DOS Guide: History, Origin and More

Tim Paterson

DOS Guide: History, Origin and More

4 Facts about DOS 

  • Each of the files saved in DOS must have a unique title. The name consists of an optional drive letter, an optional path, desired filename, and an optional extension. 
  • DOS saves all recent information retrieved by users. Therefore, it automatically stores current information and buffers essential information that users accidentally deleted. 
  • DOS does not allow users to use the names AUX, PRN, LST, NUL, and CON in creating or renaming their files because they are reserved system names. 
  • DOS was a Character-based User Interface (CUI) that could only save text-based files. This made users opt for Graphical User Interface (GUI), which was user-friendly and could store Graphics to a floppy disk.

What is DOS: Explained 

DOS is an acronym for Disk Operating System that runs on the disk drive. DOS is responsible for managing and controlling program activities and saved data in the storage system. It was primarily created to operate on IBM-compatible personal computers in the 1980s.  

At first, DOS was owned by a Seattle company, Seattle Computer Products (SCP), and was initially created to serve the SCP’s 8086 cards. It was known as QDOS and later renamed 86-DOS. At this time, IBM asked Microsoft to purchase a non-exclusive license for 86-DOS from SCP for $25,000. The request was successful as Microsoft bought the rights to 86-DOS from SCP for $50,000 in July 1981.

Quick Facts

Creator (person)
Tim Paterson
Original Price
Operating System
Developed By (company)

Although the DOS was dominant in the 1980s, it was gradually replaced by newly introduced operating systems such as UNIX and GUI. Furthermore, most DOS users stopped using it after the release of Windows 95, Windows 9x, and Windows Me, which were not dependable on DOS to run its activities.

How to Use DOS

The DOS used the Command Line operations to connect users to its operating system. It has over 100 command lines, where users type in a command and wait for the operating system to interpret the instructions. Here is a tutorial on how to use the DOS command line.

First, click Start, go to all programs, accessories, and command prompt. Alternatively, you can click on Start, type CMD (a shortened form for a command) on the space bar, then press ENTER. After you are done with the opening process, your screen will display this character C:Userscount> known as the user directory. For example, you are user ABC. Your folder prompt will be C:UsersABC>. The C:UserABC> prompt means we are in the C: default drive letter and working on the ABC directory.

Another command line is the DIR which allows you to list files in the current directory. When using the DIR command, file attributes will quickly display the directories you want to list. Use the following letter codes after the “/a” on the prompt:

  • d: will display all directories on the current line
  • r: display ROM files
  • h: will show all hidden files
  • a: will display files ready for archive
  • s: will display system files

For instance, you want to find all the directories on the current path, you will type in the dir /ad command, and it displays each of them. Also, the DIR tutorial will work if you combine two-letter codes; for example, use the dir /ash to display all the system files, including the hidden ones. 

You can also use the cd command line to change directories or move around the files. The following tutorial will guide you when using the cd command line. 

  • Cd / you will move to the root directory
  • Cd or cd ~ you will move to the home directory
  • Cd – you will move to the previous directory
  • Cd .. you will move up to the following directory

If you want to remove or delete a directory, you will use the rm: command. Another command in the command line is the mkdir, which is used when creating a file. You will use the command followed by the name you wish to call your directory. For example, if you want to name it ABC, you will use mkdir ABC.

How To Learn DOS

Learning about all the command lines is quite challenging. However, relevant sources would help you better understand how to use the command prompt. The first tool guide is your personal computer. If you want to find all the commanding prompts on your PC, type “Help” and press enter once opened the command prompt. This process will provide a list of commands in your MS-DOS and give a short description of their work. 

If you already know the type of command prompt you want to use, you can use its name followed by a /? to get more details. For example, if you type dir /? You will find all the information about the dir command prompt. 

The Difference Between DOS vs. Windows

DOS is a Single-tasking operating system while Windows is Multitask operating system. Using DOS is time-consuming because you can only run one operation at a time, unlike Windows, where users can perform different tasks simultaneously. DOS doesn’t support networking while Windows support networking. Therefore, Windows are more reliable than DOS because it can connect to other computers to share data and resources among multiple users.

DOS is a command-line operating system, while Windows are the graphical operating system. DOS users had a tough time operating the command line system, which required them to type letter code commands to perform computer functions. On the contrary, the graphical user interface (GUI) helped Windows users perform tasks effortlessly by moving a pointer and selecting the displayed graphical objects they wanted to use. 

DOS operating system does not support multimedia, while Windows supports multimedia. Users of MS-DOS cannot perform activities such as playing games, watching movies, or listening to music, whereas Windows users can enjoy all the multimedia programs. 

DOS is an operating system that can use a disk storage device while Windows is developed, marketed, and sold by Microsoft. DOS can reside on the floppy disk or hard disk drive and efficiently run its operations. The case is different on Windows as users cannot install it on external diskettes.  

DOS is not widely used today, while Windows is the dominant operating system globally. Many users prefer Windows because it is user-friendly and has more features than DOS. It has a maximum storage size of 2GB, while Windows provides up to 2 terabytes of storage space. Therefore, Windows users can store a lot of data without worrying about their memory storage, unlike the DOS users with limited space. DOS is free for all IBM PC while windows are costly. Users buy the original Window versions are a high cost. 

