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Operating Systems

Gary Kildall, Father of the PC OS, Finally Gets His Due 99

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-a-moment-too-soon dept.
theodp writes: "GeekWire reports that Gary Kildall, the creator of the landmark personal computer operating system CP/M, will be recognized posthumously by the IEEE for that contribution, in addition to his invention of BIOS, with a rare IEEE Milestone plaque. Kildall, who passed away in 1994 at the age of 52, has been called the man who could have been Bill Gates. But according to Kildall's son, his dad wasn't actually interested in being what Bill Gates became: 'He was a real inventor,' said Scott Kildall. 'He was much more interested in creating new ideas and bringing them to the world, rather than being the one that was bringing them to market and leveraging a huge amount of profits. He was such a kind human being. He was always sharing his ideas, and would sit down with people and show flowcharts of what he was thinking. I think if he were around for the open-source movement, he would be such a huge proponent of it.' Techies of a certain age will also remember Gary's work as a co-host of Computer Chronicles."
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Gary Kildall, Father of the PC OS, Finally Gets His Due

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  • by Kenja (541830) on Friday April 25, 2014 @03:46PM (#46844261)
    It wasn't about the creation, but the leveraging.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This. Gates was ruthless from the get-go, the kid read multiple biographies of Napolean for chrissakes. He read biographies of people like JP Morgan, back when you couldn't even find them without trekking to a major university library.

      If Kildall had struck an exclusive deal with IBM, he would've probably made a few tens of millions USD before retiring or being out-maneuvered by businessmen of Gates' caliber.

  • by ThatsDrDangerToYou (3480047) on Friday April 25, 2014 @03:52PM (#46844305)
    is this: " He was such a kind human being. He was always sharing his ideas, and would sit down with people and show flowcharts of what he was thinking."

    We could use more like him. To be recognized by IEEE is great, but greater still to leave this legacy to his kids and the community.

    • by sg_oneill (159032) on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:50PM (#46844729)

      Yeah, I think its wrong to put him in the Jobs, or Gates category. Jobs and Gates where merely better than average technical people but with phenomenal business skills. Kildall was only a better than average businessman but with phenomenal technical skills.

      In a sense he was more a Wozniak character, well meaning, technically brilliant, and for a while at least betting on the right horse.

      And by all accounts, a genuinely decent person.

      • by JabberWokky (19442) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Friday April 25, 2014 @05:41PM (#46845053) Homepage Journal

        To tie them all together, I used a computer for many years that was designed by Woz, marketed by Jobs, with a expanded processor and memory made by Gates' company to run Kildall's OS (and a few others). An Apple ][+ with the Microsoft Z-80 SoftCard card, running CP/M. And I'm sure I wasn't the only one. A world capable of inventing, manufacturing, and garnering capital and sales to see that innovation become available to people requires all of them.

        I know I'd rather have lunch with the likes of Wozniak and Kildall, however. Add Ritchie and Kernighan, and that would be one heck of a table.

        • by LDAPMAN (930041)

          Thats same machine is responsible for all the success I've had in my career as a technologist. It was outrageously expensive at the time but parents say it's the best investment they ever made.

      • by jeremyp (130771)

        I don't see any evidence that Kildall was a better than average businessman. In fact, the evidence is that he was quite a poor business man.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by theodp (442580)

          From the linked BW article: "Kildall ultimately sold his company to Novell Inc. (NOVL) in 1991 for $120 million." Not BillG money, but not too shabby.

        • by sg_oneill (159032)

          I don't see any evidence that Kildall was a better than average businessman. In fact, the evidence is that he was quite a poor business man.

          He was actually fantastic, and made serious coin doing something people actually originally thought impossible, writing software.

          Unfortunately he just wasn't shrewd enough to face down Bill Gates, possibly the most talented businessman of the last 50 years. But I doubt many else could either. Bill even managed to wipe the floor with Jobs (You'll note when Jobs finally d

    • Wait, there are non-evil flowcharts? What an eye-opener.
      • Wait, there are non-evil flowcharts? What an eye-opener.

        Oh right? What was I thinking? I don't know anything about CP/M, but I do know that flowcharts are the purest evil. Unless there are doughnuts. Did the man know his doughnuts?

    • Uh NO. Fuck Gary and his idiotic 8.3 filename convention -- it set computing back 20 years.

      My old Apple DOS 3.3 filesystem had 30 character filenames WITH spaces in it.
      ProDOS had even 15-character filenames and directories.

      CP/M was total shit.

  • as a guest on Computer Chronicles in 1987. He seemed like a genuine person, not at all affected by not being Bill. Good to see he finally gets better recognition even if it took so long.
    • by antdude (79039)

      Which episode and story were you in CC? I loved watching that show. Matt Chat had a interview with Stewart recently that I mentioned in my /. post: http://tech.slashdot.org/comme... [slashdot.org] ... :)

  • by brit74 (831798) on Friday April 25, 2014 @03:55PM (#46844329)

    "Kildall, who passed away in 1994 ... I think if he were around for the open-source movement, he would be such a huge proponent of it."

