My First Experience with MS Windows

My first experience with PC "Windows" was one day in November 1987, when I was making my usual monthly tour of Autodesk trying to keep informed on the interesting skunk works that were being developed. When I entered the office of EQ, I saw that he was was running AutoSketch on a PC with Windows! It was beautiful, but how could it be? Well, as it turned out, it was a primitive version of AutoSketch that he had written from scratch to run on OS/2. I was really impressed, but it seemed to me much more important to port AutoCAD to OS/2. Within a week, I had started a project with a team of programmers, initially including EQ, to port AutoCAD to OS/2.

At that time, OS/2 though originating from IBM, was a joint project of IBM and Microsoft, and we quickly were integrated into to the Microsoft OS/2 development effort. We received a lot of help and support from Microsoft, and I made quite a number of friends with the Microsoft programmers and managers. They were very helpful. At one point, they gave me an office at Microsoft for several days and free access to visit and talk to the OS/2 programmers. At our request, they even added an additional system call to OS/2 1.2 to accelerate vector graphics on the OS/2 platform (GpiPolyLineDisjoint).

We proudly shipped Release 10 of AutoCAD for OS/2 1.1 in January 1990. At the same time, we shipped our graphics dll containing the new OS/2 system call for OS/2 1.2.

It was the same OS/2 team that worked on the AutoCAD native dialogue box project, which provided platform independent core code that supported user defined dialogue boxes. With quite a bit of opposition within Autodesk, we released the user defined dialogue boxes in Release 11 on OS/2. Only with AutoCAD Release 12 were user defined dialogue boxes available on other platforms (DOS, Unix, ...).

By late 1990, we realized that there was a lot of conflict between Microsoft and IBM about the future directions of OS/2. At one point, our Microsoft contacts, urged us to consider AutoCAD for Windows 3.1, which was about to be released. I was, however, very skeptical since Windows 3.1 was a 16 bit operating system, and on a Window system, AutoCAD really required a flat address space only available on 32 bit operating systems.

Recently I received the following email message, which reminded me of the day I realized that we had been seriously mislead by Microsoft.

2 March 1999: Email from an Autodesk insider ...
PC WEEK Feb 15, 1999 page 10:
"Cameron Myhrvold, a Microsoft vice president, acknowledged that his company struck exclusive deals with ISP's to help win the browser battle."

Here's what I remember about Cameron. Cameron was the OS/2 marketing contact for Autodesk back in 1991.

Cameron D. Myhrvold
Strategic Marketing Manager
OS/2 Product Group

On July 5th, 1991 two months before the announced Microsoft/IBM divorce, Cameron was in the room when Bill Gates trumped Kern Sibbald's soliloquy on how to promote OS/2 by leaning forward and saying very simply: "We don't want to sell OS/2".

It was a stunning revelation. The room was filled with the MS OS/2 lead programmers. They were there to celebrate the first 32-bit application running on OS/2. When Bill spoke those simple words, you could see the blood drain from their faces as their heads filled with random white noise.

Autodesk personnel were immediately shuffled out of the room. Cameron's comment in the hall was: "He must mean the 16-bit version". That's not what Bill meant. We knew what Bill meant.

RW used that confused moment to ask for free software and Cameron jumped at the opportunity to shift focus. We were lead away to the Microsoft Company Store. We selected copies of any Microsoft Software we fancied and Cameron charged it to the Marketing account. The haul home was substantial. I believe RW actually checked his in at the luggage counter.

On the flight home we mapped out the steps needed to shut down OS/2 development and load the Windows 3.0 tools onto our systems. It was the end of an almost three year development cycle.

For the next two months, whenever Cameron tried to float the public line for OS/2, we would ask for free software. That arrangement ended almost too quickly when the Microsoft/IBM divorce was publicly announced. At that point we knew the finality of the breakup. We already knew OS/2 was doomed.

Cameron stayed on briefly as the Autodesk MS Windows development contact but tired of it quickly. Publicly he said he was moving on because he had lost credibility with the ISPs. Privately, he would confess that he hated Windows 3.0 but NT looked promising.

Fun times.

I don't regret our OS/2 effort. It was fun and interesting, and the OS/2 code base was the launching pad for the Windows version of AutoCAD. Although I did not participate in port of AutoCAD to Windows, because I was busy starting the "European Software Center" (ESC) in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, I am told that it was up and running though a bit unstable in only two months. Probably more than 90% of the OS/2 effort applied directly to the initaial Windows version, which is apparently, the only platform on which AutoCAD is supported today (which is an important statement of the success of MS Windows).

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Contact: kern at sibbald dot com
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