DOS Release History

Disk operating system was initially called the QDOS operating system and was first developed in April 1980 by Tim Paterson (born June 1, 1956). Paterson studied engineering and worked as a Technician at Seattle –area Retail Computer Store. He redesigned an 8086 CPU card for SCP, and once it was done, Digital Research approached SCP to see if the 8086 CPU card could run on Control Program/Monitor (CP/M). Microsoft wanted the program to run on their computers; therefore, at the end of May 1979, Paterson went to Microsoft, and in a week or so, he cranked out all 32K of Microsoft’s Basic onto the 8086 cards.

Tim Paterson
Tim Paterson was the developer of DOS.

In April 1980, Paterson began work on an operating system for SCP’s 8086 cards. He recalled that the first step was to write down what CP/M-80 did and then design a file system that was fast and efficient. In the Second half of 1980, IBM was in a hurry searching for software for its new upcoming personal computer, which would become the original IBM PC. 

In July, IBM approached Microsoft for an operating system that would run in their computers. At that time, CP/M was the most popular operating system; therefore, Bill Gates referred IBM to Digital Research (DRI), makers of widely used CP/M. IBM felt they needed, namely CP/M, to compete. So, IBM’s representatives visited DRI and discussed licensing. However, the two never got into an agreement as Digital Research rejected IBM’s proposal of $250,000 in exchange for as many copies as IBM could sell and insisted on the usual royal-based plan. 

After the disagreement, IBM returned to Microsoft in October 1980, asking again for an operating system. At that point, Bill Gates mentioned the existence of the 86-DOS operating system of the SCP Company. IBM representative Jack Sams asked Bill Gates to get a license for it, and in December 1980, Microsoft purchased a non-exclusive license for 86-DOS from SCP for $25,000. In July 1981, Microsoft bought all rights to 86-DOS for $50,000. Since then, it has upgraded to a better operating system over the years. Let’s have a look at DOS upgrades throughout history. 

86-Dos 0.10 (August 1980)

The original author of this version was Tim Paterson and it was the first owned by Seattle Computer Products (SCP).

PC DOS 1.0 (August 1981)

Microsoft developed it and was the first IBM release for its personal computers. 

PC DOS 1.1 (May 1982)

Developed by Microsoft and was a double-sided disk for the Upgraded IBM PCs.

PC DOS 2.0 (March 1983)

The primary developer was Microsoft. This version resided on a hard disk drive, subdirectories, and device drivers.

PC DOS 2.1 (November 1983) 

Developed by Microsoft and was introduced in Half-height disk drives and ROM cartridges. It ran on IBM PCjr. 

PC DOS 3.0 (August 1984)

The primary developer was Microsoft and had the large disk support feature. Designed for IBM Personal Computer/AT.

PC DOS 3.1 (April 1985)

Developed by Microsoft and had the local area networking support for IBM PC Network. 

PC DOS 3.2 (March 1986) 

Developed by Microsoft and supported 3.5 inches 720KB floppy diskette. Designed for Token Ring network IBM PC Convertible. 

PC DOS 3.3 (April 1987)

Developed by IBM and supported 3.5 inches 1.44MB floppy disk. It also had extended partitions and was designed for IBM Personal system/2.

MS-DOS 3.31 (November 1987)

The original author was Compaq and had support for hard disk partitions over 32MB

DR DOS 3.31 (May 1988) 

Developed by Digital Research and supported the ROMable DOS

IBM DOS 4.0 (July 1988)

The original author was IBM and was developed for DOS Shell EMS 4.0 usage.

DR DOS 5.0 (April 1990) 

Developed by Digital Research and had the memory management feature

MS-DOS 5.0 (June 1991)

Developed by Microsoft and was designed to support with MS-DOS Editor and QBasic features

DR DOS 6.0 (September 1991)

Developed by Digital Research and had the disk compression feature 

MS-DOS 6.0 (March 1993)

Developed by Microsoft and had disk utilities and double space disk compression features.

PC DOS 6.1 (June 1993)

Developed by IBM and was its first release after the end of partnership with Microsoft

MS-DOS 6.2 (September 1993)

Developed by Microsoft and was an upgrade version of DoubleSpace.

PC DOS 6.3 (April 1994)

Developed by IBM and supported the DS disk compression

MS-DOS 6.22 (June 1994)

It was the last release Microsoft developed. It supported the DriveSpace disk compression feature.

PC DOS 7.0 (April 1995)

Developed by IBM and supported Memory Optimization, Stacker disk compression, and Rexx. 

DOS: End of Development

The release of Windows 3.0 in 1990 had the GUI operating system, which was user-friendly than the command line used by DOS. Further release of the Windows 9X saw most users reject DOS as it could run its system operations independently.  In 1994, Microsoft released their last MS-DOS and announced their split with DOS a few months later. This marked the end of the disk operating system as its final release was on September 14, 2000. The GUI operating system supported in Windows took over the market and has become the most popular operating system. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is DOS?

DOS is an acronym for Disk Operating System that runs on a disk storage device developed by Microsoft to operate in IBM PCs. 

When did DOS come out?

DOS was released on August 12, 1981. 

Who wrote the original disk operating system?

The original author of DOS was TIM Peterson (born June 1, 1956), who worked as a Technician at a Seattle company. 

What was the first DOS?

QDOS (quick and dirty operating system) was the first DOS, later renamed 86-DOS. 

What was the original price of DOS?

PC-DOS was the first released DOS version to the public and was sold at $40. 

What happened to DOS? 

Users rejected DOS after the development of the GUI operating system, which was user-friendly compared to the Character-based User Interface used by DOS.


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