Twenty-eight years ago, Microsoft released the last version of its C compiler targeting pure MS-DOS binaries (7.0). Yeah, end of an era … three decades ago! After that release, the name of the product even changed to become Visual C++ (1.0). I have a sweet memory of this product. I was a young freelance journalist at the time, and I was known to like dev products and reviewing them—a weirdo for my friends. When I got the call to see if I wanted to give a test drive of the Microsoft C/C++ 7.0 Compiler & the Windows Software Development Kit, it didn’t take me long to say “Yes” – in fact, it was “Oui,” but that’s a minor historical detail. And I barely caught while hanging-up, “come with a friend.”
I should have paid more attention to the last soundbite and go accompanied by a Sherpa. Why? Because in the early ‘90s, heavy-hitter software was literally heavy. In this case, the box was two feet long and weighed over 40 pounds! Check out the pictures if you don’t believe me. I didn’t believe it either when I had to pick up the box in the lobby.
The compiler was cool for the time, and in addition to MS-DOS, it could target OS/2 and Windows binaries. The IDE was the Programmer’s Workbench, a text-based development environment inherited from Quick C. Even the use of a mouse was optional, and you could – with a particular HW configuration – use two displays simultaneously.
Stepping through your code, watching your memory and variables on your main display, and seeing the program running on the secondary screen made me feel like a Starfleet cadet! The future was knocking at our PC’s door. But it is truly the “& the Windows Software Development Kit” that tipped the scale. If you are a developer, then you know about MSDN online. Yeah? OK. And that’s exactly what Microsoft shipped with the SDK. These were great times when documentation meant something – do I sound like a boomer? Maybe, and to be honest, I prefer today’s way, all web-based and at the tip of the mouse (although the paper version is more energy efficient). If you want to play with this great C compiler – the universal assembler as I like to call it –, you can download a copy from the WinWorld website here. Note that this is the compiler only, and doesn’t contain the SDK. Ah, you will also need an MS-DOS computer with Windows 3.x. Have fun!