back to article Stephen Fry rewrites computer history again: This time it's serious

What are we to do with Stephen Fry? Britain's go-to guy for advertisement voice-overs has had another attempt at explaining computing history, in his own unique way. But he's got it wrong, and at the same time sullied the memory of one of the industry's true pioneers. Writing on his blog and at The Daily Telegraph, Fry - …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If memory serves...

    It is also untrue that Sir Bill of Gates licensed his OS to IBM. The licensing racket started a lot later. He sold - again, if memory serves - IBM the right to put the OS on their PC (or ship with it) for a lump sum which was relatively low, but indeed - and this was the master stroke IMO - to sell it to anyone else if he so chose.

  2. Horridbloke

    Somebody put it far better than I could...

    Stephen Fry: a stupid person's idea of a clever person.

  3. wolfetone Silver badge

    About time

    I'm glad the Reg have come out to defend Dr.Kildall. Anyone interested in computing who is my age (26) have grown up being told it was all Microsoft who invented the desktop operating system etc, and that there were no alternatives.

    "Eventually, years later Microsoft managed to come up with a new operating system called Windows, that copied everything the Mac did, only badly." - No they didn't. Gates and Jobs were at the same tech demo at Xerox where they had unveiled a new GUI. And that is well documented.

    It's all well and good praising Jobs for the Macintosh, but there's no mention of the Apple Lisa - the machine that brought Steve Wozniack' s role at Apple to an end because the machine was designed by committee. The Apple Lisa had a GUI, and was the first to offer such a thing, not the Mac.

    There is nothing worse than articles written by fanboi's that are based on opinion and love rather than fact. I thought Mr.Fry was an intelligent man, but I don't know where he's gotten his "facts" from. Thankfully though he's not an elf on QI, so that information may still be plausible.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Re: Somebody put it far better than I could...

      Is Stephen Fry an AI?

      He is, if AI stands for Amiable Idiot

      (at least when it comes to many things technical)

      1. phil dude
        Linux

        Re: Somebody put it far better than I could...

        i think Stephen is an active demonstration of being "out of your area of comfort".

        He's brilliant at a lot of things, perhaps even history. But there is something about "tech" that makes normally intelligent people start giggling and dribbling...

        I guess it makes the news, so it must be important....;-)

        P.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Somebody put it far better than I could...

        A 2-1 in English Literature from Cambridge, while fighting off his own demons, yep, you'd have to go a long way to find a bigger idiot, or maybe not.

        1. Horridbloke

          Re: Somebody put it far better than I could...

          Err, I don't think anyone is suggesting Stephen Fry is an idiot.

          He's famous primarily for having a lovely voice and the veneer of cosy authority the BBC and advertisers go for. He's done very well on it and that level of success doesn't come without a good dollop of initiative and drive but why should anyone take any more notice of him than, say, Keith Chegwin?

          1. AbelSoul

            Re: Somebody put it far better than I could...

            > "... why should anyone take any more notice of him than, say, Keith Chegwin?"

            If for no other reason than Cheggers is a c*nt?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Somebody put it far better than I could...

            >Err, I don't think anyone is suggesting Stephen Fry is an idiot.

            You've missed a comment, the first response to your OP

            >>Is Stephen Fry an AI?

            >>He is, if AI stands for Amiable Idiot

        2. itzman

          Re: Somebody put it far better than I could...

          Fry isn't an idiot, but he doesn't know the difference between being an actor and an authority.

          He relies on researchers and they are plain crap.

          His job is to add gravitas to their ramblings. Not his fault if they are sloppy and biased.

          They are after all generally BBC employees.

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      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Somebody put it far better than I could...

        Burchill...

        Have you ever tried to read the stuff she writes?

        She's the one who was supporting the (genocidal) Serbs during the Balkan wars. I'm afraid that if she ever offers an opinion on something, I immediately assume she's wrong.

      2. h4rm0ny

        Re: Somebody put it far better than I could...

        >>"@Horrid. You beat me to Julie Burchill's assessment! At least it was probably her."

        I find it hard to imagine that creature coming up with anything I'd ever want to quote. She has less depth than a puddle of piss. And I don't break out that sort of personal attack as a general rule, but in her case I'll make an exception. Vile creature.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If memory serves...

      It was vapourware, they had no OS to sell. Once the deal was signed they hunted around for one.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If memory serves...

        >It was vapourware, they had no OS to sell.

        .....it's who you know - Gate's mother was friends with Opel (IBM CEO) at the time so no product or understanding of reqs was necessary - just the right bullshit.

        ....in these enlightened times, it's probably hard for younger readers to believe the IT industry used to work like that.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: If memory serves...

          Whaddya mean, "used to"?

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: Whaddya mean, "used to"?

            I've upvoted you, but I think we missed the joke.

        2. SDoradus
          Thumb Up

          Re: If memory serves...

          Specifically, they were both on the board of the United Way charity umbrella group.

    4. Shaun Rolph

      Re: Somebody put it far better than I could...

      That somebody was Willie Donaldson although Julle Burchill tried to claim it. Not the crime of the century because Willie had repurposed a line of Elizabeth Bowen's about Aldous Huxley. I nicked all this from James Fallows.

    5. Jonathan Richards 1

      Re: About time

      +1 for the accurate observation about the Apple Lisa, which was made much of in the press at the time. The GUI had a virtual place for the storage of forms (templates we might call them) called a stationary [sic] cabinet, as I recall. How we laffed.

      I also remember a machine from Victor which was not IBM PC compatible, but which came with a choice of CP/M or MS-DOS. I did a paper exercise comparison for my employers, who were considering buying some, and concluded that CP/M was clearly the better choice.

      1. Richard Cranium

        Re: About time

        Nostalgia corner: Yes I evaluated CP/M & MS-DOS on the Victor 9000 (ACT Sirius in UK market) and my employer (one of UKs biggest businesses) bought dozens (for, in todays money, over £4k each ). They stood up very well in comparison with the IBM PC but that was only available in USA at the time anyway. If I recall they used 2x5.25inch floppy disk drives 128K RAM. Later some lucky power users got an external hard-disk add-on with a massive 10MB.

        Our CP/M vs MS-DOS choice was primarily influenced by the availability of applications, initially we used both but MS-DOS ended up the winner for giving us more/better apps.

        Later I got to evaluate the Apple Lisa and decided it was an overpriced novelty (so in 3 decades nothing has changed at Apple!). Not long after that the Mac came out, more affordable but with a tiny built in screen - not much use.

        1. wolfetone Silver badge

          @SDoradus - "so was Woz: his role clearly was not at an end with LISA"

          It's been a few years since I read iWoz, Steve's autobiography. But I remember him talking about LISA and that, to him, it was awful. The machine wasn't expandable like the Apple II, and that a lot of people had an input but not many had a good idea. This lead to him "leaving" Apple after the LISA to set up a company to make the universal remote control that he invented.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Somebody put it far better than I could...

      "Stephen Fry: a stupid person's idea of a clever person."

      A stupid person's idea of a clever quote?

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: About time

      Being, er, somewhat older than you I was involved with CP/M and MSDOS in the early 80s when DR were introducing CP/M 86 and Microsoft MSDOS.

