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The principle architect of VMS was David Cutler, purportedly the best engineer at Digital at the time (80s), and best OS designer in the industry.

Digital dropped the ball in the late 80s with regards to management of Cutler and his team, canceling his PRISM project and leaving him and his team disgruntled.

Elsewhere in Seattle, a chap named Bill Gates was flush with billions of cash and knew that the shelf life of DOS was limited; if Microsoft were to succeed, they needed a new, robust, reliable and high-performance OS that they could "bet the company on".

Gates got word that Cutler was disgruntled at Digital, and a mutual party set up a meeting. Cutler was dismissive of Microsoft's technology stack at the time (DOS and some office apps) -- he was a hardcore OS engineer, and DOS was a toy.

Gates persisted, ensuring Cutler that he would have the opportunity to build the next generation of OS from the ground up and essentially unlimited resources at his disposal to do it. Cutler eventually agreed, and the NT kernel project was born.

http://www.amazon.com/Show-Stopper-Breakneck-Generation-Micr...

http://windowsitpro.com/windows-client/windows-nt-and-vms-re...




I actually just read Show Stopper recently. The author is very non-technical and can't really explain the engineering details behind what he's writing about, but if you know something about basic OS design and concepts, that's ok. And the human stories - the stories behind the developers working on the project - are fascinating.

Reading the book and learning the story behind NT's development, it's just amazing that such a good OS came out of that process - they released years after their initial projections and were rushed the whole time. But of course the really good parts of NT - the kernel, the object manager, the pager, async IO, the threading model - were things Cutler and his cohorts had been working on for years, first with VMS, then with PRISM, and then finally in NT. They had YEARS to ruminate about those things before they ever arrived at Microsoft.

The bits of NT that aren't so well-regarded - the registry, NTFS, the graphical shell, csrss.exe and the 'microkernel' design - were completely new and developed in much less time and with less practical experience behind them than they really deserved.


Can't sing the praises of Show Stopper high enough either! Finished it about a month ago and absolutely loved it -- it was great when paired with this: https://github.com/tpn/pdfs/blob/master/Windows%20Research%2...

I sent a tweet to the author saying I was really enjoying the book when I was about half way through it and he actually e-mailed me to say thanks. How nice is that!


Dave Cutler is the real stuff of legends. Obviously this is my opinion but I admire him and his work far far far FAR more than anything Linus Torvalds has done.

Arguably, Linus' greatest work was Git, not Linux. Linux is, architecturally, a piece of shit! Actually, wait, so is Git. Mercurial does everything Git does and does it far better and more elegantly. So yeah, wait... one wonders where Linus gets all his fanatics from!


Heh, after reading Show Stoppers and Just For Fun, I actually think Cutler and Linus are actually very similar and would potentially get along in real life if it weren't for the epic technology divide.


This is the kind of remark that always gets me downvotes. I couldn't agree more with your opinion about git. I guess the attraction of git comes mainly from the fact that most of its users are too inexperienced to know any better. And then, git makes any old random directory a “repository”. That's waaaay cooler than to have to get a repo from a central server and having to integrate your commits with it...

[Edit: Clarification]




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