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CP/M collection is back online with an Open Source licence

Walk down memory lane

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When CP/M enthusiast Tim Olmstead died from cancer on September 11 this year, the Unofficial CP/M Web site he had been maintaining had to be taken down because of licensing issues with the software collection. Now, Lineo has granted unrestricted use of the technology and the site is back up.

CP/M (Control Program for Microcomputers)* is important because it was the first generic operating system for microcomputers. It appeared n 1974, according to a 1981 BYTE magazine article. It is the precursor to DOS. Prior to its creation, each type of hardware or "brand" of computer had its unique operating system. With CP/M, for the first time, any application could run on any kind of hardware, on top of CP/M.

(*There is some debate about what CP/M actually stands for. Some claim it is an acronym for "Control Program for Microprocessors," and others maintain is it "Control Program/Monitor." According to the comp.os.cpm FAQ, CP/M creator Gary Kildall referred to the OS in public as "Control Program for Microcomputers.)

The other DOSes

In an interesting sidenote to CP/M development, and as noted in The History of MSDOS written by Leven Antov, in 1980 IBM began searching for an operating system for their upcoming IBM PC. They originally intended to use CP/M and approached Digital Research, Kildall's employer.

Accounts differ about what happened to snafu that deal, but because it didn't go through, IBM contacted a small company called Microsoft. Microsoft did not have its own 8086 operating system to sell, so it worked up a deal to license Seattle Computer Product's (SCP) 86-DOS OS, which purportedly was written as a 16-bit clone of CP/M because SCP was tired of waiting for Digital Research to release its own 8086 CP/M version. Microsoft purchased all the rights to 86-DOS in 1981, renamed it MS-DOS, and IBM called it PC-DOS.

Back to CP/M

In 1996, Caldera purchased the rights to all of Digital Research's technology from Novell, who reportedly had dropped plans to come up with its own version of DOS. Caldera wanted to use DR-DOS (Digital Research disk operating system), Digital Research's evolution of CP/M, in its embedded technology. The rights to CP/M software belonged to Caldera also, but Tim Olmstead approached Caldera to get permission to publish CP/M software on the 'Net and allow access to it for personal, non-commercial use.

Eventually, Caldera's thin clients division, the one that was using all the Digital Research technology, spun off into a separate company called Lineo. This new company took ownership of the rights to DR-DOS and CP/M with it. As time went on, Lineo needed this technology less and less as its embedded applications relied more and more on Linux and less on DOS. Lineo states, at the DRDOS Web site: "Lineo is no longer developing or supporting the DR-DOS products. The source code for DR-DOS is available, and may be purchased by contacting a member of the Lineo Sales Team."

There was no mention of CP/M. Olmstead was clear about protecting the CP/M archive from abuse and possible legal troubles from Caldera/Lineo: he asked that the site be taken down in the event of his death. Only in his early fifties, he'd been ill with cancer for months. When Olmstead passed away on September 11, 2001, Gaby Chaudry, the host of the site complied with his wishes:

From: chaudry@gaby.de (Gaby Chaudry)
Newsgroups: comp.os.cpm
Subject: Unofficial CP/M Website will be shut down tonight
Date: 12 Sep 2001 01:51:45 -0700
Organization: http://groups.google.com/
Lines: 17
Message-ID: <583c9250.0109120051.5b251589@posting.google.com>
NNTP-Posting-Host: 62.138.25.30
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit
X-Trace: posting.google.com 1000284706 12033 127.0.0.1 (12 Sep 2001 08:51:46 GMT)
X-Complaints-To: groups-abuse@google.com
NNTP-Posting-Date: 12 Sep 2001 08:51:46 GMT

Dear all!

It was Tim Olmstead's personal wish to shut down the Unofficial CP/M web site after his death. Respecting this, I will do so tonight. Unfortunately there are still no news from Caldera/Lineo, whom I asked for a new license (Tim's license was personalized). Anyway, the material is not lost: I will password-protect the download directory - and if there should ever be a new license, re-open it.

Some other parts of the site which weren't under license protection of Caldera (like e.g. the Digital Research Library), will remain, even if not under the name of the "Unofficial CP/M Website".

For further information you can check out http://www.cpm.z80.de this evening.

Tim, we will miss you!

Gaby Chaudry

The site was down only a few weeks. On October 19th, Lineo effectively cancelled the old Caldera license by emailing this notice to Chaudry, which is posted on the Unofficial CP/M site:

Subject: Re: Unofficial CP/M Website/licensing of CP/M material
To: gaby@gaby.de
Date sent: Fri, 19 Oct 2001 10:36:31 -0600

Let this email represent a right to use, distribute, modify, enhance and otherwise make available in a nonexclusive manner the CP/M technology as part of the "Unofficial CP/M Web Site" with its maintainers, developers and community.

I further state that as Chairman and CEO of Lineo, Inc. that I have the right to do offer such a license.

Lineo and its affiliates, partners and employees make no warranties of any kind with regards to this technology and its usefulness or lack thereof.

---
Bryan Sparks
CEO Lineo, Inc.
http://www.lineo.com

So the CP/M software appears quite Open Source now, available for use, modification, and redistribution by anyone who chooses to do so.

Copyright & copy; 2001, Newsforge.com. All rights reserved.

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