back to article Bill Gates, Harry Evans and the smearing of a computer legend

The roots of Microsoft's success in using a clone of Gary Kildall's CP/M operating system are well-known and supported by a court ruling five years ago. But that hasn't stopped a software consultant from making claims that could smear Kildall and the late computer pioneer's legacy. In an astonishing piece published by the IEEE …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Err...

    This seems like an attempt to smear Gates as doing the actual ripping off himself. MS acquired an OS from another company, if any ripping off had been done it was by them.

    Also, didn't the recent Oracle/Google case say that you couldn't copyright an API, which seems to be what the article is saying was ripped off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Err...

      But Gates DID rip off Seattle Computer Products - which is why a court ordered MS to pay triple the price.

      He also ripped off Stacker, but that's another story.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "With the publication of this article,"

    Are you sure it wasn't an advert? It sounds like it.

    The high gloss low content monthly rag of the former UK IEE, now calling itself *the* Institute of Engineering and Technology (though you won't find many chemicals civils mechanicals etc in the "IET") is no better, in fact probably worse.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: "With the publication of this article,"

      Spectrum used to be worth reading, but over the past few years it has dipped down somewhere below "Scientific American" in the quality of its technical journalism. Advertising disguised as paid-for content is standard fare.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    I am thoroughly confused by it all

    To implement a compatible API is definitely not the same as to rip off the actual software. There must be more to it or that judgement is a complete rubbish.

    1. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all

      I don't see anything wrong with looking at someone elses software and thinking "I can do a better job than that." and then going off and writing a similar piece of software.

      If you're not copying the source code, it's not plagiarism. It's simply building a better mousetrap. For example, Dyson built a better vacuum cleaner, even though the concept of a vacuum cleaner had been around for a while.

      1. Ian Yates
        Coat

        Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all

        "I don't see anything wrong with looking at someone elses software and thinking "I can do a better job than that." and then going off and writing a similar piece of software."

        Then you clearly aren't a lawyer, sir! Dontchaknow there's plenty of money to be made around patenting such things?!

        Protect their... err... innovation... or something

      2. Eddie Edwards
        Joke

        Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all

        Dyson ripped off Hoover. Look at the interfaces - a 3-pin plug on a wire, and a nozzle. Exactly the same. It ensures that whole towns full of houses remain compatible with the device. Hoover should be taking Dyson for every penny.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all

          Actually Dyson ripped off the industrial cyclones which are used for various tasks in industry, made it smaller and plastered patents all over it.

          1. keith_w
            Devil

            Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all

            "Actually Dyson ripped off the industrial cyclones which are used for various tasks in industry, made it smaller and plastered patents all over it."

            That's an inovatative use of an existing process. Totally patentable.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all

              Take a big thing and make it smaller? I don't see that as an innovative use of something which already exists.

              For example: I don't think that you can claim that, having seen a mainframe, you can make a desktop sized computer and patent the idea of a desktop sized computer.

              1. westlake

                Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all

                "Take a big thing and make it smaller? I don't see that as an innovative use of something which already exists."

                Carrier was building central air conditioning systems for theaters, hospitals and factories in the 1920s. But the installations were massive.

                The industrial refrigerants used lethal when mishandled.

                That is why you don't see residential air conditioning in common use until the 1950s.

                You can't patent an idea, period.

                What you can do is patent a solution to a particular problem. The transistor that replaces electro-mechanical or vacuum tube logic circuits.

      3. Ivan Headache
        Happy

        Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all

        I laugh at the idea that Dyson built a better vacuum cleaner.

        It sucks muck off the floor just like a Henry.

        1. Nuke
          Thumb Up

          @Ivan Headache - Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all

          Wrote :- "I laugh at the idea that Dyson built a better vacuum cleaner. It sucks muck off the floor just like a Henry."

          So do I (laugh I mean). I thought the idea of a vacuum cleaner was so that you did not have to see the dirt any more. With a Dyson you still see it because the dirt container is transparent.

          From time to time my wife used to deal with Dyson personally. Unlike his public face, he is a arrogant PoS.

      4. Naughtyhorse

        Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all

        true enough.

        but whatever you do don't add any rounded corners.

        i always heard that Kildall didn't want to have anything to do with the 'suits' from ibm, and that was the basis of his not contesting ownership - for what was clearly a funtional copy of his OS. plus that was back in the halcyon days when people were more interested in the tech that monetising it/ (_most_ ppl that is)

    2. Dick Pountain

      Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all

      It seems to me that the law - which has only recenty come to terms with software patents - hasn't yet got to grips with the effects of object-orientation and information hiding. The whole point of OOP is that the precise coding of a function is hidden and not relevant to other users: only the interface or API matters to use that function. That should make the API a crucial part of the intellectual property of any software system, in addition to the detailed source code. It will take decades (if ever) to explain this to lawyers.

      1. A J Stiles

        Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all

        Courts have already held that other people are specifically allowed to implement an API that is compatible with yours. It's called fair competition.

      2. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        @Dick Pountain

        "That should make the API a crucial part of the intellectual property of any software system, in addition to the detailed source code."

        Spoken like a true IP gangster ;-) Not only you seem to like the idea of software patents but also that of API patents, which is likely to bring any progress in any OS development to complete standstill forever. Shiver me timbers...

      3. BlueGreen

        Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all

        You've now confused me.

        > That should make the API a crucial part of the intellectual property of any software system

        The api is the interface.

        The code does the work. This is the hard bit. Like a factory. The api is the delivery system round the back. It gets the results/feeds in raw materials. It is the simple bit.

        If you propose the api should become intellectual property controlled by some owner then are you suggesting the code that underlies it should be now have its legal protection removed? Or are you saying that both api and source code be protected, in which case what is there now that isn't protected? What effect would that have had on the creation of linux, for example?

        I don't think you've thought this through (or I've completely missed your point, perhaps).

        1. Will's

          Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all

          >The api is the delivery system round the back. It gets the results/feeds in raw materials. It is the simple bit.

          Designing a good stable API and underlying data structures is both very difficult to get right, and often restricts the backend coding to a very specific behaviour.

          An API shouldn't be "we have some function calls and we made them public", it should be stable, extensible, compatible and decipherable. The sad fact that this is so often overlooked doesn't make it any less important - the same argument is made for documentation.

          I think his point is that classic OOP is reduction to absurdity until there is almost nothing left but a bunch of interfaces and some loops - if you could claim that all the function names "were the API" (which is taking things a little far!) then in the OOP world there would be little left but the obvious (which is not patentable because its obvious).

          1. BlueGreen

            Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all @Will's

            I know how hard designing a good API is, and how important (more important than the code; interfaces persist longer) but it's a different kind of hard from writing good code & I didn't want to confuse the issue.

            > almost nothing left but a bunch of interfaces and some loops

            The code's there whether you can see it immediately or not, else it wouldn't work. Unless you're supporting my suggestion that apis should be controlled as IP, but that code should perhaps not be? Because it's hardly 'there'?

