryeo (100693) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548847)

There's tons of old OS/2 boxes chugging along in a corner somewhere until the hardware finally breaks. OS/2 sales in the form of eComStation has been tripling each year lately due to places like your work needing to install OS/2 on modern hardware. http://ecomstation.com/ [ecomstation.com]
And it will still install and run on modern hardware though you have to choose carefully. No accelerated video and only ATI supported. Barely any wireless support and only a few network cards supported. Sound based on Alsa so most sound cards including built in supported. 512 GB partitions if you want them compatible with other operating systems, otherwise the ancient architecture is limited to 2 TB. Best to stick to Intel hardware, especially if you want to take advantage of all cores. OS/2 is licensed per CPU, not core so it does do SMP. Only 64 cores supported though.

Re:Runs most ATM (1)

Jumpin' Jon (731892) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548387)

Yeah, only a few weeks ago, I inserted my card into a cash point (UK), which somehow caused it to reboot.. couldn't believe it when the OS/2 Warp logo came up.

Re:Runs most ATM (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548623)

Some Cashpoints (RBS and Lloyds TSB) run Windows XP.

Re:Runs most ATM (1)

Stargoat (658863) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548449)

Not anymore. The ADA placed new rules on ATMs last year, requiring all ATMs to be blind compliant by March 15, 2012. Hundreds of thousands of perfectly good ATMs were removed from service, as they could not be upgraded. And this at a time when people bitch about banks not making loans. Talk about broken window fallacy....

Re:Runs most ATM (2)

r1348 (2567295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548483)

One of my main customers is the Italian Railways and they still run their whole ticketing system (that dates back to 1995) on OS/2 Warp 4.5. Recently they started a migration effort in order to upgrade the hardware they're using (from IBM P4 pcs to HP i3) and they run OS/2 in VirtualBox on W7. The next step is to ditch OS/2 completely and pass to a web-based system, but that is proving difficult for stations with low bandwidth in rural or mountain areas.

Don't Push Us! (1, Informative)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548241)

Don't release software if the majority of hardware is not ready for it. Microsoft has made these mistakes several times, recently with Microsoft Vista. Software companies try to push innovations too fast, before anyone is ready for it.

Re:Don't Push Us! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548375)

That's not how it works, and the kind of specs Vista actually required were standard well before 2006. Vista had (keyword) a lot of problems, but this wasn't one of those, no matter what people say.

Re:Don't Push Us! (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548475)

I beg to differ. When Vista came out, it was put on many sub standard systems with barely enough memory to run XP adequately. I've seen Laptops and Desktops with only 512MB of ram fitted with Vista. Vista also consumed a lot more storage, and hardware drivers weren't fully supported. It was even more of a nightmare if you purchased the 64 bit version. Windows 7 is not much different to Vista, and that's why Microsoft decided to hold back on any major changes, basically trying to play catchup.

Re:Don't Push Us! (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548907)

Yeah, I still remember when my GF's sister asked me if she should get a Vista laptop with 512MB RAM. I advised against it and told her my opinion on what should be done to vendors who crammed Vista on a 512MB box. It wasn't pretty.

Re:Don't Push Us! (1)

omnichad (1198475) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548543)

The big problem is how expensive RAM was at the time and how cutthroat PC pricing was. The end result was that very few computers at retail had more than 1GB of RAM for the first year or two of Vista's run. I cringed seeing Vista on less than 2GB. And it was even worse before SP1.

Re:Don't Push Us! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548427)

Which innovation did you find in Microsoft Vista?

Btw. I tested OS/2 Warp 3.0 back then and it ran fine on the 486+487 we had. Windows 95, that came out about a year later, was hyped a lot during the OS/2 Warp release, back then still as "Windows 4.0 Chicago". It did not run very well on most of the machines people had. Still everybody bought it, almost nobody bought OS/2....

Re:Don't Push Us! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548887)

You are so uneducated about windows that it does not matter how much we tell you.

