Happy 25th birthday, OS/2; you were great/awful

It's IBM OS/2's 25th birthday. So long, farewell, we hardly knew ye. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers fondly reminisce.

By Richi Jennings: Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: A nun with a beeper...

    Harry McCracken dusts off the history books:

On April 2, 1987...IBM unveiled its plans to reinvent the PC industry...[with the] PS/2 line...accompanied by a next-generation operating system, OS/2...intended to replace DOS. ... It never did. Instead, Microsoft’s Windows reinvigorated DOS. ... By the mid-1990s, IBM had given up.


Microsoft was two-timing the operating system it had co-created. In May 1990, it released Windows 3.0, the first version that was sort of decent. ... Every PC maker...except IBM soon standardized on it. ... [Microsoft] argued that OS/2 was, in...Steve Ballmer’s cheery words, “a dead end.”


OS/2 may have stubbornly refused to become a breakout hit, but it would be grossly misleading to suggest that nobody liked it. ... Much of that love was channeled into an organization called Team OS/2. ... Tech journalists discovered that it was difficult to write about the software without incurring wrath.   

     Alan Shimel adds local color:

OS/2 is the poster child of why very often the best technology doesn't win. ... When IBM launced the original PC (largely developed here in the Boca Raton area where I live) they choose...DOS. ... Microsoft was...making sure they would maintain their dominance of PC operating systems.


Well you all kind of know how this turns out. ... The guys from Redmond led IBM down the garden path. ... [The] first version of OS/2 sucked, so did the 2nd. ... Microsoft had been playing IBM on OS/2. ... They were talking about a new Windows (eventually Windows 95) and a Windows...NT.   

Esther Schindler has form:

OS/2 paid my rent. ... I taught corporate training classes about OS/2; ... I was an active member of Team OS/2; I was a sysop of the OS2APPS forums; ... I was a founder of the world's biggest OS/2 user group. ... I wrote books about the OS...any magazine article about an OS/2 product had a...good chance of having my byline.


After the messy divorce (in which you could see the parents trying to be polite in public)...IBM made a sincere effort to sell OS/2 to consumers as well as to enterprise IT. ... [But] it was still IBM. Even if the salespeople put on polo shirts, they were wearing white shirts and ties underneath.


IBM had no idea how to work with software developers, especially ISVs. ... Most OS/2 users went to Linux...our hearts were broken.   

[disclosure: Esther is a client]  Speaking of Linux, here's Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols:

Before Linux showed up in 1991, OS/2 was Windows’ main rival...a real challenger to Windows.


Microsoft went into their business customers and said, “I’m here to sell you OS/2 1.0… But...our next version of Windows is going to be really cool.” ... Microsoft had enough industry clout that they’d started forcing vendors into installing only Windows on their PCs.


Despite that though, OS/2 still lives on. ... EcomStation is a fully compatible OS/2 clone. ... OS/2 is also still used in the New York subway system and in some bank ATM systems. ... Operating system may grow old, they may be abandoned, but they almost never truly die.   

But Robert David Graham warns of rose-tinted glasses:

[The] only thing OS/2 was better than was MS-DOS. But it did evolve into WinNT, which...was indeed the superior technology.   

And Finally...
Nun with a beeper

[hat tip: Alan Shimel]

Don't miss out on IT Blogwatch:

Richi Jennings, your humble blogwatcher

Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. He's the creator and main author of Computerworld's IT Blogwatch, for which he has won ASBPE and Neal awards. He also writes The Long View for IDG Enterprise. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

To express your thoughts on Computerworld content, visit Computerworld's Facebook page, LinkedIn page and Twitter stream.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon