Digital Research

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Digital Research Inc. (DRI)
FateAcquired by Novell in 1991
Founded1974; 45 years ago (1974) in Pacific Grove, California, United States
FounderGary Kildall
Pacific Grove, California
United States
Key people
Gary Kildall (CEO),
Dorothy McEwen,
Gordon Eubanks,
Tom Rolander,
Ed McCracken
ProductsCompilers, operating systems, graphical user interfaces

Digital Research, Inc. (DR or DRI) was a company created by Gary Kildall to market and develop his CP/M operating system and related 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit systems like MP/M, Concurrent DOS, FlexOS, Multiuser DOS, DOS Plus, DR DOS and GEM. It was the first large software company in the microcomputer world.[1] Digital Research was based in Pacific Grove, California.


In 1972, Gary Kildall, an instructor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, began working at Intel as a consultant under the business name Microcomputer Applications Associates (MAA).[2] By 1974, he had developed Control Program/Monitor, or CP/M, the first disk operating system for microcomputers. In 1974 he incorporated as Intergalactic Digital Research, with his wife handling the business side of the operation.[2] The company soon began operating under its shortened name Digital Research.[2]

The company's operating systems, starting with CP/M for 8080/Z80-based microcomputers, were the de facto standard of their era. Digital Research's product suite included the original 8-bit CP/M and its various offshoots like MP/M (1979), a multi-tasking multi-user version of CP/M.

The first 16-bit system was CP/M-86 (1981, adapted to the IBM PC in early 1982), which was meant as direct competitor to MS-DOS. There followed the multi-tasking MP/M-86 (1981), and Concurrent CP/M (1982), a single-user version featuring virtual consoles from which applications could be launched to run concurrently.[3]

In May 1983 Digital Research announced that it would offer PC DOS versions of all of its languages and utilities.[4] It remained influential, with US$45000000 in 1983 sales making Digital Research the fourth-largest microcomputer software company.[5] Admitting that it had "lost" the 8088 software market but hoped to succeed with the Intel 80286 and Motorola 68000, by 1984 the company formed a partnership with AT&T Corporation to develop software for Unix System V and sell its own and third-party products in retail stores.[6] Jerry Pournelle warned later that year, however, that "Many people of stature seem to have left or are leaving Digital Research. DR had better get its act together."[7]

Successive revisions of Concurrent CP/M incorporated MS-DOS API emulation (since 1983), which gradually added more support for DOS applications and the FAT file system. These versions were named Concurrent DOS (1984), with Concurrent PC DOS (1984) being the version adapted to run on IBM compatible PCs.

In 1985, soon after the introduction of the 80286-based IBM PC/AT, Digital Research introduced a real-time system, initially called Concurrent DOS 286, which later evolved into the modular FlexOS (1987). This exploited the greater memory addressing capability of the new CPU to provide a more flexible multi-tasking environment. There was a small but powerful set of system APIs, each with a synchronous and an asynchronous variant. Pipes were supported, and all named resources could be aliased by setting environment variables. This system was to enjoy enduring favour in point-of-sale systems.

Other successors of Concurrent DOS were Concurrent DOS XM (1986) and the 32-bit Concurrent DOS 386 (1987), and finally Multiuser DOS (1991).

Digital Research's multi-user family of operating systems was sidelined by single-user offsprings DOS Plus (1985) and DR DOS (1988). The latter system was marketed as a direct MS-DOS/PC DOS replacement with added functionality. In order to achieve this, it gave up built-in support to run CP/M applications and was changed to use DOS-compatible internal structures. It became a successful product line in itself.

Digital Research was purchased by Novell in 1991,[8][9][10] primarily for Novell to gain access to the operating system line. FlexOS had already been adopted as the basis for Siemens S5-DOS/MT, IBM 4680 OS and 4690 OS, whereas Multiuser DOS evolved further into independent products like Datapac System Manager, IMS REAL/32 and REAL/NG. Continued development of the DR DOS line led to non-DRI products such as Novell PalmDOS, Novell DOS, Caldera OpenDOS and Dell RMK.

