New in January and February 2022

It must be faced, if only by me, that my recent diversions into retro-computing are no longer just diversions. I have become especially fascinated by Windows/386 as the pre-emptively multi-tasking DOS that many in the late 1980s said they wanted but few realised they had got!

What happened, of course, is that they weren’t given their pre-emptively multi-tasking DOS as DOS. Imagine some strategic thinking at Microsoft in 1987 or even 1986. Advanced DOS users want a pre-emptively multi-tasking DOS? Let’s give it to them but only as a Windows feature. DOS is our natural monopoly but for Windows we have competition. We’ll compete better in that market if customers see Windows as the advanced DOS users’ path to a better DOS. Ah, but is it fair competition?

And, yes, I do mean that the reflection on whether it’s fair competition will have been raised within Microsoft as part of Microsoft’s strategic thinking. In operating systems, Windows/386 looks to be the ground zero of possibly anti-competitive product-tying by Microsoft. This is from 1987. The program loader even has a copyright notice for 1986. No history of Microsoft’s anti-trust issues could credibly be taken as comprehensive, or even as well-informed, without covering this.

I can see I may run with this idea for a while, off and on. Who’s to know whether anything useful develops from that, but there will at least be the fallout of technical documentation of neglected interfaces and file formats.