            BTW is that the real dick pountain esteemed-journalist-writing-since-eighties dude cos it seems astonishingly clueless and just a mite troll'y to be him.

      4. Mark 65

        Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all

        @Dick: The API a crucial part of the IP? Do you work for Microsoft?

        Seriously, you are saying that if a product API implements a GetScreenDimensions() method then nobody else would be able to implement that for compatibility sake in their competing product? Way to miss the point.

        The whole point is that the API is the freely copy-able part of any software to enable competition in the market to thrive and it is the underlying implementation of that API that may or may not be the IP but is probably copyrightable. Remove implementation of the API and you utterly stifle competition through compatibility.

        1. Mookster
          Linux

          Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all

          Except that in good APIs can also be considered a specification for what happens behind it. Depending on hte level, there's not much scope for "inovation".

    3. Tom 13

      Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all

      I believe this is the key bit:

      The first 26 system calls of MS-DOS 1.0 are identical to the first 26 system calls of CP/M. A few of the API names, accessed through CP/M's int 21h mechanism, were altered – CP/M's "Sequential Read" became MS-DOS's "Read Sequential" but the order was preserved.

      Most people would find it difficult to believe that on a purely random basis you'd wind up with 26 items in the exact same sequence. Slightly altering a name here or there reeks of someone copying a piece of art and carefully altering 7 or 9 minor points in order to claim it as different.

      Now, I have no experience writing that sort of hardware level code, so it may be there are good engineering reasons to sequence them in exactly that order. But to a layman it sure looks suspicious. Also I think modern clean room projects to write code that matches APIs wouldn't allow the actual coder to look at even disassembled code from the binary, although I expect those practices have arisen from specific court cases and it was too early in coding history to expect those precautions to have been taken.

      1. hayseed
        Facepalm

        Re: I am thoroughly confused by it all

        Just a jump table of pointers to the actual working code - put the corresponding pointer in the correct position. Not much more suspicious as another set of encyclopedias being labeled the same from 'A'-'Z'.

  4. Kirbini
    WTF?

    Koch brothers takeover of IEEE?

    The IEEE article sounds like the sort of rubbish the Tea Party would issue against the president if he was a coder and they were smart enough to know what an operating system is.

    1. cynic 2

      Re: Koch brothers takeover of IEEE?

      Put a sock in it, will you? Leave the feral politics and zealotry at the US border and give the rest of us some peace.

    2. Aaron Em

      Re: Koch brothers takeover of IEEE?

      You and that damned beeper-selling Turk. Save the "Koch brothers" bullshit for the Exiled, will you?

      1. Aaron Em

        Just dropped by the Exiled Online for the first time in a couple years

        I'd forgotten quite what scum they are over there! About the only thing good I can find to say about 'em is that, come the bloody mob revolt they so cheerfully encourage, they'll be fed to the rabble by an even more ruthless pack of lying, power-grabbing murderers. Maybe, if I'm very lucky, their turn on the gallows will come before mine does, so I can at least smile and wave from my spot in the neck-stretching line.

    3. Helloworld
      FAIL

      Re: Koch brothers takeover of IEEE?

      Add another layer of foil to keep the evil Koch Brothers rays away. Heavy duty Reynolds Wrap should do the trick.

  5. ForthIsNotDead
    Thumb Down

    Backfired

    I cant believe the IEEE would allow such a smearing and thinly veiled "advert" into its pages. I think it'll backfire in IEEE and Zeidman.

    1. Naughtyhorse

      Re: Backfired

      it will really backfire if M$ find out this fuckwit has tacked a fancy-pants search routine on their notepad and is flogging it as his own!

      ( i make this claim on the basis that i have not examined a byte of either code, but just felt like saying it - cos i suspect it's more or less true, and this guy sounds like the kind of asshole who deserves having some urine extracted)

    2. ChaosFreak
      FAIL

      Re: Backfired

      IEEE Spectrum has become a rag over the past few years. You can almost guarantee that the "cover story" will always be some sensational non-scientific nonsense. I'm not at all surprised that they would print this tripe.

  6. Irongut

    So who was Zeidman's first customer for CodeSafe, Oracle?

    1. Jonathan Richards 1

      First client: SCO

      ...prolly.

      Really, it appears that Zeidman has forgotten, or perhaps never knew, how software was developed back then. Big chunks of stuff were written directly in assembler, without there ever being a higher-level language source code. Space was tight. Carrying screeds of comments (i.e. human readable text within the object code) forward would only have happened if exact *copying* had taken place, and nobody ever alleged that, as far as I know.

      Using a debugger to 'explore the internals' of the operating system you're cloning isn't a clean room implementation of the API, though.

      1. Aaron Em

        Re: First client: SCO

        ...was "clean-room implementation" a thing back then, even?

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          "clean-room implementation"

          Compaq did so in creating the BIOS for their PC clone.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "clean-room implementation"

            Compaq pretty much had to. IBM actually published a full, commented listing of the BIOS in the IBM technical reference manual.

            It would be inevitable given the nature of assembly language and the task at hand for sections of code to be identical, so only a documented clean-room implementation would pass muster.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: First client: SCO

        Not only was a fair amount written in assembler, but the early Intel development systems ran CP/M, that's why it got the foot hold. Remember those 8inch floppies!?

        1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

          Re: First client: SCO

          > Not only was a fair amount written in assembler,

          CP/M BDOS and a fair amount of utilities were written in PL/M, not assembler.

          > but the early Intel development systems ran CP/M,

          Early Intel development systems targeting the 8085 ran on DEC machines. Gary wrote the 8080/8085 PL/M compiler for Intel and it ran on DEC. The CP/M code was compiled on DEC. When MS wrote their BASIC for Altair it was compiled on DEC machines and transferred by paper tape.

          It wasn't Intel that wrote the development system that "ran [on] CP/M", it was DRI (and others such as Microsoft). You may also note that there were versions of CP/M that were not on Intel CPUs, eg on Zilog, on 68000.

          > that's why it got the foot hold. Remember those 8inch floppies!?

          The reason that CP/M was popular was because it could be adapted (via the CP/M BIOS) to a variety of different 8080/Z80 machines with different components and different structures. This allowed small manufacturers to produce a disk based OS cheaply that would run a large amount of common software.

          1. Tom 13
            Thumb Up

            @Richard Plinston

            Thanks for the info.

            I came into tech work about the time MS was taking things over, so this bit of history is before me. Nice to hear it from somebody who was there.

      3. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        Re: First client: SCO

        > without there ever being a higher-level language source code

        The CP/M BDOS was written in PL/M not assembler.

        In fact the CP/M project was started when Kildall was contracted to write the PL/M compiler that ran on DEC systems and produced 8085 code. Gary wanted to run the development system on the target machine but Intel weren't interested in doing that, so Gary wound up with the OS he had developed.

      4. westlake
        Pint

        Re: First client: SCO

        "Carrying screeds of comments (i.e. human readable text within the object code) forward would only have happened if exact *copying* had taken place, and nobody ever alleged that, as far as I know."