      I'd say the two main problems for DR were 1. the success of CP/M 80 meant they were complacent and not terribly helpful to OEM customers, unlike Microsoft who made an effort to get into the business and were much easier to deal with 2. Multitasking CP/M was overambitious for the hardware of the time (for most applications) so the DR focus on this distracted them from the product that was capable of selling.

      Basically DR threw the opportunity away, not just because of the IBM deal. The nightmare that was GEM (made early windows almost a pleasure to develop with) didn't help as GUI came to the fore.

      GUI. A technology that emerged in the 1970s, not only a Xerox thing, although they had the leading implementation as far as I know when demoing to Bill and Steve.

      1. Zacherynuk

        Re: About time

        ^ indeed - GUI's were actually all over the place in various guises.

        I Upgraded from 3.3 to DR DOS 5 which came with (along with a brilliant manual) Viewmax - based on GEM - and systems running MSDOS nearly always relied on Quarterdesk QEMM (especially those used for games) who also made Desq/desqview and later DESQview/X the latter based on unix x.

      2. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        Re: About time

        > Multitasking CP/M was overambitious for the hardware of the time (for most applications) so the DR focus on this distracted them from the product that was capable of selling.

        MP/M, MP/M-2 and MP/M-86 were very efficient multi-user/multi-tasking OSes. Concurrent-CP/M-86 and Concurrent-DOS, even more so. For example, unlike many other OSes, recovered disk access time for use by other processes, other OSes blocked until the disk access completed.

        I still have here a 8085 based machine that ran 3 users with a COBOL accounting application. With 8086 versions the system also catered for shared code so that when several users ran the same program there was only one copy of the program code in RAM (plus several data segments for each user).

        > the DR focus on this distracted them from the product that was capable of selling.

        DR had a significant proportion of the European multiuser machine business with Concurrent-DOS and Multiuser-DOS. Most users did not know what OS was underlying the applications that they used.

        DOS-Plus and DR-DOS were derived from the C-DOS and M-DOS source trees.

        1. C'est Moi

          Re: About time

          In fact, DR-DOS and MS-DOS were so similar that Win95 could be persuaded to run on top of DR-DOS with a bit of fiddling!

          1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

            Re: About time

            > In fact, DR-DOS and MS-DOS were so similar that Win95 could be persuaded to run on top of DR-DOS with a bit of fiddling!

            Actually Windows ran better and faster on DR-DOS than on MS-DOS (due to better memory management and faster disk handling) until Microsoft added the AARD code to prevent that.

            The most interesting thing to note is that MS did not sue DRI over DR-DOS even though it used FAT file system (and did a much better job of it) and was obviously a clone. Why not?

            When IBM first demonstrated PC-DOS DRI showed IBM that it could produce a DRI copyright (probably from a utility program). Both SCP and MS were full DRI OEMs. SCP used CP/M on its Zebra machines. MS produced the Z80 Softcard with CP/M for the Apple II. At the time the CP/M BDOS was given to OEMs in binary along with source for the utilities and example BIOS code. At the there were 'commented decompilers' for various software available, one of these was for CP/M BDOS version 1.3 or so. It is alleged that SCP 'decompiled' the BDOS and put it though the Intel 8080 ASM to 8086 ASM translator to arrive at the first cut of QDOS. They wanted this for the 8086 board development for their new Zebras.

            MS added their FAT file system from their 'DEC Stand Alone BASIC' to replace the CP/M file system to produce the initial variously named 86-DOS/SCP-DOS/MS-DOS.

            When IBM realised that they had a problem with DRI they settled by agreeing to sell CP/M-86, paying a large amount to DRI, and giving DRI rights to use any mechanism from MS/PC-DOS including FAT file system.

    8. Werner McGoole

      Re: Somebody put it far better than I could...

      You just need to remember that he's more interested in facts being interesting than in being correct.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Somebody put it far better than I could...

        >You just need to remember that he's more interested in facts being interesting than in being correct.

        If something is a fact it's correct, it can also be interesting but you can't have an incorrect fact. So you are saying he's more interested in interesting facts than concoction. Compeltely agree, however, I suspect you were trying to be too clever and didn't really mean to say that.

    9. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Somebody put it far better than I could...

      El Reg v. Fry. Reminds me of something I wrote about an entirely different dispute. "There is a tinge of animus in our public exchanges."

    10. Uncle Ron

      Re: About time

      Windows was not a new operating system. It was simply MS-DOS with a new shell--that didn't work well at first. MS was legally obligated to give IBM the rights to successor OS's and MS waited for that agreement to expire to actually integrate (lock in) the shell with the OS. This happened in the Windows 95 timeframe. However, the underpinnings or Windows 95 was still MS-DOS, just as Windows NT is still the underpinnings of Windows 7, 8.

      The "little man behind the curtain" never wrote a line of code except for a BASIC interpreter. And MS has never truly produced an operating system. Gates/Allen bought "MS-DOS" from Seattle Computer Products, which had allegedly plagiarized huge chunks of it from Gary Kildal's CP/M. Plagiarism that wouldn't have survived a modern lawsuit. IBM and Microsoft cooperated on the development of OS/2-Windows/NT, with IBM contributing the bulk of the work on both. The Object Oriented user interface and integrated Relational Database of OS/2 were too complicated and advanced for MS to swallow and so MS and IBM parted company in the NT timeframe. NT is still the foundation for "Windows" to this day.

      1. stuff and nonesense

        Re: About time

        "Windows was not a new operating system. It was simply MS-DOS with a new shell--that didn't work well at first. MS was legally obligated to give IBM the rights to successor OS's and MS waited for that agreement to expire to actually integrate (lock in) the shell with the OS. This happened in the Windows 95 timeframe. However, the underpinnings or Windows 95 was still MS-DOS, just as Windows NT is still the underpinnings of Windows 7, 8."

        This happened in the Windows 95 timeframe. However, the underpinnings or Windows 95 was still MS-DOS, just as OS/2 is still the underpinnings of Windows 7, 8.

        Fixed that for you.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          @stuff and nonsense

          Win3x was 16-bit Windows running (co-operatively multi-tasking) on DOS running in the virtual DOS boxes from OS/2. (The vxd file format was derived from the OS/2 linear executable format.)

          Win9x then extended the version of *DOS* in those VMs to let 32-bit Windows apps multi-task a little within the "VM 0" that was running the (still 16-bit) Windows GUI.

          NT and its 2K-onwards descendants are well-known to have been lifted (in spirit, if not verbatim) from DEC's VMS, which is where Dave Cutler learned his trade.

          Even at the time, this wasn't the most elegant way to do it. Microsoft could have bundled the virtual DOS boxes as a new version of DOS, with support for multi-tasking and 32-bit memory. They could then have sold Windows as a GUI running on DOS and if you wanted to run multiple Windows apps then they'd each have received their own address space and thread of execution. (Sharing the clipboard and dispatching messages across threads would have been harder, but certainly within the capabilities of a vxd. However, MS had no business incentive to make DOS "good enough" when they were struggling to flog Windows against rival GUIs such as OS/2.

