The Commodore 64 didn’t have an operating system in the traditional sense that we now think of one. It most certainly did have a method of interacting with the user and handling I/O, including disk files. But the way it all worked seems strange today. Here’s what made the native Commodore 64 operating system different, and the alternatives that surfaced during the 64’s long life.
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If you ask why did IBM fail, I assume you mean why did IBM ultimately fail in the personal computer market. IBM is still in business, after all. But its exit from the PC market after 24 years, including a period of dominance in the 1980s, does seem curious. And it raises another question: What does IBM do now?
I experienced IBM’s fall in this market firsthand. I sold computers at retail in 1994 and 1995. IBM’s computers at that time were no worse than anyone else’s, but I had an extremely difficult time selling them. Many consumers didn’t trust IBM and didn’t want to get somehow locked in. There was nothing wrong with those machines, but it sure was a lot easier to just sell them a Compaq.
In some ways, 1985 was a really pivotal year for computing. The industry was changing fast, but in 1985, many relics from the past were still present even as we had an eye for the future. Here’s a look back at computers in 1985 and what made that year so interesting.
I think 1985 was interesting in and of itself, but it also made the succeeding years a lot more interesting. A surprising amount of the technology that first appeared in 1985 still has an impact today.
Digital Equipment Corporation was perhaps the second most important computer company in history, behind IBM. Its minicomputers challenged IBM, and, indeed, Unix first ran on a DEC PDP-7. DEC’s Alpha CPU was one of the few chips to make Intel nervous for its x86 line. It created the first really good Internet search engine. In a just and perfect world, DEC would still be dominating. Instead, it faded away in the 1990s. What happened to Digital Equipment Corporation, or DEC?
There’s a short answer and a long answer.
The Compaq Deskpro 386, announced in September 1986, was a landmark IBM PC compatible computer. The first fully 32-bit PC based on the Intel 386, its release took the leadership of the PC ecosystem away from IBM, and Compaq became the leader.
Compaq was no upstart by 1986. Its Compaq Portable was a runaway success earlier in the decade, and Compaq was a darling of the industry. The Deskpro 386 solidified Compaq’s position as an industry innovator.
I’ve talked a lot about the advantages and disadvantages of old milestone operating systems. But what were the advantages and disadvantages of Windows NT 3.1? That’s a fair question.
Retro computing fans, especially Commodore and Atari enthusiasts, all know the story. Jack Tramiel left Commodore, the company he founded, in early 1984 at the height of its success. Then, within a few months, he gained control of Commodore rival Atari.
Looking at the Commodore 64 vs Amiga seems a little odd, at least to me. After all, the machines were never intended to be rivals. The Amiga was supposed to succeed the 64. Commodore bought Amiga because they couldn’t make a 64 successor on their own, so they intended for the Amiga to replace it. It didn’t fully succeed, and maybe that’s why the comparison is still interesting.
Looking back, the machines may seem similar today. But in 1985 they sure didn’t.
People frequently ask me for a list of common or useful Commodore 64 commands, including disk drive commands. Since the C-64’s built in operating system is more of a combination command line/Basic interpreter, it takes some getting used to if you didn’t grow up with it.
These commands assume a stock, unmodified C-64, freshly powered on. Many fast-load cartridges, ROM replacements, or so-called DOS wedge programs include shortcuts for these commands. But these commands work on any C-64 with a disk drive, modified or stock.
The Amiga had a command line, or CLI. It was a rather powerful CLI, especially for its time. But there are a number of differences between AmigaDOS and other operating systems you may be familiar with. These are the common AmigaDOS commands and their equivalents from other operating systems like DOS, Windows, Unix or Linux.
I’ve never seen a primer that relates or cross-references Amiga commands to Windows and Unix. So I wrote one. I hope it helps you understand your Amiga better. Because Amiga is sometimes like Windows and sometimes it’s like Unix, I think it might. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn something you didn’t know about Windows or Unix too.