        Jerry Pournelle certainly did:

        "Legend tells us Kildall himself buried a secret message in CP/M and that the message can also be found in MS-DOS.

        In 2006, science fiction writer and technology reporter Jerry Pournelle said on “This Week in Tech,” an Internet radio show, that this secret command triggered the display of a copyright notice for DRI and Kildall’s full name. According to Pournelle, Kildall had demonstrated this command to him by typing it into DOS; it produced the notice and thus proved that DOS was copied from CP/M.

        This story, circulated for years, has a few problems. First, no one knows the secret command; Pournelle claims he wrote the command down but has never shown it to anyone. In addition, such a message would be easily seen by opening the binary files in a simple text editor unless the message was encrypted. CP/M had to fit on a floppy disk that held only 160 kilobytes; Kildall’s achievement was squeezing an entire operating system into such a small footprint. But it is difficult to imagine he could do this and also squeeze in an undetectable encryption routine. And although we’re now in an era of hackers breaking into heavily secured computers, no one has ever cracked DOS to find this secret command.

        But I set out to look for it anyway. I used a utility program developed at SAFE to extract strings of text from binary files. Not only did Kildall’s name not show up in any QDOS or MS-DOS text strings, it did not show up in CP/M either. The term “Digital Research” did appear in copyright notices in the CP/M binary files, but not in MS-DOS or QDOS binary files.

        If Jerry Pournelle did indeed see a hidden message revealed by a secret command, it was not in MS-DOS"

        http://m.spectrum.ieee.org/computing/software/did-bill-gates-steal-the-heart-of-dos/0

        1. (AMPC) Anonymous and mostly paranoid coward
          Gimp

          Re: First client: SCO

          Here's a secret MS DOS command I prepared earlier, complete with source code (sic).

          L:\>NOTEPAD SECCMD.bat

          @echo Copyrighted 1978 by Digital Reseach Inc. Author Gary Kilman

          L:\>seccmd

          Copyrighted 1978 by Digital Reseach Inc. Author Gary Kilman

          I reckon Gary was just having a little fun with a mildly gullible science fiction writer after a few beers.

          And who says legends can't have a sense of humor?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: First client: SCO

            "I reckon Gary was just having a little fun with a mildly gullible science fiction writer after a few beers."

            A few more than a few.

        2. Ancientbr IT

          Re: First client: SCO

          Decades ago I wrote an article in a small circulation newsletter. It presented a short TI BASIC program that contained a series of complex equations embedded in a simple loop that ran from 0 to 9; the output from each pass was PRINTed. If anyone was bothered to key in the program and run it, the result was displayed on the screen: APRIL FOOL. No prizes for guessing the publication month.

          That text string did not appear anywhere in the code - it was the result of output from the injection of the integers 0 through 9 into a complex polynomial derived from a solution (one of many possible) by infinite integrals. In other words, the ASCII values were generated in sequence from a complex curve.

          I can't say what method Gary Kildall used but I can say that it's entirely possible to cloak text without resorting to encryption (even now I'm working on a similar technology for a novel approach to privacy protection).

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: First client: SCO

          Surely it would have to an undetectable DEcryption routine? And the message would only need to be 'encrypted' enough to not show up as plain text.

  7. Graham Wilson
    Windows

    Memories of the once cutting edge.

    I've not yet seen the Spectrum article, but those of us who were around at the time know very well that MS-DOS and CP/M were very different from each other in coding terms. Moreover, they were sufficiently different at the command line to cause considerable annoyance in organisations that used both.

    For example CP/M's copy utility: PIP B:=A:*.COM [VO] versus say COPY A: B: /v

    We used Tim Paterson's/Seattle Computing's 16-bit O/S from Lifeboat Associates, SB-86, when CP/M was still only 8-bit. SB-86 was needed for the then 'new' 8086, it was the forerunner of MS-DOS, which was snapped up by Bill G when Garry supposedly went a flying when IBM visited.

    All that said, fundamentally, the operational/logical structure of MS-DOS and CP/M are pretty damn similar.

    Paterson needed an O/S for his '86/S100 card so he wrote '86-DOS', which was essentially a functional clone but sufficiently different to avoid copyright. It's also said that he deliberately simplified some commands, for example: 'COPY' was simpler to understand than 'PIP' (Peripheral Interchange Program). Nevertheless, I always felt more at home with PIP than with COPY. But then, I suppose that's just me.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Re: Memories of the once cutting edge.

      "PIP B:=A:*.COM [VO] versus say COPY A: B: /v"

      RT-11 and systems based on it used both formats simultaneously.

      You could use the name of the utility program (i.e. PIP, DUP, DIR etc.) followed the command line in one format or use a mnemonic command with options and then KMON (keyboard monitor) would convert the command into command line for the appropriate specifics, like DIRECTORY/BADBLOCKS DK:

      The mnemonic command interpreter was so intelligent in comparison with MS-DOS stupid command.com with 1 error message for every eventuality that it felt as if I'm going back in time when I moved from PDP-11 to IBM PC... Only discovery of NDOS and 4DOS saved me from terminal depression.

      1. Graham Wilson
        Thumb Up

        @Vladimir Plouzhnikov - Re: Memories of the once cutting edge.

        Ha, yeah. I'm not sure whether to thank you for reminding me or to suggest we start a forum to discuss the matter in all its glorious detail.

        As they say, 'it's déjà vu all over again', it reminds me of the disputes and arguments we had at users' group meetings way back then. >:-)

      2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Memories of the once cutting edge.

        Was only later versions of RT-11 that included DCL. Around the time that CP/M was written, it was all PIP etc.

    2. keith_w
      WTF?

      Re: Memories of the once cutting edge.

      wasn't PIP a rip from DEC's OSs? I definately used PIP on PDP 11's running RSTS/E and maybe RSX.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Memories of the once cutting edge.

        I don't think RSTS had PIP, but I could be wrong. Certainly RSX-11M before version 4.0 only used MCR, so PIP was essential. DCL was added to RSX-11M as a port from IAS, which derived from RSX-11D.

        Interestingly, it appears that RSX-11M was one of the the first project that Dave Cutler led.

    3. Epobirs

      Re: Memories of the once cutting edge.

      The 'Gary went flying' thing is a myth. What really happened is that Dorothy Kildall, who was Gary's wife and lawyer, looked at the contract IBM offered and said "No way." Gates knew why DR had turned IBM down but decided the potential was so great that he would go with what IBM wanted and renegotiate later. It was the right choice as the IBM PC and MS-DOS market overtook the CP/M world in remarkably little time. Just a few years later, folks who considered themselves fairly savvy had never seen a CP/M system running.

      One aspect the article misses is the CP/M was hardly original. It was based on large systems (mainly the TOPS-10 OS of the DECsystem10 mainframe) Kildall had worked with before deciding to create something make small systems usable for non-coders.

      Another thing that makes the source code comparison dubious is that CP/M was written in Kildall's own PL/M language. I suppose if a disassembly of CP/M-86 and PC-DOS 1.0 were each created and compared, that might be a useful comparison.

