Titanic Metaphors

It’s been 110 years since the RMS Titanic sank on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.  The event has been a prolific source of books, movies–and metaphors.  Titanic has often been viewed as a metaphor for the complacency and arrogance of Western civilization before 1914, a symbol of technological overreach and hubris.  (The Onion had some fun with the Titanic-as-metaphor theme)

I think that there are a couple of other Titanic-related metaphors which are worth considering in our present era:

‘Working Cape Race’…around noon on April 14, Titanic received wireless messages warning of icebergs. The captain altered course to the south, a path believe to be free of ice, but maintained a speed of 22 knots.  That evening, senior wireless operator Jack Phillips,  was dealing with a flood of messages from passengers to friends ashore, when the SS California attempted to broadcast another ice warning to ships in the area.  The message was broken off by Phillips with “Stop Sending! I am working Cape Race.”  (‘working’ means ‘communicating with’, Cape Race was a Marconi Company shore station)

Not long afterwards, Titanic hit the iceberg.

Apparently the term ‘Working Cape Race’ has been adopted by some people to refer to those who are too preoccupied with the task at hand to perceive very important obstacles and hazards.

The phrase often seems apt these days–for example, when tv networks focus on the Johnny Depp defamation case when there are plenty of truly critical national and world issues to talk about.  I’m sure you can think of many more examples.

Progressive Flooding.  The compartmentalization which made the Titanic supposedly unsinkable obviously did not work.  One reason was that the iceberg was hit at an angle such that multiple compartments were torn open; the other reason was the phenomenon of progressive flooding.  This is a nautical architecture & operations term referring to the phenomenon where one compartment gets flooded…leading not only to the ship settling somewhat in the water, but also to a change in trim, namely, bow down…which can lead to other compartments overtopping their watertight bulkheads and spilling water into previously-safe compartments.

Again, I think the concept is sadly applicable to some of our political and social problems.  Failures in one aspect of society can lead to failures in another aspect…which can feed back to that first aspect, making it still worse…and so one.  Malign positive feedback, that is, a network of interconnected vicious circles.

For example, long-term unemployment can lead to an increase in drug addiction…both of which can lead to dysfunctional families…which drives reduced educational achievement for kids.  That reduced educational achievement drives further unemployment.

Discuss, if so inclined.


28 thoughts on “Titanic Metaphors”

  1. You can find a lesson or a metaphor in just about anything, if you look at it properly. Your examples from Titanic are both good ones.

    One of the ones I’ve always looked at askance is one many other people see as being an entirely different thing than what I see. The night the Titanic hit that iceberg, the lookout had only their naked eyes, no binoculars which would have helped gather light in the darkness of night, and which might have made the iceberg clear to him before it was struck.

    What’s interesting is why those binoculars weren’t there in his hands. The story goes that the second officer had the keys to the locker where the binoculars were stored, and he took them with him when he was transferred off the ship, just before it sailed.

    Lots of people take that as an example of “…for want of a nail, a horse was lost…”, but I do not. To me, that’s a story of how hierarchies fail, and why you should never just accept things. The binoculars that might have saved Titanic were there, they were just secured in a locked container. If someone had had the initiative, they could have either had the ship’s engineering staff open the locker, or they could have simply broken it open. The guy who was on watch without the proper tools that night bears some responsibility for what happened, just as his immediate supervisors should have checked to ensure he had what he needed. Likewise, where was the captain in all this? Travelling through seas filled with icebergs, shouldn’t he have been checking on his lookouts? Why didn’t he check to ensure they had what they needed to do their work?

    Sinking the Titanic was a team effort; a crucial part of the failure chain leading to the sinking was in the hands of the men on watch that night, and who supervised those men. Properly responsible human beings would have made sure that the crucial tools needed for that job were on hand, and fully accessible, but the sheeplike drones that were there simply accepted the locked cabinet as too much of an obstacle to doing their jobs properly. What the hell they meant to do about it, I don’t know–Wait until the ship returned to Liverpool? Was that the only place that had a locksmith capable of doing the work? Was that locker door made of adamantium?

    Either way, that incident points to a lot of other problems in Titanic’s crew-culture, ones I find entirely inexplicable to this day. First time I read about those binoculars, at around age 12, the first thing I thought was “Why didn’t they just break the door open…?”. I still don’t know the answer to that one…

  2. “Why didn’t they just break the door open…?”
    That’s an easy one, they’d be sacked with a bad letter of recommendation for wanton destruction of company property and unemployable.

