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Thread: If Microsoft BASIC had never existed..

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    Default If Microsoft BASIC had never existed..

    I realize this is probably a matter of speculation - but let's assume a parallel universe for a second where Bill Gates/Microsoft didn't exist, and MITS is looking for a BASIC intepreter - were there other companies/people actually engaged in developing same that might have been in a position to capitalize on that? I can only think of Woz's Integer BASIC.. but that's a year or so later on and I'm assuming that'd never be licenced to other companies since it was (I think) specifically developed for the Apple 1.
    Last edited by falter; May 25th, 2020 at 12:32 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by falter View Post
    MITS is looking for a BASIC intepreter - were there other companies/people actually engaged in developing same
    In this bizarro alternate universe, why would you assume they would be looking?
    BASIC was trademarked by Dartmouth, that is why DEC's interpreter was called FOCAL

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    There was Tiny BASIC which got used in a number of systems including SWTPC. Bigger companies with a BASIC in ROM included HP (with 9800) and IBM (with the 5100). Someone probably would have done a knock-off of either without MS springing into existence. Otherwise, one might have seen a world where the other easily ROMmable languages like Forth and APL would had a much wider usage.

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    BASICs were common in the 8-bit world. One of my first toggled-in-programs was probably Gates BASIC, but there were others. I wrote a commercial BASIC myself (along with 2 other guys; got the T-shirt to prove it) for the 8080; a 16 bit BASIC would have been easier (better tools).

    F77 is a lot harder, FWIW. Blew my mind at the time that DRI came out with a more-or-less complete PL/I for the 8080.

    Ryan-McFarland was also very active in the MP market with their version; TDL had one and there were many others.

    And let's not forget that IBM already had a BASIC for the 5100.
    Last edited by Chuck(G); May 25th, 2020 at 01:37 PM.

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    It is interesting the hypothetical notion about what would have happened if some major person, company, product, band etc never came into existence, what would have been the outcome. They did this idea very well recently in the movie Yesterday, where in that story the Beatles never existed.

    It could make a really good movie, say starting with Gary Kildall having breakfast in a Diner and Marty McFly is in there too with the Delorean parked in the alley.. On the way out McFly says to Kildall, "Don't miss that meeting next week with the guys from IBM". So the following week Kildall, instead of going out flying in his plane, stays home for the meeting with IBM. As a result Microsoft never come into existence and the lives of Gates, Kildall and the whole world take a totally different path.

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    Yeah it's just sort of a thought exercise - wondering how things might have developed had Microsoft/Gates basically not existed. I was thinking in terms of Microsoft not being there to produce DOS but then realized it would also mean no BASIC - so I'm wondering if there was any obvious alternative that might have filled the gap.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck(G) View Post

    And let's not forget that IBM already had a BASIC for the 5100.
    Here's a question - it's my understanding part of the situation that got Gates in the door to produce DOS for IBM was a deal he already had to supply BASIC for it. But if IBM already had BASIC, why are they doing to some rando from Seattle to use theirs?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hugo Holden View Post
    It is interesting the hypothetical notion about what would have happened if some major person, company, product, band etc never came into existence, what would have been the outcome. They did this idea very well recently in the movie Yesterday, where in that story the Beatles never existed.

    It could make a really good movie, say starting with Gary Kildall having breakfast in a Diner and Marty McFly is in there too with the Delorean parked in the alley.. On the way out McFly says to Kildall, "Don't miss that meeting next week with the guys from IBM". So the following week Kildall, instead of going out flying in his plane, stays home for the meeting with IBM. As a result Microsoft never come into existence and the lives of Gates, Kildall and the whole world take a totally different path.
    It's something I've been thinking about as a sort of 'What if' story. ie. what if Microsoft/Gates never existed. Are we into pure speculation (ie. someone we're not aware of filling the void), or could we plausibly chart out a few scenarios - ie. Digital Research becomes today's Microsoft, or SCP, or someone else. Are there plausible alternatives?

    Regarding Digital Research, my understanding of the Kildall plane flying thing is that it is largely myth - that he was simply away on business, and his wife was reluctant to sign the NDI. And that he got back, and the real sticking point was IBM's insistence on paying a one time fee, whereas Kildall wanted ongoing royalties. So maybe Kildall digs in and IBM gives in -- is DR up to the task of developing 'PC DOS' and later Windows? Does Kildall end up dying in 1994 even without going into the alleged biker bar? What happens if he dies in 1994 just before 'GEMdows' is about to come out?

    Or, let's say he digs in and IBM tells him to go pound sand just like they did. Where else could they go? Could they have found SCP without Gates? Or would they have had their own software people take over - develop their own OS, and BASIC.. and take their chances with regulators worrying about a monopoly? Or would the PC have become as dominant?

    So many interesting questions - but I'm trying to distill it down to plausible alternative stories.

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    Quote Originally Posted by falter View Post
    Here's a question - it's my understanding part of the situation that got Gates in the door to produce DOS for IBM was a deal he already had to supply BASIC for it. But if IBM already had BASIC, why are they doing to some rando from Seattle to use theirs?
    Easy, the folks down in the Mouse's Mouth were a different division. IBM did not enjoy a lot of inter-division cross-pollination back then. Consider that the Displaywriter came out just before the 5150 and didn't share any software or design. Or the System/23 Datamaster development having nothing at all to do with the PC.

    That was not at all uncommon in larger corporations. I recall sitting in at a CDC Cyber 180 pre-release presentation who had a guy talking about the virtual memory (pager) that they'd put together. I stood up and let him have it--"with the STAR, we tried demand paging back in 1969--it doesn't work. You want working-set paging. Or did you forget that CDC has a large-scale virtual-memory 64 bit machine?" That was, maybe, 1976.

    The guy turned red and admitted that, no, he'd never talked to anyone in that STAR project. Re-inventing the wheel (or re-discovering hydrogen) was one of the large-company hazards.
    Last edited by Chuck(G); May 25th, 2020 at 02:30 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by falter View Post
    Here's a question - it's my understanding part of the situation that got Gates in the door to produce DOS for IBM was a deal he already had to supply BASIC for it. But if IBM already had BASIC, why are they doing to some rando from Seattle to use theirs?
    No. Gates offered a product(MS Dos) that was cheaper than what agreement Kindell wanted. Basic was available in rom in IBM systems for quite a long period of time. At least the late '90s
    Thomas Byers (DRI)- "You'll have a million people using the A> [MS-DOS prompt] forever. You'll have five million using [nongraphic] menu systems such as Topview, Concurrent PC-DOS, Desq, and those types. But there'll be 50 to 100 million using the iconic-based interfaces."

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