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OS/2 Lives On!

NewsForge ran this article about FOSS (free and open source software) for OS/2. It was a real eye-opener; I hadn’t even considered the possibility that the kind of grassroots support that has driven the support and development of operating systems such as Linux and the BSDs (OpenBSD, FreeBSD, and NetBSD) might also work for OS/2.

I used to run OS/2, years ago, on one of my very earliest computers. I said then, and I’ll say again today, that OS/2 was light-years ahead of anything else available at the time. Sadly, it’s not always the best technology that wins, and let’s just say that Microsoft has always been good at marketing. (I think both IBM and Novell have seen the strength of Microsoft’s marketing muscle.) The object-oriented WorkPlace Shell was everything that Windows had always wanted to be but never quite made it. And virtual DOS machines—the ability to boot multiple, distinct DOS versions in separate, isolated environments hinted at the virtualization trend that is now taking everything by storm. Of course, this was years and years before VMware ever came into existence (but not before IBM was doing virtualization on the mainframe; see this article for examples).

Alas, OS/2 never got the treatment it rightfully deserved. Languishing from a dearth of native applications, plagued by hardware compatibility issues, bungled by horrible marketing and support from IBM, and going up against the Microsoft juggernaut that was Windows 95, it hardly stood a chance. But it’s nice to see how die-hard OS/2 fans are continuing to support the operating system even now.

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