Microsoft Open Sources GW-BASIC from 1983

May 22
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Microsoft has announced that after open sourcing MS-DOS two years back, the company is ready to open source some more projects from the days past. Released in 1983, Microsoft BASIC is now open for the public.

The Windows maker said that the GW-BASIC source code being published is from Feb 10, 1983 release. Since that was quite a few decades ago, Microsoft also offered some interesting historical perspective:

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The week this source was created Men At Work topped the US and UK singles charts with “Down Under”, Dustin Hoffman starred in the #1 US box-office movie, “Tootsie”. In 1983, “Star Wars Episode VI – Return of the Jedi” was released, as was “War Games”! And, Emily Blunt, Kate Mara, Jonah Hill, Chris Hemsworth, and Henry Cavill, were born! Ronald Reagan was President of the USA, and Margaret Thatcher was the UK’s Prime Minister.

That same year, Bjarne Stroustrup was in the middle of developing the first version of the C++ programming language, ARPANET standardized TCP/IP. Borland announced Turbo Pascal, created by Anders Hejlsberg (who went on to join Microsoft, and create J++, C# and TypeScript).

1983 was also the year AT&T released UNIX System V R1, and BSD 4.2 was released, introducing the pseudoterminal for the first time (the progenitor to Windows’ ConPTY we introduced to Windows in 2018)

In 1983, Apple launched the 1MHz 6502-powered Apple IIe for US$1,395 (> $3,500 in 2020). Apple also launched the first commercially available computer with a GUI – the Apple Lisa. The Lisa contained a staggering 1MB RAM, and ran the awesome Motorola 68000 processor at an astounding 5MHz, but it cost $9,995 (> $25,000 in 2020 dollars), so all I could do was peer at it through the window of the one computer store in our town authorized to sell Apple’s products … and dream.

And, in 1983 Microsoft released MS-DOS 2.0 (source here), and GW-BASIC for the IBM PC XT and compatibles.

The GW-BASIC source code is being released for historical reference and educational purposes, which means Microsoft won't be accepting PRs that modify the source. It isn't in C; like the MS-DOS, it's 100% in assembly language. To have a look, head over to GitHub or the official blog post.

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