Lord Labak DOS

Before Satya Nadella, who was made the CEO of Microsoft earlier this week, gets down to tackle the many challenges in his new post, I would like to draw his attention to the fact that Microsoft Word throws up ‘Satan’ as one of the alternatives when I key in his first name on it.

While at it, another thing that I would like to suggest Satya, if he is any keen on taking Microsoft back to its halcyon days, is: Bring back MS-DOS, which, by a conservative estimate, must have brought Bill Gates 90 per cent of his famed wealth.

For the sake of who tuned in late to the computer world, MS-DOS was Microsoft’s first ever operating system, and its chief virtue was that it, irrespective of whether you were a high-end techno geek or a rank novice, proved practically useless to everyone. Along with Bermuda Triangle and Meghnad Desai’s hairstyle, MS-DOS remains one of the abiding mysteries of the world till this day.

In those early days, when internet was more or less non-existent, people bought home computers out of an abiding passion for technology and an even more innate desire to show off that they had this modern thingie in their homes. Otherwise, having computers in homes made as much sense as inviting Sunny Leone to a convention of ascetic nuns.

The other thing about early home computer was it was clunky and slow, and the first thing that people did upon waking up in the morning was to switch it on so that it could be ready by at least some time in the afternoon. The patience that people developed then is what is standing them in good stead in the face of even more ponderous thing known to mankind, the IRCTC site.

Once the computer loaded, you were, however, at liberty to accomplish many tasks, like moving the computer to a different corner of the room, tilting the monitor to a more convenient angle or removing the biscuit crumbs from the keyboard. But in the process of cleaning, if you accidentally keyed in a couple of letters, the computer will whirr into action with alacrity and throw up the set of words, which to this day occupies a pride of place in the Technology Hall of Fame: ‘Abort, Retry, Fail?’

That was probably MS-DOS enigmatically cursing you for having woken it from its slumber. Or it could have been some alien space ship asking for permission for its mission. Or they were desperate warnings to Abdul Kalam to not write poetry. Nobody knows what ‘Abort, Retry, Fail’ actually signify.

Another thing that MS-DOS was pretty good at was, when you gave a simple command, it quickly responded with, I quote: ‘Bad Command’.

So basically the entirety of humanity was stuck with glimpsing at a stoic ‘a:’ on the screen for several years before the engineers at the Microsoft made a major breakthrough and introduced to the world — here I will get a bit technical —- ‘b:’ and ‘c:’, which carrying on the proud legacy of ‘a:’ were equally impenetrable. But the populace was happy they now had two new letters to play with.

Come to think of it, Microsoft should have continued with this formula, and after finishing with letters, it could have moved on to numbers and kept the fun going and nobody would have complained. But like a fool, as was with Hitler and Poland, Microsoft ventured into Windows 1.0, with which also you could do practically nothing, but the world was now liberated of the ‘a:’ despot.

‘A:’ went into hiding behind the new regime of fancy icons and colourful screen. From then on there was no stopping the operating system Arab Spring. Microsoft initially managed to keep the rampaging mob at bay by regularly coming up with Windows versions whose specialty lay in the fact that the feature you were looking for was always in the Windows version that was still to come. But things aren’t the same anymore. It has gotten bad enough that pictures of purported house of Bill Gates are no longer the favourites of email forwarders.

To be sure, there is no real competitor to the Windows operating system even now. But it has become Roger Federer, a true legend with the awe factor totally gone.

So, Satya’s task is cut out. He has to restore a global brand to its place of glory. Failing which, he must at least, well, tell us what the heck was ‘Abort, retry, fail’.