Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Breakneck Race To Create Windows NT

I am currently reading "Showstopper! - The Breakneck Race To Create Windows NT". As most of you are familiar with, Dave Cutler, creator of VMS, left Digital Equipment to join Microsoft and to lead the development on creating Microsoft's next generation operating system in 1988.

What might be less known is that the initial project goals were quite different from what turned out to be Windows NT 3.1 about five years later. NT was aimed to be the successor of OS/2, Microsoft's and IBM's joint operating system. One of the first requirements was OS/2 compatibility. As a matter of fact, NT was originally called "OS/2 3.0", and later on "NT OS/2". Working on the OS/2 flavor of NT also caused some tension between the former DEC engineers who had come with Cutler over to Microsoft, and Microsoft's OS/2 developers. Anyway, OS/2 compatibility was dropped when Microsoft chose to back out of OS/2 in favor of Windows.

Another surprising fact is that DEC became increasingly interested on the NT port for their new Alpha processor when then-under-development NT gained momentum in the beginning of the 90's. What a late victory that must have been for Cutler, whose efforts on building DEC's new operating system "Mica" for their then brand-new RISC-platform Prism were futile, when DEC cancelled the project in 1988, which lead to Cutler's departure.