Museum criticizes Microsoft for ‘mutilated’ MS-DOS 4 open source release — posting on ‘stupid’ git blamed for the buggy blunder

On April 4, Microsoft released the source code for its 1986 MS-DOS 4 operating system on GitHub, listed alongside its other DOS source code releases. However, the release of MS-DOS 4 to GitHub in its current modified form appears to have broken some critical files. entirely.

As Michal Necasek, developer and operator of the OS/2 Museum blog, pointed out in How Not to Publish Historical Source Code, Git’s failure to preserve timestamps and convert files to UTF-8 breaks almost everything. Necasek welcomed the release of the code but criticized the bugs introduced in the process, saying: “But please don’t mutilate historical source code by putting it in (stupid) git.”

Of these two issues, source files converted to UTF-8 may be more serious. This is because the old tools characteristic of these operating systems cannot actually parse UTF-8 and probably cannot be updated to do so either. The byte line length limit of MS-DOS 4’s MASM was 512 bytes, and UTF-8 conversion takes specific files above this limit, rendering them unreadable.

The severity of file errors varies, but the OS/2 Museum publication notes that the main system files match the original disk image files perfectly. However, the source code also appears to correspond to 4.01, a “quiet” update to 4.00 that fixed some bugs. It wasn’t directly available, but it was delivered to PC builders.

The original post recommended just publishing the raw files as an archive, without UTF-8 conversion or anything like that. However, the story immediately continues in the comments, where MS-DOS version 4 co-developer Connor Hyde, aka Starfrost, acknowledges the problem and reveals the legal reasons for not including timestamps.

The discussion between Michal and Starfrost continues briefly in the comments before they forward it to emails which we won’t press them for. Despite Michal’s critical tone, it’s worth noting that idiotic corporate policies are “obviously” not the fault of an independent developer like Starfrost.

Hopefully these issues can be resolved soon so that MS-DOS 4 can be enjoyed in all its glory. However, MS-DOS 4 was still not popular when running properly due to its heavy use of 92 KB of RAM.

Amusingly, this led competing DR-DOS to ignore version 4.0-4.99 entirely in favor of moving from version 3.41 to version 5.0 – although MS-DOS 4’s multitasking emphasis still holds true.

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