In a parallel development Digital Research also produced a selection of programming language compilers and interpreters for their OS-supported platforms, including C, Pascal, COBOL, FORTRAN, PL/I, PL/M, CBASIC, BASIC, and Logo. They also produced a microcomputer version of the GKS graphics standard (related to NAPLPS) called GSX, and later used this as the basis of their GEM GUI. Less known are their application programs, limited largely to the GSX-based DR DRAW, Dr. Halo for DOS and a small suite of GUI programs for GEM.

CP/M-86 and DOS[edit]

At the time the IBM Personal Computer was being developed, Digital Research's CP/M was the dominant operating system of the day. IBM asked Digital Research to supply a version of CP/M written for the Intel 8086 microprocessor as the standard operating system for the PC, which would use the code-compatible Intel 8088 chip. Digital Research, uneasy about the conditions related to making such an agreement with IBM, refused.

Microsoft seized this opportunity to supply an OS, in addition to other software (e.g., BASIC) for the new IBM PC. When the IBM PC arrived in late 1981, it came with PC DOS, an OEM version of MS-DOS, which was developed from 86-DOS, which Microsoft had acquired for this purpose. By mid-1982, MS-DOS was also marketed for use in hardware-compatible non-IBM computers. This one decision resulted in Microsoft becoming the leading name in computer software.

This story is detailed from the point of view of Microsoft and IBM in the PBS series Triumph of the Nerds,[11] and from the point of view of Gary Kildall's friends and coworkers in The Computer Chronicles.[12]

Digital Research developed CP/M-86 as an alternative to MS-DOS and it was made available through IBM in early 1982. The company later created an MS-DOS clone with advanced features called DR DOS, which pressured Microsoft to further improve its own DOS.

The competition between MS-DOS and DR DOS is one of the more controversial chapters of microcomputer history. Microsoft offered better licensing terms to any computer manufacturer that committed to selling MS-DOS with every system they shipped, making it uneconomical for them to offer systems with another OS, since the manufacturer would still be required to pay a license fee to Microsoft for that system. This practice led to a US Department of Justice investigation, resulting in a decision in 1994 that barred Microsoft from "per-processor" licensing.[13]

Digital Research (and later its successor Caldera) accused Microsoft of announcing vaporware versions of MS-DOS to suppress sales of DR DOS.[citation needed]

In one beta release of Windows 3.1, Microsoft included hidden code (later called the AARD code) that detected DR DOS and displayed a cryptic error message.[14][15] Although this code was not enabled in the final version of Windows 3.1, it gave the wrong impression that DR DOS was incompatible with MS-DOS and Windows among testers. These activities came to light when the discovery process of the subsequent lawsuit uncovered emails from senior Microsoft executives that showed this time bomb plant was part of a concerted program to drive Digital Research out of the PC operating systems business.[16][17]

Digital Research's successor Caldera raised these disputes in a 1996 lawsuit,[16][17][18][19] but the case was settled one day before the trial. As a condition of the settlement Microsoft paid Caldera an undisclosed sum, which in 2009 was revealed to be US$280000000[20][21][22] and Caldera destroyed all documents it had produced in connection with the case.[23] Although a costly settlement to Microsoft, this eliminated some of the evidence of Microsoft's anti-trust behaviors, and allowed Microsoft to control and dominate this sector of the marketplace and without concerns about any further serious competitor.[23]

Notable employees[edit]

