When researching the history of computing, from time to time an unexpected gem turns up. The copy of Ray Ozzie’s notes from a 1985 meeting with Microsoft is one of such gems.
Between 2006 and 2010, Ray Ozzie was the chief software architect at Microsoft, a role he took over from Bill Gates. But in the early 1980s, Ozzie worked at Lotus on the Symphony product, and in 1984 left Lotus to start a company called Iris Associates. Iris worked on a software project which (several years later) became known as Lotus Notes.
At the beginning of April 1985, Ray Ozzie (Iris) met with Microsoft in Bellevue, Washington (Microsoft moved to Redmond in early 1986). From the notes it is obvious that Iris had an unusual level of access; besides providing answers from managers and engineers, Microsoft also disclosed the bulk of its org chart as well as internal project scheduling data, including unannounced projects.
The org chart is interesting for the number of misspellings—it clearly had not been provided in written form (Neil Conzen instead of Konzen, Martin Dunsmere instead of Dunsmuir, Mark Zibokowski instead of Zbikowski).
The meeting took place at a very interesting time for Microsoft and the PC industry. Iris was attempting to take advantage of the latest Microsoft technologies, many of which were unreleased or just barely released. The barely released ones included DOS 3.1, Microsoft Networks, and the Microsoft C 3.0 compiler. The unreleased ones included Windows and DOS 4.0 (the infamous multitasking variety).
Included is a list of Microsoft Windows development goals, apparently a document created by Microsoft and summarizing the development objectives for Windows—such as fitting on a single bootable 360K floppy (including a subset of DOS 3.x), or performing well on a PC with 256K RAM.
The Q&A session between Iris and Microsoft forms the bulk of the meeting notes and is the most interesting part of the document. It’s obvious that Iris was using the early Windows development kits and running into numerous problems—with the compiler, with the development tools, with the SDK, and with Windows itself. Not particularly unexpected as Windows was still months from release at that point, if far behind the original schedule.
In the notes there are numerous references to DOS 4.0 or just “4.0” which clearly pertain to the multitasking MS-DOS 4.0. Microsoft was planning an integrated DOS 4.0 + Windows release in the first half of 1986. The product never materialized and the closest to it was OS/2 1.1 in late 1988. Section 5.2 of the notes mentions that DOS 4.0 should be released before the end of 1985.
There is a note that due to scheduling constraints, threads, named pipes, and swapping had been removed from DOS 4.0. Iris had been hoping to use threads, but that was not to be, or at least not in 1985.
An intriguing note can be found in section 5.6. Apparently Microsoft was planning to use the HMA (the first 64K of the second megabyte of the address space) for DOS 4.0. Microsoft was clearly aware of the possibilities, but DOS (the 3.x branch) did not utilize the HMA until the 1991 release of MS-DOS 5.0.
Just as interesting are mentions of DOS 5.0, meaning OS/2 (or Advanced DOS). Section 5.8 lists the planned features of DOS 5.0: protected mode, pipes, threads, asynchronous I/O, demand execution, installable file systems, sound services, >32MB file systems. With the exception of sound services, these features were all eventually implemented in OS/2, although it took until 1989 to add installable file systems.
At the time Microsoft claimed that no source changes would be needed to run an application in the integrated “Windows/5.0” environment. That turned to be far from true if one considers OS/2 with Presentation Manager to be an embodiment of “Windows on DOS 5.0”. Microsoft apparently did not provide any DOS 5.0 scheduling information to Iris.
In November 1985 there was a follow-up meeting between Iris and Microsoft. At that time, Windows 1.01 was finalized (released on November 20, 1985) but Iris was unhappy with its features and performance. There was talk of a Windows 1.1 release, but Iris was concerned it would be too late for their purposes. It’s not clear when Windows 1.1 (not 1.01!) was meant to be released (“6-9 months of development time”), but fairly clear that it didn’t happen. It is possible or even likely that Windows 2.0 is what “Windows 1.1” eventually turned into.
The Nov ’85 meeting notes are largely highly technical, but there are several items of general interest. For example, Iris asked for Windows to avoid “hooking into DOS” when running on top of DOS 4/5. Microsoft’s Steve Wood conceded that this might be useful. It is known that Windows 2.0 was able to run in the OS/2 1.x DOS box.
There’s also a mention of a Microsoft Networks redirector running on top of Xenix. Iris had received a demo version from Microsoft, although there were apparently some significant bugs. It appears that at that point, Microsoft’s interest in Xenix was waning.
All in all, this document is a fascinating window into the past. It’s all the more interesting for the fact that it contains a wealth of information that was only known to a handful of people at the time.