      I do know that there was a DR copyright easter egg hidden in CP/M that be reproduced on the original IBM PC. It was coded in such a way as to create incompatibilities if not replicated, I suppose. I find it hard to believe there wasn't an easy workaround and that it was just the quick and dirty way to get it done.

      1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        Re: Memories of the once cutting edge.

        >I do know that there was a DR copyright easter egg hidden in CP/M that be reproduced on the original IBM PC.

        Exactly. That proved to IBM that their new baby had some issues. Gary was preparing for litigation but IBM settled. This included:

        Money to Gary, amount never revealed.

        IBM rewrote much or DOS to avoid the copyright issues. This is why the comparison fails. It was only MS/PC-DOS 1.0 that was derived from CP/M source code. Later versions had IBM written code.

        DRI were given the rights to clone any PC-DOS version. This is why Concurrent-CP/M-86 and DR-DOS could use FAT (with improvements) without being sued.

        IBM would sell CP/M-86 alongside PC-DOS. However they priced it at $250 vs $70 and then did not update this to later versions, so DRI had to do their own retail CP/M-86 1.1 for IBM-PC.

      2. westlake
        Pint

        Re: Memories of the once cutting edge.

        "I do know that there was a DR copyright easter egg hidden in CP/M that be reproduced on the original IBM PC."

        This sounds like an echo of the story ---- I am tempted to call it a hoax --- peddled by the sci-fi writer Jerry Pournelle.

        The Spectrum article makes it perfectly clear that in a 160 KB OS there is no way to conceal that Easter Egg.

        "First, no one knows the secret command; Pournelle claims he wrote the command down but has never shown it to anyone. In addition, such a message would be easily seen by opening the binary files in a simple text editor unless the message was encrypted. CP/M had to fit on a floppy disk that held only 160 kilobytes; Kildall’s achievement was squeezing an entire operating system into such a small footprint. But it is difficult to imagine he could do this and also squeeze in an undetectable encryption routine."

        1. chuBb.

          Re: Memories of the once cutting edge.

          Pretty easy to do actually, you wouldn't have the message stored as a string, but as pointers to the chars that made up the string, then using a simple cypher of some sort, you could build the message by loading the starting location then applying the cypher to the starting location to derive the next location, until the message is built.

          That said would be pretty dull task to embed the hidden message but meh, certainly do-able.

  8. wowfood
    Holmes

    so

    The only thing QDOS did was rip off the API.

    But thanks to the google / oracle spat we now know that an API is not protectable.

    So they did nothing wrong? Also I'm guessing this was more an attempt for the guy to advertise his codesafe software.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: so

      I don't think this year's google/oracle spat tells us *anything* about the protectability of an API over 30 years ago.

      But then, as a lapsed physicist, I have issues around proper time-ordering and causality.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: so

        Ok, it may not be 30 years ago, but there were also copies of MS-DOS, such as DR-DOS, which were fully compatible systems, including API.

        There are even systems now which try to copy Windows' API, such as Wine.

    2. Powerlord
      Happy

      Re: so

      And by google / oracle, you really meant sco / ibm, right?

    3. CABVolunteer
      Headmaster

      Re: so

      "But thanks to the google / oracle spat we now know that an API is not protectable"

      Maybe not! The trial judge gave his judgement that API should not be copyrightable, but the appeal court may decide differently. It won't be settled law in the USA until the US Supreme Court has given judgement.

      What, you think that Oracle are going to give up so soon?

      1. Fred Goldstein
        Windows

        APIs are not protected

        It's pretty well established that APIs are not protected by copyright; they're "functional", while copyright is about "expressive" works. So a clean-room copy of an API is okay and quite normal.

        I recall a Microsoft magazine advertisement from 1982 or so that was emphasizing that MS-DOS was more like CP/M (8-bit for the Z-80) than CPM-86 was. So programmers would have an easier time with MS-DOS. CP/M-86 was a flop. The DEC Rainbow was so named because it ran both 8-bit and 16-bit versions of CP/M; by the time it came out, neither mattered. Eventually it got a port of MS-DOS but even that wasn't enough, because PC compatibility was the market requirement, not OS support. The OS didn't do all that much, after all; early PC programs largely wrote to the hardware.

        1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

          Re: APIs are not protected

          > The OS didn't do all that much, after all; early PC programs largely wrote to the hardware.

          Most CP/M systems used serial terminals such as ADM-3a and Wyse 50 which allowed screen adressing and character attributes to give useful screen orientated user inteface.

          Many MS-DOS systems continued to use these serial terminals or emulated them in their BIOS.

          PC-DOS was largely useless for anything more sophisticated than command line stuff. While it did have ANSI.SYS this was a very poor and slow emulation of a character addressable terminal. Using the IBM-PC BIOS calls to access the underlying addressability of the screen was also quite poor.

          The only way on an IBM-PC to get the features previously common on CP/M with a good performance was to do direct screen writes. Much software, such as WordStar, WordPerfect, Supercalc etc could be configured to use terminal codes from a wide range of devices, or could be configured to use CGA or Hercules. Turbo-Pascal was available in different versions for MS-DOS (configurable terminal) or PC-DOS (direct screen writes) as well as CP/M, CP/M-86 and others.

          Your 'early' and 'largely' do not fit together, though direct writes may be done by software it wasn't generally the only mechanism until Lotus.

  9. SuperTim

    Surely there is another conclusion.

    Once could infer that either the code does not match, or the code checking software so heavily plugged does not work as well as suggested.

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IEEE

    Maybe hard pressed for cash ?

  12. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    I don't quite follow.

    The nearest thing to a smear of Kildall I can see is in the reference to the circumstances of his death. I will say that

    "Breaking this statement down, I determined that “jnz” was a standard program assembly language statement for “jump if not zero."

    is hardly worth breaking out the deerstalker and pipe for.

    1. Graham Bartlett

      Re: I don't quite follow.

      Wat?!

      If he doesn't know there's this thing called assembly language and there's this thing called a manual, he's in desperate need of someone to give him a boot up the jacksie and tell him to sod off until he gets a clue.

  13. Sceptic Tank
    WTF?

    No results?

    So an example of how effective this code scanner is, is by showing an example where it didn't pick up any similarities? Does the thing actually work?

  14. John Styles

    Ms Stob covered this (in the days of Dr. Dobbs)

    http://www.drdobbs.com/waltz/184411096

    "It matters not a bit that you scream and you holler

    For what kind of jerk ends a string with a dollar?"

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    QDOS was a clone of CP/M in the same way that Linux is a clone of AT&T Unix - they have similar system calls, but the actual implementation of those system calls and the underlying sub-systems are different. QDOS also tried to improve on CP/M in much the same way as GNU bash tried to improve on AT&T Bourne shell, by providing more intuitive and flexible commands.

    1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      > QDOS also tried to improve on CP/M ... by providing more intuitive and flexible commands.

