Multiuser DOS

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Multiuser DOS
Developer Digital Research, Inc.
OS family CP/M
Working state Current
Source model Closed source
Latest release V7.22 R18 / 2004
Kernel type Monolithic kernel
Default user interface Command line interface
License Proprietary
Official website Various (see notes)

Multiuser DOS is a real-time multi-user multi-tasking operating system for IBM PC-compatible microcomputers.

An evolution of the older Concurrent CP/M-86 and Concurrent DOS operating systems, it was originally developed by Digital Research and later acquired and further developed by Novell. Its ancestry lies in the earlier Digital Research 8-bit operating systems CP/M and MP/M, and the 16-bit single-tasking CP/M-86 which evolved from CP/M.

When Novell abandoned the system, the three Master Value Added Resellers (VARs) Datapac Australasia, Concurrent Controls and Intelligent Micro Software took over and continued independent development into Datapac Multiuser DOS and System Manager, CCI Multiuser DOS, and IMS Multiuser DOS and REAL/32.

Concurrent CP/M-86[edit]

The initial version of CP/M for the IBM PC, CP/M-86, was commercially unsuccessful, as Microsoft's MS-DOS offered much the same facilities for a considerably lower price. Like MS-DOS 1.0, CP/M-86 did not fully exploit the power and capabilities of the new 16-bit machine.

It was soon supplemented by an implementation of CP/M's multitasking 'big brother', MP/M-86. This turned a PC into a multiuser machine capable of supporting multiple concurrent users using dumb terminals attached by serial ports. The environment presented to each user made it seem as if they had the entire computer to themselves. Since terminals cost a fraction of the then-substantial price of a complete PC, this offered considerable cost savings, as well as facilitating multi-user applications such as accounts or stock control in a time when PC networks were rare, very expensive and difficult to implement.

CP/M-86 and MP/M-86 were later merged to create Concurrent CP/M-86 (also known as CCP/M-86 with BDOS 3.0). Initially this was a single-user operating system supporting true multi-tasking of up to four (in its default configuration) CP/M-86 compatible programs. Later versions supported dumb terminals and so could be deployed as multiuser systems. Concurrent CP/M-86 3.1 (BDOS 3.1) shipped on 21 February 1984.[1]

See also: MP/M-86


Concurrent CP/M-86/80[edit]

This was an adaptation of Concurrent CP/M-86 for the LSI-M4, LSI Octopus and CAL PC computers. These machines had both 16-bit and 8-bit processors, because in the early days of 16-bit personal computing, 8-bit software was more available and often ran faster than the corresponding 16-bit software. Concurrent CP/M-86/80 allowed users to run both CP/M (8-bit) and CP/M-86 (16-bit) applications. When a command was entered, the operating system ran the corresponding application on either the 8-bit or the 16-bit processor, depending on whether the executable file had a .com or .cmd extension. It emulated a CP/M environment for 8-bit programs by translating CP/M system calls into CP/M-86 system calls, which were then executed by the 16-bit processor.

Concurrent DOS[edit]

In August 1983, Bruce Skidmore, Ray Pedrizetti, Dave Brown and Gordon Edmonds teamed up to create PC-MODE,[2] an optional module for Concurrent CP/M-86 3.1[3] (with BDOS 3.1) to provide basic compatibility with PC DOS (and MS-DOS). This was shown publicly at COMDEX in December 1983[2] and shipped in March 1984 as Concurrent DOS 3.1 (aka CDOS with BDOS 3.1) to hardware vendors.[4] Simple DOS applications, which did not directly access the screen or other hardware, could be run. For example, although a console program such as PKZIP worked perfectly and offered more facilities than the CP/M-native ARC archiver, applications which performed screen manipulations, such as the WordStar word processor for DOS, would not, and native Concurrent CP/M (or CP/M-86) versions were required.

Concurrent PC DOS[edit]

Concurrent DOS 3.2 (with BDOS 3.2) in 1984 was compatible with PC DOS 1.x and was available for many different hardware platforms. The version with an IBM PC compatible BIOS/XIOS was named Concurrent PC DOS 3.2.

