OS/2 leads readers' favorite OSs of yesteryear

Also acclaimed: VAX/VMS, DR-DOS, Atari TOS and more. Oh, the memories!

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VMware is all the rage today. But 20 years ago, IBM's VM operating system did exactly the same thing on big iron. -- Steve Parsons

VM was without question the most fun mainframe operating system I have ever worked on -- let alone that it created virtual environments that could run other operating systems ... but with the facilities available in CMS (Conversational Monitor System), not the least of which were REXX and XEDIT.

The ease with which you could put together a truly usable and friendly user environment made doing the same thing in MVS or VSE seem like nailing boards in a tree to climb it instead of using a ladder. Basically, if you could imagine it, you could do it.

Regrettably, I'm not in VM anymore because I got tired of pulling up stakes to go where the VM jobs were. The Unix environment approaches VM in rewards for creativity, but unfortunately, I live in that world only at home. Now I just fight with Windows and live for the weekend while I wait for retirement. Still, better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. -- The Old Crab

VM (and CMS) operating system years ago -- in many ways it parallels Unix. It was not a mainstream project, it had enlightened designers who were building something for themselves, it was readily extensible, and much was "end-user" created. There was an extensive "user" community that would create new tools when they found a need -- and share with that community (rather than putting in a feature request and waiting). In addition, VM/CMS included source code distribution for a number of years. -- David

Easily the best mainframe operating system, IBM's VM/SP -- which became VM/SP HPO, VM/ESA and then zVM -- was a great operating system. First, the commands were easy to use, "print" to print a file, "send" to send and "receive" to receive a file, etc. Next, it had the first commercially viable (though horrid, I'd admit) e-mail application, PROFS. Next, you could run other operating systems virtually 25 years ago, long before VMware, Zen, etc. And, for a long time, it was shipped with the source so you could modify it if necessary. Yeah, it was a mainframe OS, but it was a good one. -- SpeedRacer


Talk about the forgotten OS. When PC-GEOS/GeoWorks made the transition from the Commodore to the 8088 processor it was a huge deal. In the era of CGA/EGA this OS could do things that no other OS was even remotely capable of, particularly in the era of EGA video and 8-bit CPUs. Since it was written entirely in assembly it was amazingly fast and light. -- Danniall

The real beauty of GEOS (and PC-GEOS/GeoWorks Ensemble) was that the Designer program could output files in various Post Script Imagesetter formats to be sent for offset printing, giving some of us awesome publishing abilities for less than $100. I used to have to resuscitate an old machine whenever it was time to redo my largest DTP project, a 17x24-in. restaurant menu, from 1992-1999, when I could finally afford PageMaker! -- Jim Lyons

My first PC, bought in December 1993, had GeoWorks Ensemble (2.0, I believe) installed on it. The custom computer maker who sold it to me said it was at least ten times better than Windows, but for some reason just wasn't as popular. I tried to convert friends over, but it was a losing battle.

Perhaps that computer builder planted the spirit in me that today is busy getting friends (and quite a few paying customers!) to switch away from the buggy, virus-infected, DRM-laced Microsoft world to various flavors of Linux. Here's hoping little Breadbox Computer Company can continue to keep GeoWorks in existence! -- Ron

Atari TOS

I was disappointed but not surprised that the Atari TOS operating system was not mentioned in the article. What the AmigaOS did for video users, Atari TOS did for musicians using MIDI. Atari's inclusion of MIDI ports on its computers and the tight, rock-solid timing it provided in software like Cubase, Notator, Logic, etc. provided the platform of choice for many musicians from the mid-eighties to mid-nineties. -- Ttam Troll

TOS ("The Operating System") and GEM ("Graphical Environment Manager") together gave you a full-blown graphical OS with command-line support in ROM. Ever try to infect a ROM with a virus? Putting the OS on media that could be easily modified was the worst idea ever in computer history. A simple switch could have been used to enable writing to a CMOS-embedded OS, if only a couple of computer developers -- *cough* IBM *cough* Apple *cough* -- had been a little smarter. -- Old Man Dotes

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