Microsoft has released the source code for GW-BASIC, the interpreter of the programming language created in 1983 and which at that time only had two members: Bill Gates and Paul Allen.
GW-BASIC is very special software like Microsoft’s first product. It was originally released for the Altair 8800 microcomputer, and other licensed versions soon began to appear on other platforms. At the end of the decade Microsoft negotiated with various vendors, including IBM, to license a BASIC interpreter for their computers, and VISUAL BASIC became one of the standard languages on Apple II.
Following Altair’s success, the rest of the manufacturers made BASIC a standard feature for almost all home computers and its use grew to the point of surpassing the rest of the languages, together. Many programs, especially those on the Apple II and the IBM PC, relied on Microsoft BASIC and could not be run without it. Remember that the GW-BASIC source code is 100% assembly language, which means it is a low-level language created for a specific chip architecture.
Bill Gates and Paul Allen played their cards well and used their language license to influence negotiations with computer vendors of the time. In the early 1980s, Microsoft BASIC was ported to many OEM-specific platforms and for today’s most popular processors, 8088, 6502, 6809, Z80, and others. It was the first Microsoft software and the beginning of a software giant.
Microsoft has released the GW-BASIC source code as a file on GitHub. In other words, it will not accept any request to modify the font and does not include the tools to generate executable binary files. According to Microsoft, it is there to historical reference and for educational purposes.
GW-BASIC follows the steps of releasing the MS-DOS code, the product that really put an unknown Microsoft into orbit and that served as the basis for the transition to the graphical interfaces with Windows 95. MS-DOS was not created “Out of the blue” and grew out of Bill Gates’ purchase of the QDOS system from Tim Paterson.
If you are interested in conspiracy theoriesBe sure to review the article that talks about Microsoft’s alleged copying of CP / M to create MS-DOS. CP / M was an operating system created in the late 1970s by Gary Kildall at Digital Research. Paterson “took inspiration” (to put it mildly) from him to create QDOS. Then came MS-DOS, and some tied the dots in what is an unsolved puzzle in the history of modern computing. GW-BASIC was the one who started the story.