IBM TopView

IBM TopView

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IBM was notably absent from the list of initial Windows supporters in November 1983, leading many to speculate they were working on their own application environment. This turned out to be true, as IBM released their own multitasking product called TopView in late 1984.

TopView ran primarily in text-mode (althought there was a rarely used CGA graphics mode invoked by running TV /G) and allowed switching between existing DOS applications. Well behaved applications (those that did not access the hardware directly) could run in a window. It seems it was also possible to create "TopView-aware" applications, though the specifics of how these worked are unknown, as no such application seems to have ever existed.

Due to IBM's status as the PC market leader, some believed TopView would become the industry standard, while competition (namely GEM and especially Windows) was doomed to fail. In reality, TopView never caught on, and IBM admitted defeat by agreeing to distribute Windows in 1987 and signing the cooperation agreement with Microsoft to develop OS/2, the next generation operating system to eventually replace both Windows and DOS.

TopView introduced the concept of PIF files, which told the system about the requirements and behaviour of standard DOS applications running under TopView. PIF files were later also adopted by Windows once support for running DOS applications under Windows was implemented. TopView as a whole was soon imitated and eclipsed by DESQview from Quarterdeck, which evolved from their earlier task switching program called DESQ.

The last version of TopView was 1.12 from April 1987, adding support for their new PS/2 line of computers. Currently, versions 1.00, 1.01 and 1.10 are available online.