    Doesn't the open-source movement go back to the 1970s? Admittedly, I'm not sure how easy it would be to get involved with open-source projects (other than open-sourcing your own private projects) before the age of the internet.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O... [wikipedia.org]

    • by jgotts (2785)

      1994 was the year I first installed Linux. By that point, there were a number of complete Linux distributions. I got my start with Slackware 2.0.

      So he was definitely around for the open source movement, so to speak. It was off most peoples' radar screens in 1994. This site got its start in 1997. I think I joined in 1998.

    • "Kildall, who passed away in 1994 ... I think if he were around for the open-source movement, he would be such a huge proponent of it."

      Doesn't the open-source movement go back to the 1970s?

      In the '80s, I recall myself and others being more focused on initiatives for Open Systems Interoperability and Connectivity.

  • IMO, CP/M should get him the award, not even considering BIOS...
    • IMO, CP/M should get him the award, not even considering BIOS...

      While Tandy TRS-DOS was my first OS, CP/M on Vector Graphic, Kaypro and Televideo systems was the first one I dove into. In the BDOS I could disassemble memory to instructions and actually figure out what was going on. CP/M was the 8-bit bread and butter of the 8080/Z80 age.

      In 1980 at age 16 I wrote a proof of concept product, a TSR (terminate and stay resident') program for CP/M systems called DataCrypt. You'd load it on startup and be prompted for a pass phrase and it would hash the phrase, tuck itself i

  • While the "open source as something different than Free Software" debate may have exploded in the 1990s after his death, the fellow was around for the many years of GNU and BSD activity and publicity. Did he have any published views on that?
  • by hessian (467078)

    Democracy, markets and social groups all recognize one factor: popularity.

    When popularity rules, engineering comes second. What matters is making a product that many people think they need.

    Gates isn't even a huge offender here. He accomplished something great: he made a company to standardize computing.

    Thanks to him, we have standard hardware, file formats, disk drives, etc. enabling a lot of things including Linux.

  • Gary's contributions in the early days of microcomputing were very significant. Few have contributed nearly as much.

  • by DadLeopard (1290796) on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:45PM (#46844699)
    The GEM Graphic environment manager, would have been the world standard, well expect for the "Look and Feel" Lawsuit that Apple brought against it when it was released for the IBM PC and Clones. After the settlement it was so neutered as to be fairly useless! It was a dream to use in it's full implementation on the Atari 1040ST. Drag and drop and a windowed environment way before Microsoft got around to it!
    • Apple sued all the early GUI interfaces out of business. You might even say they caused Microsoft's success with Windows, by clearing the field for them.

  • by samantha (68231) * on Friday April 25, 2014 @04:46PM (#46844707) Homepage

    I met him back in the 70s. He said that CP/M was something he hacked up one weekend out of frustration with other things available at the time or rather the dearth of much of anything. He wasn't at all impressed by having done so. He wondered why people thought it was a big deal.

    So sorry to hear that we lost him and so very young.

  • Aaannnndd that marks the first time I feel targeted by the phrase "of a certain age." You insensitive clod.
  • A Navy laboratory project I was on wanted to buy the source code to MSDOS for a project where we needed to make some custom mods. Digital Research said they were interested, but their lawyers made it living hell. Somehow the Navy lawyers and DR's lawyers finally hammered out an agreement (I remember one of the provisions was that we would never, ever, EVER tell anyone that they had sold the code to us), but it took so many months that we had by then written most of what we needed from scratch, so we decided

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Saturday April 26, 2014 @12:19AM (#46846577) Journal

    More like, the first guy in a long line that Bill Gates ripped off.

    -jcr

  • http://www.businessweek.com/st... [businessweek.com]
    http://www.groklaw.net/article... [groklaw.net]
    http://www.basicallytech.com/b... [basicallytech.com]
    http://www.digitalresearch.biz... [digitalresearch.biz]
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2... [theregister.co.uk]
    "The PC world might have looked very different today had Kildall's Digital Research prevailed as the operating system of choice for personal computers. DRI offered manufacturers the same low-cost licensing model which Bill Gates is today credited with inventing by sloppy journalists - only with far superior technology. DRI's roadmap showed a smo

  • 3/Three Long Parts:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

    They talked about Gary briefly. I don't re(member/call) which one(s) had that discussion. Just watch/listen to all of them if you were a fan of Computer Chronicles like me. ;)

  • Some photographs of Friday's dedication of the Kildall plaque in Pacific Grove CA are here: http://news.cs.washington.edu/... [washington.edu]
  • I remember having a problem getting an 8" floppy drive in work properly with CP/M and called Digital Research for support. Gary answered the phone himself and we proceeded to work out the solution in under a half hour. It was a rather trivial timing error. During the conversation I found out he was in his kitchen cooking lunch. Gary would go out of his way to make sure his customers were happy.

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