MS-DOS, HFS, and other file separators

Steve Jones classiccmp at
Fri Mar 4 12:36:56 CST 2005

On Fri, 2005-03-04 at 11:06 -0600, John Foust wrote:
> At 10:57 AM 3/4/2005, cswiger wrote:
> >All I want to know is who decided to use \ instead of / for
> >directory separators (warming up the tar and holding feathers).

Paul Allen has pled guilty to this one in interviews. The closest
I can find to a direct admission is a side comment in this Wired
interview from the mid-1990s:

Perhaps someone else will have more time/luck with Google than
the couple of searches I tried. Plenty of third party assertions
but I didn't see anything to back it up.

> Not many people know this, but at low levels in old Mac OS,
> they used ":" as a folder separator in file specifiers.

Let us say, "not many average Mac users." Though limiting it to
"average XYZ users" leaves the named group open to accusations
of all manner of ignorance and stupidity... ;^)

But I imagine anybody who ever looked at developing software for
the Mac very quickly discovered this when they learned that - uhm,
was it ADPA? The earlyish development environment for the Mac -
included a shell, and you could see the filesystem more directly.

So, what else have we got out there for file/directory path
separators? We've got DEC's "DEVICE:[DIR.SUB]FILE.TXT;1" and
uhm... actually, I can't think of the conventions for any others
at the moment. Can anybody think of any interesting ones? I
can't remember what DomainOS did, but I remember it striking me
when I learned of it. Mainframes? RTOSes?


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