Microsoft Revisits the '80s With MS-DOS, Word for Windows Source Code
In a blast from the past, the software giant releases the source code to some of the products that were most instrumental to its success.Decades before Windows 8.1 and Office 365 hit the market, MS-DOS and Word for Windows graced the hulking, low-resolution CRT monitors of '80s-era PC users. Now, Microsoft is finally letting the public peek into the code that made those two early software offerings tick and helped set the stage for one of the IT industry's biggest success stories. "On Tuesday, we dusted off the source code for early versions of MS-DOS and Word for Windows," said Roy Levin, distinguished engineer and managing director of Microsoft Research, in a March 25 statement. Working with the Computer History Museum, "we are making this code available to the public for the first time," he announced. While based on a command line interface, MS-DOS, or the Microsoft Disk Operating System, which began shipping on IBM PCs in 1981, provided a foundation for the software giant's trademark Windows operating system. Early versions of Windows were essentially a graphical user interface overlaid on MS-DOS. Compared with today's pixel-packed mobile touch-screens and visually slick operating systems, MS-DOS is a barebones computing experience. In an article on the software's contributions to computing, Len Shustek, chairman of the board of trustees of the Computer History Museum, described MS-DOS as "basically a file manager and a simple program loader. The user interface was text commands typed on a keyboard, followed by text responses displayed on the screen. There was no graphical output, and no mouse for input."
Despite its age, Word for Windows hews closer to modern user interfaces. It's successor, the DOS-based, mouse-enabled version or Microsoft Word launched in 1983. In 1989, the company would release Word for Windows, which "became a blockbuster for the company and within four years it was generating over half the revenue of the worldwide word-processing market," said Levin.