Just get a MCSA Windows Vista book (several hundreds of pages) and see the sheer number of features which many of them are absent in even Linux.

Re:Don't Push Us! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548433)

Don't release software if the majority of hardware is not ready for it. Microsoft has made these mistakes several times, recently with Microsoft Vista. Software companies try to push innovations too fast, before anyone is ready for it.

What does THAT have to do with the failure of OS/2? Nothing.
According to what you just said, Windows 95, Vista, and even OS X 10 would never have been released, because third party manufacturers should already have compatible devices designed AND manufactured AND ready for retail. Good grief.

OS/2 failed for many reasons, primarily because IBM wanted to bring the semi "open" world of DOS (and it's clones) to a more closed platform, with the whole industry resisting that.

Secondarily, Microsoft was developing OS/2 with a -clear- conflict-of-interest, developing OS/2 under contract while also working to undermine it.

Either of these would suitably guarantee OS/2 would never go far.. but both together guaranteed it.

Re:Don't Push Us! (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548769)

RTFA! "By November of 1989 fewer than 200,000 copies of OS/2 had been sold, in part because it was far too resource-hungry to run on most existing computers. It needed a bare minimum of 4 megabytes of memory to run adequately, in an era when it wasn’t a given that PCs had even one megabyte. PC World magazine later referred to the software’s “gargantuan size” and “lethargy.”

Re:Don't Push Us! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548957)

Microsoft has made these mistakes several times, recently with Microsoft Vista.

Vista works fine on those machines with which it was sold now that it's been service packed. It's not a case of the hardware not being ready for Vista, but a case of Vista not being ready for the hardware. Or even ready.

OH the memories (4, Informative)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548267)

For a brief period in the nineties I was an OS/2 evangelist/snob/fanboi...It's too bad IBM wasn't a little more savvy with marketing and branding. Scratch that, it's too bad OS/2 belonged to IBM. I was in the local DMV a few years ago and noticed they were still using it...and its circa 1989 graphics. One feature I loved and haven't seen duplicated on any other OS is the ability to create a work folder. Not sure the actual term for it any more but if you put a shortcut to an application/spreadsheet/document in that folder and set the folder as active whenever you opened that folder every one of those items would come up front and center. The closest thing I know of is the startup folder in Windows but that is only when you log in.

Re:OH the memories (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548339)

I've created batch files to do something like this - running the batch file would open everything in a given folder. Not quite as good as implementing it right into the OS, but it worked for what I needed. It was handy for repetitive tasks I had to do daily or weekly (recording backups from a myriad of sources into a single spreadsheet was a big one).

Re:OH the memories (2)

Kozz (7764) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548479)

I actually do this exact thing. When I get to work in the morning, dock and boot my laptop, I run a batch file containing this:

start /d "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Lync" communicator.exe
start /d "C:\Users\kozz\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\" chrome.exe
start /d "C:\Eclipse\" eclipse.exe
start /d "C:\Program Files (x86)\Skype\Phone\" Skype.exe
start /d "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14\" Outlook.exe

sc start OracleOraDb10g_home1TNSListener
sc start OracleServiceDEV

Re:OH the memories (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548353)

Internal nerd monologue:

Well, there's run-parts... I suppose you could cobble something together...
*tries to remember which Linux file manager has best scripting support...*
You say this was built in?

Damn, that's a cool feature for a desktop. Between Amiga, BeOS, and OS/2 Warp, it seems like there was just so much good stuff lost along the way.

Re:OH the memories (2)

kevinroyalty (756450) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548367)

i was one of the Team OS/2 members, and founder of the cincinnati team os/2 user group. I was also an OS/2 Ambassador (the equivalent of a Microsoft MVP), one of a small group. i don't remember how may of us there were (Ambassadors) but it was a small number. I recall fondly attending Comdex and running around installing OS/2 at vendor booths and putting up signs. I found an old photo i took recently of the "Microsoft BOB" launch in vegas. one attendee in the audience. still laughing at that one.......

Re:OH the memories (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548857)

Yep, that's the stuff I liked. I think it was called a work folder.

