When Tim Paterson
became the "father of DOS" at the age of 24 it should not
have come as a great shock to anyone who knew him well.
Growing up with a father who was an electrical engineer says
Paterson, "I got a lot of exposure to electronics stuff at
home." He also says that he learned a lot by reading and
simply by experimenting on his own. It was not until he
went off to the University of Washington, however, that he
first came into contact with PC's. His roommate bought one
and let him play around with it. At the same time, Paterson
was working as a technician at a retail computer store in
the Seattle area. This position allowed him to begin trying
to design his own computer boards. It also brought him into
contact with Rod Brock, of Seattle Computer. It wasn't long
before Brock invited Paterson to become a consultant for
Seattle Computer. After doing consulting work for only a
few weeks, he was made a salaried employee of the company.
In June of 1978 Paterson graduated from the University of
Washington with a bachelors degree. In July of the same
year he went to a seminar on the
8086 chip that opened his eyes to a new set of
possibilities. Because Seattle Computer had been thinking
of building its own computer, he began working on the 8086
CPU card. When he had finished Digital Research expressed
their interest in finding out if CP/M would run on it. Soon
after, Microsoft became
interested. In November on 1979 Seattle Computer began
shipping the 8086 with its CPU card. By April of the next
year Paterson had begun work on his
By July he was half-way done with the system which he called
QDOS (for "quick and dirty operating system"). The
discovery of a bug quickly changed it to QDOS 0.11.
Although Paterson's system was largely based on CP/M, there
was a major difference in the file management system which
he patterned after the method of Basic-86. By August of
1980 QDOS 0.11 was being shipped.
Paterson admits to being shocked
when he realized that IBM was putting his system to use. "I
was aghast," he said, "when I heard that IBM was using it
and not throwing it out the window." At the end of 1980
Seattle Computer started selling 86-DOS to OEM's (original
equipment manufacturers) and Microsoft. Microsoft ended up
buying the rights to QDOS for a flat fee of $50,000.
Shortly afterward in April, 1981 Paterson left Seattle
Computer to work at Microsoft full time on the PC-DOS
version of 86-DOS. PC-DOS was completed just one month
before the pc was announced to the world. 86-DOS became
Paterson credits the success of his
creation to timing and necessity. Software for the new 8086
processor had been overdue, so he just went ahead and built
his own. It could be said that people like Ted Hoff
contributed also with the invention of the microchip, as
well as Steve Jobs at Apple providing competition and the
necessity for new programs. Paterson came and went from
Microsoft during the 80's, but has been a permanent asset
there since 1990. In 1991 he was recognized along with Bill
Gates for the Stewart Alsop Hindsight Award.
In 1981 when the original IBM Personal Computer was announced,
IBM released three operating systems for it. How many of you remember that?
Since I wrote the first IBM course on how to fix this original PC, I had to know
at least a little about all three of them.
IBM decided early in the development process of the PC that they
did not want to hire a bunch of programmers to write software for it -
especially an operating system. IBM wanted the hardware business and did not
care about the software. Since there was no clear-cut contender for an operating
system at the time, IBM approached three organizations about writing one for the