Found in 18 comments on Hacker News
spondyl · 2023-10-22 · Original thread
I haven't watched this video yet but I'm looking forward to it, having read Showstopper[1] quite a few years back.

One thing that stuck out to me when I was still in my early 20s thinking I needed to work all the time was the mention that Dave would always take holidays on time, every time without any debate.

While I may not love Microsoft, it was probably my first real exposure of a highly competent and qualified person who wasn't grinding 24/7.

It still feels nuts to write it but it's a holdover from rural (and retail) life where the mindset is basically "The more you suffer, the more virtuous you are".

As much as I still struggle to properly take time off (that is, it's easy to postpone because of X or Y being more important), thinking about Dave's view is always a good reminder that it's not a choice between taking a break and being good at X.


fudgy · 2023-07-14 · Original thread

chasil · 2022-05-25 · Original thread
True to form, Cutler had a break with DEC, and they gave him a carte-blanche VAX "skunkworks" with Prism/Mica.

DEC eventually shut this down, which prompted his departure for Microsoft. This is unfortunate for DEC, as they eventually poured the company into their Alpha RISC processor, which did not live as long as DEC hoped. Prism might have been a superior design.

At this time, Microsoft was maintaining a UNIX kernel in their Xenix product, so they knew a good kernel engineer when they met one. Microsoft was the leading UNIX vendor in the early 80's.

Cutler famously disparaged the UNIX kernel (his notable saying was "Get a byte, get a byte, get a byte byte byte" to the tune of the finale of Rossini's William Tell Overture).

Microsoft dumped their Xenix onto SCO about this time.

What is more interesting to me was Cutler's involvement with Azure. He must have had some sway over CBL-Mariner, Microsoft's RPM-based Linux distribution.

Much of Cutler's earlier work is documented in the "Showstoppers" book:

The book doesn't really delve into the Xenix decisions, if I remember correctly.

Without Cutler, Microsoft would likely have ended up on a BSD kernel, as Apple did.

kerng · 2020-03-04 · Original thread
Reminds me of the book Showstopper and the personal stories in - its about the creation of Windows NT. Pretty interesting how things where not so differnet some 30 years ago

In case anyone is interested:

Windows NT was originally going to be OS/2 NT. Due to the architecture of NT, it could support many different APIs.

Due to the success of Windows 3.0 and the lack of OS/2 success, Microsoft wisely decided to expand the Windows API to the Win32 API and have it be the default API.

The book Show Stopper, has a good account of the early days of NT.

It is interesting read.

kyberias · 2018-02-19 · Original thread
Yes from scratch. Names matter little.

From your source: "Microsoft's internal project name for the new OS was OS/2 NT, because Microsoft's intention was for the new OS to succeed OS/2 yet retain the OS/2 API as its primary interface."

Note how Russinovich talks about a "new OS".

The NT (kernel) never had any OS/2 code in it, it was a totally different project. The first target processor architecture for NT wasn't even x86, it was MIPS.

OS/2 in NT was merely a subsystem layer next to DOS and Posix, somewhat like today there is the Linux subsystem layer in Windows 10.

A good source is this:

EamonnMR · 2018-01-22 · Original thread
If you're a Cutler fan you may enjoy Showstopper[1], an account of the creation of NT.


jjguy · 2017-12-31 · Original thread
If you like history like this, you should also read “showstopper: the breakneck race to create Windows NT” (1). It profiles Cutler’s team as they go through the period described briefly in this article to make Windows NT an actual contender to the Unix-based OSes.


trentnelson · 2016-04-08 · Original thread
In a similar sort of vein, "Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft" is a great recaps of the initial Windows NT days with David Cutler and his 200+ ex-Digital OS engineers.

It was published in 1994 (so covers up to Windows NT 3.5 and touches on Chicago/Win95) and features a lot of info gleaned from 1:1s the author had with Gates, Cutler and a host of other executives.

(The design decisions made back then between 89-93 for NT are what enabled things like 'Bash on Ubuntu on Windows' to take place today.)

atombender · 2016-01-31 · Original thread
Joe Armstrong's paper on the history of Erlang (of which he was one of the authors) is superb (though it's less about corporate culture than about the language):

There's The Mythical Man-Month:

Showstopper, the book about the development of Windows NT, is great:

scholia · 2015-11-19 · Original thread
Thanks for the comments. I am absolutely certain of the NT back-story. However, you can read the whole story from another source, Show-Stopper, a book by G Pascal Zachary from the Wall Street Journal (1).

When Cutler was hired in 1988, both OS/2 and Windows were failing in the marketplace. The problems arose after Windows 3 sales started to take off in 1990.

Microsoft tried to get IBM to accept "OS/2 NT" as a replacement for the 16-bit OS/2, which was dead in the water. It refused, IBM and Microsoft divorced, and NT got rejigged for Windows compatibility instead of OS/2 compatibility.


Remember that Microsoft got its power from IBM: it would have been nowhere if IBM hadn't used its DOS and Basic in the IBM PC. IBM then resented Microsoft for "stealing" a small part of IBM's rightful monopoly.

Microsoft would go to any lengths to hang on to the IBM connection, which Ballmer called "riding the bear". The in-house Microsoft strategy for IBM meetings was BOGU (for Bend Over, Grease Up). Hence OS/2.

You may recall that, at once time, Microsoft saw Unix as the potential replacement for DOS. It did Xenix, which was the most popular Unix of its day. However, way back then, IBM had an implacable hatred for Unix and for AT&T, and owning OS/2 EE (not available from Microsoft) was the cornerstone of its plan to bring the PC industry under IBM's control (OS/2 EE, PS/2, MCA, SAA etc).

trentnelson · 2015-05-21 · Original thread
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.

pjmorris · 2014-02-06 · Original thread
Three I'm familiar with, all recommended:

'Gates', Stephen Manes [1]

'Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft', G.P. Zachary [2]

'Microsoft in the Mirror', Karin Carter [3]

But I agree with the parent that 'Programmers At Work' is a great book.




Splines · 2012-06-15 · Original thread
Speaking of Cutler, if you haven't read it, I highly recommend the book "Show Stopper!", which describes the early days of Windows NT.

Splines · 2011-01-25 · Original thread
> IIRC Microsoft had a completely separate team working on Win NT initially, lead by David Cutler.

If you're interested in this, I highly suggest you read "Show Stopper!". It provides some interesting insights into Microsoft's early days with NT.

andrewf · 2008-10-31 · Original thread
That interview incident has always seemed at odds with a subsequent book by the reporter - - which is quite a sympathetic view of the Windows NT deathmarch.
wallflower · 2008-02-14 · Original thread
I highly recommend Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft

Fun drama like a C++ programmer spending months to get a simple window to appear on screen (e.g. building the Win32 API). Dave Cutler from DEC throwing things.

Fresh book recommendations delivered straight to your inbox every Thursday.