    I’ve posted links to a YouTube Chanel called Mentor Pilot before:
    He’s obviously concerned with aviation but a continually reoccurring theme is that whenever something like this happens, there is never a single cause, there is always a chain of several missteps where disaster could have been averted.

    The safety net back then was a lot looser than it is now. Using the spark gap transmitters of the day meant that there was just one radio channel that could be used at a time. It apparently never occurred to anyone that there were messages that should take priority over the random ejaculations of passengers that had nothing to say that couldn’t have been said before they left.

  3. And, that’s a key indicator of an entirely dysfunctional hierarchy, a failure to prioritize that which is important, and that which is not. To my eye, the fact that the crew of the Titanic were afraid to do the necessary and break that door or pick the lock indicates a total lack of initiative and real understanding of what was important… Which, in this case, was spotting icebergs so as to avoid them.

    Failure cascades generally begin with how the surrounding hierarchical matrix prioritizes tasks and information flow. In this case, getting those binoculars to the lookout absolutely should have been something that the various and sundry leaders over that lookout checked on and insured, but there was no doubt a higher priority task in place above that, like making sure the first-class passengers had their canapes and dance partners worked out properly.

    There’s a reason that “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” is used as a common metaphor.

  4. Too often no one asks “How can this fail?”, in the sense of what inputs/events can cause this beautifully designed system to not work as designed? (Software is supposed to be tested in this way but rarely is, in practice. You want to look for what might produce divide-by-zero, etc., but often you just try it on a few “normal” inputs and it looks fine, so you ship it.) The Titanic designers could have fairly easily asked, our lovely ship can survive 6 flooded chambers, what would cause 7 to flood? Well, what if instead of a nose-on collision, or a T-bone collision, there was a grazing collision? Could that possibly happen?
    This gets into “black swan” sort of discussions, etc. If you can identify an event that will kill you, you want to make sure the odds of that event are as low as possible…and of course, in so much of real life, you must realize that you don’t really know your system at all–the idiots in DC who thought that they could first shut down nearly every business in the country, then just jumpstart things back again with no negative consequences, for instance…

  5. The Fog of History — one of the standard explanations of the loss of the Titanic was that the shipping line (and hence the captain) wanted to set a new trans-Atlantic record on the ship’s maiden voyage. In the early 1900s, that was a big source of bragging rights among the many shipping lines competing for business. Hence the captain’s reluctance to slow down when in an area where icebergs were known to exist. Whether that explanation is correct — who can say?

    It is certainly true to say that multiple things had to go wrong in almost every disaster. Since a sequence of multiple failures has low probability, disasters are fortunately rare. Equally, multiple things have to go right to have a major success. Someone once estimated that there were about 6 events in the progress of Microsoft where it could very easily have fallen by the wayside in its path to dominance of PC operating systems — and Bill Gates resulting great wealth.

    Low probability tail risks and tail benefits don’t happen often — but they can (and do!) happen, and have major impacts on the world. This is one of the often-ignored issues about the modern reliance on models.

  6. A point made in one of the histories of the Titanic sinking was that Captain Smith seemed to have been put into a kind of fugue state; gut-punched by the intelligence conveyed by the builder, Andrews, that the Titanic WOULD sink. That there was no way to save the ship, and that there weren’t enough lifeboats. He gave some orders to his officers to ready the boats, and start loading them, told the wireless operators to begin sending messages … but then he just seemed to retreat to the bridge, as if he couldn’t face people, or think ahead to any other things that might have been done. No urgency to pack the lifeboats full, launch the collapsibles, even put together makeshift rafts which would save at least some people from the freezing water, to impress upon people the seriousness of what was about to happen, He seemed to just kind of freeze. He was responsible, as the captain of the ship; his officers did their best, but there was no one really looking at the big picture and taking charge. Contrast with how the captain of the Carpathia reacted when that ship dashed to the rescue – Capt. Rostron absolutely spouted orders to all of his staff, and worked out all kinds of response to possible contingencies.

  7. The point that I started off trying to make – and didn’t … was that when it all does come crashing down, the people most responsible for the disaster unfolding won’t have the slightest clue as to what to do. They will freeze, like Captain Smith.

  8. Somewhat relevant–The Caine Mutiny, in which Captain Queeg refuses to do the sane thing in the typhoon–turn the ship into the wind–because he is afraid he will get in trouble for not maintaining the fleet course. This, despite the fact that following one of his earlier incidents, Queeg had been advised by an older and more experienced officer to not worry about being perfect, just to do the most sensible and useful thing he could think of.