      Nonsense. COPY was much less flexible than PIP. EDLIN was ... well, useless.

      You may have experienced MS-DOS 2.x or 3.x but QDOS wasn't even at MS-DOS 1.0 level and MS-DOS 1.0 was _much_ worse than CP/M 2.3.

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Meh

    so it's a *partial* API copy

    and since the API is *not* protected that's no problem.

    It *might* get a bit murky if you used the debugger to look *inside* some of those functions, could not find another way to implement them and simply copied chunks of the code. The first part does not help the case but the 2nd is *highly* unlikely given the number of ways to implement stuff at this level.

    However debuggers are flexible tools and I'd guess Paterson would have used it to look at either the data structures on disk or the data structures those disk files created in memory.

    QDOS was created to be *compatible* with CP/M to leverage its tools, hence doing things like putting all the *new* elements of a disk data structure after the CP/M bits to allow CP/M tools to read them (hopefully ignoring the rest of the structure).

    *if* the assertion about CP/M being written in PL/M is true it would have been compiled into machine code so this tool *could* have picked up similarities, but that would suggest that QDOS copied the *source* code and ran it through the same (or very similar) compiler. That would make a match even less likely as human and compiler generated code is unlikely to be very similar.

    All told a very cynical exercise in product publicity.

    But note.On this basis there is *nothing* to stop you producing an API clone of Windows *provided* you don't look inside the functions and *only* use the documentation.

    But how will you clone the functions they don't document?

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Microsoft was forced to publish its API to be "cloned"

      Let's remember that Microsoft was forced to publish its own API so everybody could "clone" them for interoperability reasons - what's SAMBA if not a clone of several Windows API under *nix?

      Isn't ReactOS trying to implement a "clone" of Windows? As long as Paterson didn't copy real CP/M code he has just written a compatible OS.

  17. Magnus_Pym

    IEEE

    Are these the same guys who ratified Microsoft's part published file spec' as a standard a year or so back?

    1. handle

      Re: IEEE

      No, that was ISO. And considerably more than a year or so back.

  18. Dr Trevor Marshall
    FAIL

    IEEE is just a shadow of its former self

    I spent a significant part of my life disassembling and understanding how CP/M, 86-DOS and CDOS worked internally. I wrote an IEEE Spectrum article in the 70's explaining a neat trick that the CDOS (Cromemco DOS clone) originated to optimize floppy disk read routines to the Z80 instruction set.

    It is hard to believe that Spectrum would publish something like this when there are so many with actual expertize still alive to peer-review junk like this...

    1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      Re: IEEE is just a shadow of its former self

      > CDOS (Cromemco DOS clone)

      You imply that CDOS is a clone of [MS-]DOS.

      Cromemco's CDOS was a clone of CP/M 1.x written for the Z80.

  19. b166er

    Dunno why the fuck Bill Gates' name is in the title of this article.

    All I can say is that whatever occured in the past, thank the heavens Microsoft were as successful as they were, where would we be now, otherwise?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Douglas Adams 1995

      “The idea that Bill Gates has appeared like a knight in shining armour to lead all customers out of a mire of technological chaos neatly ignores the fact that it was he who, by peddling second-rate technology, led them into it in the first place.”

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Douglas Adams 1995

        Douglas Adams was hardly an IT expert, or an IT history expert, he was certainly not impartial either. Douglas was a gadget fan and a Mac enthusiast. Asking Douglas Adams about IT history is like asking Stephen Fry about the same.

        What Douglas failed to grasp, because he didn't work in industry, was that MS managed to supply inexpensive (relatively) Operating Systems which broke the strangle hold of Big Iron on the datacentre and the dumb terminal on the desktop.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Meh

          Re: Douglas Adams 1995

          Wrong.

          IBM *started* looking at these "personal computer" things when they discovered their engineers were using them to bypass their in house IT dept.

          Specifically the Apple II and, although I'd guess some of the CP/M machines were as portable.

          MS did provide an OS that because it was backed by IBM raised the level of comfort that large corporations had about this happening.

          Perhaps you should do a little more reading on the subject.

          1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

            Re: Douglas Adams 1995

            > IBM *started* looking at these "personal computer" things

            IBM had previous produced it own desktop computer, the 5100 series. The IBM PC was model 5150 (I have one here) was based on another machine they produced, the Series 23.

            But generally you are right. Apple ][ with CP/M softcards started appearing in customer mainframe sites running BASIC, Visicalc, Wordstar and such and IBM decided that they needed to keep their customers IBM only so they built the IBM PC to be better than Apple ][.

            64Kb (up to 256Kb max on Model A) vs 48Kb, 160Kb diskette vs 120Kb, 4.77Mhz vs ??. MS BASIC, Visicalc, Wordstar etc. It could also be a terminal to mainframe.

            Actually you could buy a 16Kb IBM PC with no diskette to run BASIC as these had a cassette port built in (the model B I have still has this).

      2. Epobirs

        Re: Douglas Adams 1995

        Adams had no firsthand idea what things were like before the 80s. Or even before the IBM PC. The Model T was not technologically exciting, even when newly introduced, but it was the critical product that changed the world while more exotic machines came and went with little effect on the average motorist's life.

        He also thought it mattered that the original 128K Mac had no Y2K issues lurking in it. As if anyone was still using one for anything important just two years later, never mind sixteen years later. Even those original units that boosted up to 512K to become actually useful machines were still extremely limited to what was being offered for half the price only five years later. And that is just counting Apple and leaving aside the rest of the industry's advances.

      3. Andrew Macrobie
        Pint

        Re: Douglas Adams 1995

        Dear Douglas, your acerbic wit is sorely missed.

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Where is the joke icon?

      This was a joke, wasn't it?

      1. Colin Brett
        Thumb Down

        Re: Where is the joke icon?

        It wasn't a joke. It was a real quote from the great man. I believe it was in a Guardian article back in 1995. A quick google search turned up this:

        http://www.gksoft.com/a/fun/dna-on-microsoft.html

        Which, if you scroll down to the bottom, you'll find:

        "Autor: Douglas Adams

        Quelle: "http://fsinfo.cs.uni-sb.de/~ramsch/Anti-ms/dna.html"

        (ursprünglich: "The Guardian" of Friday Sep 01 1995) "

        My German isn't that great but "ursprünglich" means "originally", though I can't find the original article on the Graun's website.

        Colin

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Where is the joke icon?

          Sorry, my "where's the joke icon" was actually directed at b166er at 15:12, not at the reply about Douglas Adams.

          I always had great respect for Douglas ever since I heard the radio series of the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy when it was first aired on Radio 4 in 1977. At the time, I was impressed that he was the first radio show writer to make good use of Stereo to benefit the comedy content, but as time progressed, his detailed use of English ("...almost, but not quite, exactly unlike Tea..." etc) to make rational arguments of clearly absurd situations was genius.

          I was very upset when his refreshing view of the world was taken from us all. I can only hope that he is really sitting in a bar in the Domain of the King, enriching that world, wherever it is.

