This week it was announced that Microsoft was releasing its early versions of MS-DOS and Word for Windows in open source.
You may ask why, and some people I told this to did pull the same face. After all, Microsoft has given away anti-virus protection in the past, as well as a pretty good browser, but an entire operating system and word processing software?
It turns out that this was made available with the Computer History Museum of Mountain View, California who is making MS DOS 1.1 and 2.0 and Microsoft Word for Windows 1.1a available “to help future generations of technologists better understand the roots of personal computing”.
Roy Levin, distinguished engineer and managing director at Microsoft Research Silicon Valley, said: “In 1980, IBM approached Microsoft to work on a project code-named “Chess.” What followed was a significant milestone in the history of the personal computer. Microsoft, at the time, provided the BASIC language interpreter for IBM. However, they had other plans and asked Microsoft to create an operating system. Without their own on hand, Microsoft licensed an operating system from Seattle Computer Products which would become the foundation for PC-DOS and MS-DOS.”
After the development and launch of MS DOS, the first DOS-based version of Microsoft Word was released in 1983, with Word for Windows following six years later. “Word for Windows was a remarkable engineering and marketing achievement, and we are happy to provide its source code to the museum,” he said.
TK Keanini, CTO of Lancope, said that as the intent was for historical record this was understandable, particularly as a lot of old computer games that were closed-source have also done this for historical record and archival purposes.
I asked him if he felt that there was a concern in releasing code which could still be used in current offerings, especially considering the Symantec issue of 2012 which saw code from 2006 leaked? Keanini said that there is always a risk when closed-source projects go open-source, because the designers make assumptions based on the disclosure policy. “However in this case, if you have a critical or even non-critical business machine running this version of Word on these versions of MS-DOS, you have larger problems to remedy prior to you facing an advanced threat.”
Precisely, as with less than two weeks to go until the end of another legacy operating system, perhaps some original products behind glass will remind the code developer of when he was a simple computer programmer.