Saturday, January 26, 2008

16 Years Ago

As promised before, here is the second part of my "power of two" flashback series of posts.

During the development of a modem hub sixteen years ago, something happened to me, something that touched my geeky soul and left me nostalgic for years, something that have apparently happened to many other people: I have been touched by OS/2.

I mean, touched by:
Sorry, I could not resist. There is still something mythical and magical about this operating system.

I had the chance to develop a system that was receiving chemists orders sent by modems and was analyzing and multiplexing them before sending them to an AS/400 machine. The application was developed in C, in a multi-process and multi-thread manner, with named pipes and semaphores enabled communications. The local persistence database was DB/2. And it was internationalized (French and Flemish).

At all stage of the development, I was amazed how OS/2's memory and threading models were making my life easier. Totally resilient to hard crashes (C has pointers, remember?), inviting to think asynchronously, it was a dream of a programming environment.

Then I switched jobs and started the arid journey in the Valley of the Shadow of Death that started in Windows 3.11 (for Workgroups!) and ended with Windows XP/2003 (the first really solid and well designed OS from Redmond, AFAIAC).

For a while I thought I should be mad at Microsoft for having turned my developer life into such a miserable experience. But in fact I became bitter at IBM and their inane marketing campaigns for OS/2. Their lack of capacity to make a superior OS dominate the market was flabbergasting. This sense of waste is probably what fuels the nostalgia of OS/2 lovers all around the world until now.

In fact, I have been mad at IBM until the redeemed themselves with Eclipse. But this is another story...

1 comment:

Jean-Luc Ensch said...


Quite true that OS/2 was the best icon-based OS at the time. Sadly, Redmond had better marketing (and an underdog of a product, déjà vu?)

Very recently, a request has been made to IBM to publish the sources of OS/2.

They refused. It should not be regarded as a bad sign, though. It probably means that they are thorough with their Linux strategy.

And congratulations for remembering 16 years ago. Looking forward to the next episode.