Apart from founder Gary Kildall several notable employees worked at Digital Research, some of which later made important contributions to the IT industry, such as Gordon Eubanks, Tom Rolander, Lee Jay Lorenzen, Don Heiskell, John Meyer, and Ed McCracken.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cole, Maggie (1981-05-25). "Gary Kildall and the Digital Research Success Story". InfoWorld. Palo Alto, CA, USA: Popular Computing. 3 (10): 52–53. ISSN 0199-6649.
  2. ^ a b c Swaine, Michael (Spring 1997). "Gary Kildall and Collegial Entrepreneurship". Dr. Dobb's Special Report. Retrieved 2018-06-09.
  3. ^ Kildall, Gary Arlen (1982-09-16). "Running 8-bit software on dual-processor computers" (PDF). Electronic Design: 157. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-08-19. Retrieved 2017-08-19.
  4. ^ Hughes, Jr., George D. (July 1983). "The New View From Digital Research". PC Magazine: 403. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
  5. ^ Caruso, Denise (1984-04-02). "Company Strategies Boomerang". InfoWorld: 80–83. Retrieved 2015-02-10.
  6. ^ Shea, Tom (1984-02-20). "New developments may decide battle over Unix". InfoWorld: 43–45. Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  7. ^ "Program Editing Breakthrough!". BYTE (advertisement): 326. March 1983. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
  8. ^ Scott, Karyl (1991-07-29). "Novell/DRI merger to reap better client management". InfoWorld: 33. Retrieved 2017-01-21.
  9. ^ "Novell and Digital Research sign definitive merger agreement". Business Wire. 1991-07-17. Archived from the original on 2018-08-18. Retrieved 2017-01-24.
  10. ^ Allchin, James Edward (1992-05-27) [1991-07-17]. "Novell/Digital Research reach definitive agreement…" (PDF) (Court document). Plaintiff's exhibit 828, Comes v. Microsoft. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-11-19. Retrieved 2017-01-21.
  11. ^ Triumph of the Nerds, PBS
  12. ^ The Computer Chronicles
  13. ^ Corcoran, Elizabeth (1994-07-17). "Microsoft Settles Case With Justice". Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-03-14.
  14. ^ Schulman, Andrew (September 1993). "Examining the Windows AARD Detection Code - A serious message--and the code that produced it". Dr. Dobb's Journal. Archived from the original on 2005-12-10. Retrieved 2013-10-05.
  15. ^ Schulman, Andrew; Brown, Ralf D.; Maxey, David; Michels, Raymond J.; Kyle, Jim (1994) [November 1993]. Undocumented DOS: A programmer's guide to reserved MS-DOS functions and data structures - expanded to include MS-DOS 6, Novell DOS and Windows 3.1 (2 ed.). Addison Wesley. p. 11. ISBN 0-201-63287-X. ISBN 978-0-201-63287-3. (xviii+856+vi pages, 3.5-inch floppy) Errata: [1][2]
  16. ^ a b Susman, Stephen Daily; Eskridge III, Charles R.; Southwick, James T.; Susman, Harry P.; Folse III, Parker C.; Palumbo, Ralph H.; Harris, Matthew R.; McCune, Philip S.; Engel, Lynn M.; Hill, Stephen J.; Tibbitts, Ryan E. (April 1999). "In the United States District Court - District of Utah, Central Division - Caldera, Inc. vs. Microsoft Corporation - Consolidated statement of facts in support of its responses to motions for summary judgement by Microsoft Corporation - Case No. 2:96CV 0645B" (Court document). Caldera, Inc. Archived from the original on 2018-08-05. Retrieved 2018-08-05.
  17. ^ a b Susman, Stephen Daily; Eskridge III, Charles R.; Susman, Harry P.; Southwick, James T.; Folse III, Parker C.; Borchers, Timothy K.; Palumbo, Ralph H.; Harris, Matthew R.; Engel, Lynn M.; McCune, Philip S.; Locker, Lawrence C.; Wheeler, Max D.; Hill, Stephen J.; Tibbitts, Ryan E. (May 1999). "In the United States District Court - District of Utah, Central Division - Caldera, Inc. vs. Microsoft Corporation - Case No. 2:96CV 0645B - Caldera, Inc.'s Memorandum in opposition to defendant's motion for partial Summary Judgment on plaintiff's "Technological Tying" claim" (Court document). Caldera, Inc. Archived from the original on 2018-08-05. Retrieved 2018-08-05.