    I reviewed the book here:


  9. There was an incident several years ago on which an airliner–Korean, I believe–ran out of fuel. The copilot had been concerned about the low fuel level, but was afraid to mention it to the captain, because “he has such a terrible temper.”

    Also, a general aviation flight which was low on fuel asked the controller for expedited handling. The airport was busy, and the controller said “I can get you down in 15 minutes (or something–don’t remember exactly) and added “Is that okay with you and your fuel?” To which the pilot replied that it was. But it wasn’t.

  10. Then there are the unknown unknowns. For the Titanic, one was that the steel used lost a significant amount of fracture resistance when it cooled to around freezing. That wasn’t known then, modern ships are made from special grades of steel (ABS, American Bureau of Shipping) that have additives to increase cold toughness. It’s probable that the hole was bigger because of this.

    If you follow the link I put above, you’ll see that a lot of the worst air disasters are often caused when the pilots become so focused on some, often fairly minor, glitch that they forget to fly the damned plane. Then there are others where the crew is confronted with an almost impossible situation or failure but manage a decent outcome by carefully focusing on what’s important.

  11. Recognizing “what is important” in a crisis is probably the most challenging thing. You have to have thought it out, ahead of time, and drilled it.

    As well, there’s the minor problem that men like Captain Smith didn’t get second shots at leading a crew on a sinking ship. It was a one-and-done sort of thing, and you didn’t get the opportunity to learn from it, because you were generally one of the dead.

    Another point to be made about this was probably that Captain Smith wasn’t the right guy to have around during a crisis, in the first place. His career to that point was fairly “safe”, in that it was routine and expected; he was never taken out of his comfort zone by unanticipated challenges.

    Someone once worked out a whole series of actions that they should have taken and which would theoretically have saved a lot of lives. I think that the Titanic casualty list exposes the sad fact that the crew and captain simply weren’t fit for purpose in the crisis they arguably contributed to.

  12. more often the learning curve is zero, bob mcnamara was part of the design team behind the edsel, and he ended up defense secretary, james fallows one job was to observe the japanese economy, he missed the property pubble, strobe talbott repeated the Soviet dictum, so he ended up the lead advisor on Russian strategy, not economics that was Sachs and Summers, victoria nuland well she fails upwards as well,

  13. men like Captain Smith didn’t get second shots at leading a crew on a sinking ship. It was a one-and-done sort of thing, and you didn’t get the opportunity to learn from it, because you were generally one of the dead.

    For years I warned junior residents in surgery about the “DC 10 cockpit scenario.” While taking off, an engine separated from the wing. The pilots had too many variables and not enough time. That scenario was subsequently used in airline training modules.

    Sometimes, things get going too fast for humans to react enough. Practice and experience help but sometimes a whole new crisis you have never seen before comes up. The United pilots did pretty good considering the circumstances.

    I’ve been in a few sudden crises in surgery but, fortunately, the surgeon is rarely the one in danger,

  14. men like Captain Smith didn’t get second shots at leading a crew on a sinking ship. It was a one-and-done sort of thing, and you didn’t get the opportunity to learn from it, because you were generally one of the dead.

    For years I warned junior residents in surgery about the “DC 10 cockpit scenario.” While taking off, an engine separated from the wing. The pilots had too many variables and not enough time. That scenario was subsequently used in airline training modules.

    Sometimes, things get going too fast for humans to react enough. Practice and experience help but sometimes a whole new crisis you have never seen before comes up. The United pilots did pretty good considering the circumstances.

    I’ve been in a few sudden crises in surgery but, fortunately, the surgeon is rarely the one in danger,

  15. When an organization gets too full of itself it will promote those who let them continue in their comfort zone, leaders make them feel threatened.
    It’s almost like companies and countries have a built-in sell by date.

  16. I think it’s more like every organization and hierarchy are discrete organisms apart from the participants making them up, and those organisms have very definite intrinsic characters and finite lifespans. It’s a subject that I think really doesn’t get anywhere near enough study; within major organizations like IBM or the Army, you can identify separate sub-organisms like the guys in Florida that developed the PC, or the guys in the Army who started the Ranger school. Each sub-element has its own rhythm of existence and lifespan before it becomes senescent and needs to be put down. There’s a sine-wave effect to it, as these entities decay and renew themselves along that lifespan, until they’re so irrelevant that they can’t possibly be brought back.