          I'm sorry that my reply was misconstrued.

    3. William Old
      Facepalm

      Where would we be now?

      Running something looking like a PC, but running very much more reliably, with a proper formal security model, true multi-tasking, no memory leakage, and in a world where use of the phrase "anti-virus software" would cause everyone present to frown in puzzlement...

      1. Ilgaz

        Microsoft did that too

        Absurd thing is, you describe Unix and believe or not, Microsoft was also a Unix vendor.

        See: http://www.answers.com/topic/xenix-technology

        As I was loading games from tape to my Atari that time, I have no clue why it wasn't that popular.

      2. disgruntled yank Silver badge

        Re: Where would we be now?

        As one who has just lost several days trying to chase down some sort of funkiness in the CIFS world, I am no Microsoft apologist. Yet I am curious to know what this wonderful machine is. Does it run a Unix variant? Those have true multitasking, but their security models have been pretty flaky at times. Does it run Multics? That was pretty secure, but not invulnerable, and I don't know it had every been shoe-horned into PC factor back when QDOS was out there. OS/2? That I can't comment on--I've known users who thought very well of it.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Where would we be now?

          I'm really not sure what you mean by "their security models have been pretty flaky at times", because it has not changed. The standard UNIX security model has not changed significantly in 40 years. It is amazing that it stands up at all against what is available in modern operating systems, let alone be regarded as more secure in some instances.

          Whilst it is far from perfect, it is simple enough to be well understood by most people working with it, something that I don't believe is really true about some other operating systems. This means that it was and is used correctly. Also, remember that UNIX was not just multi-tasking from the word go, but also multi-user. It was a mature although developing operating system when the IBM PC was launched.

          At the time of the original IBM PC, UNIX could and did run on 16 bit machines. You must remember that Xenix (which ran on IBM PC/XTs), was based on UNIX Version 7, and UNIX Version 7 ran on PDP11s in as little as 128KB of memory. In fact the architecture of non-I&D PDP11s required the kernel to fit in less than 56KB of memory.

          The biggest problem is that UNIX has always worked best on systems with hard-disks. The basic tool set of UNIX (effectively the / and /usr filesystem) was around 2.5MB on a PDP11 IIRC, so squeezing that down to 128KB disks was an impossible task. That's not to say people didn't try. I saw several floppy based implementations of UNIX around at the time, but they were generally slow and barely usable. Also, pipes working through floppies (early UNIXs at the time used an unlinked file to store the pipe data over 1 block) were incredibly slow.

          There were small UNIX systems available at the time. AT&T had their 3B1, and other people like Onyx, Tadpole and Torch (and many others) had mainly 68000 based UNIX systems available, albeit more expensive than a PC. And the interesting thing is that these contemporary systems to the IBM PC were already 32 bit systems, not 16 bits like the Intel 8086.

          Life really would have been better based around UNIX on PCs!

  20. Wintermute
    FAIL

    Disappointing

    As a dues-paying member of the IEEE, I am not only disappointed that this article in the generalist Spectrum magazine is so woefully wrong, but I am doubly disappointed that I in part paid for it.

    1. Ilgaz

      Re: Disappointing

      Wasn't that magazine publishing articles like "I found an effective way of code analysis via neural network based algorithm, here is a first attempt"?

      I mean are they trying to become popular science in age of mass ignorance?

  21. LordHighFixer
    Boffin

    I remember those days

    And who ripped of what from whom used to be a very popular discussion and a subject of much controversy, as well as what exactly defines "ripped off". In those days my department used to receive pieces of kit from unknown sources, with little of no documentation, with the instructions, "figure out what it is, how it works, and how we can make one". We certainly didn't directly use any code, or hardware designs, but there were many long nights pouring through disassembled code, and hand drawn sections of schematics, to figure out what it was doing and why..

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pirates of Silicon Valley...

    Well, there is an alternate version of what happened during that period. Here is a documentary that mentions the events (watch from 12:46 onwards) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFg0YkQRB74

    The participants in the documentary include: Steve Balmer, Bill Gates, the IBM executive who was responsible for signing a deal with Microsoft for MS-DOS, and a former employee of Digital Research.

    1. Ilgaz

      Watch the movie too

      While on it, watch the TV movie of that documentary which was shot before Steve Jobs got prophet status, e.g. Hollywood could dare to show him objectively.

      You will also understand why he was that pissed off about Android.

  23. John Savard Silver badge

    Beyond Doubt

    I'm happy to accept that neither QDOS nor MS-DOS nor PC-DOS contains a line of code from CP/M. Or even CP/M-86, given that 8080 code won't run on an 8088.

    But MS-DOS was almost identical to CP/M in terms of what the commands were, their syntax, and their function. For that matter, CP/M was derived from OS/8 by the Digital Equipment Corporation in the very same way - even though OS/8 used 6.2 filenames instead of 8.3 filenames.

    In that case, there was even a smoking gun - the PIP command (Peripheral Interchange Program) - which Microsoft at least had the decency to rename to COPY.

    Lotus 1-2-3 established that look and feel could be protected... but that would mean that Linux is an illegal rip-off of Unix, wouldn't it?

    So perhaps we shouldn't want to go there...

    1. IvyKing
      Flame

      COPY != PIP

      IIRC, PIP was a separate executable file, while COPY was internal to COMMAND.COM in at least 86-DOS if not QDOS. What M$ did to make PC-DOS 1.0 out of 86-DOS 1.14 was to change the prompt from A: to A>, added "DEL" as an alias for ERASE and not ship the SCP utilities such as the assembler, the Z80 code translator and READCPM.

      86-DOS allowed AUX, CON and PRN to be treated as filenames, where CP/M required some gyrations to use device names in place of a disk filename.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Beyond Doubt

      Actually, the courts have already gone there, at Bell's insistence, re the earlier open Unix, Berkeley Unix. The judge decided that Bell had by that time stolen so much of Bill Joy's superlative work and incorporated it into Unix, that the operating system was co-owned, and neither had exclusive rights. Linux is another recreation, suits against it by Unix companies didn't prove detailed copying, and failed. I take it that only if both the Unix owners, and Berkeley Unix sued, could a suit based on a more general interpretation of copyright (re the programs structure, commands, syntax) go forward, and that's not happening.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Beyond Doubt

      Historic note.

      Apples Mac L&F lawsuit would have gone down the pan of history had the judge seen the Xerox Alto.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Success of MS

    "If [Kildall] was not as successful as Bill Gates, it wasn’t because Microsoft stole the CP/M source code," concludes Zeidman. But nobody has ever made such a claim: not even Paterson.

    This is entirely correct.

    Billy-Boi's Mommy was IBM Chairman John F. Akers executive secretary.

    The rest is just a reiteration of nepotic history.

    Fubar (anonymous 'cuz I dig the mask)

    1. westlake
      Pint

      Re: The Success of MS

      "Billy-Boi's Mommy was IBM Chairman John F. Akers executive secretary."

