"The Evil Genius of MS-DOS" joke

Hot 3 years ago

Dave Barry says:
In the early days, different brands of computers used different operating systems, which meant that people switching from one computer to another would have to learn a completely new set of instructions. This was obviously inefficient, so in the early 1980s, most major computer
manufacturers agreed to stop forcing people to learn a bunch of different operating systems, and instead adopt a single, uniform, standardized operating system so absurdly non-intuitive that nobody could learn it. This system was called MS-DOS.
The MS, of course, stood for Microsoft, the company that was started by the brilliant software genius Bill Gates. Gates is a very rich man today - Forbes Magazine estimates that he is worth more than the entire O. J. Simpson defence team combined - and do you want to know why? The answer is one word: versions.
To understand what I mean by versions, let's consider an analogy involving cars. Suppose you've purchased a new car, and you notice that, although it does move, it goes very slowly, is extremely hard to steer, and makes a loud scraping sound. You study this problem for a while, and you conclude that the most likely cause is that the car does not have any front wheels. So you mention this to the salesperson, and he tells you that you have Version 1. 0 of the car, but that Version 1. 1 will be out shortly, and it will feature wheels in front as well as back.
So when Version 1. 1 comes out, you upgrade, which means you pay money. But you're happy, because now you have a car with a complete set of wheels, and you're totally satisfied with it from the moment that you pull out of the dealer's lot to the moment, about 90 seconds later, when you drive into a public fountain.
This is when you find out that brakes are not scheduled to appear until Version 1. 3.
This is very much the way MS-DOS worked. The original version, Version 1. 0, did virtually nothing except cause the computer screen to say:
A:>
That was it. Really. Ask anybody who used MS-DOS computers back then. You'd turn them on, and there'd be this A: staring back at you. What did it mean?
Why A:? Why not some other letter, or even an actual word? And what was the little pointy > thing for? We will never know the answer. It's one of the many mysteries of MS-DOS.

So, anyway, people would turn on their computers, and stare at the
A:>
for awhile, scratching their heads, and then finally they'd try typing something after the A:>, perhaps something like:
A:> HELLO
But here was the crucial thing about MS-DOS Version 1. 0. No matter what
you typed in, it would respond as follows:
BAD COMMAND OR FILE NAME
Then, with no further explanation, it would go back to:
A:>

There were rumours (never verified) that if you typed in certain secret code words, you could get some response other than A:> or BAD COMMAND OR FILE NAME, but if there were such code words, only Bill Gates ever knew what they were. So mainly what this version of the MS-DOS was used for (millions of person-hours were spent on this) was trying to get it to do something, anything! If you were to travel back in time and look at the average person's computer screen during that era, you'd see what looked like a conversation between the computer user and an unusually hostile employee of the Department of Motor Vehicles:
A:> HELLO
BAD COMMAND OR FILE NAME
A:> HELP
BAD COMMAND OR FILE NAME
A:> DO SOMETHING!
BAD COMMAND OR FILE NAME
A:>RUN A PROGRAM, DAMMIT!
BAD COMMAND OR FILE NAME
A:>F**K YOU!
BAD COMMAND OR FILE NAME, A**HOLE
This was pretty much all people did with MS-DOS Version 1. 0. So you can imagine how excited everybody was when Microsoft came out with Version 1. 1, which had a whole new capability in addition to doing this:
A:>

It would sometimes also do this:
C:>
A new letter! This was very, very exciting news for those of us in the computer geek world. We all immediately upgraded to Version 1. 1. Of course, no matter what we typed, it still answered BAD COMMAND OR FILE NAME. But we felt renewed hope.
Over the next few years, Microsoft continued to come out with the new and improved versions of MS-DOS, featuring a constantly expanding repertoire of incomprehensible and/or scary screen messages, including:
B:>
NON-SYSTEM DISK OR DISK ERROR
INVALID SWITCH
PATH NOT FOUND
WARNING! ALL DATA WILL BE LOST!
And just about everybody's all-time favourite:
ABORT, RETRY, FAIL?
We, loyal Microgeeks faithfully upgraded every time a new version came out, until finally, somewhere around Version 3. 3, we had reached the point where we could use MS-DOS to actually run programs on our computers, and Bill Gates had reached the point where he had approximately 217 personal jet airplanes.

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