IBM’s recent announcement, then un-announcement that OS/2 will be no more has brought the exciting, then doomed, then revived, then doomed, then doomed, doomed, mourned, and doomed some more operating system back into the limelight for a swan song. The Register today remembers OS/2 fondly, and remarks on why it never got its chance.
The Register Bids Farewell to OS/2
2002-12-17 OS/2 25 Comments
I thought they dropped the PowerPC port well before it was done. It might be fun to get a copy of it and run it on an old beige Mac.
The Register today remembers OS/2 fondly, and remarks on why it never got its chance.
I personally thought it got its chance. I used it for quite a long time and thought very highly of it. I wish IBM still actively supported it and people still wrote software for it (perhaps they do). I’d use it.
I retrospect, my experience with trying to get people to try OS/2 10 years ago is somewhat like my experience with trying to get people to try Linux. OS/2 was infinitely better than Windows 3.1/DOS and much easier to use; but people never give different things a chance.
I guess I’m the kind of guy that walks into a pizza restaurant, sees a Pear and Blue Cheese pizza on the menu, and orders it because I find it intriguing. A lot of people, I guess, are not like that. I don’t understand people who let themselves get locked in a rut. Oh well, to each their own.
I think eCS stands a good chance. According to the screenshots it reminds me so much on Windows 9x and it even has a task bar! All they need is a better marketing.
These pieces all blame IBM’s marketing for the failure of OS/2. Certainly the main problem was marketing as opposed to engineering, but they stuck in a hole they couldn’t get out of. Once Microsoft dropped OS/2 and announced a 32 bit version of Windows, Compaq, HP, and Dell didn’t want to have anything to do with an IBM operating system because they were competing head to head in the PC market. Application software vendors had to focus on Windows because it had the lion’s share of the market. Customers were still getting used to GUI and they wanted to learn the same system everyone else had. So I don’t see what IBM could’ve done differently, except maybe try to spin OS/2 off into some sort of consortium – and even that may have been precluded by Microsoft’s copyright, as implied by the article.
IBM tried the joint development approach with Apple and that didn’t work out either. So it’s not hard to see how they came to see that Linux solved a lot of their problems, even though they could (and did) produce their own OS that was technically as good.
Clearly, there was a marketing failure here.
But I think one thing that hasn’t been addressed is that one of the first things about 0S/2 was that it was “Windows Compatible”. One of the early battles was over running Windows software on OS/2.
In hindsight, this seems to have been a bad marketing strategy.
Linux and Mac have differing issues, but I don’t think the fact that they don’t run Windows programs is NOT a major downfall for these OSes.
Sure, it would be slick if they had access to all of the software already on the Windows platform, but, truthfully, if the user wants Window software, then run Windows.
If you are playing the “compatability” game, then you’re always playing catch-up, and not innovating. It also hurts the ISVs on your platform.
For example, GoBe productive DIDN’T have to compete against Microsoft Works or Clarisworks because they simply weren’t available for the Be platform. If BeOS was able to “seemlessly” Windows applications, then the BeOS developers suddenly have to compete against Office, and that’s a big nut to crack.
So, it just seems that perhaps OS/2 may have had a better chance if they just punted on the whole Windows compatability issue.
Mind you, not being able to run the software is different from the interoperability issue of being able to work with things like Office files.
If you are playing the “compatability” game, then you’re always playing catch-up, and not innovating.
Yeah, I wonder when Ximian will start claiming they’re building “a better .NET than .NET”.
“If BeOS was able to “seemlessly” Windows applications, then the BeOS developers suddenly have to compete against Office, and that’s a big nut to crack.”
Unfortunately due to a lack of applications BeOS died. Were it able to seamlessly run Windows applications it may not have.
IBM may be ending this rebellion, but they’re joining and biger one that has the potental to shake Microsoft to its very foundation.
I’ve said it before, I was an OS/2 nut. It *was* great in its day, and better than anything Microsoft put out until Windows NT 3.5. That said, it’s not as stable or robust as any modern OS anymore. Some of its parts are very old now (how about a 16 bit filesystem, anyone?). The PPC port didn’t work because it was pretty tightly coded for x86. Monolithic kernel, I could go on and on. As Dvorak said in his article (linked from the Register’s article), Windows 2000 is pretty much what OS/2 should have been.
