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Issue of the Week: Old Operating Systems Never Die

By Doug Barney

OS/2 was the greatest operating system that never took off. Go back to the 1980s if you will (younger readers can get all the background on Wikipedia). Back then, DOS was character mode, OS/2 was graphical. And where early versions of Windows only pretended to multitask, OS/2 was fully pre-emptive. And with Microsoft and IBM behind it, OS/2 success was a foregone conclusion. That was until Microsoft turned its back on OS/2 in 1990 and promoted the far less robust Windows in its place. We went backwards about four years with that move, and OS/2 ultimately died. Dang.

The OS/2 faithful never forgot this injustice, and the folks at www.OS/2world.com are now promoting a petition to bring this massive hunk of terrific code back to life.

While I’m a huge old OS/2 fan, I think this group is about 18 years too late.

Meanwhile, there’s a major lawsuit winding its way through the courts over whether the latest rev of AmigaOS will ever see the light of day.

The Amiga, launched by Commodore in the early ’80s was once arguably the best computer for video, still graphics, animation, as well as high-end 3D rendering and modeling — back then a $1,000 souped-up Amiga was the equal of a Silicon Graphics (now SGI) box costing twenty times as much.

Sadly, Commodore gave up the ghost in 1994. Rabid fans, many of whom relied on the Amiga for video work, animation, ray tracing, and design, did all they could to keep the OS alive, and kept working on versions that work with PowerPC-based systems, usually used Macs.

And seeing the value of Amiga intellectual properties, companies have been vying for the technology ever since, tossing it back and forth like a fresh-out-of-the-oven Idaho potato.

The latest owner is Amiga, Inc. which got the Amiga rights from Gateway. But Amiga, Inc. is fighting for the rights to its own operating system. It seems that Amiga outsourced some of the development of AmigaOS4, the newest operating system, to a company called Hyperion. Hyperion claims it owns the operating system because Amiga, Inc. went bankrupt, while Amiga maintains it never filed for bankruptcy, although it does have new owners. It seems that there was a clause that if Amiga ran out of money Hyperion owned all the work. If you followed all that, perhaps you can explain the plot of Pirates of the Caribbean 3 to me!

In an interesting twist, one of the creators of the Amiga is now chairman of Liquid Computing Corp., a supercomputer vendor. Hear what Adam Chowaniec has to say about the remarkable machine he helped create 22 years ago.

Here’s a news report on the Amiga battle

Here’s what Amiga, Inc. has to say.

What’s next? Should we bring back the DEC Rainbow, Atari ST, and Tandy Model 100? What is your favorite orphan computer? What machine would you revive? Let us know by writing me at barney@deskeng.com.

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