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Jim Hall

Hi there! I'm Jim Hall, the founder and project coordinator of the FreeDOS Project!

I also write the FreeDOS Project Blog at freedos-project.blogspot.com.

Announcing FreeDOS 1.2

December 25, 2016

I'm very excited to announce the release of the FreeDOS 1.2 distribution!

If you've followed FreeDOS, you know that we don't have a very fast release cycle. We just don't need to; DOS isn't exactly a moving target anymore, so we don't have to chase new features or shifting compatibility. We released our first Alpha in 1994, and our first Beta in 1998. We finally released FreeDOS 1.0 in 2006, and FreeDOS 1.1 in 2012. And now, on December 25 2016, we are proud to release FreeDOS 1.2.

The FreeDOS 1.2 release is an updated, more modern FreeDOS. You'll see that we changed many of the packages. Some packages were replaced, deprecated by newer and better packages. We also added other packages. And we expanded what we should include in the FreeDOS distribution. Where FreeDOS 1.0 and 1.1 where fairly spartan distributions with only "core" packages and software sets, the FreeDOS 1.2 distribution includes a rich set of additional packages. We even include games.

But the biggest change you are likely to notice in FreeDOS 1.2 is the updated installer. Jerome Shidel wrote an entirely new FreeDOS install program, and it looks great! We focused on keeping the new installer simple and easy to use. While many DOS users in 2016 are experienced DOS programmers and DOS power users, we often see many new users to FreeDOS, and I wanted to make the install process pleasant for them. The default mode for the installer is very straightforward, and you only have to answer a few questions to install FreeDOS on your system. There's also an "Advanced" mode where power users can tweak the install and customize the experience.

Thank you to everyone who contributes to FreeDOS: developers, testers, and users. There are too many of you to recognize individually. You made FreeDOS 1.2 a reality!

Read the announcement »

A little history

I started FreeDOS in 1994, when I was still an undergraduate physics student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. I had used MS-DOS systems for a long time, and regularly used MS-DOS and DOS applications for my work. I had taught myself C programming, and wrote DOS utilities to improve MS-DOS and expand its functionality. While I also used Linux since 1993, I thought DOS was the best system for me, with its rich catalog of useful applications that helped me analyze lab data and write papers for class.

So I was disappointed in 1994 when I read articles where Microsoft announced that the next version of Windows would do away with MS-DOS. "DOS was dead," so they said. But I didn't like Windows. If you remember what Microsoft Windows 3.1 looked like, you'll know it was clunky and awkward. If Windows 4.0 was going to be anything like that, I wanted nothing to do with it.

But what to do when Microsoft decides it isn't going to make another version of DOS? If you're like me, you decide to write your own! I had experienced Linux, and realized what developers could do if they worked together. Linux in 1994 was an impressive replacement for Unix systems. Surely we could create our own version of DOS? After all, DOS is a much simpler operating system than Unix or Linux.

I made my first announcement to Usenet's comp.os.msdos.apps group on June 29 1994 about this new project, which read in part:

A few months ago, I posted articles relating to starting a public domain version of DOS.  The general support for this at the time was strong, and many people agreed with the statement, "start writing!" So, I have.

Announcing the first effort to produce a PD-DOS.  I have written up a "manifest" describing the goals of such a project and an outline of the work, as well as a "task list" that shows exactly what needs to be written.  I'll post those here, and let discussion follow.

Almost immediately, other developers contacted me, and we began work creating our own version of DOS that would be compatible with MS-DOS. I packaged my own extended DOS utilities, as did others, and we found other public domain or open source programs that replaced other DOS commands. A few months later, we released our first FreeDOS Alpha distribution. This interested new developers to join FreeDOS. From there, FreeDOS grew very quickly.

You can find the rest of FreeDOS history at our FreeDOS History page. It's very interesting reading. You can find other information about FreeDOS history on the FreeDOS Road Map discussion page at our wiki.