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June, 2009

Mark your calendars

FreeDOS turns 15 years old next week. Mark your calendars now!

For me, this is all about remembering how things started. When I was still a physics student at university, I saw a mention on a DOS user group that Microsoft would stop support for DOS, that a new version of Windows would permanently remove DOS from the picture. (Later, we learned Windows 95 still used quite a bit of DOS, but at that time we all had the vision that Microsoft was trying to kill our favorite operating system.) Everyone was pretty shocked. We didn't want to be forced to use Windows, which completely removes the command line. In DOS, everything is done on the command line, and a true command line "guru" can do amazing things there. In Windows, you are stuck with the mouse, and if the menus don't let you do something, it pretty much can't be done. So things were looking pretty bleak. We were all very upset about Microsoft's decision to ditch the DOS platform.

Then, I saw a discussion thread on the DOS groups asking "hey, why doesn't someone write their own free version of DOS?" Remember, this was about three years after Linus Torvalds announced his work on the Linux kernel, and by 1993 Linux had shown that free software can achieve incredible results. So in 1994, the suggestion that we could write our own free version of DOS, and give it away with the source code so others could work with it and improve it, really didn't sound all that far-fetched.

So I decided to give it a go. After I'd written over a dozen utilities that replaced MS-DOS commands, and found some public domain source that implemented other functionality, I realized that you could reproduce what MS-DOS does and make it a free software project. I released what I had for others to try, and the FreeDOS Project pretty much picked up from there.

What are your favorite memories of FreeDOS?

FreeDOS turns 15 years old

Man, it's been a long ride, but a great one. FreeDOS turns 15 years old today! A little bit of history:

"PD-DOS" was announced to the world on June 28, 1994. To cement my ideas, I created a PD-DOS Manifesto, which you can read elsewhere on the web site. The idea of a "free DOS" immediately became popular. Within a few weeks, several coders contacted me, wanting to take on this or that part of the new DOS.

Weeks after that, the number had doubled. I was contacted by Pat Villani, who had already written a functional DOS kernel called DOS/NT, and who was willing to release it under the GNU GPL for us to use! Tim Norman also started work on his version of, which is the heart of the DOS command line interface. I think the fact that, early on, we had access to a working DOS kernel and really helped get the project in motion.

By July 24, 1994, the name of the project had officially changed to "Free-DOS", to reflect the fact that we were Free Software, not really "public domain." Later, we dropped the dash entirely, and became "FreeDOS".

DOS will be around for quite some time yet. DOS remains a great environment to work in if you are building an embedded system, for example. The operating system is light, so it will run well in a device that doesn't have a lot of memory. I like to use FreeDOS to run the old classic DOS games that I loved.

Birthday wrap-up

I thought it would be neat to post a followup to the FreeDOS turns 15 years old item. Several tech news sites ran the story:

And it was great to see friends and associates with their own blog posts about FreeDOS's "birthday":

Here's looking forward to a great future with FreeDOS! I think DOS will be around for quite some time yet. I'm especially interested to see what a future FreeDOS 1.1 and 2.0 will look like, what changes we can bring to FreeDOS, and still retain what makes it "DOS".