Operating systems

Dinosaur Sightings: DOS 4.01 Shell

By Greg Shultz

The Shell in DOS 4.01 was designed as a menu system to enable you to more easily run application programs as well as use common DOS commands.

The Shell consisted of two distinct interfaces called Start Programs and File System. You can think of the Start Programs interface as the precursor of the Start menu and File System as the precursor of Windows Explorer.

As you can see, the Main Group contained four items: Command Prompt, File System, Change Colors, and DOS Utilities. The fourth item, DOS Utilities, is actually a sub group.

To navigate the Shell in DOS 4.01 from the keyboard, you used a combination of the [F10], [Tab], and arrow keys. Even better, you could install a driver and use a mouse to navigate.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

70 comments
iparr
iparr

What a Turkey OS!! As I recall IBM tried to show Microsoft THEY could do it better and totally tanked it with bloat ware. When 640 Kb conventional memory was gold this turkey used it all up for the hell of it. DOS 3.3 with the early versions of Emm386 and Smartdrv loaded drivers in high memory could run Netware shells and still have over 628Kb free. IBM PC DOS with Lan Manager struggled to leave 384 Kb free. No contest. It was is right up there with Windows ME and Vista as one of the truly great OS failures. Around the same time MS was bundling Windows 1.0 runtime with Excel and then the fun really started!

itworkhorse
itworkhorse

Xtreegold still works with XP very usefull sometimes. DOS was bgreat for CAD and VERSACAD really worked better with NTH ENGINE graphics card. Better than Autocad in the earlydays and still needs fewer commands.

thisaintmyemail
thisaintmyemail

Sure, it may just be a shell, but it still is a GUI; and I'm already seeing similarities between Windows and DOS 4.01.

jprew
jprew

Tee Hee... I'm running a 386sx box w/dos 6.22 and Win 3.1 under Quarterdeck Deskview so I can play with Wolf3d and all the other good old games like commander keen, doom, duke nukem, and the Original lucas arts Dark Forces shooter.

Rodo1
Rodo1

I used this constantly and seeing the photos almost had me tearing up a bit. I spent a lot of time in DOS even though Windows was available. I also loved XTree Gold.

don
don

I can well remember 4.1 and before that also. I stll have an old computer and floppies to load Dos 3 through to 6 which I think was the last one. I also recall that a 50-100 page long document could be spell checked a great deal faster than possible with my dual core computer, Win XP and Word. Perhaps the nearest approach to the Dos system is Linux, which unfortunately is short of apps, but otherwise arguably better than Windows

pj808
pj808

Now there was a way to get out of MS and we blew it !

TheSysEng
TheSysEng

I remmber useing the Dos Shell. Wow how time flies.

2Shane
2Shane

MS DOS is just soooo UN-GAY................ ........................................... ........................................... ........................................... ........................................... NOT.

artful
artful

You may laugh at this interface, but some of us old-timers continue to love it, particularly the speed. Consider the program FAR, a knockoff of Norton Commander but a lot smarter and a lot more aware of things such as long filenames. It's also WAY faster than Explorer. To find it, Google FAR. It's a free download and I love it. Arthur

pmclayton1
pmclayton1

looks like windows 2.0 to me. you know the stuff ms was releasing while they did the "hurry up" between 5.0 and 6.22. Hummmmm. Oh, I forgot the nice new desktop in 3.0,3.1, windows for workgroups.

onbliss
onbliss

Reminds me of himem.sys, expanded vs extended memory, 640Kb RAM. It is just vulgar to think that I have 2GIG RAM now. Oh the fun we had opening command.com in NDD and changing the messages :-) Did DOS systems ever crash? I forget.....

jprew
jprew

I've got an old 386sx running dos 5.0 on one of my swap disks - I Just pulled some of the old floppies out of my archive box last week and installed X-tree. It was kind of fun using it - with pkunpack - to unzip commander keen and duke nukem just for kicks. It's Amazing to see just how much function could be put into such a small space back then

deepsand
deepsand

Both DOS and Linux are [i]kernels[/i], such that only those drivers, I/O interfaces, tools, etc. that are absolutlely needed for a given platform and application need be loaded. Result - no bloatware.