OSFree (4, Interesting)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548863)

Unfortunately, I never owned a PC during the time that OS/2 was around, and so never got to experience what it was. But most of the people who ever used it liked it. Just hearing about some of the concepts - dragging a file to a printer icon in order to print - blew me away. An OS that would have been the offspring of OS/2 and NEXTSTEP would have been just purrrfekt!

In college, I learnt about microprocessor design on a PPC 601 - the first PPC to come out after IBM did a derivative design of it along w/ Motorola (now Freescale). Knowing that OS/2 was going to have an uphill battle outside IBM (heck, even Amber didn't offer the OS), I was rooting for OS/2-PPC, which was known as Workplace OS. Unfortunately, as it turned out, Mach 3 turned out to be a horrible choice for a kernel (and Hurd pretty much made the same mistake in going w/ it) and finally, IBM canned it. That was the real death knell of OS/2, and w/ it died any real hopes of the PPC getting popular outside Apple (as far as computers go - I'm not thinking about consoles or other boxes)

Incidentally, today, there is a project called OSFree [osfree.org] , which is similar in concept to Workplace OS, except that it uses the more recent L4 micro-kernel as its underpinning. The concept here is good - on top of the micro-kernel, they plan to use different 'personalities', such as Presentation Manager, Win32, DOS and even Linux (there already exists an L4Linux, so they may not do much more on that one), as well as a Neutral personality, which would provide the services that the other personalities require. The advantage here is that the portability of the L4 has already been demonstrated, since after an initial design w/ some assembly code, it was found that replacing assembly code w/ C didn't have any performance impact.

I know that at this point in the game, computers based on anything other than x64 or ARM are pretty much non-starters, but it would be fantastic if such a project actually came to fruition. That would be a good step towards portable computing, while giving just about any architecture the ability to have an environment like OS/2. Hopefully, all the major FOSS software will be ported there, and that platform would then have a chance of being viable. I think that b/w OSFree and ReactOS, there should be enough opportunity for OSs that decide to take advantage of the end of support for XP. Maybe a laptop based on a MIPS or PPC can have a go at it

Re:OH the memories (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548937)

sorry to disappoint you but this is standard in *nix, linked files
http://unixhelp.ed.ac.uk/CGI/man-cgi?ln

most well know use for Linux users is the kernel source is linked to /usr/src/linux from what ever actual version/s are available.

It was great... once upon a time. (4, Interesting)

AntEater (16627) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548269)

I ran OS/2 extensively from '93 to '03. OS/2 was way ahead of it's time in many ways - maybe too much so. It was a great solid system and the GUI was much better than most of what we have today. it's a shame that IBM couldn't market it properly but they were working against the massive marketing force that MS had back then. That, and the fact that OS really ran best with at least 16mb or RAM back in a time when 8mb was considered excessive. Once Win95 came out OS/2 was pretty much on a fast path to it's death. That clearly demonstrated that the PC industry was more about marketing and deals than producing a better product because windows 95 was absolute trash in comparison.

Re:It was great... once upon a time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548315)

I remember one of the big issues with OS/2 was that you couldn't actually do anything with it out of the box. I think it had notepad or an equivalent, but Windows 3.x included a larger number of basic applications; AFAIR OS/2 didn't even have Solitaire.

Technically it was better but as you say it also required more powerful hardware than Windows.

Re:It was great... once upon a time. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548417)

That, and the fact that OS really ran best with at least 16mb or RAM back in a time when 8mb was considered excessive.
 
Funny that you can say that with a straight face. Until just very recently 90+% of Slashdotters considered the idea that MSWindows needing even a single k more RAM than a full featured Linux system as a sign of bloat and incompetence on the part of MS. Now people can just shrug it off in a time when doubling your system RAM was no small bill to foot? Wow. Just wow.
 
I can only imagine the headlines if Windows needed 4 gigs of RAM today to run. These boards would flow red with the backlash. I guess OS/2 gets a pass since it's not Microsoft (or would you rather me call it Micro$oft?)