Concurrent DOS 286 and FlexOS[edit]

In January 1985, Digital Research previewed Concurrent DOS 286 in cooperation with Intel. The operating system would function strictly in 80286 native mode, allowing protected mode multi-user, multitasking operation while running 8086 emulation.[5] While this worked on the B-1 step of prototype chip samples, Digital Research, with evaluation copies of their operating system already shipping in April, discovered problems with the emulation on the production level C-1 step of the processor in May, which would not allow Concurrent DOS 286 to run 8086 software in protected mode. The release of Concurrent DOS 286 had been scheduled for late May, but was delayed until Intel could develop a new version of the chip.[5] In August, after extensive testing E-1 step samples of the 80286, Digital Research said that Intel had corrected all documented 286 errata, but that there were still undocumented chip performance problems with the prerelease version of Concurrent DOS 286 running on the E-1 step. Intel said that the approach Digital Research wished to take in emulating 8086 software in protected mode differed from the original specifications; nevertheless they incorporated into the E-2 step minor changes in the microcode that allowed Digital Research to run emulation mode much faster (see LOADALL).[6] These same limitations affected FlexOS 286 version 1.0, a reengineered derivation of Concurrent DOS 286.[7]

Later versions added compatibility with PC DOS 2.x and 3.x.

Concurrent DOS 386 and Concurrent DOS XM[edit]

Versions 5 and 6 (Concurrent DOS XM) could bank switch up to 8 MB of EEMS to provide a real-mode environment to run multiple CP/M-86 and DOS programs concurrently and support up to three users (one local and up to two hooked up via serial terminals).

In 1987 Concurrent DOS was rewritten and renamed Concurrent DOS 386. This ran on machines equipped with the Intel 80386 and later processors, using the 386's hardware facilities for virtualizing the hardware, allowing most DOS applications to run unmodified under Concurrent DOS 386, even on terminals. The OS supported concurrent multiuser file access, allowing multiuser applications to run as if they were on individual PCs attached to a network server. Concurrent DOS 386 allowed a single server to support a number of users on dumb terminals or inexpensive low-specification PCs running terminal emulation software, without the need for expensive workstations and then-expensive network cards. It was a true multiuser system; several users could use a single database with record locking to prevent mutual interference.


Multiuser DOS[edit]

This article is about Concurrent DOS. For other uses, see MDOS (disambiguation).

Later versions of Concurrent DOS incorporated some of the enhanced functionality of DR's later single-user PC DOS clone DR-DOS, after which the product was renamed to the more explanatory Multiuser DOS (aka MDOS).

Multiuser DOS suffered from several technical limitations that restricted its ability to compete with LANs based on PC DOS. It required its own special device drivers for much common hardware, as PC DOS drivers were not multiuser or multi-tasking aware. Driver installation was more complex than the simple PC DOS method of copying the files onto the boot disk and modifying CONFIG.SYS appropriately - it was necessary to relink the Multiuser DOS kernel (known as a nucleus) using the SYSGEN command.

Multiuser DOS was also unable to use many common PC DOS additions such as network stacks, and it was limited in its ability to support later developments in the PC-compatible world, such as graphics adaptors, sound cards, CD-ROM drives and mice. Although many of these were soon rectified—for example, graphical terminals were developed, allowing users to use CGA, EGA and VGA software—it was less flexible in this regard than a network of individual PCs, and as the prices of these fell, it became less and less competitive, although it still offered benefits in terms of management and lower total cost of ownership. Unlike MP/M, it never became popular for single-user but multitasking use. It was priced as a multi-user operating system, of course, and required special device drivers, unlike single-user multitasking DOS additions such as Quarterdeck's DESQview.


Datapac Multiuser DOS and System Manager[edit]

Concurrent Controls Multiuser DOS[edit]

Intelligent Micro Software Multiuser DOS, DOS 386 Professional, REAL/32 and REAL/NG[edit]


REAL/NG was IMS' attempt to create the "Next Generation" of REAL/32, also named "REAL/32 for the internet age". REAL/NG promised "increased range of hardware from PCs to x86 multi-processor server systems".[8]

Advertised feature list, as of 2003:[9]

  • Runs with RedHat 7.3 or later version of Linux
  • Backward compatible with DOS and REAL/32
  • Max 65535 virtual consoles, each of these can be a user.
  • No Linux expertise required
  • Administration/setup/upgrade by web browser (local and remote)
  • Supplied with TCP/IP Linux-/Windows-based terminal emulator for the number of users purchased
  • Print and file sharing built in
  • Drive mapping between Linux and REAL/NG servers built in
  • user hardware support
  • Increased performance
  • Vastly increased TPA
  • Multi-processor support
  • Improved hardware support
  • Built-in firewall support
  • Very low cost per seat
  • Low total cost of ownership
  • Supplied on CD
  • Supplied with a set of RedHat CDs

By 10 December 2003, IMS made "REALNG V1.60-V1.19-V1.12" available,[10] which, based on the Internet Archive, seems to be the latest release.