    Whole thing deserves study, but nobody takes it up.

  17. Today, no one who only sees this world will want to take it up – they have a strong fixation on avoiding anything related to death.
    In one intro college class, the instructor was talking about probability 0 through 1.
    Examples given by students for probability 1 were being easily shot down by the instructor, at which point I said “we’re all going to die”. You could feel the emotional shock wave moving through the classroom. The instructor started stammering, and tried to bring up “that thing where they freeze people in the hopes of bringing them back to life, what’s it called?”
    I replied with ‘corpsesicles’. I got a lot of strange looks when we all left at the end of that class.

  18. }}} …wanted to set a new trans-Atlantic record on the ship’s maiden voyage…

    Well, they did succeed at that, Gavin…. they did succeed at that. :-P

  19. }}} Someone once estimated that there were about 6 events in the progress of Microsoft where it could very easily have fallen by the wayside in its path to dominance of PC operating systems — and Bill Gates resulting great wealth.

    Actually, Microsoft is a poor choice for this, as I have made it a running joke that Bill Gates has The Shadow’s Ring… you know, the one with “the power to cloud men’s minds”.

    I can list off 6 obvious failure opportunities that are quite public:

    1 — The story of Gary Kildall and IBM — whatever the reality of things, CPM was **the** go-to operating system for x8x processors in the early 1980s. There are several versions of the story (the common one being that he did not personally meet their reps when they came to see him, but had a lower-level employee, his wife, do it, while he was out flying his plane — the argument to this is that his wife was in the corporate position to do all the relevant discussions, so she was the logical one to meet them. Despite that, IBM was *I*B*M* and expected HIM to be there). One way or another, IBM got pissed off at him and, instead of just supporting CPM-86, the clearly obvious front-runner, IBM instead chose to provide three options (partly because they did not have a lot of faith in the unknown Microsoft) — They offered CPM-86, the UCSD ‘P’ System, *and* PC-DOS (which Gates was later able to sell to the clone-makers as “MS-DOS”). And they encouraged the adoption of PC-DOS.
    2 — IBM never really expected the PC to take off as it did, they never took personal computing seriously.

    And now we get into the many applications of The Shadow’s Ring:

    3 — Gates approached Apple to get them to open up the Mac to make it more approachable, lest it lose its place at the top of the market due to some competitor duplicating the OS in the most needed ways… They laughed in his face. Jean-Louis Gassee, their idiot CTO, said that no one would be able to duplicate the ROMS at the heart of the Mac, to make anything that competed with it. No, they just sat there, their minds empty of all thought.

    4 — Borland bought Lotus, maker of 1-2-3, *THE* main spreadsheet for the IBM PC. Then WordPerfect Corp bought Borland. Now, this set them up as the absolute competition for Microsoft — they owned the leading spreadsheet, the leading word processor, AND they owned Borland Turbo C, which was the main competition for Microsoft’s own “c” language
    WordPerfect not only SAT on this trifecta of power, they refused to update the WP word processor to work with the old Windows 3.0 GUI, ditto Lotus 1-2-3, which meant they were slowly and steadily losing market share to Microsoft Word and Excel. No, they just sat there, their minds empty of all thought.

    5 — Next, Novell, buys WordPerfect, giving it not only everything that Microsoft had, but an actual NETWORK OS just when networking was becoming “The Next Big Thing” in the office. Did they do anything to push into the market? No, they just sat there, their minds empty of all thought.

    6 — ok, advance a few more years. The next big thing for Microsoft was Windows 95, a major major upgrade to Windows 3 — it was due to essentially supplant MS-DOS. No longer would you boot into DOS and then run Windows on top of DOS, your computer, like a Mac, would go directly into the Windows GUI. Problem is, Microsoft is having a very very difficult time getting the worst of the bugs out of it… the delivery schedule has slipped at least two times, from the beginning of 1995 to the end… and if it slipped again, they’d have to call it “Windows 96”. Open Door for IBM, again. IBM has a new OS, called “OS/2 Warp”, a new version of their OS/2 system that they’d tried and failed to get control of the market back from the clones and Microsoft. OS2/Warp was getting rave reviews and it was “available now”. Now, if IBM knows anything, it’s how to market shit…. NOPE. Do they lower the cost, or even give away a bunch of free copies, to get it into peoples’ hands? NOPE. In fact, they have a “Developer’s Kit” you need in order to write programs for it…And they’re charging US$500 (1995 dollars). Yes, there was a vast stampede to the IBM Retail outlets to not buy OS/2 Warp. So, what did IBM do? They just sat there, their minds empty of all thought.