Re:It was great... once upon a time. (1)

GiMP (10923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548633)

I remember IBM really pushing the sales of OS/2 Warp. However, I couldn't ever *find* the software for sale. Also, this was during a period when some machines were sold with only DOS, but an increasing number of systems were moving to having Windows pre-installed. Very quickly, Microsoft closed the gap through pre-installations, creating a giant barrier to competition. Once that window of opportunity was closed, OS/2 and other operating systems had no chance. Apple only succeeded in having their own hardware to run their OS on, thus they weren't entirely squeezed out of the market.

Re:It was great... once upon a time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548861)

I ran OS/2 extensively from '93 to '03. OS/2 was way ahead of it's time in many ways - maybe too much so. It was a great solid system and the GUI was much better than most of what we have today. it's a shame that IBM couldn't market it properly but they were working against the massive marketing force that MS had back then. That, and the fact that OS really ran best with at least 16mb or RAM back in a time when 8mb was considered excessive. Once Win95 came out OS/2 was pretty much on a fast path to it's death. That clearly demonstrated that the PC industry was more about marketing and deals than producing a better product because windows 95 was absolute trash in comparison.

Actually where OS/2 really failed was in support. I worked at a very large mainframe shop where OS/2 was supposed to be the PC OS of choice. Instead, Windows NT took over, except in my department. We floundered around trying to get IBM to support us. Hey! isn't that why you're supposed to buy IBM? Because of their support? We finally found someone 4 states away who could help (and mind you, we were in the state where OS/2 was developed!) After about 6 weeks, she left IBM. We floundered about until we found another IBM rep. After about 4 weeks, he left IBM.

OS/2 was a nightmare. Every IBM program product on it had a completely different style of configuration and (proprietary) binary logfile format. You could nuke it by running DOS chkdisk on the FAT partitions. It would nuke itself when it ran out of memory. Drivers for server-grade Compaq and Dell disk controllers were almost impossible to get. I complained at the time that Linux had no commercial vendor behind it but was more reliable, more internally consistent, and better supported than the pet OS of the mighty IBM. Even the Amiga had better support, and it was on its last legs by then. And then Microsoft went and slapped IBM in the face by making NTFS incompatible with the OS/2 HPFS.

So I don't miss OS/2.

College (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548291)

When I was in college (about 3 years ago), they were discussing upgrading one of the wood shop's machine control PCs from OS/2 to Windows 95. I never found out if they went ahead with it, or where they planned to get a non-buggy version of Windows 95.

okay ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548293)

But for a famous failure, it's doing okay â" it still runs the computers that manage the New York Subway's Metrocard fare cards, for instance.

No offense, OS/2 was a great OS and ahead of its time, but I think it is safe to assume that most people would consider this a failure of New York Subway's and not an indication how good OS/2 really is.

Re:okay ? (2)

ZorinLynx (31751) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548419)

When you consider how reliable the Metrocard system is, I wouldn't call this a failure by any means.

Also, MTA Is a big enough customer that they probably still get direct support from IBM for OS/2. If the system is supported, then it's not really "out of date".

I hear some ATMs (as in bank machines) still run OS/2 too. It's a very robust system and had a lot of popularity in embedded commercial "appliance" devices.

Re:okay ? (4, Informative)

khr (708262) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548493)

... would consider this a failure of New York Subway's and not an indication how good OS/2 really is.

Why is that a failure of the subway system? I live in New York and I take the subway every day. The computer system always works fine for me, there's hardly any time that I swipe my card and it erroneously doesn't open the turnstile for me. From a customer perspective, whatever software they're using, it's very reliable.

Titans of the industry (5, Interesting)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548305)

"More than 250 companies declared their intention to deliver OS/2 apps, including biggies such as Lotus, WordPerfect, Borland and Novell."

OK, that made me smile.

Re:Titans of the industry (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548553)

"More than 250 companies declared their intention to deliver OS/2 apps, including biggies such as Lotus, WordPerfect, Borland and Novell."

