Preview version of Microsoft OS/2 was sold for $650 on eBay

On February 20th, The Register received word from reader Brian Ledbetter that he had purchased a prerelease copy of the IBM / Microsoft OS/2 Software Development Kit from eBay. Specifically, it was “Version 2.0 Prerelease 2 (for Prerelease 1 Users)”, and an eBay user made the original listing called the.collectionist, who has previously sold other rare software finds.

According to the original eBay listing and its final pricing of $650 (after two bids), the.collectionist will donate 20% of the proceeds from the sale to The Internet Archive. This is a sensible move for someone who seems similarly dedicated to preserving software history based on past sales. Plus, prospective OS/2 researchers who want to try it out can acquire it from The Archive. I’m just saying. 

We’ll give you a quick breakdown for those unfamiliar with OS/2 and operating system history in general. OS/2 was a joint operating system project by IBM and Microsoft, which was intended for IBM’s own Personal System/2 (PS/2) PCs. If you’ve ever seen the old circular ports used by keyboards and mice on old PCs, those are also called PS/2 ports— because they’re inherited from this.

While OS/2 comes after the original IBM PC DOS and MS-DOS, we know today that the partnership between IBM and Microsoft would not last in that form. Microsoft eventually stopped working with IBM in 1992 when it dropped Windows 3.1, a direct competitor of the OS/2 software IBM paid it to make. 

As you’re most likely reading this on a Windows PC or Android smartphone, you can probably see how things panned out— Microsoft has dominated the PC OS market for a long time.

Of course, IBM is still a reasonably significant name in the PC market. Having played such an instrumental part in creating the earliest operating systems and producing hardware like the original “ThinkPad” laptop design before selling its PC division to Lenovo, it’s hard to imagine the current landscape without IBM.

If you’re reading this before April 15, 2024, and wish to dig into OS/2 computing history, you’re also advised to check out the Hobbes OS/2 Archive while it still exists. The Hobbes OS/2 Archive is the longest-lived host of OS/2 software, but the decades have finally caught up to it, and it’s set to close in April.