Why Buying DOS Compression Now Is A Dumb Idea
Several months ago, a court ruled that Microsoft was in violation
of a patent held by Stac Electronics. This patent involved forms of the
LZS compression technology, which, by itself, is freeware. This forced MS
to pull copies of DOS 6.2 off store shelves everywhere. This also pushed
Gates Company to create a new disk compression prgram that is more stable
than the one used in earlier Dos 6.
This all started with the release of MS DOS 6. Dos 5, and its pre-
decessors required third party utilities to compress a disk, commonly giving
about double the space on the disk than what is really, physically there.
These programs use replacement techniques, changing long phrases in code into
shorter single charachters, and then chaniging the data back through replacing
the phrases to their original form. Microsoft, wanting to put its hands into
the pockets of Stac and Addstor, the major disk compression makers, put com-
pression straight into DOS. Unfortunately, the first attempt failed. The
first 30,000 copies shipped formatted the hard disks that they were installed
on. Major errors in the code of DoubleSpace, which it is commonly known by,
caused many cases of lost data, sometimes compeletely ruining a hard disk.
Microsoft quickly released fixes for these problems, and even tried
to prevent problems from cropping up. These were implemented through an
upgrade called DOS 6.2. It included a new, more stable version of Double-
Space, and a new program called DoubleGuard. DoubleGuard tried to stop
problems from occuring before they happened, but slowed down the compression
even more, and warned you before they became too serious if they did occur.
At the same time, Microsofts main DOS rival, IBM, released a version of thier
DOS, called IBM DOS 6.1. It didnt use DoubleSpace, but instead used a third
party program from Addstor, called SuperStor. The program, however, wasnt
finished, so a coupon was sent instead. You sent in the coupon and recieved
the SuperStor compression program in the mail when it was completed.
After several months of relative quiet on the dos Compression front,
Stac dropped a bomb: It was sueing software giant Microsoft for patent in-
fringement, and expected reparations for lost revenues. The lawyers took
their cases, and drew their lines. The battle had begun. Few people know
what happened in the courtroom at the time, but when the smoke had cleared,
David had beaten Goliath. Microsoft had to stop production of MS DOS 6, and
6.2, and had to release a compressionless program, making DOS 6.21. Stac
had won a large sum of money, and won back main control of the compression
scene. Microsoft, however, didnt lose entirely. It sued Stac for a minor
patent infringement, and won. Stac had to rerelease a copy of its newest
version of the compression software, Stacker 4.0.
Microsoft sent a coupon along for the same compression technology
in IBM DOS, SuperStor, and went about writing a clean version of Double
Space. The sales of DOS 6.21 were not exactly overwhelming, and the
programmers at Microsoft were having a problem writing a program that wouldnt
get them sued. IBM, at the same time, was rewritting a copy of the IBM DOS,
6.3. It had better compression technology, and took less space. It, however,
unlike earlier versions, was included. I was lucky enough to see a late
beta of this program, and it was impressive, and stable.
Finally, several weeks ago, Microsoft, trying to save face, released
a copy of MS DOS 6.22. It included a compression program known as Disk
Space, obviously trying to keep them out of court, and keeping with the
DoubleSpace moniker. I have, as of yet, not heard any bad news about it, nor
have I heard any GOOD news about it. Microsoft hasnt been sued over it, and
may have saved themselves from being behind in the 16-bit OS wars until DOS
7 is released late this year or next.
Strangely enough, however, this didnt end the fight over the comp-
ression technologies. Late last week, MS BOUGHT 500 million dollars of
Stac electronics, and paid them royalties so that they could release a copy
of the Stacker compression program in their later revisions of DOS! This
gives them pretty much total control over Stac, and puts another question
into the minds of most educated computer users. Will Microsoft rerelease
Doublespace, or bundle Stacker 4.0 with DOS?
At this point, its hard to say. It would be very expensive to take the
6.22 version off the shelves, and to rewrite the program to include the older
version of Doublespace or Stacker. It would also make MS look like a group
of trained monkeys, who will just try to buy you off, and would make Gates
himself look like an idiot. Then again, no one REALLY knows what goes on there,
anyway. Right now this industry is looking too confusing. Stick with Dos 6.2,
if you can.