          Updated: As an extra nugget, Windows 3.0 was born when someone ran the earlier version of Windows in an OS/2 DOS box and asked Bill Gates "Is this something we could sell?". That is, they actually started with the superior architecture and deliberately broke it for commercial reasons.

      2. Don Mitchell

        Re: About time

        That's a pretty delusional history of OS/2 and Windows NT, Uncle Ron.

        The history of software may never be written accurately, because there is so much politics and zealous fandom. A typical amateur opinion runs something like: "I hate Microsoft, I hate Windows, I hate Bill Gates...now let me tell you an objective history of computer software." You can't just take Microsoft's version of the story, or IBM's, or Kildall's. All these people have a bias, and a real historian would have to dig very deep for records and talk to a lot of different people.

        But I think it is safe to say that IBM did not write Windows NT. I'd love to be there if you told that to Dave Cutler. There wouldn't even be a wet spot on the floor where you were standing.

        1. SDoradus
          FAIL

          Re: About time

          I've downvoted you because I cannot find in Uncle Ron's post a statement to the effect that IBM wrote Windows NT.

          The truth of the statement that the QDOS author (Tim Paterson) " [took] 'a ride on' Kildall's operating system, appropriated the 'look and feel' of [Kildall's] CP/M operating system, and copied much of his operating system interface from CP/M" was the subjective of a defamation action by Paterson against the author (Evans) who wrote that (and in so doing merely recapitulated others' observations).

          Briefly, Judge Zilly dismissed the defamation lawsuit because in US law truth is an absolute affirmative defence and indeed, Evans' statements were provably true; and Paterson's were not.

          In particular, the judge found that (and I quote from the 2007 El Reg article here) " Paterson copied CP/M's API, including the first 36 functions and the parameter passing mechanism, although Paterson renamed several of these. Kildall's "Read Sequential" function became "Sequential Read", for example, while "Read Random" became "Random Read"."

          It might be good to observe also that amateur opinions on this can be quite perceptive. A million amateurs scanning court records and SEC filings can generate a pretty good history, and the collective nature of the effort reduces bias markedly. In fact, owing to the confidential nature of most commercial legal settlements, the amateur opinions are often the only ones which come close to reality.

          A good example is the archives at the (now inactive) site, www.groklaw.net. The search link is fourth from top left. Type in "Kildall".

          For those interested in the now-dead Kildall's impact and legacy, at good potted history from his point of view is at: http://www.digitalresearch.biz/DR/Gary/newsx011.html.

          El Reg has numerous articles on this. One is at http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/07/30/msdos_paternity_suit_resolved/, and Groklaw also posted an archive of the crucial court rulings in Patterson v Little Brown.

      3. SDoradus

        Re: About time

        The plagiarism in question would not have survived a lawsuit back then, either. The difference is that MS was by then huge and could afford the crippling legal fees - DR could not, so the case settled on terms which remain confidential. However, some idea of the size might be gained by the $120 million dollar settlement involving MS' ripping off Stac Electronics for the code used in the defragmenter.

      4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: About time

        " NT is still the foundation for "Windows" to this day."

        Itself essentially "acquired" when Dave Cutler came from DEC, where he'd been heavily involved with developing VMS, which AFAIK it resembled to an almost illegal degree internally.

        1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

          Re: About time

          > which AFAIK it resembled to an almost illegal degree internally.

          """Rather than suing, Digital cut a deal with Microsoft. In the summer of 1995, Digital announced Affinity for OpenVMS, a program that required Microsoft to help train Digital NT technicians, help promote NT and Open-VMS as two pieces of a three-tiered client/server networking solution, and promise to maintain NT support for the Alpha processor. Microsoft also paid Digital between 65 million and 100 million dollars."""

          http://windowsitpro.com/windows-client/windows-nt-and-vms-rest-story

    11. paulll Bronze badge

      Re: About time

      "It's all well and good praising Jobs for the Macintosh."

      Not really; The Mac project, fwiw, was started by a chap called Jef Raskin. Jobs hijacked it and set about running it into the ground by interfering specs as if he knew *anything* about it. He narrowly failed to destroy it, and took the credit for its success.

    12. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Somebody put it far better than I could...

      A quote from someone even stupid people regard as a stupid person.

      Fry may not be the most technologically savvy out there, but if he's half as amiable in real life as is his public persona, I will gladly suffer his sometimes ill informed tweets.

      Which is more than I can say of Burchill.

    13. SDoradus

      Re: About time

      Regarding the LISA and its GUI; the LISA purchased by our maths dept. was usually running not its own GUI but the Mac emulation. LISA was in fact the usual development environment for early Macs. It's worth bearing in mind that the GUI differences were profoundly affected by the Mac having only 70% of the hardware of a LISA (at around one fifteenth the price). In particular, LISA had a fantastic (for the era) megabyte of RAM compared to the original Mac's 128k.

      I'm not 26. I'm more than twice that age. I do still recall opening the case of my 512k Mac - I think I was the first to own one in Engineering School - and finding a bunch of signatures there, of the Mac development division. Steve Jobs was there, so was Woz: his role clearly was not at an end with LISA. It might have been a committee, but I doubt it's a good word for it. Creative team would be better.

      Similar considerations apply to Gates and Jobs both being at Xerox PARC that day. Jobs made something of it; Gates did not; and Xerox couldn't market a paper bag.

    14. agarillon

      Re: About time

      Ahhh...while you've been straighted out about the IBM PC and MS-DOS, you have a lot to correct as far as the rest of your computer history.

      Both Jobs and Gates visited and saw most of the modern basics of computing invented at XEROX's PARC (Palo Alto Research Center). Foolishly XEROX gave their scientists large sums of money and failed to implement any of recomendations. They developed Ethernet (the basics of networking that we use to this day), The GUI (graphical user interface), the mouse...and many of the concepts we use to this day. XEROX scoffed at their scientists, when they could have been the owner of the PC era.

      Don't believe even most of what you read...even on the internet. However, you can choose to research what's been said and you can glean a truth, or semblance of it.

      Oh...random trivia to close: Jobs and Woz first joint business enterprise was (Woz) building a phone phreak tool (blue box) for obtaining free phone calls and selling the illegal device while still providing a warranty.

  4. Forget It
    Angel

    Do you want Frys with that - or just chips?

  5. Pete 2

    The thinking man's grandma

    > Stephen Fry's credentials as a technology guru turn out to be tissue thin

    I don't think anyone could accuse SF of being a guru - in anything, let alone a technical topic. Sure, he can read a good autocue (though we will never know how many rehearsals are required to get the version we see on TV). However, his technical reputation stems from the in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king principle and it has been bestowed on him only by those more blatantly ignorant in matters that involve a screwdriver or compiler, than he is himself.

    The real tragedy is that all these uncritical, unknowledgable lemmings followers have the weight of numbers on their side and the press, always being a sucker for mass appeal over accuracy (present company excluded) have elevated him to the position of lord-high priest whenever a pseudo-technical comment is necessary. And being a media tart, he's only too happy to oblige: actual knowledge, facts, sense or experience not being a requirement where public-friendly sound bites are concerned.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: The thinking man's grandma

      If we're going for accuracy, then let us note that the error probably lies with the researchers and scriptwriters on QI, and not with the man reading the autocue.