      Who the hell cares?

      Microsoft was selling microcomputer BASIC to the Fortune 500 in 1975.

      MBASIC was the glue that held the all-but-hopelessly fragmented universe of the eight-bit micro together.

      MBASIC was the first program for the micro to achieve a million dollars in sales.

      Microsoft was selling a broad spectrum of programming languages for CP/M in 1980. The Z-80 Softcard for the Apple II was a huge success.

      If you are designing a workhorse office machine in 1980 as the natural upgrade path for business from CP/M and want to launch with a full suite of development tools that will make ports to the new system dead easy where do you go?

      If your answer isn't Microsoft, go to the back of the class.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Success of MS

        MBASIC was just a stripped and repackaged FORTRAN Compiler cooked up by Allen

        after the product was sold. Like MSDOS was. Gates is a brilliant vaporware salesman.

        Fubar

    2. westlake
      Pint

      Re: The Success of MS

      "Billy-Boi's Mommy was IBM Chairman John F. Akers executive secretary."

      Grow up.

      In 1975 Microsoft had revenues of $22,000.

      In 1980, $7.5 million,

      MBASIC was the glue that held the eight-bit world together. The first million-dollar bestseller in the new microcomputer market,

      Microsoft had a full suite of programming languages ready to be ported to the 16 bit micro. MBASIC. FORTRAN. COBOL. PASCAL. In XENIX it had a plausible entrant in the *NIX OS market. It had the SoftCard for the Apple II --- which would make it the biggest distributer of CP/M.

      If you were a small team in 1880 designing a workhorse PC for office use and positioning it as the natural upgrade path for business from CP/M, you had two logical places to go for system software and development tools ---- Digital Research and Microsoft.

      If you were smart, you were talking to them both from Day 1.

      It is not smearing Kildall to say that C/PM 86 was moving forward at a pace that could best be described as glacial.

      That he had no clear notion of how the IBM PC would transform the market --- and how fast the IBM PC development team was prepared to move.

      Gates promised to deliver a serviceable OS in time for the scheduled launch of the IBM PC. These were the words IBM needed to hear,

      That pricing CP/M 86 at $240 was disastrous mistake when PC-DOS was available for $40 ---

      and Gates had negotiated a non-exclusive deal with IBM that would make the MS-DOS PC a commercially viable product before the cloning of the IBM PC BIOS.

      1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        Re: The Success of MS

        > It is not smearing Kildall to say that C/PM 86 was moving forward at a pace that could best be described as glacial.

        CP/M-86 was available as an option on IBM PC on the first day of sale. It was IBM that set the price at $240 or so, and $70 for PC-DOS.

        Certainly SCP wanted an 8086 OS earlier for its Zebra system boards it was developing.

        DRI was more focused on more advanced products. Multiuser MP/M was available in 1978 (for bank switched memory systems), MP/M-86 for 8086 in 1981. DR-NET networking came out in 1979 or so connecting CP/M clients to MP/M servers. Concurrent-CP/M-86 multitasking was demonstrated prior to IBM-PC release. Even CP/M-86 supported hard disks on IBM-PC with Xibec controllers (as well as on other machines). MS/PC-DOS could not support hard disks until PC/XT and PC/MS-DOS 2.

        Microsoft was continually behind DRI.. MS-DOS 5 was 20months after DR-DOS 5 with the same feature set. MS-DOS 6 was 8 months after DR-DOS 6 and did not have all DR6 features. Windows 1 was released when there were a million DR GEM users (and GEM was better).

        I was involved with supporting and developing for multiuser/multitasking and networking systems using DRI OSes (and others) from the end of the 70s.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IEEE Spectrum is (occasionally) a trash journal

    E.g. Look up Kroll's Taser piece from several years ago. Utter rubbish based on amateurish "science". Subsequently revealed to be wrong on many fronts. IEEE Spectrum was called out on it, but remains silent.

    IEEE Spectrum is (occasionally) rubbish.

    1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      Re: IEEE Spectrum is (occasionally) a trash journal

      > Billy-Boi's Mommy was IBM Chairman John F. Akers executive secretary.

      Completely untrue and derisory. Mary Maxwell Gates was a business woman in her own right.

      May Gates was " the first woman to chair the national United Way’s executive committee where she served most notably with IBM's CEO, John Opel".

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can prove that DOS copied all teh codez from Unix...

    ...because my highly advanced Textual Analysis Tool ('TAT') shows both command.com and /bin/sh have an echo command.

    1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      Re: I can prove that DOS copied all teh codez from Unix...

      Actually it did. Microsoft had developed Xenix, a licenced Unix edition 6 (or was it 7). When they came to develop MS-DOS 2.0 they used Xenix as a model for directories (switching to '\' because '/' was used for command parameters) and for redirection. They planned to have a 'family' of OSes with single user MS-DOS and multiuser Xenix, but then took the fight to Novel who were building networks and threatened to take more revenue per site. MS bought in 'Advanced Server' and dumped Xenix to SCO.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I can prove that DOS copied all teh codez from Unix...

        No it didn't. That's like saying Python copied c++ because they both use spaces to separate non-trivial tokens.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Zeidman is a bufoon IMHO

  28. Richard Plinston Silver badge

    > *if* the assertion about CP/M being written in PL/M is true it would have been compiled into machine code so this tool *could* have picked up similarities, but that would suggest that QDOS copied the *source* code and ran it through the same (or very similar) compiler.

    You seem unaware that at the time there were 'annotated disaasemblers' available for several products, including CP/M BDOS 1.4 and 2.2. These produced 8080 assembler code with meaningful variable names and comments. Of course those had been previously coded into the disaasembler by hand and using the BDOS as an input was to avoid having to sell the complete listing.

    There was also 8080 -> 8086 translators available from Intel.

    Your assumptions are wrong.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      "You seem unaware that at the time there were 'annotated disaasemblers' available for several products, including CP/M BDOS 1.4 and 2.2."

      I was unaware of this.

      But I'm unclear how that connects with my point.

      I cannot confirm CP/M was written in PL/M. *if* it was for his tool to pick up *lots* of similarities between CP/M & QDOS would *suggest* they had *both* been compiled from a high level language IE QDOS had come from the *source* rather than the object code of CP/M, as my impression is assembler coders don't tend to write S/W the way compilers generate it. The greater the similarity the closer the means of production.

      My knowledge of late 70s/early 80s software architecture is not great enough to know if the executable file formats of the time supported debug information, like the names of variables retained from the source. If the names in your annotated disassembler tool are hand coded presumably they were held in the *tool* not the object code and would simply be names for certain locations in memory and meaningful *only* to the current user of the tool.

      1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        @John Smith 19

        > But I'm unclear how that connects with my point.

        CP/M was structured with several separate parts (MS-DOS 1.x was identically structured). There was a BDOS - the actual core operating system, a BIOS - written in assembler and different for each type of machine, a CCP - command processor (command.com in DOS).

