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Church Of The
Swimming Elephant

What is... DOS?
Introduction to Disk Operating Systems


By John Holstein, Cotse Helpdesk Coordinator

Page 1: Define

Defining DOS

From this point forward, when referring to "DOS" I will be relating all material to Microsoft's Disk Operating System (MS-DOS). Below you will find the Jargon File definition of MS-DOS:

From Jargon File (4.0.0/24 July 1996) :

MS-DOS /M-S-dos/ /n./ [MicroSoft Disk Operating System] A clone of {CP/M for the 8088 crafted together in 6 weeks by hacker Tim Paterson at Seattle Computer Products, who called the original QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System) and is said to have regretted it ever since. Microsoft licensed QDOS in order to have something to demo for IBM on time, and the rest is history.

Numerous features, including vaguely Unix-like but rather broken support for subdirectories, I/O redirection, and pipelines, were hacked into Microsoft's 2.0 and subsequent versions; as a result, there are two or more incompatible versions of many system calls, and MS-DOS programmers can never agree on basic things like what character to use as an option switch or whether to be case-sensitive. The resulting appalling mess is now the highest-unit-volume OS in history.

Often known simply as DOS, which annoys people familiar with other similarly abbreviated operating systems (the name goes back to the mid-1960s, when it was attached to IBM's first disk operating system for the 360). The name further annoys those who know what the term operating system does (or ought to) connote; DOS is more properly a set of relatively simple interrupt services. Some people like to pronounce DOS like "dose", as in "I don't work on dose, man!", or to compare it to a dose of brain-damaging drugs (a slogan button in wide circulation among hackers exhorts: "MS-DOS: Just say No!"). See mess-dos, ill-behaved.


We know that several basic features are needed in order to have a usable computer system. First, you will need the hardware necessary to perform the specific job function, such as: Central Processing Unit (CPU), Random Access Memory (RAM), Basic Input/Output System (BIOS), Video Card, Disk Drives (Floppy DD, Hard DD, CD-Rom's), Keyboard, and Monitor. At some point in time, you will need most of these items to properly configure your system in order to operate.

Secondly, you will need the second level software (first being BIOS) which is the D isk O perating S ystem. The DOS (don't confuse this with DoS, Denial of Service attacks) contained on a computer system is the platform to which the system operates and the basis for other programs to operate off of, giving a list of instructions and services necessary for these programs to utilize in order to present to you a usable interface in which to work.

DOS, in a variety of forms, sets up your system to house information. Considering MS-DOS, it establishes a guide for your hard disk drive to work with in order to manage your file system. It establishes a system called a "File Allocation Table" where the files and programs contained on the hard drive (and floppy) are stored in a usable and orderly manner.

DOS provides a directory structure where you can view the files and programs contained on the disk drive and use them accordingly. The directories, files and programs are named in a manner representing useful information and also contain a file name extension, such as ".exe" for use as identifiers for executable (program) files, ".bat" for use as batch files that will run multiple executables (program) files and etc.

In the most simple terms, MSDOS is a single environment program, operating one and only one program at a time, and not allowing the "multi-tasking abilities" of other Platforms, such as Windows 9x, NT, & 2000.

Continue to Page 2

Comments? Questions? Bugs? Email: John Holstein

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