      We've seen this before: "And I'm Ron Burgundy. Go fuck yourself, San Diego. "

      1. Robert Grant

        Re: The thinking man's grandma

        And we've seen it better with Brass Eye.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The thinking man's grandma

      Stephen Fry has never claimed to be any sort of guru, it appears that this particular moniker has come out of the imagination of Mr. Orlowski. Fry is a self confessed technophile and Apple fan boy. He does not profess any knowledge of what he preaches and usually makes it clear that his opinions are as he sees them. Doesn't like something, he'll say it. Finds something awkward to use, likewise. Likes something, he'll rave about it. That's the sort of information real people want to know, not some sanitized review from a magazine fearful of not getting their freebies if they upset a manufacturer (not implying El Reg here). That he gets facts wrong is wonderful and in some cases one may be inclined to think intentional just to wind-up the computer literati.

      Media tart? That's his job, get over it.

      1. mastodon't

        Re: The thinking man's grandma

        Stephen Fry has never claimed to be any sort of guru

        He was big mates with Douglas Adams at the start(ish) of the whole apple thing, they were both obsessed with the tech of the time and Stephen dusts off his fanboi credentials every new launch.

        Just an amiable guy who likes his macs – i've never heard him claim to be a computer boffin

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: The thinking man's grandma

          @mastodon't

          Exactly.

          Whereas Fry's friend Douglas Adams described himself as the sort of person who, when faced with a two hour long job on a computer will instead spend two days writing some code to do the job for him.

          1. itzman
            Linux

            Re: when faced with a two hour long job on a computer...

            ....will instead spend two days writing some code to do the job for him.

            As any right thinking technophile would do.

          2. mastodon't

            Re: The thinking man's grandma

            good old DNA i miss him terribly at times

            1. Dave 126 Silver badge

              Re: The thinking man's grandma

              DNA in Cambridge before Watson and Crick.

  6. Ian 7
    Mushroom

    Overreaction?

    I'm not a fan of Mr Fry at all - he's a stupid person's idea of what a clever person looks like! However I think you may have overreacted slightly here. In that extract, Fry didn't say that CP/M was an IBM OS or that Kildall worked for them - my reading is that he just said that CP/M was IBM's chosen OS for the PC project and Kildall wrote it. He also didn't say that Bill Gates invented platform licensing, just that a pivotal moment for Microsoft was when Gates persuaded IBM to let him license the OS to 3rd parties. There's also nothing in there about the origins of MS-DOS, so he doesn't comment either way on the quality of MS-DOS or the origins of its code base. By the way, how can MS-DOS be both "poor-quality" and "[copied] code straight out of CP/M" if CP/M was so good?

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Overreaction?

      You conveniently overlooked "cracked". Which is the whole point.

      1. Ian 7

        Re: Overreaction?

        Good point, I did. Yes, cracked. Famously-suffering-from-mental-illness-himself Mr Fry goes and abuses another person for mental health issues? Hmm. Doubtful he meant it that way - my reading was that they lost the plot from a business perspective, but I could be wrong. I'm assuming of course he's not even stupider than I normally think he is, which is possible I guess. But if the point of your article was just about the "cracked" comment, then you weakened your point by putting in the other arguments which don't stack up so well.

      2. Badvok

        Re: Overreaction?

        However, when I read Mr Fry's article, having already been aware of the history, I simply interpreted 'cracked' as meaning 'split apart'. Talk about mountains from mole hills.

      3. Patrick R

        Re: Overreaction?

        If that's the whole point, I think yes, a three pages article is an overreaction.

      4. Jim 59

        Re: Overreaction?

        The article unjustified but well written. Fry may be annoying for many reasons, but he doesn't deserve to be assassinated just for making a few factual errors, and those debatable. This is not like his GPS howlers.

        A better reaction might have been to send a compressed version of this article to the Torygraph letters page. Papers are usually reasonable about printing corrections, it might have got conversation going and improved understanding in the general public.

        Unfortunately we don't need much encouragement to fling bile, and several head-banging commentards have already obliged, sticking the boot into Fry for no reason. Now Fry will summon a similar mob on Twitter (as happened last year) and we have defcon 3 for no good reason.

      5. cyborg
        FAIL

        Re: Overreaction?

        "You conveniently overlooked "cracked". Which is the whole point."

        A very weak one indeed.

    2. Vociferous

      Re: Overreaction?

      > he's a stupid person's idea of what a clever person looks like!

      No, he's a clever person's idea of what an educated person looks like.

    3. Uncle Ron

      Re: Overreaction?

      I can make a really crappy copy of a Picasso, right?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why let truth get in the way...

    Of a good story.

    This has been a trait of MS to sow disinformation about how they acquired their IP.

    Take for example the story that Apple stole WIMPs from Xerox therefore it was OK for MS to do it.

    Where as the facts are that Xerox invested money in Apple and then gave them access, Apple then improved many features for the Mac that weren't in the original that MS just took.

    As for Mr Fry he just sees the world subjectively (when he'll insist that it is the absolute truth) and cannot tolerate a real objective point of view.

    QI is a tool to boost his ego by telling everyone else they are wrong, unfortunately he now seems to believe the hype (thank goodness he's not in a position of real power as some of us would now be in internment camps).

    1. cheveron

      Douglas Adams

      Would have been the guy to get to write the article if he was still alive. If memory serves he was the UK's first Mac owner. He was friends with Fry, and so Fry got one as well.

    2. Lutin

      Re: Why let truth get in the way...

      "QI is a tool to boost his ego by telling everyone else they are wrong, unfortunately he now seems to believe the hype"

      He's... a gameshow host. You know how gameshows work, right?

      You know he doesn't make up the questions, right? You know he's given the answers on the autocue or into his ear, right? You know HE KNOWS all these things, right?

      Well wtf are you on about then?

      1. cyborg
        FAIL

        Re: Why let truth get in the way...

        "You know he doesn't make up the questions, right? You know he's given the answers on the autocue or into his ear, right? You know HE KNOWS all these things, right?"

        I really don't think the people who are trying to be all superior care as long as they can troll it up.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Why let truth get in the way...

          >You know he's given the answers on the autocue or into his ear, right? You know HE KNOWS all these things, right?

          Sod it, Jeremy Paxman knows everything (if his role on University Challenge is to believed) so let's just make him President of the World now and save some fuss.

          1. h4rm0ny

            Re: Why let truth get in the way...

            >>"Sod it, Jeremy Paxman knows everything (if his role on University Challenge is to believed) so let's just make him President of the World now and save some fuss."

            With Paxman's ego, I suspect he'd consider President of the World beneath him.

    3. Ted Treen
      Pirate

      Re: Why let truth get in the way...

      Nothing wrong with internment camps - as long as the right people* are interned...

      *Politicos, senior civil servants, senior bankers etc. etc.

    4. P_0

      Re: Why let truth get in the way...

