1. 11

  2. 5

    The video claims that there was a “technology transfer” between IBM and Commodore, with Commodore gaining the use of the REXX language and IBM gaining some unspecified Amiga technology for OS/2.

    The video admits that this doesn’t seem likely but that it was cited in several places.

    I’m not really sure how it could be true. REXX (as ARexx) was an integral part of AmigaOS starting from version 2, but ARexx was developed by a third party, William Hawes, and was available for purchase for earlier versions of AmigaOS prior to its purchase by Commodore.

    REXX was thoroughly documented by its creator, Michael Cowlishaw, in his book REXX: A Practical Approach to Programming, which was written as both a reference book and a standard to be implemented. Hawes even ended up participating in the later ANSI efforts to standardize REXX.

    ARexx itself was written entirely in 68k assembly on an Amiga (as proudly proclaimed in the original manual), so I don’t see where, how, or why IBM would be involved in its creation.

    I would love to be proven wrong, because that would be a fascinating piece of history, but this has all the hallmarks of a folk legend.

    1. 3

      There is some discussion, with links to some useful sources, here. I’m equally skeptical about the existence of an actual deal, but mostly based on how detailed Cowlishaw’s book is, I don’t know too much about the history of IBM and OS/2 to make any seriously-backed comment.

      The Jargon file (in ESR’s infamous version) is sometimes cited as an alternative source but it actually cites the same source that everyone else does, an old OS2bbs page. That source is, itself, very vague. Patent waters were definitely murkier then but I find it somewhat unlikely that, somewhere between, what, 1989-1990 (around OS/2 1.3, when Microsoft and IBM basically broke up) and… 1990? (when AmigaOS 2.0, featuring ARexx, was launched) IBM would’ve made a deal that involved licensing a language that it didn’t really own (Mansfield Software was selling REXX interpreters for PC-DOS as early as 1985) in exchange for “ideas”. The OS/2 Workplace Shell, I hear, has some similarities to AmigaOS, but so do many other things, without any licensing deal. To mention just one analogue phenomenon, lots of FOSS desktops today copycat macOS, Windows, iOS and Android, sometimes based on nothing but screenshots of pre-release versions, and yet nobody is licensing anything.

      Meanwhile, contemporary sources, like this Proceedings of the REXX Symposium for Developers and Users, not only make no mention of such a deal, but refer to ARexx as “an implementation of REXX 3.5 with some Amiga-specific extensions” side-by-side with other interpreters for OS/2 (among others). This is obviously circumstantial but I find it fairly unlikely that such a deal would’ve not been mentioned in such a context, where interoperability is so important.

      1. 1

        The Wikipedia page for OS/2 repeats this, but the source it cites, the Open Object Rexx FAQ, doesn’t mention it anywhere. It may have appeared in an older version of the page.

        1. 4

          Looking at the references and stuff it just doesn’t add up. Some quick googling and Wayback Machining all end up being either unsourced or all point back to a single post on an OS/2 Warp BBS, which claims that IBM took “design ideas” from Workbench…there is little to nothing similar between Workbench and OS/2 other than the very basic WIMP commonalities.

          Not saying it’s not true but it just doesn’t make any sense. Like I said I’m willing to be proven wrong but I just don’t believe it as of now.

      2. 4

        I have strongly considered buying ArcaOS, not least because I can’t get my old OS/2 CDs to install in a VM (missing driver hurdles). But I don’t have any use for it at all, or much time to spend on it, so the cost is a bit of a speed bump.

        1. 2

          I have OS/2 Warp 3 running under VirtualBox. Haven’t had driver issues; the biggest challenge is getting the display to run at a sane resolution which requires installing IBM’s FixPaks (a painful experience.) The odd thing is OS/2 took a different policy choice to Windows (doesn’t it always?) by scaling fonts proportionally to the increased resolution, so screen elements get larger as pixels are added. It’s possible to reconfigure but it’s tedious.

          I’ve also wanted to buy something newer just because OS/2 Warp 3 is so old, but the application ecosystem doesn’t appear to have moved far past 1994, so it’s really hard to justify on the basis of new capabilities. The main reason to buy these products is to run legacy OS/2 programs, and the big problem with OS/2 was always the lack of OS/2 programs.

          1. 1

            If I recall (it’s been a few years), the differences between Warp 3 and Warp 4 were mostly cosmetic/UI, with the only big operational change being a watchdog that let you kill apps that were blocking the single UI message queue. The post-IBM commercial ventures have done re-theming, modern hardware support, VM guest support, and networking updates, I think.

            I don’t have any (either) of the paid apps I had when I used OS/2 as a daily driver (a word processor and a bitmap graphics editor). Towards the end, most of the OS/2 software I was using was Unix ports, in a full-screen XFree86 session, and in 1998 I just gave in and switched to RedHat Linux. I’d still love to have Warp 4 in a VM.

            1. 4

              There’s a few changes between 3 and 4, and a few changes in later FixPaks. Open32 wasn’t in the original 3 but was partly backported, for example. That in turn meant no (newer) SmartSuite - there’s an original Ami Pro version, but the later WordPro versions leverage Open32 AFAIK. GRADD, which I was referring to earlier, is important for using a modern display or a sane VM setup.

              But, a lot of that was backported. Checking around shows somebody got Firefox 2 running on Warp 3: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Firefox_2.0.0.14_on_OS2_Warp3.png

              The real advantage of newer builds IMHO is bundling the FixPaks so that setting up and operating is straightforward. What I’d really want is a boxed copy of 4.52, but by then IBM had given up trying to sell retail/to consumers.

              Do you know if the later ventures have access to the OS/2 source and are actually patching the kernel, or are they just bundling drivers?

              1. 1

                I don’t actually know; I’d always assumed they had source access.

                1. 1

                  Given ArcaOS apparently adds SMP support to OS/2, I would assume they at least have source code access to the kernel. I’m less confident they have source code access to the entire of OS/2 - the fact that many of the games and utilities shown in this video are still OS/2 branded and copyright IBM with no mention of Arca Noae or anyone else would suggest they are probably just shipping unmodified binaries they don’t have source code for in those cases.

                  1. 3

                    The last IBM version of OS/2, “Warp Server for eBusiness 4.52” had SMP support: https://www.ibm.com/common/ssi/cgi-bin/ssialias?subtype=ca&infotype=an&supplier=897&letternum=ENUS299-100 … so that per se is not new.

                    I think ArcaOS uses the same kernel, which was mainly designed and tuned for server use but is the most capable x86-32 OS/2 kernel there is.

                    I’ve not been able to find anything very conclusive about whether they have full sources, or the knowledge or skills to do anything with them. Mainly I think there are new drivers, a new and better installation program and so on.

                    Arca Noae sells an updated driver pack for eComStation customers: https://www.arcanoae.com/shop/os2-ecs-drivers-software-subscription-personal/

                    1. 1

                      Ah, my mistake - it does seem distinctly possible they may not have any original OS/2 source code, then.

                      1. 1

                        I’m not sure.

                        TBH with you, 2, no, 3 possibilities spring to mind:

                        • IBM itself no longer has the source;

                        • IBM has it but its licence agreements with MS mean it can’t share it or disclose it with anyone;

                        • Arca Noæ has the source, but doesn’t have anyone skilled enough to do anything significant with it.

                  2. 1

                    Do you know if the later ventures have access to the OS/2 source and are actually patching the kernel, or are they just bundling drivers?

                    I believe they don’t and just binary patch, and the end result is considered technically an OEM distribution of OS/2.