OS/2 1.0 Availability Announced 25 Years Ago

On November 3, 1987 IBM announced a few new products and provided more information on several previously announced packages. One of those was OS/2 1.0 Standard Edition. First announced on April 2, 1987, OS/2 1.0 SE ($325) had been completed and IBM would start shipping it to customers in December 1987, slightly ahead of the original schedule.

The announcements from November 3, 1987 covered OS/2 1.0 and 1.1 SE (letter 287-498), OS/2 1.0 and 1.1 EE (letter 287-499), a slew of development tools such as C/2, Macro Assembler/2, or FORTRAN/2 (letter 287-500), and IBM LAN Sever 1.0 (letter 287-501).

The above photo shows an interesting artefact: IBM OS/2 1.0 floppies labeled as “Pre-Release”, yet containing the final released code and also the using same part numbers as the normal OS/2 1.0 Standard Edition release. These disks would have been available in late October or early November of 1987.

In some cases, the announcements concerned finished products which would start shipping within weeks. That included the compilers (ship date November 17, 1987) and OS/2 1.0 SE (December 1987). In other cases, the announced shipping dates were between six months and a year into the future: OS/2 1.0 EE in July 1988, OS/2 1.1 SE in October 1988, OS/2 1.1 EE and LAN Server 1.0 in November 1988. Nowadays it is almost unimaginable that product shipping dates would be announced a year ahead—perhaps the world was a simpler place 25 years ago.

In a new shift, IBM also announced AIX PS/2 (letter 287-505), to be available in September 1988 at $595 for the base package. As a 386-only system, AIX PS/2 included a $250 DOS Merge option for running DOS applications using the V86 mode of the 386. AIX PS/2 was billed as a replacement of IBM Personal Computer XENIX 2.0.

IBM’s AIX PS/2 was more a complement than a competitor to OS/2. AIX belonged to the UNIX world, while OS/2 was an expansion of the DOS world. AIX PS/2 had noticeably higher hardware requirements than OS/2: 2MB RAM minimum (vs. 1.5 MB) and a 386, i.e. only PS/2 Model 80 at the time. AIX PS/2 pricing was likewise much higher; the base price was $595 vs. $325, and with add-on packages such as DOS Merge or X Windows, AIX PS/2 could easily top $1,000 per (already expensive) workstation.

While AIX remains one of the last commercial UNIX systems still available, the PC (that is to say, PS/2) variant of AIX never had much of an impact—certainly far less than OS/2 did.

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