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Wendin-DOS : The forgotten multi-tasking, multi-user DOS clone from the 1980s
Produced by a small team, and lost to the sands of time... until now.
August 18, 2023
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Back in 1987, an MS-DOS compatible operating system debuted that — despite a truly impressive and fascinating feature set — has been all but lost to history: Wendin-DOS.

This wasn’t some simple DOS clone, either. Wendin-DOS was a multitasking, multi-user DOS with the ability to run individual applications in movable windows.

Yet, sadly, there is almost no information available on the history and development of this fascinating system.

Let’s remedy that.

I managed to track down the developer of Wendin-DOS, Steve Jones, to find out as much as I could about the history of the system.

The Wendin-DOS story begins, as so many stories do, with a young nerd… playing with computers in High School…

Steve Jones: “The moment I saw an ASR33 teletype, I knew what I wanted to do. In high school, I spent more time programming a Univac 70/7 (IBM 360 clone) than anything else. Studied the operating system, wrote a disassembler to reveal how it worked, and wrote a bunch of system-oriented software for it.

In college I got a job with the academic computer center and studied its operating system, as well as the up-and-coming VAX/VMS. I started learning about what Dave Cutler was doing and wished I could work with him.”

For those unaware: Dave Cutler is an absolute legend in the operating system world, having been one of the engineers responsible for VMS, and would later go on to lead the NT project at Microsoft.

Now that Steve was out of school, things started to get really interesting…

“After college, I started a software company in Spokane that operated in the same building as my parents' company, Jones Double-Reed Products. My brother Greg joined me, and together we cloned VAX/VMS (well, as well as we were able), added a PC API module (we called it "the Filter", which included INT 20h-2fh redirection and processing, as well as some other PC interrupts to achieve rerouting of BIOS calls.) We hired Scott, a local software engineer, to help us, and put him on the filter-- toughest job, since it was basically a compatibility layer for all the DOS stuff out there. I can't tell you how many times Word Perfect and Lotus 1-2-3 were causing him fits. Then we split it up, Greg took the VMS shell and utilities, and I took the kernel-- which was really just VAX/VMS, with 4 stacks per process, ASTs, QIO, RMS, the whole thing.”

Three engineers, in Spokane Washington, who built a VMS clone for x86 PCs.

Already quite cool… and then this little rag-tag team decided to do something even cooler… they built an “Operating System Toolbox”.

“We got the idea to just replace the shell and utilities to make other operating systems-- PCUNIX (later renamed to PCNX when AT&T sent us a letter), and finally, stripped them off to create Operating System Toolbox, which was just the source, in a toolkit that people could use to create their own shell and utilities around the kernel. We ended up selling about 400 copies of each of these things a month as I recall, in response to ads in Dr Dobbs, BYTE, Embedded Systems Programming and a few others.

An open source (before people really used the term regularly) kit for building a multitasking operating system. Plus a VMS clone and UNIX clone for IBM compatible PCs.

From the 1987 Wendin catalog

Think about that for a moment. It’s 1986. And there’s a UNIX clone, for IBM PCs, that (via the Operating System Toolbox) has some of the source code available for it. This was a full half decade before Linus Torvalds would start the Linux kernel project.

This is some mightily impressive stuff here.

PCUNIX advertisement. Dr. Dobbs Journal, July 1986.

This tiny little company now had two complete operating systems (plus the Operating System Toolbox). Which is where DOS enters the story…

“With so many people wanting an alternative to MS-DOS (one that was bootable from a disk, not runnable as a program from DOS)-- we did another round of development and created Wendin-DOS, 'the DOS of the future.'


We were able to demonstrate running real DOS apps in overlapping, character-oriented windows, as well as screen groups, ala the up-and-coming Microsoft OS/2.”

From the 1987 Wendin catalog

Wendin-DOS certainly seemed to generate a good amount of interest from the press back in 1987.

InfoWorld, November 1987

Of course, being a small company and supporting three different operating systems has some significant challenges. Namely: testing the system with a wide variety of software. The Wendin crew did a little outside the box thinking on that…

“Once we had the basic software going, we realized if we were going to compete with Microsoft, we would need testers. Since we didn't have the money for our own, we created a debugging contest, and each person got an "I Debugged The DOS Of The Future" mug, plus a large prize for the winners. The bug reports flooded in, but the winner was astounding-- he submitted a ream (500 pg) of paper, with each page containing a bug report describing the nature of the problem, how to reproduce it, a diagnosis of the problem and suggested fix; this thing was just off the charts great. Turned out, he was institutionalized in some way and couldn't really go get a job, so he had time on his hands.”