    Right there, that’s four examples of where the competition decided to not only not go up against Microsoft, but gave up any and all advantages they had as a result.

    NEXT, we come to the final one — where Microsoft, being the Big GUY, the Head Honcho, did everything possible to screw itself over, but the other side went on like idiots: Netscape.

    Netscape threatened to destroy Microsoft’s hold on the market, because Windows had no real “browser” available, and Netscape had become THE main provider of such by a very long shot. Microsoft developed IE, which was not only not as good as Netscape, it had bugs in it that NS hadn’t had for two years. But hey… that’s ok, Marc Andreesen says, “We can all just get along!”… as M$ starts to play dirty pool, by encouraging vendors to expressly NOT install Netscape on any of their systems. Sure people could easily add NS to their machines, but, people being lazy, just went with what they had on their machines… IE.

    And again, we see The Shadow’s Ring in action, making them fail to realize that Microsoft was using its ownership of the OS and the Office Suite to drink Netscape’s milkshake… and so Netscape became another of the also-rans.

  20. OBH,
    The largest number of survivors rescued from a ship wreck in mid ocean to date?

    Before radio, as imperfect as it was, the only way anyone would have known that something had happened was when they failed to signal for a pilot off Long Island. They would have known to expect that only because the Transatlantic cable allowed the notice of Titanic’s departure to reach New York before the ship did.

    Before that, often the only way that it was discovered that survivors had managed to reach life boats was when they were latter found, either at sea of washed ashore, months or even years too late to be of interest to the occupants.

  21. OBH…what was Netscape’s option? Antitrust litigation, certainly, but how likely to succeed?

    Couple the NS browser with some other attractive product (which they would have had to build or acquire) and sold them as a package?


  22. My uncle and his parents were coming back from England where they had taken him to forget that Catholic girl (my aunt). They were booked on the Titanic but were bumped as it was overbooked. They came back on the Olympic.

  23. There was a bunch of interesting “stuff” surrounding Microsoft’s rise to dominance. You live in the area, you hear stories… With no way to evaluate them for accuracy or truth.

    One I remember is that at some point during the process of IBM going with MS-DOS, someone on the IBM delegation got into a situation with an underage hooker, and that somehow that played into the whole process. The story went two ways, either blackmail or gratitude for the local legal help in hushing it all up. Up until lately, I’d always thought that was utter and complete bollocks, but with what’s come out about the why of Melinda divorcing Bill? Epstein? You hear that, and you’re suddenly making a connection with something you heard in passing decades earlier, making you really wonder.

    Given the proclivities of our elites that we’ve seen lately, you really have to wonder just what the hell has been going on in the shadows these last few generations. You will note that the “authorities” seized everything Epstein had; has there been a single prosecution of anyone based on those files? Do you really think that in all that material, given what testimony we’ve heard so far, that there was nothing prosecutable?

    Used to think that was just a sex-crimes obsessed weirdo telling me some strange story they’d made up about a successful company, but…

  24. Kirk,
    If you want to go one step further, maybe an example of a masterful deployment of the badger game? That would imply a connectedness to local power organs not consonant with a couple of dweebs playing on computers.

  25. The way the story got to me was through an obsessive OS/2 Warp guy I met in the course of my own preference for that operating system. Along about the time it was becoming clear to me that OS/2 wasn’t going to survive the market scrum, I made a comment to that effect to him, and he switched from “OS/2 rational advocate” to “Windows-bashing frothing at the mouth anti-Microsoft detractor” in nothing flat. Among the things he threw out was a statement to the effect that he’d never buy, install, or work on software “made by pedophiles”… Which I made the mistake of questioning.

    What followed came at me completely out of left field, and I’m like “Uhhmmmm…” and edging away from the conversation. He elaborated his rant with this complex story about how Seattle had this underground community of high-level left-wing pedophiles working in the background, and that they’d been involved in *something* surrounding the whole IBM going with Microsoft for MS-DOS.