      QI is a tool to boost his ego by telling everyone else they are wrong, unfortunately he now seems to believe the hype (thank goodness he's not in a position of real power as some of us would now be in internment camps).

      QI is a comedy quiz show. For half the show they usually talk about farts or excrement or sex. About ten percent of the show is Stephen Fry reading out factoids. I may be wrong but I don't think Open University use QI for teaching purposes.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Why let truth get in the way...

          Since we are pointing out the bleedingly obvious, Alan Davies isn't actually ignorant. As the producers of the show found out in the first pilot for QI, having Alan just give the correct answers resulted in a boring show.

        2. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Why let truth get in the way...

          You'll be next be suggesting that there aren't actually rules to the game we know as Mornington Crescent! What a ludicrous idea!

          1. MrT

            The London Underground game...

            ..."two stops past Kensal Green"...

            Which will also be intentionally incomprehensible to anyone who hasn't got a clue about that game either ;-)

  8. Chris Miller

    According to Cringely*

    In 'Accidental Empires' ('Triumph of the Nerds' on TV) the story was more like:

    IBM approach Bill Gates for a Basic interpreter. Discussions required Microsoft to sign the standard 23-page IBM non-disclosure document - Bill signs without reading. IBM sign up for Basic and ask Gates about an OS - he points them at CP/M (which I'm sure they were well aware of).

    IBM approach Kildall about licensing CP/M. He (or his team - 'Intergalactic' Digital Research was significantly larger than Microsoft, at the time), wanted his lawyers to read the non-disclosure first, so IBM went away empty handed, told Gates about their difficulties and he told them he could source an OS for them - the rest is history.

    * From memory, I don't have a copy to hand.

    1. Diogenes Silver badge

      Re: According to Cringely*

      Yep, you pretty much got it right - except that Kildall was too busy , and his Mrs & the ESPECIALLY the lawyers kyboshed signing the NDA (just watched it yesterday ready to show incoming yr 11 Software Development class in licencing topic in about 2 weeks time :-) )

  9. Justin Stringfellow
    Thumb Down

    Tried reading the telegraph article but it's the usual Apple fanboy treacle.

    Any article about computing history where "IBM PC" is misspelt as "ICM PC" is highly suspect anyway.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Hmm, IBM and ICBMs are very different things.

  10. Steve Todd

    Not entirely inaccurate

    IBM originally planned to use CP/M, but negotiations broke down (Kildall's attitude reportedly didn't help). At this point Gates, who had got the contract to provide the BASIC interpreter for Microsoft, took a risk and bought QDOS.

  11. LDS Silver badge

    What's the problem? Linux cloned Unix, Android cloned Java.

    If Paterson just copied the CP/M API - and didn't copied CP/M code, he just did what Torvalds, Stallman & C. made with Linux (cloning the Unix APIs), and Google with Android (cloning the Java APIs). We could also add projects like SAMBA (cloning the Microsoft RPC and SMB APIs) and many others. Should we also talk how the PC clones BIOSes were developed?

    The fact that in some way Kildall mismanaged the IBM PC opportunity and Gates didn't, stays. Maybe it was just Gates' luck, because instead of having the OS support multiple, different HW platforms, the way IBM (luckily for us) mismanaged the PC platform was that multiple HW vendors created clones of the PC that could run the same OS - thereby MS could sell it by the sackful without even having to port it to different platforms. If the "IBM PC" hardware didn't became the "de facto" standard platform (up to the point that even Apple had to adopt it) maybe MSDOS would have not gone anywhere and CP/M would have had a different story.

    Unluckily, there comes a point when being a brilliant software developer is not enough to sustain a healthy company - you need also to understand how to sell your software against competition - and acknowledge competition exists - business it's not a gentlemen sport, especially when the vision of a lot of money enters the playing field.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's the problem? Linux cloned Unix, Android cloned Java.

      As a matter of fact, MS-DOS and Windows were portable over x86 systems into the early 90s, not tied to the IBM PC BIOS until Windows 3.1 release.in 1992. The PC clone era was not being driven by Microsoft, surprisingly enough, in fact the popularity of unimaginative clones was holding back some of their aspirations for OS/2 and Windows for several years,

    2. Vic

      Re: What's the problem? Linux cloned Unix, Android cloned Java.

      > If Paterson just copied the CP/M API - and didn't copied CP/M code

      The story is that QDOS was a copy of far more than just the API, it was a simple rip of the codebase.

      It's many years since I've seen anything approaching evidence, though. It looked quite compelling at the time, but I wasn't interested enough to save it away, nor even to check too carefully.

      Vic.

    3. SDoradus

      Re: What's the problem? Linux cloned Unix, Android cloned Java.

      Linux is a clone of Unix only in the sense that it is POSIX-compliant. The actual OS is a creative work of Linus Torvalds in the first instance, not owing anything to any previous OS.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    colour me shocked

    Apple fanatic knows bugger all about technology...

    Never mind flaming, this thread is going extra crispy

  13. madmalc

    A literary national treasure

    Who really should keep his gob shut about technology and gadgets - unless its a word processing program about which he's probably quite knowledgeable

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A literary national treasure

      And like other national treasures be locked away in the Tower of London!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quite Idiotic

    See title.

    Still, give the chap a break, he may have cracked.

  15. Kay Burley ate my hamster
    Trollface

    So this whole article

    ...is about the word cracked?

  16. Semtex451 Silver badge

    "Cracked"

    It is odd that Fry would use that word, but I expect he has the mental health charities/NGOs happy enough already, to get away with it

  17. Graham Marsden
    Meh

    What a wonderfully smug attitude.

    ... whose? I'll leave you to answer that for yourself...

  18. John Styles

    Stob

    Is it time for El Reg to republish Ms Stob's poem about the ghost of Kildall haunting Bill?

    (I was hoping you would write this post - reading Fry on technology, it's like a rage espresso)

  19. h4rm0ny

    Stephen Fry is an incredibly irritating person.

    I was really quite enjoying the last Hobbit film up until his smug visage appeared. Everyone else in that film was acting, even though it's basically a film about big flying lizards. Except for Fry, who was just being Fry.

    Not that I ultimately blame him - he does what he is asked to do. But why does anyone think that's what we want to see in the first place?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Stephen Fry is an incredibly irritating person.

      Maybe because he was just reprising the sort of role he had in a few series of Blackadder - either a general or a pompous courtier - and turning it into a screw-the-commoners town burgher.

  20. Benchops

    he sort of reminds me of a polished Boris

    At least with Boris everyone knows he's spouting nonsense.

    BTW, I congratulate you on "licence [sic]"

    1. Tim99 Silver badge

      Re: he sort of reminds me of a polished Boris

      El Reg, and Fry are British - Licence is spelled correctly for the UK and many of the former Colonies. IBM and Microsoft are USAian, they would spell it license...

      1. handle

        Erm, no

        In context: "Gates insisted that he could licence [sic] his MS-DOS" - i.e. it is a verb, and the verb is to license, whichever side of the pond you are standing.