artful
artful

Don't mistake me for a Microsoft apologist, but I have more respect for MS than any other firm in the business. Look back at how the *nix people failed to coalesce, and compare it to what MS did. Call them fascists or rapacious or any other insulting term, but recognize that MS did what nobody else could do, which was cement the OS and its offspring to work on billions of computers. You can whine and bitch and moan that *nix is better, or QDOS, or whatever, but the simple fact is that MS delivered a system that works on computers around the world. Much in the same way that I can fly to Osaka and rent a car and I know immediately how it works. The gas and clutch and brake pedals are all where I expect them to be. The largest problem (solvable in less than a minute) is that I might have to drive on the left rather than the right. In my opinion, Gates and Ballmer are the Napoleans of the 20th Century. They forced their will upon the world, and it was "good enough". We can argue about this or that being wrongly implemented, but at the end of the day, no one else had the world-vision to do what they did. Yes, they played hardball in the licensing world. But are we worse off for it? I don't think so. In my home office, I run one Linux box and four Windows boxes. I like to keep my foot in the Linux puddle, but my income derives from the Windows ocean. A.

linden
linden

DR. Dos was always a couple of steps ahead of Microsoft. They usually had a couple of commands that DOS didn't have. Next version of DOS would have those commands but by then DR-DOS would have something better. DR-DOS had a better shell. I used them both from DOS 4.1 up through the 6.0 versions until Windows 3.1, then alas, a Microsoft slave I became. Still useful to know the old commands sometimes. I still wish I could use the print page button or xcopy....

ttocsmij
ttocsmij

MS DOS ... sooooo reliable! Know how one measures MTBOF for Windows? In hours or days. Know how one measures MTBOF for DOS? With a 5-year calendar! You poor Windows-bred twits don't have a clue about up-time. Imagine being able to power up your PC and run it for years without a reboot? Shucks. You can't even imagine that. Micro$oft saw the light after MS DOS 6.2x and developed an OS model that required constant upgrading and renewing; called Windows. As in "windows into your wallet"! Ha ha ha ha ...

onbliss
onbliss

When did they come out with doublespace? Was it around 6.01. Wow...it did mess some data. 5.0 was quite stable and great.

donaldcoe
donaldcoe

We are talking about the 1990's a mere 16 years ago, before VGA Color of 4 basic color kind, before Hard Disk Drives larger than 10 Megabytes, when the 5.25 inch floppy was the KING. Yes I to am a Dinosaur, but what a period of a pure learning to adapt to on-going history. I wonder why we say DOS is gone, it is NOT gone, just hidden. Try entering "cmd" on the "run" window. Commands like: format, fdisk, chkdsk (commonly found on any basic boot disk) just to name a few, are alive and going strong throughout Windows series up to Windows XP and probably in Windows VISTA as well. We have never left our roots which continue to serve as foundations for future platforms.

rouxleon
rouxleon

To date I have been using dos on an old 486 machine, did all my geophysical log interpretation work in clipper and dbase III unfortunately my hard drive crashed and am now forced to submit to windows, "I hate it, number crunching is now slower, programs excessively big to support unnecessary graphics, and lets not talk about systems hanging, suitable punishment for the developers would be a one way ticket to hell equipped with necessary computing gear, only difference keyboard should not include ctrl alt del keys!

pennatomcat
pennatomcat

since I've had my own custom, multicolor command prompt!

Fred123456
Fred123456

DOS never crashed on its own. The only time DOS realy crashed was when using a poorly coded app. Oops I forgot to release the data from memory. Oops I addressed an area of memory reserved for the OS. DOS was always solid. It was Windows on top of DOS that made it hell in a hard drive..

iparr
iparr

Ztree ... Use it every day as my most essential tool. 32 Bit, powerful, fast and still the same old interface.

Roc Riz
Roc Riz

Because it contains all the bloat, and applications, not to mention the shell. In Linux it's called the X-Windows system. KDE and Gnome are also X-windowing systems. I guess it's explorer in Windows. The shell is merely the graphical interface, which, in and of itself is bloated. You could do so much without all the cutesie graphical garbage, that you didn't need all the resources that you do today. As some great American once said, "Give me Command Line, or give me Death!"

nobby57
nobby57

I just reinstalled W2K on a T-23 laptop. Apart from the fact that it doesn't recognize the video card (which Xandros Linus did) or the network card (ditto) it installed a "bare" system which is -- magic! -- very fast. Starts up in half the time it used to and does everything double-time. Wheee! Except, of course, that I can't surf the Web or see more than VGA resolution until I download the drivers. Again, Linux doesn't need to do that. I know, it's not XP. But this isn't that old a machine. Anyway, this thing is fast! It would not remain so long, just that it's a barenaked install with low video resolution. Shows the result of bloat, as previous poster observed. Doesn't it seem funny that with all the power of our current machines -- factors and factors above the old stuff -- we haven't gained any speed in actual work processes? I have a lot of old stuff around and run some old OS installations. Seems funny you can't do essential things any faster. I will readily admit that you can do more, IF YOU NEED TO -- not always the case. Funny the insane speed of old OS and programs run on more modern hardware. Seems like a funny ride, doesn't it -- Vista coming out and suddenly the same job will take twice as long unless you have up to date gear? I'm not a gamer. It looks different from that perspective. Reid

madogsmike
madogsmike

art... i've just witnessed the biggest praising of something that has so many problems as to not be able to be listed here... however, have you ever used an post-2001 apple? with their new version of OS X, version 10.4, there are so many new and intuitive features that *they* cant be listed... lets have a look, shall we? OS X and XP both came out around 2001. while MS fiddled around with Vista, Apple shipped 10.1, 10.2, etc. all the way to 10.4.8. and whats that? MS *still* hasn't put Vista out. and ill tell you from experience, Vista sucks. i've got their "RC1". its a hack job of OS X 10.3, with different colors... so in case you've never tried one, find your nearest Apple store and take one for a spin...

johndonn66
johndonn66

If you want a very interesting multi boot /partioning tool check this out. http://www.ranish.com/part/ Ranish Partition Manager is a powerful hard disk partitioning tool. It gives users high level of control for running multiple operating systems, such as Linux, Windows 98/XP, FreeDOS, and FreeBSD on a single disk.

artful
artful

Do you have anything to contribute other than one character? If not why are you wasting the netspace? If so, please contribute. So far, your posts consist of exactly one meaningless character. Get some character! Speak up or shut up, as it were. A.

madogsmike
madogsmike

there's only one other system that can accomplish that feat... Mac OS.... especially OS 9. i've got a G3 (8 years old) and it finally kicked the bucket last week... still running 9 strong

deepsand
deepsand

Why are/were you forced to switch to Windows? Did you not keep backups of DOS and the apps, so that they could be re-installed?

harrisjw
harrisjw

Running BBS systems for email and files (peer to peer) which took a fossil driver and actually reading manuals. But I still use the dos commands and batch programming I learned back then...to do what? Monitor win2003 IIS servers, catch them misbehaving, and restart services while the MCSEs are making themselves busy with reboots and long outages.

onbliss
onbliss

...in those occasions, did the system reboot and displayed the C:\> prompt? Or did it just hang... 15 years is not long...but I forget.

deepsand
deepsand

There is the old adage that works expands so as to use the time alloted it; the same can be said of software growing to use more expansive hardware capacities. And, it's not only computers. One look at the cars of today, as compared to those of not so long ago, serves to demonstrate that people rarely settle on that which is merely utilitarian, but tend to embellish all with that which earlier was held to be luxury, and but later becomes viewed as necessity. How many people today, who have a cell phone, will settle for a mere "telephone?"

madogsmike
madogsmike

yes! i agree about the "one size fits all" thing... it'd be nice if, when you bought a new PC, when you turn it on, have all the stuff loaded, then ask "will you be using *program or utility name here*?" for the big stuff, like those damn trial softwares(took up 10GB on my comp, then, for everything you said "no i wont be usin it/dont want it" it'd uninstall all that junk... if that makes sense...

deepsand
deepsand

you've tossed what's not really needed. In the early days of PCs, then known more simply as micro-computers, the publication [i]Doctor Dobb's Journal[/i] used the tag line "running light, with no over[i]byte[/i]." With minimal resources, and a bit of practice with assembler languages, it was amazing what was accomplished. As MCs became PCs, in order to be mass marketed to the public, it was necessary to remove the inner workings and hidden mechanisms from sight and reach of those who did not and would never be capable of fully understandign and controlling them, so as to make PCs as close to appliances as possible. This required that they be loaded with everything that might be used, so as to ensure their availability with a minimal amount of effort by the users. That is, PCs needed to be dumbed down if they were going to be successfully mass marketed. That wouldn't have been so bad, had it not been that those of us who do know how to these things work, and desire to be able to better use them, were, for the most part, left by the roadside, ignored as unprofitable niche markets. This, of course, gave rise to the open source movement, with the result that those who for so long felt so safe in pandering to the masses have only recently come to understand that they are not the only ones capable of producing products of value, ones that have the capability to threaten their markets and thus adversely affect their bottom lines. It can only be hoped that the result will be that more products are forthcoming with greater granularity, so as to allow for a return to a time when one can select only those components which are truly needed for one's purposes, rather than being forced into using a general purpose "one size fits all" product.

deepsand
deepsand

Since Linux is a kernel derived from Unix, and MacOS X is Unix, OS X [i]preceeds[/i] Linux, rather than [i]succeeds[/i] it!

madogsmike
madogsmike

the features of Tiger are only on Mac.... MS is tryng desperately to play catch-up in the goodies department...and besides... Apples version of Unix is a highly tweaked and customized version...

deepsand
deepsand

Merely pointing out that it [i]didn't grow on an Apple tree.[/i] I.e., it's [b]not[/b] an Apple OS, bit ratter Unix ported to the Apple platform. One need not use an Apple machine to get the benefits of Unix.

spreston
spreston

For ever OS there are the people who love them and the ones who don't. My wife is a computer teacher with 28 Mac OS 10.4 machines. But at home she has a laptop and a PC that are both XP. SHe loves her XP machines a lot better than her Macs any day of the week.

madogsmike
madogsmike

the thing is that it'll run on a G3 (mine's 400MHz), which is 8 years old, and it does it well.... cant say the same for windows (the day i see Vista on a stock Pentium II machine ill shut up...) anyway...Apple's OS is still a highly tuned and tweaked version of UNIX, and still has more features than Vista...

deepsand
deepsand

Apples abandoned their proprietary OS ages ago.

deepsand
deepsand

Look around; you'll see that I am correct in this regard.

jprew
jprew

I've got this box full of software. Things like IBM OS/2 for win 3.1, 4-DOS, Ms Dos 1.25 up to 7.x(the back-end of win 95), and about 5,000 other apps and games leftover from the old BBS filebase. I still play with this stuff. So, Deepsand is right -

deepsand
deepsand

Had Gary Kildall not have blown off IBM's request for a version of CP/M-86 for their yet to be released PC, Bill Gates would not have had the opportunity to acquire QDOS and turn it into a demo of what would become PC-DOS. Ah, the possibilities of a world not domininated by MS products.

dazza_
dazza_

I found that this operating system is used in embedded mode in gaming machines. It has been used in arcade games and gambling machines. Its amazing that such an operating system still works. Though the software running on top of it can be buggy.

deepsand
deepsand

Considering how sparsely it was used before Gates bought it, for use as the foundation of his demo to and subsequent development of IBM/MS-DOS for IBM, I'm surprised to hear that there are any surviving copies of it. Someone should get a copy, preferably of the source code, into a computer museum.

lasersteel
lasersteel

There are vintage systems still running CPM and QDOS and a few sites still using 80 column punched cards that didn't die in the Year 2000 washup.

deepsand
deepsand

numerous CP/M variants, notably TurboDos. These earlier OSes still live, and do meaningful work, despite they're having been unsupported by their authors for over 2 decades.

deepsand
deepsand

[i]Doctor Dobb's Journal[/i] for a long time used the tag line "running light, without over-byte," which was quite appropriate for the times. I still have several old machines running LSI-DOS, TRSDOS, CP/M+, and various versions of MS-DOS, which I continue to use for apps developed for personal uses. They continue to run rings around today's Win based apps, even when using floppy disks for storage.

artful
artful

I have one box (among 8) that can boot DOS 6.22 and DOS and Clipper and the Artful libraries that we offered way back then. I will never sacrifice the privilege of running said software. Like most everyone else,I have moved to Windows, but back then we could do a LOT with 640k RAM. And thanks to my multiboot, I still go back in time, from time to time. A. Arthur

artful
artful

I have boots of DOS 6.22 and everything since. I even found a CP/M Linux clone and installed it and then installed dBASEII on the virtual box, and it ran! This is where I got my start in this business, so it's fun to look back. Linux running a virtual CP/M OS and then that running dBASE.com. A whopping 60KB in assembly language. Hats off to you, Wayne! A.

jprew
jprew

I can remember having to print the manuals for Frontdoor 2.21, the Squish mailer, and my Renegade BBS system on a 9 pin dot matrix. Then you had to read the stuff, write 100 line batch files to automate everything, and also configure the fossil driver for your comm ports in config.sys. And then you had to design ansi.sys based 16 color graphics, set up a permissions system for access to the board and practically hand enter every line of text a user might see. It was almost as hard as reading the manuals for MS_Office 4.1 Professional and Makes configuring Active Directory services or a DNS server look simple by comparison

onbliss
onbliss

[b]iisreset[/b] to run from the command prompt to restart IIS on developers' machine. I used to open inetmgr and do the same, until I discovered iisreset.

harryolden
harryolden

Sometime it would jump out of computing mode and would show you streems of ones and zeros on the screen, and you would think that the machine was broken then you restarted it and think wow that was close I did not break it beter not do that again.

jprew
jprew

So I have these working 386sx and Amd k6 boxes, and a couple hundred 5 1/4 floppies with all the old shareware offerings from my days as a BBS Sysop. I still play wolf3d, ROT, and the original Doom at least once a week. Talk about nostalgia...

cincybones
cincybones

Based on unconfirmed reports of the new stealth fighters. The government admitted the existence of the jets shortly before the release of Sid Meier's F-19, but it was developed primarily during the period when existence of the program was flatly denied to the public. It was a hell of a game - beat the heck out of the earlier F-15 Eagle game, which was little more than a horizon reference with ill-defined targets. Thanks for taking me back.

tonious
tonious

Thankyou! Thankyou! Thankyou! M$ M$ M$. Bill$ I love U. U deserve a Nobel Price, sooner, rather than later.

onbliss
onbliss

Harvard Graphics... I used it bunch of times to create sales promotional material and other technical literature. Did not use WordPerfect much, but used WordStar a lot along with Lotus 1-2-3. Games....Used to play Digger, Nibbles and Prince of Persia a lot. When Windows came played little bit of Doom. Let me put it this way... I was never a successful gamer :-)

Fred123456
Fred123456

If your app hosed up in DOS it was a 50/50 chance to be retuned to a C prompt. But as a programmer in those days, It was usually my code that caused the crash. Think about it, when did WordPerfect ever crash or how about Harvard Graphics? I can't remember any commercial app crashing DOS. Now games on the other hand were a little more tempermental but still not as bad. Heh games... Thinking about F117-A.. Falcon 3.0... Wolfenstein.. Rise of the Triad... Or how about the 2d red baron game on the PS/2...