We've all heard, repeatedly now (for a few years), that Microsoft Loves Open Source (and, likewise, “Microsoft Loves Linux”).

In the last two years Microsoft has released source code to MS-DOS (versions 1.25 and 2.0), WinFile (a file manager for Windows after 1.x), and Word for Windows 1.1.

This is cool. I dig this.

Microsoft saw that they were no longer earning revenue (likely for decades) from any of these pieces of software, and took the obvious (and awesome) step of releasing the source code.

Releasing the source code both helps preserve the applications (and their history), as well as opens up the possibility of the software being ported and/or updated to make them once again usabale on modern systems.

This was Microsoft being smart. High fives are in order.

Now that some time has gone by, let's take a look at some (just a small fraction) of the historically significant software that Microsoft could release as open source.

Software that:

  • Has not earned revenue for Microsoft in decades.
  • Has not been supported by Microsoft, in any way, in decades.
  • Would be interesting and/or useful to release in an open way.
  • Are iconic examples of the work Microsoft has done over the years.

Releasing the source code (under a reasonable license) for some of these would provide further proof that Microsoft does, indeed, totally love Open Source.

QuickBasic 4.5 and Visual Basic 1.0 for DOS

QB

To say that QuickBasic (specifically version 4.5) is iconic would be a massive understatement.

Version 4.5 was released in 1988.

1988.

That's 32 years ago.

Visual Basic 1.0 for DOS was released in 1992. 28 years ago.

Visual Basic 1.0 for DOS was the first – and only – version of Visual Basic to be released for DOS. It was not source compatible with Visual Basic (the Windows version that most people know), had a text only user interface, and only supported building DOS applications.

VB DOS

It was never updated. No patches. No bug fixes. VB-DOS 1.0 was the final release in the “QuickBasic” line of development environments – and was, in essence, abandoned upon release.

Both of these development environments should be released as open source. There is, quite simply, no real reason not to do so. It is a moral imperative.

MS-DOS 5.0

Source code for MS-DOS 1.25 and 2.0 have already been released. This shows that Microsoft sees the value in releasing the source code for their DOS line.

MS-DOS

Let's kick things up a notch and release the code for a later version. I say, 5.0. It was iconic. Widespread. Popular.

It was also the first version with a full screen text editor, and the first to include HIMEM.SYS. From a feature-set perspective, this would be a great version to immortalize by releasing the source code.

Version 5.0, released in 1991, is now 29 years old. It's time.

Windows 3.1

Win 3.1

Windows 3.1 was released in 1992 (28 years ago). Support ended in 2001 (19 years ago).

People born the year after support ended for Windows 3.1… are adults now.

I'm not asking for Windows 3.11 (Windows for Workgroups) here. Though, that would be, likewise, quite aweosme. Just plain old 3.1.

Listen, Satya. You know this would be a cool thing to do. And you know that Microsoft wouldn't take any financial hit for doing this. If you're concerned about the cost of having an internal employee dedicating paid time to managing the release… I would happilly volunteer my time to assist. As, I'm sure, would folks from any of the many computer museums around the world. We're here to help.

Word 5.5 for DOS

Word 5.5

Microsoft released Word 5.5 for DOS for free (for the world) a number of years back. You can even download it directly from microsoft.com.

Why not take the next logical step… and release the source code, for one of the most significant word processors in history, as well?

Releasing some (or all) of these pieces of iconic, Microsoft software would be a celebration not only of Microsoft's dedication to the ideals of open source… but of Microsoft's historic role in the history and evolotion of the computer industry.

Note: These are just a handful of significant releases from one of the worlds biggest software companies over the last several decades. There are so many more historically monumental pieces of software that they could also release as open source. But this? This would be enough to cause me to give them one of the biggest high fives humanly possible.

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