        1. Tim99 Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Erm, no

          @handle

          Erm, yes. I am even older than Fry, and went to a British school where people cared about that sort of thing. We used the OED - A successor of which still allows "licence" as a verb - Oxforddictionaries.com

          Note that in British English licence is the correct spelling for the noun, and is also an acceptable variant spelling of the verb. In US English both noun and verb are spelled license.

          Pure snobbery of course (like Fry?). We also used spellings liike unionized, so that people could be confused by the chemical or political usage...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Erm, no

            Even in English English, the present participle of the verb is licensing, so it seems logical that the preferred verb form would be license.

            The Germanic strain in US immigration makes them very prone to interchanging nouns and verbs, so a single spelling for them makes sense. But, as we all know, verbing weirds syntaxing.

            1. Wilseus
              Thumb Up

              Re: Erm, no

              verbing weirds syntaxing

              Have an upvote, just for the Calvin and Hobbes reference.

      2. Benchops

        Re: he sort of reminds me of a polished Boris

        Looks like there are plenty of other pedants than me reading to advice that licence is a noun. You know what they say: practise makes perfect.

      3. Philip Lewis
        Headmaster

        Re: he sort of reminds me of a polished Boris

        licence = noun

        to license = verb

        advice = noun

        to advise = verb

        Wait ... I have already done this.

        Confusion between nouns and verbs is not the only issue a vast number of Americans have with the English language, and some English speaking people as well, sadly.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: he sort of reminds me of a polished Boris

      Sadly, they don't. Boris is now simply a very obvious shill for the "financial sector", but a lot of people think he's somehow lovable and should be PM.

      He thinks he's Bloomberg, but Bloomberg could eat him for breakfast without interrupting a phone call.

    3. Richard 81

      Re: he sort of reminds me of a polished Boris

      Apologies for the down vote. I kept reading the comment and realised the "[sic]" was correct.

  21. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Technology Without An Interesting Name

    Didn't Kildall develop the TWAIN protocol that all scanner/camera systems now use for image communication, as well as creating the initial specs for data on CD?

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Technology Without An Interesting Name

      Are you sure? CD standards were a Philips/Sony joint effort (data CD are the "Yellow Book" standard) - although Kildall was among the firsts to deliver software on CDs.

      Nor I ever heard he worked on TWAIN, which is a standard developed by a group of companies interested in image acquisiition and manipulation.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > Gates insisted that he could licence [sic]

    Why the [sic]?

    1. John Diffenthal

      <pedant>In the UK, nouns and verbs are often differentiated by the letters c and s. Licence is a noun and license is a verb. </pedant>

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Licence is a noun. License is the verb - the spelling he should've used.

      A bit like advise & advice etc.

      Apologies in advance for my own inevitable grammatical/spelling errors... ;-)

    3. Hollerith 1

      verb vs noun

      In the UK 'license' is the verb ('you license the use of...') and licence is the noun ('you must have a car licence'). Same as defense/defence etc. The USA don't have this usage.

    4. Deebster
      Headmaster

      In British English, "license" is the verb, as correctly used by Fry in his preceding sentence.

      He also calls the LHC the "large hardon collider" and uses the US spelling of "archaeology", but who's counting?

    5. DavCrav Silver badge

      "> Gates insisted that he could licence [sic]

      Why the [sic]?"

      In British English the verb is license, and the noun is licence.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Thanks for the explanation chaps. I wasn't aware of the difference.

        1. SDoradus

          If it helps, the LibreOffice spell checker for US English gets it precisely the wrong way around (as of v4.1.4).

  23. Dick Pountain

    Like almost every other media person Steven Fry has bought into the Jobsian religion, which tells him that he is a "creative" and hence superior to ordinary PC-using schmucks

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Steven Fry has bought into the Jobsian religion"

      Other way round, I think, Apple got some of its allure because media types thought that owning a Mac would somehow make them like Douglas Adams or Stephen Fry. Apple even, in one excruciatingly awful advertising campaign, tried to enlist Einstein to their marketing effort. ("Think different" - yes, dimwits, like not knowing how to form an adverb correctly.)

  24. Vociferous

    It's Stephen Fry, a humorist with a degree in English literature.

    He's not a tech-guru, he's not even Wikipedia, and anyone who get their tech-information (or their panties in a twist) from Stephen Fry is barking up the wrong tree. He does light entertainment, and is very good at it.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bear in mind Fry has had many opportunities to speak with David Mitchell. Who doesn't appear to have aged at all!

  26. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Comedians

    Oh I thought he was telling a joke.

  27. Alan Denman

    Two stupids don't make a right.

    Whilst it is pretty weird that Fry tells us about technology its just as stupid to see stupidity when that stupidity ain't there this time.

  28. All names Taken
    Joke

    The BBC's like that isn't it?

    Or moreso: British Broadcasting is like that no?

    Let's rewrite history and sell the revised form in the Malls in time for next Christmas royalties payouts?

    I mean, why bother at all with accuracy and fact

    Tsk, don't they just get in the way of a good story?

  29. Semtex451 Silver badge
    Joke

    El Reg 28/01 editorial objectives

    Bash NSA - Tick

    Bash Fry - Tick

    Bash Climate Scientists -

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: El Reg 28/01 editorial objectives

      I let this through the net, but only because it made oi larf.

    2. Vociferous

      Re: El Reg 28/01 editorial objectives

      I must buy an iphone, then i've checked all the boxes on The Regs shitlist.

  30. 404 Silver badge

    an American...

    ..who thinks Stephen Fry is a character on 'Futurama' - seems it might as well be the same person to judge by the outrage of El Reg commentards*.

    * yeah I'm one too, so deal.

  31. This post has been deleted by its author

  32. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  33. cdilla

    It's a pity ...

    Sometimes the facts purveyed in good faith by enthusiastic amateurs need to be corrected or clarified, and I'm all for that, but does it have to be done in such an unpleasant way?

    1. Not That Andrew

      Re: It's a pity ...

      Unfortunately Fry like to pretend he knows better than informed professionals, so the bile is understandable.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Yet again, Stephen Fry's credentials as a technology guru turn out to be tissue thin"

    Yet how many iDrones bought shiny shiny on recommendation of his?

    In fact most shiny shiny strokers bought one on someone else's worthless opinion.

    Doesn't say much about the shiny shiny stroker, does it?

    1. Byz

      how many iDrones bought shiny shiny on recommendation of his?

      Not many as he also recommended the Windows phone and not many of them have been bought either ;)

  35. Spinel
    Devil

    Disruptive Technology

    As a person who was actulay involved in the industry at that time I have doubts IBM had any real intention of supporting MP/M on the PC (Piece of Crap) .

    In the late 70's, before the PC there was the didicated Word Processor. I worked for AES DATA in Mississauga as test enginer kepping the production line humming. I made the first CP/M bios for that system.

    Shortly after that I was hired by a startup developing a S100 based system. We had 128K banked memory system workin ( never finished debugging the 256K model )and a 5M hard drive, running MP/M with 4 dumb terminals.

    Imaging my amazement when the PC (Piece of Crap) was first introuduced with 16K of RAM and a puking cassettre tape drive to so much fanfare and hype, destroying the actulal inivations going on in the microprocessor market.

    The startup ran out of funding. I showed up for work one day to find the doors locked and me stiffed for 3 moths salary.

