MS-DOS short for Microsoft Disk Operating System – is an operating system for x86-based personal computers. It was the most commonly used member of the DOS family of operating systems, and was the main operating system for IBM PC compatible personal computers during the 1980s to the mid-1990s, until it was gradually superseded by operating systems offering a graphical user interface (GUI), in particular by various generations of the Microsoft Windows operating system.
MS-DOS grew from a 1981 request by IBM for an operating system for its IBM PC range of personal computers. Microsoft quickly bought the rights to QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System), also known as 86-DOS, from Seattle Computer Products, and began work on modifying it to meet IBM’s specification. The first edition, MS-DOS 1.0, was launched in August 1981. The version shipped with IBM’s PCs was called PC DOS. Although MS-DOS and PC DOS were initially developed in parallel by Microsoft and IBM, the two products eventually went their separate ways.
During its life, several competing products were released for the x86 platform, and MS-DOS itself would go through eight versions, until development ceased in 2000. Ultimately it was the key product in Microsoft’s growth from a programming languages company to a diverse software development firm, providing the company with essential revenue and marketing resources. It was also the underlying basic operating system on which early versions of Windows ran as a GUI.