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Want to try Windows 10’s oldest ancestor? Get hands on with the OS from the first IBM PC

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Image: OS/2 Museum

In 1981, an up and coming software company known as Microsoft was contracted to provide the operating system for the first IBM PC.

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The OS, known as PC DOS 1.0, would pave the way for Microsoft to make its fortune by selling computer manufacturers its own spin-off, known as MS-DOS. The company profited deeply from the boom in the home PC market during the 1980s, and in 1985 made MS-DOS more user-friendly by creating a graphical overlay called Windows, giving rise to an OS that dominates PCs to this day.

Now you can try out PC DOS 1.0 for yourself, and see what it was like to switch on the first IBM PC, the 5150, back in August 1981.

The site OS/2 Museum has made a pre-release version of PC DOS 1.0 available via this online emulator.

While the harsh beep that accompanies the computer booting up and the stark simplicity of the monochrome flashing cursor may be an affront to the sensibilities of the modern computer user, Michal Necasek of OS/2 Museum says the software is a genuine piece of PC history.

SEE: The antique computers that just won’t quit

“The pre-release version of PC DOS 1.0 is an interesting historical artefact, a true museum piece,” he wrote.

“Being from June 1981, it falls right in the middle between 86-DOS 1.0 (April 1981) and PC DOS 1.0 (August 1981), and while it’s not the oldest surviving version of DOS, it is the oldest known PC operating system.”

The OS/2 Museum was sent the OS last week, as an image of an old 160K disk.

An array of software is bundled with the OS, including a BASIC Space Invaders clone called Space Wars, a BASIC program displaying a line drawing of a 3D cube, a BASIC TTY program and various utilities for copying and comparing files.

For those who fancy a trip down memory lane, the web is full of emulators reproducing the very first command-line OSes through to the recently departed Windows XP.

Read more on retro computing…

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