OK, that made me smile.

Why?

When I was at IBM Boca (when it existed), we had all those apps running and they were available for sale at your local computer store.

I remember the Borland OS/2 compiler rather fondly, although, at IBM we were stuck with Visual Age - a pig - during the Warp days. Before that we had Microsoft's C/C++ compiler and that was pretty good.

Novell, I guess that made you smile. Although, the networking on OS/2 (TCP/IP, Netbeui) was quite combersome and a bitch to get around - that was written by IBM along with the install program. I almost got fired when I asked during the Warp days, "I see that on the top of every source module 'Copyright 1987 Microsoft Corporation'. Is there anything that IBM actually wrote?"

"The install and networking."

"Ah! The features that everyone says is crappy with OS/2."

"Hey! Hey!"

"Uh....nevermind."

Although, the WorkPlace shell was an IBM program and it was rather good - for the user. Programming the fucker with SOM (and its obscenely large headers to make C object oriented) was kind of a bitch.

I ran a two line BBS on Warp (1)

bodland (522967) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548307)

Using RoboBoard graphical BBS software. O/S2 Warp allowed two serial modems to operate independently....talk about cave paintings and stone tools.

CIBC (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548323)

Only a few years ago I saw a CIBC ATM crash and it was OS/2 but recently they went with much larger screens and when that crashed it was Windows.
The question I have is in maintaining OS/2 applications what programming tool do you use? So regardless of the potential quality of such an old system I would think the costs in staying in that game would be prohibitive. Where do you get a 386 these days?

Re:CIBC (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548369)

Older processors and hardware (such as the 386 and 486 era stuff) are still produced, usually for things such as factory robots that value reliability over everything else and don't require much in the way of processing power. Not sure where you might buy them at the consumer level.

Re:CIBC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548735)

Well, it's not like you'd need a 386 for playing with or developing on OS/2 -- a quick google shows at least one guy running it on a Core Duo, the main thing is making sure you have a motherboard with plenty of PCI slots so you can use cards with OS/2 drivers available, but you can get that for even fairly recent processors.

Re:CIBC (4, Interesting)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548463)

OS/2 is still being updated/supported just not as OS/2. eComStation [wikipedia.org] Is currently available [ecomstation.biz] and works with most current generation hardware.

Micro Channel ! (2)

BetaDays (2355424) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548325)

Micro Channel. I really liked it. Easy to install and setup. I remember those days fondly.

Re:Micro Channel ! (2)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548585)

Yeah, Micro Channel [wikipedia.org] was IBM's ploy to kill the clone market by introducing proprietary hardware into an open architecture and licensing to the competition. The industry responded with VESA Local Bus [wikipedia.org] which wasn't as good but it was open and OEMs could target a much larger install base than Micro Channel.

ATMs use OS/2 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548327)

I did not see any mention of it, but a large number of ATM machines currently use OS/2

Technically OS/2 was very impressive. (2, Interesting)

miffo.swe (547642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548331)

Had excellent scripting, good multitasking, was very stable at the time compared to just about anything that you could run on PC hardware. I also remember it as being very fast, unless you ran Windows applications on it.

IBM was just not flexible enough to win. The exact same thing is happening to Microsoft right now with the only difference being that while IBMs desktop efforts died with very solid products at hand, Microsoft falls on their nose with crapware. Dont get me started on the duct taped Windows Phone 7 GUI with dripping glue onto Windows 7 that is called Windows 8. Every single engineer involved in that crap should be ashamed to the bones.

OS/2 Somehow still alive (1)

FadedTimes (581715) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548345)

Some community banks still run OS/2 to power their Voice Banking systems. The reason being is that the hardware dies before the software does.
The other amazing thing is how OS/2 will run on PC's just made a few years ago. As long as it has a PS/2 port, IDE port, and a PCI slot for your ancient 3com NIC.