According to the July 1987 issue of “80 Micro” (a Tandy oriented magazine) the Wendin crew even traveled to the famous West Coast Computer Faire to demonstrate Wendin-DOS.

Updates to Wendin-DOS were worked on for a while after the first release shipped…

InfoWorld, May 1988

But, not long after Wendin-DOS hit the market, Steve Jones (and his brother) left the company and headed off to work at Microsoft. At which point Wendin-DOS (along with the Operating System Toolbox, PC/VMS, and PCUNIX) all quickly faded into obscurity.

Wendin-DOS advertisement in Dr. Dobb's Journal, August 1987.

What could Wendin-DOS (along with PC/VMS and PCUNIX) have become had they had a few more years to mature with the original team? We’ll never know… but, considering the amazing accomplishments from that small team (in such a short period of time)… my guess? It would have knocked our socks off.


Steve Jones would go on to eventually become the CTO for BIOS maker Phoenix Technologies. Along the way — immediately after stopping work on Wendin-DOS — he spent some time over at Microsoft working working for the very engineer that inspired him back in High School.

“I got to work for Dave Cutler and really feel like I apprenticed with him-- it was a fantastic experience, working for the MAN.”

And Dave Cutler wasn’t the only computer pioneer that Steve ended up rubbing shoulders with…

Funny little story-- as I roamed the Microsoft hallways in building 2 on my first day, I ran into Larry Osterman's office with his bulletin board outside. On that bulletin board was posted our Wendin "love letter", which was something we sent out because we were delaying shipment of Wendin-DOS while we were processing all those bugs. On the form letter, Larry had written, "Guess writing a DOS is harder than you thought!" Not surprising, since Larry wrote DOS 4, the multitasking version of MS-DOS that never really went anywhere but was pretty ambitious at the time. We were largely solving the same problems, though he had full MS-DOS 3.31 source code (a great version of DOS) and we had our debugger to work with. Larry and I had a good laugh about it. Tim Paterson, the original 86-DOS implementer, had an office across the hall.”

Editors note: I had the good pleasure of interacting with Tim Paterson back in the 1990s, when we both worked at Microsoft. I was a young nerd, he was the software legend responsible for building the original “Quick and Dirty Operating System” that would go on to become “MS-DOS”. He was incredibly kind and gracious.

Many thanks to Steve for writing up some of this history and sharing his thoughts. It is so important that this amazing — and fascinating — part of computer history be properly documented. While there is still much to record about the work of this team, this is a good start.

Nowadays, Steve Jones runs NeuroSynthetica in Seattle, WA.

Can I run Wendin-DOS in 2022?

You can, indeed, run Wendin-DOS in emulation on modern machines. I was able to boot version 2.11 inside VirtualBox:

Wendin-DOS 2.11 booting off a floppy

Note: Wendin DOS 2.11 can be found in a few corners of the Internet. Due to uncertain legal status of the software, I can't link to it directly.

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From the Red Hat "Ethics Hotline"

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Ethics Violations Ignored by Red Hat

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The following is a screenshot of one such ethics violation report, using the "Ethics Hotline", which has been "Closed" with no messages, attachments, or response of any kind.

Source: Red Hat Whistleblower

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It was glorious.  And ridiculous.

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The result was "Can't Stop the SUSE".  Which, annoyingly, still lists me as having written the lyrics.  I'll let you decide how I feel about that song.

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Beneath the drama: The abuse of corporate power, extremist politics, bullying, & censorship of "wrongthink".

The Open Source world is no stranger to drama.  Heck, if it's a day that ends in "Ay!", there's likely some random, usually overblown, drama happening in one Open Source organization or another.

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Within this drama there lies a tale of extremist poltiics, abuse of corporate power, and silencing of political "undesirables".  The things we learn here -- burried beneath the layers of drama -- are deeply disturbing, with significant ramifications for the entire Open Source industry.

Cutting through the noise

As with all drama, there's a lot of finger pointing.  And... noise.  So much noise.  Let's cut through all of that and get right to the facts.

The basic facts of this event:

  1. The core developer behind Hyprland (a tiling Linux window manager which has gained significant traction), a man who goes by the name "Vaxry", has been banned from any involvement in the Freedesktop project (an umbrella project covering Xorg, Wayland, and many other core Linux Desktop projects).
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  3. The ban (affecting Freedesktop) was enacted by a Red Hat representative (using a email address), based on a perceived 2 year old "Code of Conduct Violation" on a Hyprland chat server.
  4. Red Hat, Freedesktop, and Hyprland are all separate organizations.