But no modern desktop or server OS should…
– Be able to install on FAT.
– Have a monolithic kernel.
– Be essentially single-user (OS/2’s multiuser ability is a kludge, much like OS9’s).
OS/2 was good at three things: running 16 bit DOS programs, running 16 bit Windows programs, and running 32 bit OS/2 programs. There weren’t many of the third, and few people run the first two, now seven and a half years after 32 bit went mainstream in the Windows world.
It was good. But its time has passed.
I tend to agree with some of those points. My first and only experience with OS/2 installation was that once the install (from CD) was done and the machine rebooted, there was no CD drive recognized by the OS and I was directed to fiddle with a Config.sys file that was about 200% bigger and more complicated than the one I was used to with DOS.
One more thing for your list. Something I really liked about OS/2: they shot for dynamic symbolic links. Which no modern desktop OS should be without. How many actually have them is another story. I know this is a tiny minescule issue to many people, but it’s those finer things that get me.
My first and only experience with OS/2 installation was that once the install (from CD) was done and the machine rebooted, there was no CD drive recognized by the OS and I was directed to fiddle with a Config.sys file that was about 200% bigger and more complicated than the one I was used to with DOS.
Heh. I can top that, even. I had an Ensoniq sound card which drove a Panasonic dual speed CD. IIRC, it had a motorola 68000 processor, and was a really good-sounding card for its time. Unfortunately, it would only initialize the CD controller after the card was booted, which only happened under DOS. So for the CD to work under OS/2, I had to boot DOS, do a three-finger salute, and then boot OS/2. The card itself, never worked under OS/2 (or win95, for that matter). And yes, the config.sys was daunting, specifying everything about the system, down to the maximum number of threads allowed.
they shot for dynamic symbolic links. Which no modern desktop OS should be without. How many actually have them is another story.
Agreed. I think MacOS is the only ones who’ve really gotten it right. Considering that OS/2 was trying to emulate MacOS, you can see where they got that idea. Windows has poorly executed “shortcuts” (having nightmares of the swinging flashlight). Most *nix-like systems require root access to mess with symlinks. Maybe that’s something the Hurd will get right with translators and unionfs.
Less we forgett OS/2 still has better support for more graphics hardware than virtually any other modern OS (Microsoft excluded of course)
That sounds like my reaction to when I saw, at my local Fish ‘n Chip shop, a deep fried mars bar being sold. I thought, “ewww, yuck”, then I went and bought it, heck, it was only a dollar, and IMHO, I found it way too sweet, but I am sure some people would like it.
For the record, the mars bar is dipped into batter, then deep fried until the batter is golden brown.
As for OS/2, the last experience was around a year ago, OS/2 Warp 4. Apart from my printer not being supported, it was a pretty good operating system. Stable, reliable and functional. Most important of all, no unnecessary bloat or eye candy. It looked industrial in the sense that “this is an operating system you get work done on”.
A few years before my experience and the second round of sledging between Netscape and Microsoft began, a prominant consumer advocate said that the worst thing that could happen to Microsoft is if IBM started to give OS/2 away for free, along with development tools and so forth.
Maybe that is what should have happened a few years ago. A free, opensourced, IBM guided OS/2.
os/2 is quite stable, it’s running a voice mail server at work and we have more trouble with the Verizon link to it than the os. The only box at work that is more stable is the netware 3.2 machine.
The Mars Bar is no more either!!!!
Buy them while you can. They are now being rebranded as “Snickers Almond.” That’s all they were anyway.
Yes, it is. I still boot it up and use ProNews/2 among other OS/2 programs. I bought my video card (ATI Rage 3d IIc) because it explicitly supported OS/2.
My PC has a Drub98 partition because, well, you know…and an OS/2 partition (actually, several) and my Linux flavor of the month, Lycoris. (Apologies to SuSE – you caught on an off (SuSE) month.)
Bottom line: Love Linux, could do without Drub98…
OS/2??? “Now there’s an OS for ya’. Did I ever tell you about the time me an’ the Workplace Shell was a cruisin’ down th’ internet and a…”
Rebranded as Snickers Almonds?! YOUVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! Thats my favorite chocolate bar damnit! And im allergic to nuts…so almonds arent my thing. Geez…ruining a good thing like that. Well that sucks.
when did the last ps/2 sold and shipped? i used to own a model 50, but then ps/2 mysteriously disappeared.
why didn’t ibm preload os/2 with their own ibm branded pc’s? that would have sold many os/2s right then and there.
also, why did amiga os die but mac os, which was clearly inferior, survive?
