MARKS OF ESTEEM
History Of The Microcomputer Revolution
The first operating system standard
Gary Kildall will always be one of the misunderstood people related
to the PC industry. At one time this true PC pioneer was a bigger name than
Microsoft’s Bill Gates. Other people knew him in later years as the co-host
of Public Television’s Computer Chronicles. Unfortunately, some people will claim
he was the man who missed one of the biggest opportunities in business history, but there are
several sides to this story. But to all of us who use PC’s, we daily use commands he had
written into the first PC operating system standard. Every time you use the directory command - DIR - to list files,
you’re using a cp/m command that is one of many carry-overs in today’s Dos operating system.
was born in Seattle and later received a computer science degree in 1972 from the
University of Washington. While attending UW, he rubbed elbows with the young Bill Gates
and Paul Allen when they were working at part-time jobs at computer companies in Seattle’s
University district. Gary had the same appreciation for DEC computers that the boys
had. After graduation, he joined the Navy and was stationed in Northern California at Monterey, teaching computer science
at a Naval postgraduate school. When Intel introduced their first microprocessors, Gary bought one just to play around
with. After his Naval tour ended, he stayed in the area, continuing his teaching, and working on several projects in his company
which he named Intergalactic Digital Research.
He actually wrote his operating system for microcomputers - which
he called CP/M - control program - microcomputer - in 1973 - two years before the Altair computer kit appeared on the
cover of Popular Electronics later in 1975. As many things have evolved off tangents in the PC industry - he actually
wrote it as part of another project he was working on. Gary was trying to get his own language to run on an Intel 8008
microprocessor. He called this language PL/M - Programming Language for Microcomputers - and he decided that there needed
to be a software interface - or an operating system - that would enable the microprocessor to communicate with a floppy
disk drive input/storage device. Floppy disk drives at the time cost a fraction of what a teletype machine with a paper
tape cost. Gary figured correctly that floppy disk drives were the superior technology.
Being a fan of DEC minicomputers, he borrowed a lot of the features
he admired in DEC’s TOPS 10 operating system for PDP-10 computers and adapted them to his CP/M system.
A few years later - after Bill Gates and Paul Allen had written
their version of Basic - borrowing many features from DEC’s version of Basic - successfully fed it
into the Altair computer using a paper tape - and after the Altair computer had been
cloned by IMSAI and others and when microcomputers began to take off - Gary Kildall was in the
right place at the right time with an in-place operating system - CP/M - which would
allow these early computers to use floppy disk drives - and in theory at least - allow programs from one computer to run
on another computer - because they shared the same operating system.
CP/M became the dominant operating system used by the majority
of the early microcomputers, and at one time there were over 100 different micros running CP/M. Gary Kildall toned down
his company name to Digital Research Inc. or DRI - dropping the seventies sounding "Intergalactic. The PC market
place from 1975 until 1981 was dominated and divided between Digital Research and Microsoft, with an informal understanding
between them that Microsoft was THE PC languages company, and Digital Research was THE PC operating system company.
Of course there were exceptions to this rule. Radio Shack had
their TRS 80’s and other micros with their own Basic and TRSDOS operating system; Atari and Commodore were in similar situations,
and then there was this crazy company named Apple which was started by a couple California kids in a garage which had
its own operating system. But ironically, even the Apple II had an add-in card - developed by Microsoft called the Soft
Card - which allowed an Apple to run CP/M - and over 100,000 were sold.
But we’ll talk more about a lot of other ironies associated with Apple computer next week.
History of the Microcomputer Revolution
The Historic Background.
The Revolution Begins.
The Washington State Connection.
High School Kid’s Computer Company.
The World’s First Commercially Available PC.
What good is a computer without Software?.
Send in the Clones.
Home Brewing and Computers Named Apple.
The Killer Application.
The Deal of The Century.
A Walk in the PARC.
Send in the Clones again - Freud would have said GUI-Envy.
The PC Industry at Age 11 in 1986.
Will the Circle Be Unbroken?.