As with any drama, there's a great deal of other information out there -- along with frenzied onlookers yelling about it from the sidelines -- but those are the core actions and facts.

The key takeaway: A representative from Red Hat was using corporate power to force a person out of other (read: non-Red Hat) organizations.  For reasons not related to Red Hat.  Nor related to the organization the person was being banned from.

In essence, Red Hat flexing it's muscle -- bending large portions of the Open Source world to do it's bidding.

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What was the "violation"?

In order to understand how truly disturbing this issue is, we need to know a few additional details.  Starting with the initial "Code of Conduct Violation".

Back in 2022 -- yes, two years ago -- on the Discord chat server for the Hyprland window manager project, a man who identified as "Trans" listed his preferred prouns as "she/her".

A moderator on that Hyprland chat server changed that "Trans" person's pronouns to list as "who/cares".

Screenshot of the "Code of Conduct Violation".

Flash forward to 2024, and this "who/cares" action comes to the attention of another man who identifies as "Trans".  An employee of Red Hat named Lyude Paul.

To give you an idea of the motivations of the actions which follow: Lyude Paul has a publicly stated goal of "bullying" anyone who does not adequately show respect to "Trans" issues, as shown in his social media posts.

Source: Lyude Paul's Mastodon account.

Lyude Paul also promotes the idea that "right-wing people are not welcomed" in organizations.

Source: Lyude Paul's Mastodon account.

As Lyude Paul has a stated objective of "bullying" people -- making sure they are "not welcomed" -- if they do not profess the correct political ideals (or do not support "Trans" activism in the proper way)... it is not entirely surprising that this gentleman would use his position at Red Hat to ban those he disagrees with.

And that is exactly what happened.

Source: Lyude Paul's official email from

Lyude Paul -- using his Red Hat email address -- informed Vaxry (the lead developer of Hyprland -- the project where the "who/cares" chat server incident occurred) that he was now banned from the entirety of the Freedesktop project and organization.

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You can read the full emails, from Lyude Paul / Red Hat, as published by Vaxry.

The Red Hat Problem

This is an example of Red Hat, a corporation with a wild history of discrimination and censorship, using their corporate power (and strength within the Linux and Open Source world) to bully and silence those they politically disagree with.

Red Hat could condemn these actions (which were done in Red Hat's name) by their employee.  They have not done so.

None of this should be terribly surprising, considering what we already know about the IBM subsidiary.  They have a history of taking extreme political stances... and they actively discriminate against employees who deviate from their allowed, always extremely politically Leftist, ideals.

Considering Red Hat's historical stances and actions, it is no surprise that an employee of Red Hat would be able to use the corporate power of Red Hat to bully others who possessed the wrong ideas (as was the publicly stated objective of Lyude Paul).

A singular bit of drama... and a trend.

This particular incident has elicited strong reactions -- and has grabbed the attention of many across the Linux and Open Source industry.  Lots of drama.  Lots of opportunities to quote people who are making big, outlandish statements.

And most of that drama is little more than distracting fluff.

But the core -- the facts -- are truly disturbing.  And, once again, Red Hat finds itself at the center of another story where people are being discriminated against.

A few closing thoughts.

  • If this sort of bullying, censorship, and blacklisting of those with the "wrong politics" is allowed to continue... it will get worse.
  • Lyude Paul is guilty of far more extreme "Code of Conduct" violations than Vaxry -- as is shown in the screenshots above.  Yet Lyude Paul has not been banned, censored, or punished in any way by Red Hat or Freedesktop.
  • It would appear fairly obvious that the "Code of Conduct", at least in this case, is being used as a weapon to selectively harm specific individuals.
  • Considering Red Hat / IBM's history and dedication to discriminating against specific groups, it seems a fair assumption that these actions are not only allowed but encouraged by corporate leadership.  Should that not be the case, The Lunduke Journal encourages Red Hat and IBM to make a statement regarding it.  If such a statement is made, The Lunduke Journal will publish it in full.
  • Will Open Source organizations -- such as Freedesktop -- allow these sorts of discriminatory actions to continue?
  • Should Freedesktop, and others, continue allowing this type of discrimination... what result will that have on existing Open Source projects and users of those projects?

The Lunduke Journal has reached out to representatives from IBM and Red Hat for comment.  As of the time of publication The Lunduke Journal has received no response.

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