In the early part of the 21st century, DOS could become more widely used than Windows. Unbelievable? Not really. We're not talking about the DOS required for Windows 3.1 or the DOS that lurks under the hood of Windows 95/98. We're referring to the best DOS ever made, DR-DOS. That's right, the ol' DOS from Digital Research acquired by Novell.

Caldera purchased DR-DOS from Novell in 1996 and has sold more than 3 million copies of it for use in the darndest places -- in bootable disks for antivirus programs, in embedded systems and in legacy PCs. By 2001, it is estimated there will be more than 2 billion embedded CPUs in the world. What will run on them? It could be DR-DOS, a clean, mean OS that runs like a charm in a 386 CPU with 4MB of RAM. With the CPU chip and RAM costing under $10 in quantity, and eventually dropping to under $5, that's cheap enough to be used in any terminal, POS device, hand-held whatever, even a thermostat or your kid's stuffed bear. In addition, using DR-DOS and DR-WebSpyder, a graphical browser that runs under DR-DOS, Caldera expects to do a whopping business in set-top boxes, because its embedded version includes antialiasing, which makes TV screens viable for computer use.

Got a bunch of old 386s you don't know what to do with? Turn them into Internet terminals or thin clients with DR-DOS and DR-WebSpyder. And don't worry about Y2K, because not only is DR-DOS Y2K compliant, but it adds a driver that fixes your old ROM BIOS.

Not only is DR-DOS alive and well, but Caldera intends to prove that DR-DOS could have earned a fortune if Microsoft hadn't beaten it into the ground using every trick in the book. Caldera

is bringing the first private lawsuit against Microsoft, which should be in the courts next summer. Many may remember that DR-DOS was the only DOS-compatible OS that ever gave Microsoft any real competition.

Not only did it "inspire" Microsoft to update its own DOS, according to Caldera, but it scared Microsoft enough to have it demand that manufacturers not use a competing DOS, or it wouldn't sell them Windows. Microsoft also put code in Windows 3.1 that would detect DR-DOS and spit out an error message saying the underlying OS was incompatible. If you're curious, go to Caldera's Web site at and read the lawsuit.

If Caldera wins, it could get a ton of money. In its heyday, DR-DOS was reaching more than 10 percent of the MS-DOS market. Imagine what 10 percent of

MS-DOS throughout this past decade is worth, tripled for damages to boot. Interesting ... yes?

Alan Freedman's award-winning Computer Desktop Encyclopedia on CD-ROM is "the" reference about the computer industry. It contains more than 11,000 entries from micro to mainframe and includes technical drawings, photographs and charts. It runs on Windows 3.1, 95/98 and NT. CD-ROM and floppy are $44.95 each. Contact The Computer Language Company at 215/297-8082. Fax: 215/297-8424.

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