  18. ^ Ball, Lyle (1999-04-28). "Caldera submits evidence to counter Microsoft's motions for partial summary judgment" (Press release). Caldera, Inc. Archived from the original on 2018-08-05. Retrieved 2018-08-05.
  19. ^ Lea, Graham (1998-03-23). "Cebit: Caldera shows Windows on DR-DOS, denying MS claims". Cebit news. Hanover, Germany. Retrieved 2009-06-01.
  20. ^ "Exhibits to Microsoft's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment in Novell WordPerfect Case". Groklaw. 2009-11-23. Archived from the original on 2013-08-21. Retrieved 2011-10-22. […] exhibits attached to Microsoft's Memorandum of Law in support of Microsoft's cross motion for summary judgment in the Novell v. Microsoft antitrust litigation. We finally find out what Microsoft paid Caldera to settle the DrDOS litigation back in 2000: $280 million. We even get to read the settlement agreement. It's attached as an exhibit. […] The settlement terms were sealed for all these years, but […] now that mystery is solved. […] We also find out what Caldera/Canopy then paid Novell from that $280 million: $35.5 million at first, and then after Novell successfully sued Canopy in 2004, Caldera's successor-in-interest on this matter, an additional $17.7 million, according to page 16 of the Memorandum. Microsoft claims that Novell is not the real party in interest in this antitrust case, and so it can't sue Microsoft for the claims it has lodged against it, because, Microsoft says, Novell sold its antitrust claims to Caldera when it sold it DrDOS. So the exhibits are trying to demonstrate that Novell got paid in full, so to speak, via that earlier litigation. As a result, we get to read a number of documents from the Novell v. Canopy litigation. Novell responds it retained its antitrust claims in the applications market. […]
  21. ^ Burt, Thomas W.; Sparks, Bryan Wayne (2000-01-07). "Settlement agreement - Microsoft Corporation and Caldera, Inc. reach agreement to settle antitrust lawsuit" (PDF) (Faxed court document). Case 1:05-cv-01087-JFM, Document 104-8, Filed 2009-11-13; NOV00107061-NOV00107071; LT2288-LT2298; Lan12S311263739.1; Exhibit A. Retrieved 2018-08-03. […] Microsoft will pay to Caldera, by wire transfer in accordance with written instructions provided by Caldera, the amount of two hundred eighty million dollars ($280,000,000), as full settlement of all claims or potential claims covered by this agreement […] (NB. This document of the Caldera v. Microsoft case was an exhibit in the Novell v. Microsoft and Comes v. Microsoft cases.)
  22. ^ Wallis, Richard J.; Aeschbacher, Steven J.; Bettilyon, Mark M.; Webb, Jr., G. Stewar; Tulchin, David B.; Holley, Steven L. (2009-11-13). "Microsoft's memorandum in opposition to Novell's renewed motion for summary judgement on Microsoft's affirmative defenses and in support of Microsoft's cross-motion for summary judgement" (PDF) (Court document). United States District Court, District of Maryland. p. 16. Novell, Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation, Civil Action No. JFM-05-1087. Retrieved 2018-08-03. […] Microsoft paid $280 million to Caldera to settle the case, and $35.5 million of the settlement proceeds were provided by Caldera to Novell as a so-called "royalty." […] Dissatisfied with that amount, Novell filed suit in June 2000 against Caldera (succeeded by The Canopy Group), alleging that Novell was entitled to even more. […] Novell ultimately prevailed, adding $17.7 million to its share of the monies paid by Microsoft to Caldera, for a total of more than $53 million […]
  23. ^ a b Lettice, John (2003-05-22). "SCO pulps Caldera-MS trial archives - History is toilet tissue…". The Register. Archived from the original on 2018-09-09. Retrieved 2018-09-09.

Further reading[edit]

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