Linfield's Line- by Kevin Linfield

OS/2 Users vs IBM

The more time goes by, the more I realize that it is the users, not IBM who promote OS/2. We organize groups such as Team OS/2 and city "User Groups" to promote it to co-workers, friends, and even the general public. You can see volunteers at computer events such as COMDEX and ComputerFest, giving up their time to help promote their operating system, and in the plethora of newsgroups, defending OS/2's honour and assisting others with answers and helpful tips.

How many of us started using OS/2 because of an IBM advertisement? Although there must be at least one person in the world, I'd bet that the total number would be very small. I'll use my own story as an example. I bought a new 486DX33 with 4 MB of RAM in February 1992, and on its 120 MB hard drive was good old DOS 5.0. Believe it or not, I actually bought Windows 3.0 based on the hype and hoopla.

I soon became frustrated with Windows because a) I didn't have any Windows applications and b) it wouldn't run my DOS programs in a window. I figured that if I was going to task switch DOS programs, I might as well use DOSShell (a utility which came with DOS 5.0). Later that year, a friend at University told me about OS/2 2.0. To be brutally honest, I had never thought of OS/2 before this point (i.e. what advertising?). He gave me some propaganda and he was able to convince me to upgrade to 8 MB of RAM and buy OS/2 (on 5.25" disks no less). Since then, I have become somewhat of a fanatic and have tried to learn all I can about OS/2. I run it at home, on my notebook, at work, and even on my father's 386 with 4 MB of RAM (of course, with Program Commander/2 as a replacement shell.) I recommend it to my friends, participate in local computer events, and even helped organize the Toronto OS/2 User Group.

And talk about advertising? Lately, all I've seen are the "nun" commercial, and the Warp Connect machine in the jungle. OS/2 2.1 ads involved a pool table. Boring. Even magazine ads are just plain dull. I strongly doubt that this kind of advertising is effective. No catchy jingle. No famous spokesperson. Not even its own infomercial. Even in retail stores OS/2 is not well known to the staff. With few pre-loads, there are few applications available on the shelves. And those that are on the shelf do not represent the wealth of OS/2 software available. One of the cries emanating from the vocal minority is that OS/2 has no applications. Have they ever checked out Indelible Blue, Below Zero, or House of Technology? These OS/2 stores sell more applications than you can shake a stick at.

How did you get into OS/2? Did you install it yourself? I know of only a handful of people who successfully performed their own first install.

Even I had my friend come over and assist me, and in turn I have assisted close to 100 people with their machines. So if it is so hard to install, and IBM doesn't promote it, why are OS/2 users so gung ho about their systems? I suspect that we feel that we've finally found an operating system that takes full advantage of our hardware. No more 640kb memory hassles. No more FAT file systems. The limitations of DOS are gone, but we still have the capability of running DOS and Windows software if the need arises.

The rumours of OS/2 dying have been around since OS/2 was invented. But no matter what IBM does, OS/2 will never die as long as there are enthusiastic users who promote the system and provide support, whether in person, via the Internet, or even at computer shows and events.

Kevin Linfield is a Toronto based consultant and freelance writer.

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