        The BDOS was written in PL/M, developed on DEC machines and provided in binary code to the OEMs. The BDOS of a particular version was identical on every CP/M system.

        There were developers who disassembled the BDOS and hand coded in appropriate variable names (which were not the same as those in the source code) and added their own comments. If they had sold these disassemblies then they would have potentially been in breach of copyright. So they built a program that read the actual BDOS and this triggered the names and comments.

        The 'tool' was only meaningful to the specific version of the BDOS. (or to whatever other program the tool was designed for).

        If the disaasembly was then compiled it would be _identical_ to the original BDOS. If the disassembly had been put through 8080->8086 translator and recompiled with an 8086 assembler then it would be quite different instuctions but would work the same.

        > assembler coders don't tend to write S/W the way compilers generate it.

        In the 70s and 80s compilers were rather simple, not a lot of optimization. Basically the compiler output code that had been designed by an assembler programmer for that particular input line.

        > similarities between CP/M & QDOS

        If he had actually compared QDOS to CP/M he may have found similarities even though they were different CPU targets. But he didn't, he compared it an unknown version of MS-DOS. It has been through several rewrites, including one by IBM to produce PC-DOS 1.1 specifically to eliminate any residual CP/M origins (this was handed back to MS to make MS-DOS 1.25).

        You could probably compare MS-DOS 4.01 (which was another rewrite by IBM) against 1.0 and find no similarities of code at all.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And that's not even the worst of it...

    The article cited is even worse than described. Bob Zeidman states that even light decryption (to pop out a reported ID or watermark when prompted) is extraordinarily difficult, much too complex for a mere OS! In fact, XOR suffices, and XOR was part of the instruction set built into Intel's chips (and every other chip). Maybe the report that DOS retained a DR "watermark" was false, but Bob Zeidman's argument that this was impossible is laughably false. It relies on a degree of ignorance about how computers work that staggers the imagination.

  30. Levente Szileszky
    Thumb Down

    Errr...

    ...just a quick look at his page - that scrolling catchy title about Oracle vs Google, yay! - should tell you everything about Zeidman and his struggle for survival: http://www.zeidmanconsulting.com/

  31. David Gale

    .. and of course

    ... and of course Microsoft would never rip off anything, would they?

    http://www.TADAG.com

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: .. and of course

      Yes, that looks like a professional web site, with independent sources cited, I'll believe that.

      1. David Gale

        Independent Sources?

        Perhaps you ought to read the linked document before you dive in with your h'appennies worth on the validity of TADAG. The sources are internal to Microsoft and evidenced by Microsoft's own communications.

  32. Alan Firminger

    Secrets ?

    What is all this about stealing the secrets of CP/M . Any one with access to a machine with a readily available diagnostic tool could examine and step through the OS and make their own documented version of command.com .

    I treasure as an example of excellent practice The Complete SPECTRUM ROM DISASSEMBLY by Dr Ian Logan & Dr Frank O'Hara, Melbourne House, 1983 . This was written quickly with little means to automate any of their analysis. I am sure that anyone seeking to write an improvement on CP/M would find no difficulty in completely documenting the code.

  33. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    "Let's remember that Microsoft was forced to publish its own API so everybody could "clone" them for interoperability reasons - what's SAMBA if not a clone of several Windows API under *nix?"

    Of course, I do want to point out...

    a) Samba was out WAAAAY before Microsoft released anything. (Samba was actually originally developed to communication with DEC's implementation of SMB, not Microsoft's.) In the early 1990s, well before Microsoft released anything. It was a clean-room reimplementation of the protocol.

    b) Microsoft did not release their APIs in the way an ordinary programmer would use this term. When the DOJ ordered them to release their APIs in 2002, they released APIs for cash payment only, under NDA, under terms that intentionally made use of them impossible in any open source project. I.e. this was not "here's our APIs, have fun!". It took Samba until 2007 to get a copy of the APIs they wanted to implement the more modern parts of SMB, it cost them 10,000 euros, was still under NDA, and this was after Microsoft loosened their terms to make this API release useable at all. (Then by 2008, Microsoft changed their stance and released all these APIs publicly, as they should have done to begin with if the DOJ were doing their job.)

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  34. Richard Plinston Silver badge

    > MBASIC was just a stripped and repackaged FORTRAN Compiler cooked up by Allen

    No. You are quite wrong. BASIC and FORTRAN are quite different languages*. MS Altair BASIC (which you were referring to) was an interpreter and not a compiler. These are quite different types of software.

    However, Gates and Allen did have access to the source code of a freeware BASIC interpreter that ran on DEC machines. 8080 software development was done on DEC machines at that time with cross-compilers.

    * There was a product called Basic FORTRAN which had no relation to BASIC language but the 'Basic' indicated fundemental or limited.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      FORTRAN to BASIC--Nah

      Why go to all that trouble--FORTRAN compilers of the day did somewhere between two and six passes over the source code? You could buy the flow charts for the Kameny and Kurth original Dartmouth BASIC for the GE 200 series. University got about $250 for the flow charts. Then code away in your favorite assembler for whatever instruction set. The only person that claimed that you could "easily" convert a BASIC compiler to a FORTRAN compiler also peddled snake oil.

  35. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Looks just like another leech trying to make money off the backs of *real* engineers.

  36. regorama

    ISIS and ISIS II/FDOS were used on early intel systems NOT CPM

    http://www.retrotechnology.com/dri/isis.html tells the story the way I remember it...ie 1976

    CPM wasnt around at this time...

    someone who actually built his own IMSAI and programmed it in 1978

    1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      Re: ISIS and ISIS II/FDOS were used on early intel systems NOT CPM

      > ..ie 1976 CPM wasnt around at this time...

      """Gary finished writing CP/M in 1974 and offered it to Intel for $20,000. Intel said they were not interested in a disk based operating system, although they did buy his PL/M language. After his discharge from the Navy in 1976 Gary started working full-time as a consultant and he and his wife, Dorothy McEwen, started a company that they called Intergalactic Digital Research (later shortened to Digital Reserach Inc, DRI) to sell the operating system.

      As the market for microcomputers started to grow in the mid 1970's CP/M was in the right place at the right time. Many manufacturers started off producing their machines as kits for hobbyists, though some could be bought as ready assembled. None of the manufacturers wanted to write their software from scratch and either hired other people to do it or bought in ready made packages. CP/M was one of those packages.

      In 1976 two of the largest manufacturers of kits, MITS and IMSAI, produced floppy disk systems to go with their machines. IMSAI bought a licence from DRI to install CP/M on all their floppy disk systems and suddenly CP/M hit the big time."""

      From Dr. Dobb's Journal, Nov/Dec 1976:

      """Upgraded CP/M Floppy Disc Operating System now available

      [..]

      Previously available only to OEMs, CP/M has been in existence for over two years in various manufacturer's products, ..."""

      """A disc and all documentation - 'the works' - is $70.""

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not bonafide

    Its a story about a fetish.. a fetish to prove the truth.. and thus change history..

    Oh well.. back to the drawing board..

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