Thorsten Ohl started his ports in November 1989, in Germany, while the
Berlin Wall was falling. He subscribed at some GNU mailing lists and,
for correspondants wanting his MSDOS ports, organized a distribution
list based on email and still located in Germany. In 1990, around
spring, the unusual quality of Thorsten ports was being recognized, and
a few FTP sites organized to hold them (
funic); during the summer, the
mailing lists were created. Thorsten stopped actively porting GNU
products to MSDOS in September 1990, to finish his PhD and continue his
research in theoretical high energy physics. He has now joined the
endless list of people who support GNU by using GNU software on their
UNIX workstations and contribute bug reports and (occasionally) fixes.
At this point, the mailing lists, after an initial burst of intense activity and many debates, became very quiet, and nothing really new got added to the GNUish MSDOS archives. DJ Delorie released his 80386 port of GNU C/C++, and GNU Emacs itself was ported to 80386 under the name Demacs.
In February 1992, the archives were reorganized to better comply with the GPL, which requires the sources to be fully available at the distribution points. Ports from Russell Nelson and Stuart Phillips were integrated in the project.
In January 1996, several existing 16bit OS/2 ports were added (most also run under DOS). Many of these were from Kai Uwe Rommel, who remarked that "[the work was not officially part of GNUish], although I had some mail exchange with Thorsten Ohl at this time. I was even asked to put up something to describe `GNUish OS/2' but didn't have time then."
A snapshot of the "original" GNUish MSDOS Project was placed in the `gnuish93' subdirectory. GNU awk and Davis' JED editor were added, along with a number of other utilities and updates.