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Was MS-DOS (and similar) an entry barrier to computing?


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#26 rpiguy9907 OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 18, 2019 10:41 AM

Ironically, in the early days DOS was simple but price was the barrier. By the time PC prices came down enough for home users, DOS had grown very complex and there was a usability barrier.

 

DOS was incredibly simple until the 286 came along and suddenly memory management became a thing.

 

There was hardly anything for the home user to configure, didn't really need to fiddle with config.sys or AUTOEXEC.BAT (in fact I believe these weren't even in the early versions of DOS).

 

TSRs and drivers didn't really become necessary until the second half of the 80s.

 

Early disk games auto-booted or required very simple commands to start.


Edited by rpiguy9907, Mon Mar 18, 2019 10:42 AM.


#27 zzip OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 18, 2019 11:32 AM

 People have always been deterred from going with third party solutions or any solution whose future is unknown.

 

Which is why MS-DOS remained the standard well into the 90s, it had compatibility and a certain future.   Plenty of other options were available--  OS/2, any number of Unix variants, GEM.   Not even Windows could unseat DOS at first, because until Windows 95 forced the issue,  Windows ran as just another application on top of DOS that you had to invoke with the "win" command.   If you didn't need it, you didn't bother to run it.   



#28 mr_me OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 18, 2019 12:01 PM

It's too bad ms-dos didn't include multitasking or task-switching capability. It would have made people's lives easier and the hardware was certainly capable of doing it. People did see the advantages of windows, one being multitaskng. Organizations have enormous investments in their existing data and human resources not to mention the hardware and software investment. That type of change takes time.

#29 Osgeld OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 18, 2019 12:40 PM

There was concurrent dos by Digital Research (of cpm fame) but it really was only used in small biz



#30 mr_me OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Mar 18, 2019 4:38 PM

And Digital Research had multi-user, multi-tasking solutions for 8-bit z80 cpm machines with as little as 32 kB ram.

#31 youxia ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 19, 2019 2:14 AM

No..   plenty of non-technical people used DOS.   If it was so archaic that it scared people away, it never would have become the dominant platform at a time that everyone else had gone full GUI.

 

This, plus people seem to "forget" about crucial soft such as Norton Commander. This makes all the alleged command line sorcery a breeze. In fact my actual Win 10 GUI at the moment consists of two (or 3) Total Commanders windows.

 

These kinda threads seem a fertile ground for myth-making and wild statements anyway :) Amiga was a plastic toy? Sure, all these media folk where it was a standard for years had it backwards. Alongside Atari ST, what with the MIDI/tracker revolution it helped to spark. Single-tasking was never a barrier to creativity/productivity. You could maybe even make an argument that procrastrination has increased wildly with being able to have your spreadsheet open next to Minesweeper, or now a browser with 30 tabs full of delicious distractions.



#32 mr_me OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 19, 2019 3:21 AM

It's true when people multitask they can lose focus. But, sometimes having two things open on the computer can help people do one task. Back when Lotus-123 didn't do charts and graphs it was really helpfull to be able switch between harvard graphics and the spreadsheet. Or when Wordperfect couldn't open more than one file at a time having two sessions open for copy paste made it so much easier. Or looking something up in a database without closing your work. Background processing wasn't normally needed but if you ever printed a large document on a slow printer it was nice to be able to switch to the next task. For advanced users you could script batch processing of data between programs that otherwise didn't have the function saving hours of manual work or thousands of dollars in custom software. Fortunately, ms-dos didn't come with any games as interesting as minesweeper or the internet.

In those days, learning the application software was more of a barrier than learning a couple of dos commands. Fortunately everything came with one or more bible thick books. Seriously, I miss those books, they were very helpfull.

Edited by mr_me, Tue Mar 19, 2019 3:35 AM.


#33 ClausB OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 19, 2019 4:40 AM

DOS was natural for me after CP/M and OS/A+. My barrier to Windows was the constant "are you sure?" badgering.

#34 JBerel OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 19, 2019 6:32 AM

I remember being really ticked off to leave DOS for windows operating system controls most of the time. Other than the config and autoexec stuff, I felt like I was handing over the controls to Microsoft, which ultimately I was. I never became a fan of linux. I know how to use it, and still do when necessary, but it's always been undesirable to me for some reason. I guess if we're talking about that brief period before Windows 3.1 went mainstream, I could see people having a hard time taking up a new PC. If you started on the very first PCs in 79-80, things just seemed to get more powerful and easier to use if you were having to do things the hard way from the start. Use a cassette loader for a couple years, then tell me how much you hate DOS.



#35 zzip OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 19, 2019 7:46 AM

These kinda threads seem a fertile ground for myth-making and wild statements anyway :) Amiga was a plastic toy? Sure, all these media folk where it was a standard for years had it backwards. Alongside Atari ST, what with the MIDI/tracker revolution it helped to spark. Single-tasking was never a barrier to creativity/productivity. You could maybe even make an argument that procrastrination has increased wildly with being able to have your spreadsheet open next to Minesweeper, or now a browser with 30 tabs full of delicious distractions.

 

Single-tasking was the norm in desktop computers.  People took it for granted.   When multi-tasking arrived, it was like what kind of sorcery is this.

 

We are also judging these computers in hindsight, compared to what we have now.   But back then we judged them against what we had before..   More memory!  16-bit faster CPU,  higher capacity disk!  Higher resolution screen!   I can do so much more with this! 



#36 JamesD OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 19, 2019 8:49 AM

From someone that sold computers in the MS-DOS days... no it wasn't an obstacle.
We set up menu programs or autoboot disks that didn't require typing commands for customers all the time.
If they wanted to use MS-DOS for something, we'd often show them how to do it.  No big deal.