Ah, the memories of my first PC (1)

LizardKing (5245) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548361)

I remember getting OS/2 Warp as a freebie when I bought my first PC. It was from a short lived high street retailer called Escom, who could sell machines cheaper if they had OS/2 rather than Windows. Since I was going to slap Linux (RedHat 3.0.3) or NetBSD on the machine I didn't care about the lack of Windows - for those that expected to get Windows it mustc have come as a surprise! I tinkered a bit with OS/2, but the interface felt clunky and cluttered. The Windows 3.51 machines that were gradually supplanting our SunOS boxes at work felt pretty elegant in comparison. The biggest problem was a lack of apps, and although there was some sort of DOS emulation I seem to recall you had to effectively reboot the machine into a weird hybrid OS/2 and DOS mode.

Re:Ah, the memories of my first PC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548539)

Yeah it could run 16 bit dos applications in a terminal window, but any 32 bit protected mode apps required being booted in the OS/2 'Command Prompt' mode, which was pretty neat, since it allowed support for HPFS, long filenames, and a bunch of other stuff that Windows *NEVER* supported in a 'real' command prompt (even the DOS 7 included with WinME), however even in that, at least OS/2 2.1 era (the version my dad bought, finding out after our purchase that 2.0 was actually more stable, having only used 1.3 and 2.0 at work :l), was useless for many of the protected mode apps you might try running in it.

As far as user interface goes however, it felt much nicer than the PC alternatives until either 95 or 98 came out.

Re:Ah, the memories of my first PC (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548929)

As far as user interface goes however, it felt much nicer than the PC alternatives until either 95 or 98 came out.

I disagree. I was always unsure as to what mouse button I should use for a task, even after I had been using OS/2 2.1 for a week. And while I had spent quite a bit of time playing with one button, and quite a bit of time using a Mac too, I also had experience with the Amiga, with Windows 3.1, and with ScumOS.

News to me. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548439)

I didn't know it, but it was Micro-soft that developed the OS/2 for IBM.

Re:News to me. (2)

Doctor_Jest (688315) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548675)

MS and IBM were partners in the beginning... but Bill Gates got his nickers in a twist and pulled out of OS/2, taking what was to become NT with him (or at least the start of it.)

OS/2 was supposed to be the successor of Win 3.x, but for many reasons (you can google yourself)... it never happened. Ironically, OS/2 got better when Microsoft left the table. :)

The one time I saw Bill Gates in person (1)

Riktov (632) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548453)

was when I heard him give a talk on OS/2 and how it was the future of Microsoft. This was at the University of Washington, and obviously sometime between late 1987 and 1988. A very narrow slice of history indeed.

Re:The one time I saw Bill Gates in person (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548643)

was when I heard him give a talk on OS/2 and how it was the future of Microsoft. This was at the University of Washington, and obviously sometime between late 1987 and 1988. A very narrow slice of history indeed.

Didn't OS/2 NT become Windows NT? If so, he was clearly correct :).

Re:The one time I saw Bill Gates in person (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548831)

Yeah I heard him give that talk too, on the East Coast. He said that OS/2 would run the server software on the LAN, while individual workers would have their DOS machines (he didn't mention Windows, but I'm sure that's what he was thinking).

OS/2's failure was partly due to industry politics, which were larger than Microsoft and IBM. The clone vendors were more afraid of IBM than Microsoft and didn't want IBM calling all the shots. Although Compaq did take OS/2 seriously and used it their high-end products, other vendors dragged their feet. Then Windows 3.0 was a smash hit and Gates probably saw a chance to throw his OS partner overboard, so he started the ten-year NT project with the idea of compatible API's with Windows desktop.

It was another Betamax vs. VHS type thing. The technically superior product failed, but few are crying for the loser.

Good old OS/2.. (3, Funny)

Drumpig (13514) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548465)

I was using OS/2 when I signed up for this /. ID!