By 2005, the website was mirroring the IMS main website, and had no mention of REAL/NG, only REAL/32.[11]

Application software[edit]

While the various releases of this operating system had increasing ability to run MS-DOS programs, software written for the platform could take advantage of its features by using function calls specifically suitable for multiuser operation. It used pre-emptive multitasking, preventing badly-written applications from delaying other processes by retaining control of the processor.

The API provided support for blocking and non-blocking message queues, mutual-exclusion queues, the ability to create sub-process threads which executed independently from the parent, and a method of pausing execution which did not waste processor cycles, unlike idle loops used by single-user operating systems. Applications were started as "attached" to a console. However, if an application did not need user interaction it could "detach" from the console and run as a background process, later reattaching to a console if needed.

Another key feature was that the memory management supported a "shared" memory model for processes (in addition to the usual models available to normal DOS programs). In the shared memory model the "code" and "data" sections of a program were isolated from each other. Because the "code" contained no modifiable data, code sections in memory could be shared by several processes running the same program.

Programs written, or adapted, for any multitasking platform need to avoid the technique used by single-tasking systems of going into endless loops until interrupted when, for example, waiting for a user to press a key; this wasted processor time that could be used by other processes. Instead, Concurrent DOS provided an API call which a process could call to "sleep" for a period of time. Later versions of the Concurrent DOS kernel included Idle Detection, which monitored MS-DOS API calls to determine whether the application was doing useful work or in fact idle, in which case the process was suspended allowing other processes to run. Idle Detection was the catalyst for the patented DR-DOS Dynamic Idle Detection power management feature invented in 1989 by Roger Gross and John Constant and marketed as BatteryMax (US Patent 5,355501)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Digital Research (1984): Concurrent CP/M ships early in response to team effort. Digital Dialogue - Employee Newsletter of Digital Research Inc., Volume 3, Number 1, p. 1 ([1]).
  2. ^ a b Digital Research (1984): PC-Mode bridges CP/M and PC-DOS. Digital Dialogue - Employee Newsletter of Digital Research Inc., Volume 3, Number 1, p. 3 ([2]).
  3. ^ Digital Research: Concurrent CP/M Release 3.1 offers PC-DOS compatibility. Digital Research News - For Digital Research Users Everywhere, Volume 4, No. 1, p. 5, first quarter 1984 ([3]): "Concurrent CP/M Release 3.1 replaces MP/M-86 as Digital Research's multiuser system. Targeted at 16-bit microcomputers, Release 3.1 may also be configured for a single user environment. Kevin Wandryk, product line manager for the new release, said the PC-DOS mode in the new release increases the availability of applications software. End users can choose between products for Concurrent CP/M or PC-DOS. Digital Research will provide a list of those applications from PC-DOS which may be used, Wandryk said. The manufacturer's version was introduced in December at the COMDEX/Fall trade show in Las Vegas and is scheduled to ship in March."
  4. ^ Digital Research: Concurrent™ DOS bridges PC-DOS, CP/M. Digital Research News - For Digital Research Users Everywhere, Volume 4, No. 2, p. 3, May 1984 ([4]): '"Concurrent DOS Release 3.1 is rapidly gaining momentum and support from a wide range of microcomputer manufacturers," Wandryk said. "Some 60 hardware companies have licensed the product since it was released in early March."'
  5. ^ a b Edward Foster: Super DOS awaits new 80286 - Concurrent DOS 286 - delayed until Intel upgrades chip - offers Xenix's power and IBM PC compatibility. InfoWorld Media Group, InfoWorld, Volume 7, No. 19, 1985-05-13, ISSN 0199-6649, pages 17-18, ([5]).
  6. ^ Edward Foster: Intel shows new 80286 chip - Future of DRI's Concurrent DOS 286 still unclear after processor fixed. InfoWorld Media Group, InfoWorld, Volume 7, No. 34, 1985-08-26, ISSN 0199-6649, page 21 ([6]).
  7. ^ CBR Staff Writer (1987-01-15). "Digital Research launches FlexOS 286 Real-Time Manufacturing Operating System". 
  8. ^ REAL/NG main page (2001) ([7]).
  9. ^ Key features of REAL/NG (2003) (from 2003).
  10. ^ Probably latest REAL/NG ( 2003).
  11. ^ REAL/NG disappearing from ( 2005).

External links[edit]