    MP/M had the possibility of crashing the minicomputer market margins. The whole purpose of the PC(Piece of Crap) was to prevent that from happening. IMHO

  36. Jim O'Reilly
    Pint

    An IBMer told me a story....

    I heard from a director-level IBMer in the PC Division at the time that CPM actually was IBM's first choice, but that it was difficult working with Kildall.

    He said, and I have not verified it, that they had arranged to call Kildall with a final decision to go or not, and asked he be by the phone. When they called with the good news, Gary was playing golf, and a call to the clubhouse resulted in a caddy driving the "mobile" phone out to Kildall. He was heard making a comment to "Tell those ******** I'll call them back when I finish my golf." That triggered Plan B at IBM!.

    Might be true, might not. But the teller would have been on that call without question.

    That could make Stephen fry close to accurate.

  37. Thomas Gray

    Whether S. Fry is a technical genus or not...

    ... he is _presenting_ himself as one in the Torygraph article, and because he is associated with a programme that contains facts, non-technical readers will assume that he is correct. To my mind, the article here is justified because (a) Fry has got simple facts wrong, and he really should (and the Telegraph also should) do some basic checking before he publishes anything that claims to be remotely factual, and (b) Fry uses the word "cracked" to describe a man whom he has probably never met, clearly knows nothing concrete about, and who is dead and therefore cannot defend himself. Fry's use of the word "cracked" is itself a mystery, since there is nothing in the context of the article to explain what he even means by the word (although I concede that some sloppy editing by the 'graph may be to blame for that).

    The fact that Fry has previously shown himself to be ignorant on technical matters does not help. As an aside, when he was "explaining" GPS on QI, he was clearly off-script - he spent the entire time during that speech looking at the panellists, rather than consulting his cards or reading the Autocue. It's interesting to watch the programme and spot the difference between the scripted and the unscripted stuff.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Whether S. Fry is a technical genius or not...

      ...wrong is wrong.

    2. 's water music Silver badge

      Re: Whether S. Fry is a technical genus or not...

      > and the Telegraph also should... do some basic checking before ...[it] publishes anything that claims to be remotely factual

      Telegraph should do fact checking? Surely you mean "include gratuitous pictures of young ladies in skimpy summer dresses"?

  38. Lars Silver badge
    Pint

    pip CP/M

    Or was it PIP. Fond memories, a fairly nice Cobol compiler and basic too, I think. But lets not forget that Gates was considering Xenix too, too bad he did not choose it. Enough about Fry.

  39. messele

    Fry may have got it wrong but so did Orlowski.

    Chris Miller posted the correct version - as told by those actually present but you were all too busy having a go at Stephen Fry and tapping at anti-BBC rhetoric to read what he said weren't you?

    Gates were NOT in the OS business when they started dealings with IBM. They were pitching their application software to them.

    The story involves Gary Kildall, his wife, his lawyers, Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer Products. The suits of IBM and of course Bill Gates. If you do not mention the role of all of these people then you do not know the story. That doesn't really make you any better than Stephen Fry when you preach as you do.

    First I've heard of any mental health issues though...

  40. MitD

    Oh man gotta show my age...

    Ok folks lets get a few factoids straight.

    1. Although QDOS was the original name of the OS developed by the the Seattle Computer Products company, when Microsoft came a knocking the name had been changed to 86-DOS.

    2. It was Paul Allan who closed the deal with Seattle Computer for the rights to 86-DOS. It is still unclear if Bill closed the the IBM deal first or Paul closed the Seattle Computer first. In any case the timeframe was very narrow certainly days and perhaps even hours. Also of note; sometime later Seattle Computer successfully sued Microsoft for further compensation.

    3. Rumours, at the time, were rampant that Gary Kildall dragging his feet with the IBM deal. I had a direct interest because I and several others were working on a relational DBMS that would run on CP/M and would have competed directly with MS/PC-DOS DBMS that would later be known a Dbase.

    I love Stephen Fry, and believe he pretty much got the story right and only some of language he used , like 'cracked' to describe the Kildall/IBM relationship may have thrown younger geeks off also considering Stephen's normally pedantic approach to Language, Literature, Culture and Science, his remarks may have seemed a little out of character :)

    So from a geek who took delivery of the second Altair kit delivered to Canada and who, in his late twenties had the privilege to participate in what was, I think, the most exciting time in technology since man landed on the moon in '69' I doft my hat to you the next generation and leave you with this:

    "Bill Gates was never evil. He just became a better poker player than a computer programmer." - MitD

    PS.. For those of the next gen who might want to read more about what was happening in those early days might grab a copy of Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution (ISBN 0-385-19195-2) by Steven Levy published by Double Day or Michael Swaines, the Pirates of Silicon Valley, the book. The movie is good too, but has a few small inaccuracies. Noah Wyle, of Falling Skies fame plays the best Steve Jobs to date.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Oh man gotta show my age...

      "I had a direct interest because I and several others were working on a relational DBMS that would run on CP/M and would have competed directly with MS/PC-DOS DBMS that would later be known a Dbase."

      Just for the sake of clarity, are you saying you worked on DBase or that IBM "invented" DBase?

      ISTR working with DBaseII, Wordstar and Supercalc on CP/M machines before I ever saw an IBM PC or clone. I could be wrong. The first "PC"s we got were MS-DOS but not IBM clones, and later, Tandy 1000's both which initially ran the CP/M versions of those programmes once I'd written the software to transfer them over vis RS232C before later buying in "PC" versions.

      Either way, I thought DBase predated the IBM PC.

      1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        Re: Oh man gotta show my age...

        > Either way, I thought DBase predated the IBM PC.

        dBase was originally Vulcan, Ashton-Tate bought it and released it in 1980 on CP/M. IBM had a range of CP/M and Apple II software converted to run on PC-DOS including Wordstar, Visicalc, Peachtree, dBase, and UCSD Pascal.

  41. Lars Silver badge
    Flame

    Bill Gates was never evil.

    "Bill Gates was never evil. He just became a better poker player than a computer programmer."

    Perhaps so, evil is a rather evil word. Why assume he was better at poker than programming. Looking at Gates/DoJ at Youtube I would suggest he had problems with his memory (or something) too, however, the thing to remember now is that IT, even while Windows was the greatest catastrophe ever in the history of IT, IT, do day, is rather stable, the real problems to day are companies like Monsanto and similar. To our joy and entertainment in IT, we have persons and personalities, people with names and faces, how lucky we are. Compare that to the real faceless shit taking place right now. Try to discuss what shit was added to what we had thirty years ago and what shit is added to day, good luck finding a person with a face and a name behind that.

  42. MacroRodent Silver badge

    Hope you CC your article to Stephen Fry directly...

    ...since he obviously does not read The Register. If he did, he wouldn't make mistakes like this. I remember The Register had a fine piece on the history of MS-DOS and CP/M a few years ago.

  43. JeffinLondon
    Unhappy

    The cab driver speaks

    Egads, when will this glorified cab driver exit the scene?