And yes, the config.sys was daunting, specifying everything about the system, down to the maximum number of threads allowed.
…but at least it was a FREAKING TEXT FILE. I keep mentioning this in the comments. Most of the fragility of windows is due to the registry. It can’t easily be fixed from the command line the way DOS and OS/2’s config files can.
And don’t dare compare winnova 2000 with OS/2 of any kind. Everything good about the windowsnt family is due to its shared heritage with OS/2. You could say NT and above are forks of OS/2. Oh, and is HPFS a 16bit file system? No, I don’t think so. It is like NTFS, but instead of security attributes, it has extended attributes. Microsoft wrote HPFS, I have read. Which means is suprising, considering how good it seems to run…
For all the things people say about how good OS/2 is/was, I think this is more of a case of wishful thinking and/or rooting for the underdog. I too wish OS/2 and ECS all of luck, the more OSes the merrier, but it’s not an OS I’d use.
I really wanted to like OS/2. IBM quality, a cool name, runs nicely on quality IBM hardware with worthless Intel CPUs, a lot of network-oriented software.
I wanted to like and use OS/2. First I found version 2.1 while taking out the garbage. Very uninteresting, and the CD support in that version required a separate IDE controller. Like Windows, but multitasking.
Then I got one of those copies of Warp 3 which seemed to flood the PC world at one time. No TCP/IP support (red spine?) on Ethernet, and rather slow.
So I got myself a pirate copy of Merlin, OS/2 Warp 4. Complicated bloody install, but at least it didn’t look like shite like the previous versions. Actually rather nice, save for the icons and IBM GUI concepts which would prove ample inspiration for a book on how user interfaces are not to be designed. And it was slow as hell.
If you ignore the slowness (it’s after all an IBM product, they just throw hardware at the problem), we get to the real problem with OS/2; it aimed at PC-DOS compatibility. No OS is as MS-DOS compatible as OS/2. It can virtualise the machine in order to run several MS-DOS variations at once, for those with some kind of perversion. While running PC-DOS in a good way as opposed to a not-so-good way (as Windows 95 onward) is no bad point, running MS-DOS at all is a very bad choice. It makes the file system look just as inspiring as if you’d turned your IBM PC on a rainy autumn day 1981. You’ve got volumes with silly names such as A:, B:, C:, and even D:. If you have a lot of partitions, you may go as far as a Z:. These volumes are filled with lots of silly filenames like PINBL19.DLL, VBRLMAN4.SYS, BLUT_IN.EXE and so on. Looks like a modern system, doesn’t it?
And it follows almost all the same concepts as Windows. Place a Windows user in front of OS/2, and he’d be up and running after taking two seconds to notice that the close, minimise and maximise gadgets don’t quite look like at home.
To me, OS/2 and Windows are two sides of the same coin, and choosing one over the other is about as interesting as choosing between plague and tyfus.
Er…. Windows STILL use those things…
(hint: look at “My computer”).
Nope, that’s not the case here in Australia. Still mars bar.
6 years ago (6 years !!) i built a complete client/server application with real time needs. We used OS/2 both for client and server desktops.
Clients (10 desktops) had : DB2/2 client with its own token ring manager, a native GUI application under Presentation Manager connected to the server database. The application was in C with Borland compiler. The entire desktop was totally reconfigured with simple but powerful REXX language (all OS/2 elements are real objects).
Server was an IBM raid server, with DB2/2 server under OS/2. The server was also connected to our host (IBM 3090) where CICS transactions launched some processes on our server.
We also developed multi-threaded programs for DB2/2 updates.
All was simple to use. OS/2 is a very stable and complete system. 6 years ago (!!). We used the same OS/2 that was delivered for ended users.
The alternative is a Moro made by Cadbury. Basically a bigger Mars. I am not too sure about its availability in the US, but you can get them in NZ.
That’s exactly what I said, silly!
Windows and OS/2 are both the offspring of MS-DOS, and even twenty years from now, they will rely on stone-age technologies like file suffixes and drive letters.