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Microsoft Finally Gave Away MS-DOS
Now It Should Open Source Everything Else

 6:20 am on Mar 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

Microsoft just released the source code of one of its most important computer operating systems. The catch is that the software is over 30 years old.

Yesterday, with permission from Microsoft, Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum published the source code for MS-DOS, the text-based operating system that ran so many personal computers in the ’80s and turned Microsoft into one of the industry’s dominant software companies. For computer geeks, the move can provide a bit of fun — a glimpse into how software was built in the past — and it provides a nice metaphor for a Microsoft that’s evolving with the times. Microsoft was once vehemently opposed to open source software, believing that it would cut into its core business, but in a modern world where open source is so very important, the company is changing its tune.


I spent a lot of time in DOS (and CP/M, too). I liked it as clean and neat (at the time). Also liked the sibling OS/2... but that didn't last long. The original Win stuff sucked until Windows for Workgroups 3.1...

I doubt that MS will open source Win8 any time soon (so we can really see why it is not what we expected or wanted) but it is a nice dream to think it might happen. :)



 4:01 pm on Mar 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

How about open sourcing XP the day after support ends?


 5:24 pm on Mar 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

30-years is a reasonable time to keep proprietary software locked down.

Will XP be opened up within 30-yeas? Unlikely, imho.

brotherhood of LAN

 5:30 pm on Mar 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

Seems like it'd be more for a hobbyist or an IT historian to dig into rather than anything practical for today... I'd assume the coding conventions/style would be a bit out of date and lacking a lot of modern day functionality.


 6:24 am on Mar 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

30-years is a reasonable time to keep proprietary software locked down.

I think its far too long. A reasonable copyright period for software would be about five years AND it should be conditional on disclosing the source. That way there is an incentive to release a significantly better version before the copyright runs out. If the originator fails to innovate others can takeover.


 6:46 am on Mar 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

Heck, a patent is good for 17 years. A trademark is forever (as long as you pay and protect), a copyright (Berne Convention) is about 100+ years... so take your pick.*

Do note that the giveaway is Dos 1.0 and 1.1

My fave was 6.x



 1:51 pm on Mar 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

A copyright can last a LOT longer. Its life plus 70 in the US and Europe, life plus 50 in Australia and Canada. It is not specified by the Berne convention btw.

There are longer copyrights due to late publication in the US (e.g. some Sherlock Holmes stories) or due to special laws (the perpetual copyright on the King James Version of the Bible in the UK).

Anyway, I think all copyrights last far too long: it is ludicrous that something published in the 19th century can still be in copyright.

In the case of software the problem is that the writer of the software can:

1) get everything copied by copyright
2) patent bits, but, has to reveal a minimal amount to get the patents (e.g. Amazon's one-click does not disclose any implementation detail AFAIK).
3) The source code can be kept a trade secret - try THAT with a book!

It should be one of those three.

Software also should have shorter copyright as its useful life is shorter. I read out of copyright books. I doubt anyone will ever use out of copyright software.

If you actually want a potentially useful DOS (for what?) FreeDOS is a better bet anyway.


 2:15 pm on Mar 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

Obviously this is very old code from a very old OS, but will there soon be a rush of hobbyists creating their own blend of MS-Dos based on this source release. It would be interesting to see what others can come up with.



 5:06 am on Mar 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

Not really mack. The license for DOS is NOT opensource./

It does not allow commercial use or redistribution. Because of the danger of getting tainted, FreeDOS has asked people who look at the MS-DOS source not to contribute to Free DOS:

[sourceforge.net ]

In any case I think FreeDOS is more interesting for someone who wants to work on a DOS compatible OS, and there are lots of other OSes around that look link fun to tinker with (if someone is doing it for fun they do not have to stick to the established open source OSes).

This is primarily interesting for people studying the history of MS-DOS.

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