Memories of MS-DOS

MS-DOS Spice BlendMy first exposure to MS-DOS was at my aunt’s house. She had an old IBM computer in the basement. It had an amber monitor, and all the words on the screen were a hideous shade of orange. Up to that point, I had only seen green monitors. Still, the letters were sharp and the computer was competent for the era. I sat down and started typing.

The first thing I entered was my name. In the early days of computers, this was a thrill. It was almost like being on TV. Unfortunately, my name was not a valid command, which MS-DOS told be with a brusque error message:

BAD COMMAND OR FILENAME

I had used an Apple ][ computer at school, and thanks to my gifted and talented class, I knew a few BASIC commands. I tried typing a number of commands and lines of code, but every time I hit the Enter key, MS-DOS gave me the same response:

BAD COMMAND OR FILENAME

I knew there was a big difference between Apple and IBM computers, but I also knew that every computer of the era had the BASIC programming language. However, I did not realize that there was a distinction between BASIC and MS-DOS. They both had a black screen with green/orange/gray letters, and they both had cryptic commands and impenetrable error messages.

A year or two later, I got my own computer, an IBM-compatible computer known as the Tandy 1000HX. I quickly got adept at dealing with both GW-BASIC and MS-DOS. But even though I was pretty good at it, I was glad to move over to Windows 3.1 when it came out. Perhaps it’s because I’m a visually-oriented person, but I’ll take a graphical user interface over a command line any day. And while I have fond memories of my old computers, I can honestly say that I don’t miss MS-DOS.

Steve Lovelace

Steve Lovelace is a writer, photographer and graphic artist. After graduating Michigan State University in 2004, he taught Spanish in Samoa before moving to Dallas, Texas. He blogs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at http://steve-lovelace.com.

You may also like...

19 Responses

  1. August 29, 2012

    […] But then I started using the system, and discovered it has the most unintuitive interface since MS-DOS. It’s clunky and impossible to navigate. Plus it makes it even easier to share and even […]

  2. December 31, 2012

    […] of it is thanks to a cartoon dog named Rover and a half-baked user interface called Microsoft Bob. MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows may have made Bill Gates a billionaire, but Microsoft Bob brought him […]

  3. January 14, 2013

    […] completely different platforms. The Windows code, used in Windows 95 and 98, was based on the old MS-DOS operating system, whereas the Windows NT system was built from the ground up with modern software […]

  4. September 20, 2013

    […] File Manager Windows 3.1 was an odd hybrid. On one hand, it looked like a somewhat modern operating system, with windows and icons and a mouse pointer. But in fact, the first three versions of Windows were just a facade for MS-DOS. […]

  5. February 12, 2014

    […] for me, I have an iPhone and a Windows PC. I like them both, though if I had to pick, I’d probably go with Apple. What about you? What […]

  6. March 10, 2014

    […] 13 years after the operating system first came out. To put that in perspective, it would be like MS-DOS 4.01 (released in 1988) still being supported when Windows XP was released in 2001. Windows XP is […]

  7. August 13, 2014

    […] bureaucracy. They used off-the-shelf parts and outsourced the operating system. The result was MS-DOS, a text based operating system that did very little. DOS could help you copy files and load a […]

  8. February 2, 2015

    […] around the Valley. One of the companies he solicited was Digital Research, the company behind MS-DOS precursor CP/M. When Digital Research founded Gary Kildall found out about the show, he […]

  9. June 15, 2015

    […] big downsides, which ended up killing them off. First off, these were text-based systems. As with MS-DOS, you had to memorize a system of arcane commands, which limited the market penetration to hardcore […]

  10. July 3, 2015

    […] wasn’t really an operating system. Windows 1.0 was really just a program that ran on top of MS-DOS. This was partially to maintain backward compatibility, but there was a more important reason. […]

  11. July 12, 2015

    […] Windows was meant to be an interim solution. It started out as a graphical interface that ran atop MS-DOS, with the understanding that both Windows and DOS would one day be replaced by a more advanced […]

  12. August 1, 2015

    […] reviews of video games dating from the 1970s to the present. Basinger focuses mostly on MS-DOS games, but he also plays more modern series as well, especially the many versions of The Sims. In […]

  13. August 15, 2015

    […] part of the original Macintosh team, where she designed the icons that set the Mac apart from its text-only competitors. This was easier said than done, […]

  14. August 2, 2016

    […] with my parents and my sister, but i was still the system’s primary user. I had a lot of experience with MS-DOS and GW-BASIC, so I took to the computer like a fish to water. And though I’ve had many other […]

  15. February 8, 2017

    […] of my favorite old video games was a demo that came with MS-DOS. I spent a lot of time knocking around in QBasic. I never became an astute programmer, but I did […]

  16. February 15, 2017

    […] features depending on the machine, they all functioned the same. You had a command line, much like MS-DOS, where any command would give an immediate answer. This could be useful. You could type […]

  17. February 26, 2017

    […] was built as a kind of hack. It was a graphical skin for the text-based MS-DOS operating system, a temporary solution until Microsoft and IBM came out with the high-powered OS/2 […]

  18. March 1, 2017

    […] interfaces, and I spent hours just customizing the Windows color scheme. Still, I mostly used MS-DOS applications, like QBasic and a variety of DOS games. Overall, it was a pretty cool computer, […]

  19. September 4, 2017

    […] was in full swing. But while professional designers had advanced workstations, our school had DOS machines with EGA graphics. So we learned drafting and technical drawing the old fashioned way. We […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *