Article Reference: Linux -- The New CP/M

From: Martin Scott Goldberg <>
Date: Wed Aug 20 03:09:00 2003

Sellam Ismail says:
>On Mon, 18 Aug 2003, Patrick Rigney wrote:
>> This article caught my eye; I'm sure this will stir many a hornet's nest...
>He's right on some of his points. The one thing that Linux has going for
>it in this case IS the fact that IBM is fully behind it.

I disagree with his attempt to draw some of those parallels though between
CP/M and Linux. It fails to take in to account the time period in history
and the market then vs. now. Hardware was in a much different transition
period than it is now, with micros still just moving forward to being
accepted as serious business at the time. The market was still majorly
a hardware driven market. The PC was IBM's second micro,
and at the time IBM was still in a major position from it's mainframe and
mini clout to lead business's like the pied piper to the hardware
direction it wanted. Gates and company were smart enough to latch on, and
the move catapulted MS-DOS to the forefront. They (as has been written
about ad nauseum) were also smart enough to realize software was the
future, and planned ahead to catapult themselves past IBM in to the
dominance they soon enjoyed and still do. That environment where they
came to prominance simply does not exist now.

He draws another incorrect parallel with multiple flavors of CP/M being a
problem vs. the multiple customized Linux's. I'm sorry, but in the 70's
and early 80's micro market you simply had a lot of of different
architectures and platforms (many with propietary
cards/configurations/etc) that needed the customization of and the support
of that manufacturer. Not all graphics, sound, memory, etc.
cards/chips/whatever provided the same basic defined level of
support, had the same level of OS integration/supoort, etc. etc.
since again the hardware was in it's infancy. Today, short of embedded pc
systems (which as far as I know Microsoft does not dominate), you do not
have anwhere near that ammount of customized/proprietary pc
architectures/platforms. It's pretty standardized now between open
architecture PowerPC and X86 platforms in the micro market, with most of
the onus of support falling on a symbiotic relationship between third
party card/chip manufacturers and the OS company since much of the need
for guess work/customization/etc. for the basic motherboard/bus/etc.
itself has been gotten rid of.

Unlike MS-DOS and Windows, Linux is truly a product of the Internet to
begin with - being one of the first major OS's to be built through that
kind of world wide networked collaboration that it has come to enjoy.
That includes continued driver support, kernel, etc. that has lead to
Linux being ported to many many different platforms from older hardware,
to all the different micro formats, embedded systems, and even video
game consoles. The various "flavors" of Linux (specifically in the
pc distriputions of Red Hat, Calderra, etc. etc.) have little to do
now with the hardware/disk/etc. issues that CP/M faced and have more to do
with software incompatibilites due to enhancements each distributor has
decided to tinker with in an effort to dress up the same standard Linux
distribution that's available to everyone. After all, the kernel and
related OS is free so you have to try and "dress" it up if you want people
to have a reason to buy a distribution of it from you.

The bottom line of all the above being in the 70's and early 80's, many
many platforms = bad. CP/M must be customized to support many
many platforms/disk formats/HW configurations = bad, and it's licensing
practices leads to many different flavors. Microsoft used IBM (by also
pushing for an open platform and a non-OS based BIOS that they would
not have to worry about protecting - that's IBM's problem) to push for
standardization and thin the herd. And set itself in position to retain
control of any and all future "flavors" of it's OS through it's licensing
and development practices. Now, over 20 years later the herd is down to a
few standardized cattle. Microsoft Windows completely dominates one of
them. Now you have Linux, where customization = good, and allows you to
run on all the cattle and any future calfs, while taking advantage of the
same software driven/third party symbiotic relationship that Microsoft
enjoys because of the now standardized open arctiecture environment that
the micro platforms have.

But hey, I'm a FreeBSD guy and I thought BeOS had a great shot if they
wouldn't have been so bone headed about the drivers. So what do I care?

Received on Wed Aug 20 2003 - 03:09:00 BST

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