So a while back, I heard that MSDOS was originally named QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System), and that it was later changed is MSDOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System). This was probably a marketing strategy to fix a rather unappealing name. My question is when did this change take place, and why did it take place specifically then?

  • It might be worth mentioning that while MS-DOS was never called QDOS through its alive days, the operating system of the Sinclair QL was indeed officially called QDOS. – tofro Nov 8 at 13:38
  • You may want to suggest that on the answer, instead. – Jack Kasbrack Nov 8 at 14:18
  • That fact is actually not an answer to your question, that is why I put it in as a comment here. – tofro Nov 8 at 15:27
up vote 24 down vote accepted

MS-DOS was indeed originally known as QDOS. The change in name occurred as a result of a change in ownership — from Seattle Computer Products to Microsoft.

Tim Paterson, QDOS’ author, has documented this:

The first versions of the operating system, called QDOS 0.10, were shipped in August 1980. QDOS stood for Quick and Dirty Operating System because it was thrown together in such a hurry (two man-months), but it worked surprisingly well. [...]

In the last few days of 1980, a new version of the DOS was released, now known as 86-DOS version 0.3. [...]

In July 1981, Microsoft bought all rights to the DOS from Seattle Computer, and the name MS-DOS was adopted. Shortly afterward, IBM announced the Personal Computer, using as its operating system what was essentially Seattle Computer's 86-DOS 1.14. Microsoft has been continuously improving the DOS, providing version 1.24 to IBM (as IBM's version 1.1) with MS-DOS version 1.25 as the general release to all MS-DOS customers in March 1982.

IBM provided DOS with their PC as “PC DOS”.

An interesting artifact came to light earlier this year: a copy of Seattle DOS 3.1! As part of the sale of 86-DOS to Microsoft, SCP were granted a royalty-free license to DOS, for use with their computer hardware, and evidently continued to produce OEM versions of MS-DOS at least until version 3.1. (Microsoft bought the license back at the end of 1986.)

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    Since this paragraph isn't really an answer to the question, I'll make it as a comment. MSDOS and PCDOS remained co-marketed but virtually identical products until 1993, with version 6.1 of PCDOS. IBM dropped Microsoft's QBASIC and added their long-time house editor E. (The had to, because the MSDOS editor was QBASIC with a different skin. It was a net gain because E is an extremely nice text editor.) For their part, Microsoft dropped IBM's DOS SHell in their version 6.22. With PC DOS 7, IBM added the Rexx language to make up for no BASIC. – RichF Nov 2 at 17:09
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    I still have a (paid, by me, back in the day!) copy of PCDOS 7-ish running on a VM for when I need that REXX goodness. – jdv Nov 2 at 18:12
  • Is this perchance why MS-DOS shipped with a "QBASIC"? Or was that a separate name that just happened to mimic the original QDOS name? – madscientist159 Nov 2 at 21:22
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    @madscientist159 QBasic was a BASIC interpreter and editor based on QuickBASIC, and the latter was part of the Quick... series of development environments which Microsoft developed to compete against Borland’s Turbo Range (QuickC and QuickPascal being the other two). I don’t think the naming had much to do with QDOS apart from the Q sharing the same meaning. – Stephen Kitt Nov 2 at 21:56
  • From memory, none of those held a candle to the TopSpeed Modula2 (and its brethren) that I used in the day, built by the same guy that developed TurboPas, after leaving Borland. Though hard to believe, it was even faster than the Turbos. – paxdiablo Nov 8 at 1:14

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