A Famous Part Of MS DOS, The Program That Made Bill Gates, Is Finally Being Retired

A Famous Part Of MS DOS, The Program That Made Bill Gates, Is Finally Being Retired
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Before Microsoft had Office, before it had Windows, it had an operating system called MS DOS. MS DOS was a command-line operating system, meaning you had to memorise a lot of commands and type them into the computer to get it to do things like show you a list of files. And for the past 36 years, every version of Windows still had a way for people to get to this MS DOS command prompt to find and manipulate files, for those needing to do things with their PCs in that old-school way. Until now.

Last month, Microsoft quietly retired the command prompt, the last bit of MS DOS, in its latest version of Windows 10 released to Microsoft’s developer community (known as Windows Insiders). It is being replaced by a technology called PowerShell. That’s a Microsoft technology for writing scripts that just celebrated its 10-year anniversary, Microsoft announced in a blog post.

Ever sensitive to the fact that Windows users, especially programmers, are very particular, it is possible to tell Windows that you don’t want the classic MS DOS prompt to go away in favour of PowerShell. So it’s not completely dead, yet. But short of that, it’s good-bye to the face of MS DOS.

The Making Of Bill Gates

The history of MS DOS is part legend, part myth, but either way, it is responsible for Bill Gate’s fortune, as well as that of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

The story goes: IBM was building a new device, a personal computer, using a fast new chip and it needed an operating system.

It went to the guy who was famous at the time for building operating systems for small computers. Legend has it, he wasn’t home because he was a pilot and out flying, so the meeting never happened. Another version says he did meet with IBM but couldn’t agree on price.

Meanwhile, IBM also decided not to write all the software for the new device itself and came to a tiny company called Microsoft to partner on a language called BASIC. Microsoft had become known for this language.

In talking to IBM, Bill Gates heard of IBM’s predicament for an operating system so he went out and bought one, and hired the guy that created it to turn it into MS DOS. It was one that competed with the pilot’s operating system. Legend has it, he paid $75,000, offered it to IBM for $50,000 with the stipulation that Microsoft was allowed to licence it to other PC makers, too.

And with that Microsoft’s empire was born. The business model of licensing the same operating system to many PC makers took off, and the PC industry flourished. Flash forward a couple of decades and Bill Gates became the richest guy in the world.

This article was originally published on Business Insider Australia


  • Um command prompt != DOS prompt. DOS isn’t installed on win computers from Win95 onwards, so this article’s about two decades late in that regard.

    • Indeed. And they aren’t retiring the command prompt either, just replacing the default to be powershell. Dumb article.

    • Command prompt != DOS prompt, but it shares the same interface, commands, etc. It’s the “face” of the old MS-DOS and it’s being phased out after all these years.

    • Sorry, but Win9x was underpinned by MS-DOS (version 7 iirc) – Windows was still just a pretty and functional shell.
      The NT editions, on the other hand, are what grew into what we know now

      • Er no. DOS was only used as a boot loader for the VM and legacy driver for 16 bit devices.

        If Win9x ran on DOS, there would be no need for DOS4GW etc…

  • Whilst cmd.exe isn’t DOS, it certainly retains a lot of the functionality and nuances.

    That in mind, the DOS prompt/Command prompt/cmd.exe ISN’T being retired. As stated in the source article (2 clicks away, mind you), cmd.exe is still available, it’s just the the context menus and shortcuts that would have normalled launched cmd.exe, will now launch Powershell. If you want to access the command prompt, you still can, it’s not being retired, it’s just not the default.

  • Can Powershell do this: find / -exec rm -f {} \;
    Powershell = command prompt = robots in disguise
    Install Linux today. No need to keep upgrading. Think of the money you’d save year after year.

    • Yes:
      Get-ChildItem \ | Remove-Item -Recurse

      Or if your prefer MS-DOS style commands considering the subject of this page, take advantage of built-it aliases:
      dir . | del -r

      But your Linux example is overly complicated; you could just do this:
      rm / -rf

      Or in PowerShell:
      Remove-Item \ -Recurse

      Or again, with MS-DOS aliases:
      del \ -r

      But of course running any of the commands is incredible stupid, so I’m not sure why you even bothered.

  • I am a programmer, but they will have to pry the command prompt from my cold dead hands, i don’t like powershell, i don’t use cmd very often but the times i do i just want to stick with what i know.

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