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Thread: If Microsoft BASIC had never existed..

  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by krebizfan View Post
    Someone probably would have done a knock-off of either without MS springing into existence.
    Here in Oz there was an S-100 machine kitted by Applied Technology who went on to produce the Microbee, arguably Australia's most famous/popular microcomputer. They did not want to spend the massive licencing fee for Microsoft Basic so supplied their own. It was called Microworld 12k Level II BASIC. I have the 1981 Users Manual for it right next to me as I type this.

    The Acknowledgements paragraph states:
    "MICROWORLD LEVELL II BASIC is based on a BASIC interpreter written by East Texas Computers. It was developed by John Arnold and Dick Whipple who,incendentally, were the originators of the first TINY BASIC. The "BASIC ETC" has been extensively rewritten by Ron Harris and Matthew Starr for APPLIED TECHNOLOGY and MICROWORLD. This manual has been written by Ron Harris and Owen Hill."

    I recall hearing Matthew Starr was a high school student at the time. It was a quirky BASIC as far as I remember, mostly the delegation of variable names to specific types. Integers had to be A, B, R, Z etc., real numbers had to be W1, W9, V0, G3 etc. and strings were much the same eg. A1$, B9$. They could not be directly assigned to other types without needing to use FLT() and INT().

    The manual says it was ROMable and able to be purchased as such (I think on 2716's), but I always had to load it from cassette tape.

  2. #12

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    If MicroSoft had never existed, Digital Research would have started providing languages sooner, and they would have worked something out with IBM. By the time I joined DRI in 1984, I think half of engineering was the language division. But IBM came around earlier than that, and at that time Gary had the notion that DRI was an operating systems company and MS provided languages (i.e., they were not in competition with each other). Thus, he referred IBM to MS when they asked about languages. Gates had a different understanding of the division of markets and acted accordingly.

  3. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Caluser2000 View Post
    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
    According to Jack Sams, MS had offered to direct IBM to SCP so IBM could purchase from SCP leaving MS out of the OS design challenge completely. IBM didn't want the hassle of taking over SCP-DOS so MS bought SCP-DOS for $25,000 to ensure IBM didn't cancel the IBM PC and the attendant 250,000 BASIC licenses. Rather strange in retrospect that the operating system for the IBM PC was something all the companies involved wanted to let someone else handle.

  4. #14
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    I actually have the DG680 board in my collection. Unbuilt.

    Was Robert Uiterwyk's BASIC a totally separate thing from Tiny BASIC? I know his was on a lot of 6800 systems.

    It's interesting that the companies involved didn't really care about controlling the OS in the beginning. I wonder why. Perhaps the OS didn't seem as important vs hardware and applications? Surely the example of Digital Research would have suggested otherwise.

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    In the old mainframe days, the OS was viewed as part of the hardware package. Source was freely distributed to special customers. If you could afford to pay $150K per month for the hardware, software was no big deal. Besides, what else are you going to run it on? Other than a few IBM imitators, there was no clone competition.

    It also ensured lock-in, which was a big thing.

  6. #16
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    Apple already had Integer BASIC before purchasing Microsoft BASIC to make Applesoft. There were already floating point routines in the Apple II integer ROMs, you just had to peek/poke and call to use them. So it wouldn't have taken much to add full FP support to Integer BASIC, they just found it quicker to get the features they wanted from Microsoft.

  7. #17
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    The point is that writing a BASIC isn't particularly difficult--and for that matter, neither is an operating system on the level of CP/M, which is, at its foundation, a floppy-oriented OS. There were other competitors, some quite a bit better, but tied to specific hardware.

    If I'd have suggested offering our business BASIC or multi-user OS to the market at large, at best, I'd have been dismissed out-of-hand.

    A couple of years later, I shifted gears and moved to supercomputers (again). When ETA was bringing out their liquid-nitrogen cooled beast, I told them that now would be a good time to move to Unix as an operating system, rather than their proprietary OS that ran on no other hardware (I'd already been through on Unix port). Nah. About a year and a half later, I was quietly approached and asked if I would be interested in leading a team to--port Unix to the box. I politely declined, opining that their window had already closed. Eventually they paid an outside firm to do the port, but it was too late for them.

    Think that the world has learned its lesson? Nope! In the last week, I received an email promoting Box.com's cloud storage--for Windows and Mac OS. I dropped them a line stating that several of my devices were ARM-based and required a Linux-based version of their software. Their response was that they had no plans for such a product.

    And so it goes.
    Last edited by Chuck(G); May 26th, 2020 at 01:53 PM.

  8. #18
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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?
    The BASIC for the 5100 was from the IBM S/3, the APL interpreter was from the 360/370. The microcode in the 5100 processor was emulating those systems to run the existing interpreters. That wouldn't work so well running an off-the-shelf Intel 8088 processor on the new PC.

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    No, but you have the structure and syntax (and most of the documentation) already done. Porting the implementation to an 8088 MPU would be a job worthy of a junior-level programmer.

  10. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by bnelson View Post
    The BASIC for the 5100 was from the IBM S/3, the APL interpreter was from the 360/370. The microcode in the 5100 processor was emulating those systems to run the existing interpreters. That wouldn't work so well running an off-the-shelf Intel 8088 processor on the new PC.
    The IBM Datamaster had a BASIC for the 8085 which should have been relatively easy to alter to get running on the 8088. The descriptions of the Datamaster development indicated that software was delayed by attempts to coordinate with other divisions. Going with outside suppliers ensured the PC would not be involved in the same bureaucratic morass.

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