The operating system mentioned in the article was the ill-fated OS/2. Specifically, this article discussed OS/2 1.x, the very first version of OS/2. This was from the time when IBM and Microsoft were happily working together on what Bill Gates described as the “platform for the 90s.”
The article appeared in the New York Times on December 27, 1987. It was originally entitled “THE EXECUTIVE COMPUTER: Whether, or When, to Buy OS/2.”
This time, I left out not only the name but also the entire passages that referred to the different versions of OS/2. OS/2 1.0 came in Standard and Extended versions, which did different things. I also left out references to mainframe connectivity, which would have been a dead giveaway.
One of the things that kept OS/2 1.x from being more popular in 1987 was its large memory footprint. As the article (in correct form) states:
“OS/2 is an obese, snorting memory hog that demands a minimum of 1.5 megabytes just to boot it up and 2 megabytes before it can run any of your DOS-based software - and that’s Standard Edition 1.0, the early diet version.”
Kind of describes Windows Vista in a nutshell, doesn’t it? Just swap gigabytes for megabytes and away you go.
Remember that in 1987, most computers came with only 640k. High-end 286s may have come with as much as 1Mb of RAM, but 2MB was unheard of. To expand memory to 2MBand beyond was a small fortune.
Another thing that doomed early OS/2 was the reliance on 286 machines. The 386 machines were only starting to come off of the assembly lines, and IBM wanted to sell as many 286s as possible. The problem was that 286 machines were limited in their multitasking capabilities and couldn’t multitask DOS apps (95% of the market) very well at all.
The high memory requirement and poor multitasking ability doomed OS/2 from the start. After that, Microsoft concentrated on Windows, and IBM took the OS/2 ball and went home. Subsequent versions were much better, even better than Windows 9x, but eventually Microsoft’s marketing power, OEM relationships, and Windows NT/2000 code doomed OS/2.
The last fun quote comes from page 2:
So when will the scales tip decisively toward OS/2? ”It’s quite possible that by 1989 it’ll be very close and we might likely sell more OS/2’s than DOS,” Mr. Reiswig said. ”But it will be quite a time before the whole installed base is OS/2.” And what is the message I.B.M. wants to send to executives? ”Try it, you’ll like it,” Mr. Reiswig said. ”It’s not something you have to throw a big switch on and say we’re gonna buy all OS/2’s tomorrow. It has been couched that way, because everybody’s been wondering about it.”
When people are busy talking about how soon we’ll all be running Linux, Mac OS X, or Vista, remember that in 1990 we were all supposed to be using OS/2.