    There was just enough rational thought and fact involved that I kinda went “OK… Maybe…”, and looked into it. A little–That conversation was how I was led down the path to reading about all the left-wing German theory about child sexualization, and some revelations about what was going on inside some of the communes. Child sexualization by the left ain’t new, ain’t unheard of, and shouldn’t be automatically discounted. Bill Gates Sr. did have a reputation as a “fixer” for the wealthy in the region, so…

    I never could find anything really convincing to corroborate anything with that whole set of Microsoft accusations, and I wrote it off to “Random nutter that you occasionally encounter on the periphery of things”. I kinda made a point of avoiding that character, ever after.

    Then, I recently hear that Melinda divorced Bill over his affinity for Epstein, and refusal to cut ties with him…

    You do the math. I’ve got no idea, but there were apparently at least some who thought there was something really, really sordid going on with regards to how IBM picked up Microsoft. At the time, Microsoft was only known for a good Basic interpreter, and not much else. If you remember, they had to buy the basis for MS-DOS off another company, and that wasn’t exactly done honestly by either Gates or Allen. I wouldn’t put it past those guys to have done something underhanded to get that IBM contract.

    I wish I remembered more detail about what that guy was telling me, because it was one of those conversations you have with someone where you get sucked into their reality, and only question it after you’re out of their presence. I mean, I disliked (still do, TBH…) Windows on a technical basis, but… Jeez. He took it to a whole other plane, another realm entirely.

  26. OS2 lives and it lives at Walmart and many many grocery and retail stores in the form of the 4694 POS system. Actually very slick and small footprint, numerous redundant servers with auto fail over. There are still servers probably running dozens of terminals with early Pentium I processors. All very much UP time focused. A store director with his POS system down is a very unhappy store director.

  27. Oh, I know… Imagine my glee when I found an OS/2 boot screen down at the local ATM when it had “issues”.

    I still think that OS/2 was a superior paradigm when it came to interface and everything else. Marketing sucked, and IBM didn’t know what to do with it, but it was a much better OS than people realized. Some of the applications that ran on it were something else, too–I’ve yet to find a word processor that equals the features of DeScribe, and for some damn reason, the IBM web browser they implemented in OS/2 had a uniquely useful history feature–You could go back into it and instead of merely taking you along the branch you were on, it’d show you the whole tree of your browsing, such that you didn’t lose branches that you were on previously. Other browsers prevalent today have only a shadow of this feature set, and it makes researching anything a huge pain in the ass. With the OS/2 browser, you could follow a branch through various sites or topics, realize that there were connections or parallels to something you’d glanced at earlier, and be able to find that location with ease. Anything else? LOL… Madness-“Where the hell did I see that reference, again…?”

    If you’re someone like me, whose mind is a garbage heap of facts, that facility was a godsend.

    And, on another parallel yet unrelated topic: Why the hell isn’t there a good journaling/reference app out there where you could squirrel away everything you’ve learned or picked up through the years, sort of like a personal wikipedia? Lotus Agenda and the old version of the Macintosh HyperCard utility kinda-sorta get at the functionality I’m looking for, but there’s jack and squat out there in the market of today. There really ought to be a utility you can run on your desktop and have in your hand on your phone, that you can take notes on and build throughout your life of things you run into and want to remember and have accessible. It’s like a conversation I had in passing, a few years ago with a fellow contractor; he mentioned a specific brand and type of fastener to me, lauding it to the stars. Well, I ran into a need for something like that, and it took me most of a day to even begin to approach a line of research that would get me to the actual manufacturer and vendor. If I’d had an app where I could have filed that information years ago, it’d have taken about five minutes to find.

    People tell me that we’ve approached saturation on computers and information systems. I think of use-cases like that, and I’m going “Nope… Not even close…”

  28. I have an original OS/2 distribution bought back when. I installed on a 486DX with 4M, but it was useless because of page faults(I think), so it went back in the box.
    My understanding is that IBM allowed their hired software provide(Microsoft?) to write the OS in assembler. It should have provided the best performance compared to a high-level language, but limited the future development. M’sloth laughed all the way to the bank as I understand. My memory of the time was that M’soft was known as a ruthless competitor, and if they felt your software was a threat, they would either buy you, or buy a competitor and finally include your competition software within the offered OS, thus killing your market share. Nice warm and fuzzy feelings never applicable to dealing with Redmond.
    I may have a copy of GEMDOS around somewhere. A version was used on the Atari ST line built and sold by Commodor PET empresario Jack Tramiel & Sons. In another life, I might have accepted the offer to attend Navy PG school in Monterey, CA, and had some interaction with Gary Kildall but decided the USN was not my career choice.

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