#37 The Usotsuki OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 19, 2019 10:39 PM

MS-DOS/PC DOS 5's shell had a task switcher (no multitasking though).



#38 Nebulon OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 9, 2019 1:53 PM

I certainly don't miss dealing with memory allocation and that damned DEBUG command.

 

Ugh. 

 

However, I did enjoy the command line. 

 

Here are some commands to take you back in time...

http://www.blitter.c...lous/msdos.html

 

As for the Amiga... it was only a toy if you wanted it to be one.



#39 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Apr 9, 2019 2:23 PM

I did! I wanted it to play all the arcade games, and all the PC games (up to a reasonable timeframe). Just like the salesman said it would. Lying bastard!



#40 ChildOfCv OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 10, 2019 11:10 AM

I certainly don't miss dealing with memory allocation and that damned DEBUG command.

 

Ugh.

Ah, the serenity of a halted system after a MCB chain corruption.

 

CodeView was a cool debugger, except for the amount of memory it consumed.  Same for Turbo Debugger.

 

Watcom Debugger was better than stone knives and bear skins.

 

Sometimes DEBUG was still required anyway :(



#41 spacecadet OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Apr 10, 2019 11:36 PM

All this talk about multitasking... you know the iPhone couldn't even multitask until iOS 4 in 2010? Yet it still did pretty well without that feature.

 

Most people do not care a whit about multitasking. Humans can't multitask - it's a myth. The most we can do is task switch quickly, but we lose efficiency when we do so. So nobody really needs a multitasking OS and most people won't ever use more than one program at a time. I personally do, but I'm a weirdo like that. (Even if I do, I'll usually just have one app running in the background on a second monitor while I do something else on the primary monitor.)

 

You can argue that the command line interface was a barrier to computing, but that's like arguing that the stick shift was a barrier to car ownership. First, plenty of people bought both products anyway, and plenty of those and other people still rely on the earlier interface because it can do things that the newer one can't. So... the most you can say is it was a barrier to people who couldn't figure out that earlier interface, be it the command line or stick shift. But that's not to say the newer interface is better, or even necessarily simpler. It's just different in a way that more people can seem to grasp.



#42 youxia ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Apr 11, 2019 2:34 AM

All this talk about multitasking... you know the iPhone couldn't even multitask until iOS 4 in 2010? Yet it still did pretty well without that feature.

 

Most people do not care a whit about multitasking. Humans can't multitask - it's a myth.

 

Human and computer multitasking are two different things. I can't imagine my PC being able to execute only one program at a time anymore, it'd meant I'd have to close Firefox to fire up Thunderbird, copy something from an email, close Thunderbird, only then open the notepad and paste it in...instead of just alt tabbing and without the chance to listen to music during all these tedious operations.



#43 Keatah OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Apr 11, 2019 2:59 AM

A single core single thread cpu doesn't really multitask as we think. Like my Pentium III can do iTunes, be downloading through Firefox, be programming a large EPROM, all while I'm playing Gyruss.

 

Does it look like it's multi-tasking? You bet. Is it really? No. It's just context switching very very fast to give the illusion of multitasking.

 

Considering granularity and speed of switching. At what speed does it appear multi-tasking? And at what speed does it appear to be context switching?

 

A sufficient;y fast rig will appear to run two or more things simultaneously to a sufficiently slow human.



#44 mr_me OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Apr 11, 2019 6:06 AM

The old iphones couldn't multitask in background but it could task switch programs. That is mostly what people need but standard ms-dos couldn't even do that.

#45 zzip OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Apr 11, 2019 8:04 AM

You can argue that the command line interface was a barrier to computing, but that's like arguing that the stick shift was a barrier to car ownership. First, plenty of people bought both products anyway, and plenty of those and other people still rely on the earlier interface because it can do things that the newer one can't. So... the most you can say is it was a barrier to people who couldn't figure out that earlier interface, be it the command line or stick shift. But that's not to say the newer interface is better, or even necessarily simpler. It's just different in a way that more people can seem to grasp.


In some ways the CLI was easier for low-tech saavy people. These days everyone is used to tech, phones, and GUI interfaces in general. But in the 90s, I would
frequently run into people who did not understand tech at all, or they were afraid of it, afraid of screwing something up. They needed a computer to do their job
but would demand step-by-step instructions to run the tasks they needed.

In DOS/Cli, this was easy, you put all the commands into a batch file, and told them to type the name of the batch file.

But with a GUI, trying to give such step-by-step instructions was a nightmare. It was like you have double-click this icon, but the icon may or may not be on screen it may be
in a window that's minimized, or the app may already be running and you have to maximize it. If they clicked out of the app, you'd have
to tell them how to get back into it. And they would panic if anything didn't go like they expected.
Even the concept of double-clicking was hard to grasp for some of these people, they would generally click too slow at first.

Like I said, today people are pretty tech-saavy and I never run into this anymore. Back then it was not uncommon.

#46 Flojomojo OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Apr 11, 2019 8:25 AM

^^ that's a good point.

For a low skilled individual with only a few tasks to perform, CLI could be easiest, especially if frequently used things were automated to a single key press or command.

For a smart/curious person who wants to think about other things than the needs of the computer's operating system, a WIMP GUI would be better. Until they drag components of their System Folder to the Trash (which was easily done in early Mac OS).

For the person who really cares about how things work, the command line will always be the most powerful and versatile.

My personal preference will always be the nice GUI, but I'm glad we have a robust CLI in every modern OS now as an option.




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