    I wretch every time I hear that voice pontificating about things he know SFA about!!

    ggggrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  44. Purlieu

    Kildall

    Since I was around at the time, the story I have understood for the last 30 or so years is, IBM preferred Digital Research's DRDOS to Microsoft's MSDOS, but when they came calling on Gary, he was up in a plane, and radioed down that he'd get back to then sometime. IBM went away. To Microsoft.

    1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

      Re: Kildall

      > Since I was around at the time,

      That seems unlikely.

      > the story I have understood for the last 30 or so years is, IBM preferred Digital Research's DRDOS to Microsoft's MSDOS,

      At the time 'DRDOS' did not exist (that was several years later), DRI's products were CP/M and MP/M. Nor did 'MSDOS' exist. IBM were negotiating with Microsoft for their ROM BASIC, which was in the Apple II and others, and Bill offered SCP's QDOS/86-DOS.

      > but when they came calling on Gary, he was up in a plane, and radioed down that he'd get back to then sometime. IBM went away. To Microsoft.

      IBM had an appointment with DRI's VP of licensing, the appropriate negotiator. It happened that was Gary's wife. She refused to sign an NDA and offered the standard terms for CP/M and CP/M-86 licensing as just another OEM.

      Whether Gary was in a plane or not is irrelevant, he was not scheduled to be in the meeting.

  45. JMB

    Fry seems to have zero technical knowledge, he has made some ridiculous mistakes reading the Qi script which is supposedly carefully researched by his 'elves'. The one that I always remember is that Sat Navs work by sending a signal up to the satellite which then sends back a signal with the position.

  46. ZanzibarRastapopulous

    The Reg...

    How many comments have you blocked to give the impression that your readership agrees with the faux outrage?

    Is this intended to wind Fry up so he says something publicly in a sad bid to garner publicity?

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: The Reg...

      Read the house rules for more info.

      tl;dr Don't come here and slag us off in our own house. You wanna criticise us? By all means do so in a constructive manner. Or get a blog and rant in your preferred style.

      1. messele

        Re: The Reg...

        Yeah, but no, but yeah...

        So anyway, that aside you didn't answer the questions. Obviously the first one was too difficult but regarding the second.

        "Is this intended to wind Fry up so he says something publicly in a sad bid to garner publicity?"

        We all know he's a sensitive chap, so c'mon fellas it's near the end of the month. How are those quotas looking?

    2. Daniel Johnson
      Devil

      Re: The Reg...

      It's takes a lot less than that to wind up Stephen Fry. Tim Shipman once wrote a couple of lines in The Daily Mail that he was at a party which Fry was also attending, while Tweets in Fry's name were being sent. How could this be? he wondered. He did say it might be possible that Fry was Tweeting from the party and he just hadn't seen him.

      Cue an essay from Fry about how Shipman was a boil on Satan's anus, etc. etc. Fry is also the man who has an argument at a funeral -- with the brother of the deceased (and then slags them off on Twitter, for good measure).

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amigo

    Fry is still a good bet to lead a computer history program on TV once the reg has finished educating him :)

    I can't help feel that Fry would've benefitted being part of the Commodore Amiga phenomena instead of the loyal fanboy he became after buying his totally unremarkable Macintosh in 1984.

    He was also part of a massacre on University Challenge in 1980

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA_3LfuwVyw

  48. Don Jefe

    Huh. Happens Here Too I See

    When I was a wee tiny fellow my dad spent a lot of time teaching me how to identify vulnerabilities in the positions of those who I would one day have to deal with. After you identify those vulnerabilities you've got all kinds of options. You can exploit those openings, you can actively defend those openings for that person (usually in exchange for something) or you can just ignore them.

    The only hard and fast rule in any of that was that you never exploit those vulnerabilities, or provide others with the information to do so, unless doing so results in direct gains for yourself. Only a fool starts a fight where nothing can be gained, right? Plus, if there's no gain, you're only exposing your own vulnerabilities. Why take the risk? Hubris is a killer you know.

    Let's say, for example, a moderately well known specialty media outlet went on a tear about some famous persons stupid mistake(s). Now, there's exactly zero advantage in an expert publicly pointing out the factual errors by someone who is, effectively, not an expert in anything, and who enjoys popularity for the same reasons as wool sweaters: Warm and harmless.

    Now, while that media outlet may have their facts correct, you have to ask yourself why they felt the need to point out what any subject matter already knows and the general public could care less about. Only the thickest sort expects the talking heads of any society to actually know what they're talking about. The celebrity chatterboxes are little more than ambient background racket that we all filter out.

    So everybody who cares already knows the famous person was wrong; but that was expected. What wasn't expected was a full frontal retaliatory assault by experts on the subject. As noted, the experts already knew and the general public still doesn't care. In fact, the general public, should the incident rise to general awareness, will make an emotional decision and side with the wool sweater. Every. Single. Time.

    So now our hypothetical media outlet has lost the support of general public they were aiming for (aiming for the general public being the only reason to restate what experts already know) and have revealed themselves to be prone to individual bias. Once a proclivity for bias has been established, any future commentary by that media outlet is compromised simply by pointing out they exhibit aggressive bias.

    Only die hard fans, who already recognized the original error, will over look it. But anyone outside that core has a legitimate reason for tossing that outlets commentary out. Just like people do with The Daily Mail, or Fox News, or MSNBC (or whatever they are now) or NPR. The weight of expertise has been completely offset by a perception of aggressive bias.

    The worst part is, there is no defense. Any information coming from that outlet, even if wholly unrelated, can be swept aside as loaded. That's public debate 101, instill doubt about the oppositions information sources. Once that's in doubt, the person using those sources is on the defensive for the remainder of the debate. Rendered impotent. In the arena of public discourse perception trumps fact and correctness every time. To be doubted is to be undone.

    Now, journalism isn't my field, but public opinion (audience opinion anyway) most certainly is. If I were employed at a specialty media outlet covering a field with a reputation for vocal, often insulting, condescension I'm pretty sure reinforcing industry stereotypes is not how I would go about increasing readership and the attached advertiser dollars. I would turn that right around.

    I would have approached the popular celebrity, who repeatedly makes dumb comments, about a partnership to prevent his saying dumb things about my industry. You know, proof his related commentary and in exchange he sells you to everybody on the island, and beyond. That's marketing no amount of money can buy.

    As a quick review of history shows, our media outlet can be neutralized with one snarky comment from the celebrity. Nothing has been gained and reputation has taken a hit. Instead of a futile war on wool sweaters, get your name emblazoned on the sweaters. Let them do the selling for you.

  49. SalisburyGooner

    Well Reasoned & Well Written, But...

    Bill Gates and Paul Allen did in fact license the Quick And Dirty Operating System, QDOS, from Seattle Computer Products, and was designed and developed by Tim Paterson to as a substitute for Digital Research's (DRI) CP/M-86. QDOS was not licensed by Microsoft from DRI.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seattle_Computer_Products_QDOS

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a copy

    "MS-DOS was a poor-quality effort (QDOS actually stands for Quick and Dirty Operating System) which had been created by simply copying code straight out of CP/M"

    Early DOS is a copy of CP/M like early Linux is a copy of UNIX. They implement the same API. That's it.

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