DRI History and Joe Wein

This document copyright Herbert R. Johnson 2010. Updated Feb 19 2010.
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In Nov 2009, I had email conversations with Joe Wein, a former Digital Research Inc. programmer. Here's some exerpts. My comments are in []'s. Joe Wein has a DRI related Web site at this link. - Herb Johnson]

[Herb wrote: "I've had occasion to hear from Douglas Goodall; he says he brought the abandoned CP/M-86 Plus to the UK where it spurred development there. Comments?"

Hi Herb,

Doug was working in the UK doing ports (BIOS, XIOS work) for various European OEMs until just before I came to the UK. In fact I received his former company car (a standard perk in the UK at the time).

When I joined there were just Andy Wightman and Paul Roddick working with me under Howard Kornstein, the technical director of DR UK. After me Glenn Stephens joined and one of his earlier projects (before we received CDOS 4.1) was the contract from Philips Vienna for which we build what was called DOS Plus. It was basically the CP/M-86 Plus OEM version combined with the DOS emulator from Concurrent DOS 4.11, which was still rather crude (CDOS 4.11 was CDOS 4.1 from the US with added internationalization and some bug fixes to the DOS 2.x emulator). Philips built what I think was a 80188 machine, it was supposed to be low cost.

While my memory is somehat hazy about the exact timing and details of the DOS Plus project, it started after Doug left, though he may well have physically brought the CP/M-86 Plus OEM kit to the UK. I would have to check with Andy Wightman.

I think CP/M-86 Plus used the Concurrent CP/M file system code but didn't have the dispatcher and process handling. They did have some kind of RSX (resident system extension) for programs to saty resident and extend the operating system. As far as I know there had not been any OEM contracts for it before. It was kind of orphaned: Too late and not quite what the market wanted by then.

Attached is a picture of my "Hacker's Trophy", a tin mug I and others in the team received from Howard Kornstein after the DOS Plus contract. You may still remember the time when "hacker" referred to someone who likes to throw together code quickly with no regard to clean design or elegance, not someone who breaks into computer systems.

It was only in CDOS 5.x that we put direct equivalents of the DOS file system API into the native file system, and that is what became the basis of DR DOS. After DOS Plus for Philips we did a version for Amstrad, but soon it became apparent that we needed a more native implementation of the DOS API to be more compatible, and the opportunity arose when Kay Nishi of ASCII Corporation in Japan put up a million dollars for a contract to develop it after he fell out with Microsoft (he had been instrumental in opening the Japanese OEM market for Microsoft). DR DOS was a much more interesting product than DOS Plus because we had freeer hand about what code we could write. DOS Plus was more of kludge, but it was the first operting system release from DR UK and opened the door for us taking on DR DOS, CDOS and CDOS 386.

[Joe Wein also wrote:]

You seem to have an interesting collection of material that brings back many memories from decades past.

To this day I work with a few other ex-DRI engineers, including Tom Rolander who was the first engineer hired by Gary Kildall at DRI. I'm also still in touch with former colleagues from DRI's European Development Centre in the UK where we developed DOS Plus, DR DOS, all but the first version of Concurrent DOS and then CDOS 386.

These days I use Windows XP, Ubuntu and Mac OS X (on different machines). It's good to see that Microsoft is facing some competition again. Innovation and creativity will always continue, even if good marketing can often beat good engineering.

- Joe Wein, Japan

Contact information:

Herb Johnson
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Copyright © 2010 Herb Johnson except for quotes of Joe Wein which are his.