Konica Minolta (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548477)

...those printers run OS/2 nowadays

(as for sure the bizhub c452 does)

Good feature sets (1)

meburke (736645) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548509)

If I remember correctly (I can't find my notes), OS2 was a port of IBM's mainframe 32-bit OS scaled for the microcontroller. If you connected using a 3270 terminal or emulator you could get some pretty fast apps going. Of course, people wanted to work from the desktop, not a terminal. The killer was the graphical interface, which never worked right. Furthermore, new apps for the desktop were hard to write, and required developers to be fully immersed in the IBM programming paradigm and mindset. On the other hand, once written, applications worked like they were supposed to. For what it did, the OS2 was one of the sweetest, most elegant OS's for the PC environment. I was hoping something would come from the osFree folks, but it is apparently tough sledding. I was really disappointed that IBM didn't release the OS2 source. A great learning opportunity has been lost.

Re:Good feature sets (2)

AlphaFreak (646767) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548871)

No, it was not. OS/2 has nothing to do about OS/400 (I guess you are refering to that one). OS/2 is an independent development, in which _probably_ you can find traces of ideas and implementations in other operating systems, but you can say the same about any OS. Take into account OS/2 1.X was being developed by Microsoft, and it was when MS switched their goals to enhance the Windows Family when IBM toke the lead.

Wasn't a Port (2)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#39548903)

But it did communicate very well with IBM's mainframes. That's one of the reasons it was so popular with banks. If you had IBM big iron, OS/2 did very well talking to it. OS/2 1.3 looked a lot like Windows 3.x, and they both shared the same NT heritage. IBM couldn't release the source because a lot of it belonged to Microsoft. They probably could have done the 2.x GUI shell but Gnome is actually a pretty similar design. OS/2 used something very much like CORBA for desktop objects.

I got on the OS/2 bandwagon at 2.0. I was doing software development for a company at the time and OS/2 allowed me to run my three applications side-by-side if I wanted to. Its DOS emulation was really quite good and it's Windows emulation wasn't bad either. It seems like Microsoft started rolling out API updates (Especially DirectX) every few weeks just to screw things up and it was a constant problem. The nail in the coffin was them getting the IBM PC Company to drop OS/2 pre-bundles with their predatory DOS and Windows pricing. They may have gotten dinged with an anti-trust action over that but the damage was done. By '95 I'd already seen the writing on the wall and had started experimenting with the Slakware Linux distribution.

IBM could have done some things better with the operating system. They got side-tracked with a PowerPC port that consumed a lot of resources and never amounted to anything. The prevailing attitude in the company was that PCs were toys and not good for much more than acting as dumb terminals to the mainframes or AIX machines. If someone had seen PCs as the future, they might have devoted more development resources to it. Despite the superior (to win3.x/win95) architecture, most of the demo apps were direct ports from Windows apps and didn't make use of the operating system's threading. Ironically OS/2 did better at multitasking Windows apps than Windows did for a long time, but sucked at multitasking most OS/2 apps.

IBM didn't get enough developers on board either. There was a focus on them and I seem to recall they had a decent developer program, but very few companies wanted to devote resources to it. Why do that when you could just write windows apps and run them on both systems? It's entirely possible that IBM's excellent windows emulation may have come back to bite it in the ass on that front. If Microsoft had done nothing for another couple of years, OS/2 may have ended up being the defacto platform to run Windows apps on, but Microsoft was already taking the threat very seriously and wasn't going to let that happen.

cancer treatment (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548651)

have any one cancer, os someone in your family have cancer.
please visit this link. www.cancerbd.org

Re:cancer treatment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548851)

can i get your phone number or email address!

Who's to blame? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548891)

Does anyone know why IBM wasn't fully committed to making OS/2 succeed. I left IBM as a full-time employee about the time OS/2 was release. I then worked as a contracted in Bacon Raton for six months, where it was developed. It worked in the OS/2 support department. There was a lot of flag waving and talk of making it succeed. But ultimately someone hadn't counted to cost of success.

OS/2 lives on through its children (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39548941)

OS/2 became Windows NT, which became Windows Server. A lot of Windows Server is in Windows 7. I'm pretty sure a substantial amount of OS/2 code is still in use today, or at least a derivation of it...

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