At least in some ways we've moved on a long way :)
Yes it crashed a lot. It crashed less than its predecessor though, and kept Microsoft on the path to desktop domination. This was Windows 3.1, released on 6 April 1992, nearly two years after Windows 3.0 was pushed out in May 1990. Minimum system requirements are MS-DOS 3.1 or later, 2MB RAM, and a hard drive with 6MB free. …
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I liked hand tuning config.sys and autoexec.bat. With enough tweaks you could get more than 640k base memory available if you didn't need graphics. If I remember correctly it was just a matter of creating an upper memory block in the video video address space, which since it started at 640k DOS was smart enough to recognise it could use. I may even still have a boot floppy configured that way somewhere.
Yeah - that's all coming back to me after reading your post as well. Fighting TSR (Terminate and Stay Resident) programs for lower memory and managing the early graphics card allocations... XMS, A20, interrupts.... Good times! That was when everyone on AOL actually had a brain, because you had to have one to figure out how to get onto BBS's.
Worth remembering that Microsoft gave a clear message about their predatory intents by ensuring that DRDos Windows users could not use Smartdrive to cache effectively hobbling performance. DRDos was hugely frugal by loading memory resident programmes into legacy reserved areas of memory it freed up base memory easily. Using memmaker was more of a black art to get anything like the results of DRDos you needed to load programs in the correct order to fit the available spaces in the the upper memory blocks..
I'm in the process (in the background) of doing the same - installing W3.1 on a Virtualbox VM. Nice to know that it will be possible. It will be interesting to compare it with W7.
Word 2 - good enough for most jobs, I reckon - apart from the fact that its approach to document encryption is laughably poor.
find a copy of HP NewWave and install that on top of Windows 3.1 and then compare it to Windows 95/98/ME/2K
long file names, folders in folders, document templates and more. It was still Microsoft DOS and Windows under it but it was a great add-on. Windows 95 license restrictions ended all the 3rd party desktop add-ons so from 95 onward it was what Microsoft decided you got instead of the market doing it.
It wasn't much use except for running a webbrowser. I did most of my work on DOS. At least starting Windows only took 3 seconds on my 486 DX2-80 with a whopping 28 Megs of RAM.
I still wonder, what is is that makes modern Windows versions so bloated? I mean Windows didn't really gain any useful features. It still only starts programs providing them with a GUI. There still is no usable shell, no network transparency for applications, no nothing.
I have the same question for Linux, which used to run in a few megabytes. Now its really a gigabyte to be usable.
My strong suspicion is that its the introduction of high level languages.
Can you imagine writing a 50Mbyte executable in Assembler?
But in an OOP..well just type new()...:-)
Yes, that might be one of the points. Another one might be the dependence on bad libraries. Felix von Leitner once replaced the libc with his own version which immediately resulted in much smaller executables.
I mean I used to write software in Pascal on DOS, and it was fairly small. An executable file rarely had more than a few kilobytes, despite using a language which checked for integer overflows.
I had but a 286 with 640kB (and 1MB video ram), but with a bit of creativity you could cut a windows 3.1 installation down to... 2.3MB IIRC. From 20 or so (the capacity of my hard disk drive back then) or about 12 if you told the installer to be nice-ish. It still wasn't fast nor especially useful. If only I'd known, I'd gotten minix and played with that for a while. As it was I stuck with tinkering with DR-DOS (and tp7, or at least its nicely quick compiler that went well with my then-favourite editor, qedit3), and mostly forgot about windows as it didn't buy me much. Oh, and tried and failed to install linux on the 386 succeeding the 286, losing my FIDO archive in the process. The lost tagline archive might be worth reminiscing over. The software certainly isn't.
What we could and should do instead, is to look forward but keep testing our software on hardware much slower than we'd normally use, just to iron the most eggregious resource hogging out a bit. There is quite a lot to be gained there.
You must have been loaded... Seriously, memory was EXPENSIVE! I still remember paying $200 for 8MB (on sale) for my Cyrix P133+ Win95 machine... My old IBM 286SX boat anchor Win3.1 machine was retired and I was thrilled as hell to see that video clip of the Hindenburg on my 1x cdrom on the new one.... ahhh 14.4 modems and lions and tiger and bears...
As I type this, I actually have a 4 (or could be 8) mb SIMM in my hand, fresh off a shelf of memories (both real and spiritual). I remember my first PC was a DX2-66 with 8Mb ram, and dual floppies to do 'lots of backing up'.
3.1 and DOS 5 is where I learnt my trade and can recall all the Hi-mem tricks, especially ramdisk
interestingly a lot of the dos commands I still use today
Jesus, those cyrix chips were piss awful. I remember getting some into the shop and being thoroughly underwhelmed. The AMD DX4's outperformed them. The Intel P133 was the king of early chips.
You also had to match memory pretty closely especially if you were using 72pin modules.
It rather depended on what programs you were running, the weak spot of the Cyrix was the coprocessor (maths processor as we used to call it) if you ran anything that depended on it you were dead in the water. However gamers were very fond of them supplied at very low prices they could outperform intel chips costing nearly twice as much but only if your game liked them and most did it was a no brainer. did you ever come across the SGS Thomson 486 DX 2 80 that was a big surprise the 40mhz bus plus some trick internals meant it benchmarked nearer to the 486 DX4 120 billy bargain chip!
Its a combo of the software and the hardware friend. Do you have any idea how many drivers Windows has to initialize on your average desktop? Sound, third party video (with taskbar apps for both usually), NB/SB, SATA, USB devices, its a lot of stuff to load. Then are all the startup programs, the services, loading the apps you use into superfetch. Frankly windows just does a whole lot more than it had to do back then. I mean you could fit the entire contents of the HDDs AND the memory of the first 8 machines i owned strictly into RAM on my PC and still have room left over!
As for Win 3.1 it made a great embedded OS, it was so low frankly it would run on just about anything. i remember seeing a couple of kiosks a few years back still running win 3.1, you could tell because the place got a surge and they rebooted. But if you want that kind of boot speed today you'd really need something like one of the embedded OSes where you don't ever update anything, its all just "there" and ready to go. for example most ASUS boards and netbooks have ExpressGate, my EEE will boot into EG in less than 6 seconds and gives me all the music on my HDD, flash games, browsing and chat. its pretty nice if all you want is the web.
At that time, MS was still the underdog to the likes of Lotus123, Wordperfect and Novell - but the popularity of these and other DOS/Windows applications meant that Apple was no longer in the running for the corporate desktop. Windows 3.11 (WFWG) was a winner as it meant that the network client was integral to Windows and no longer had to be built underneath in DOS, before starting Windows. Additionally, users could network between themselves - they didn't have to be connected to a server, unlike some other offerings of that era.
MS started to win later, as Lotus, Wordperfect and other big players seemed to have difficulty moving to the WIMP world, with many users running DOS versions of their applications under Windows, rather than the new Windows versions.
Yes I have to agree it was more 3.11 than 3.1 that changed things, particularly because of the network support for Novell.
I'm probably one of the few people for whom Windows 2.0 and higher were becoming necessities not toys. I started doing DTP work in Ventura 1.0 DOS/GEM. By the time Win 2.0 was out, Corel had released their Draw program (2.0 for me) which was very helpful making illustrations for Ventura. Windows 3.11 finally made it all work together. I owe my current IT support job to that work. I assembled the manuals, printed them, and stored the files to disk for later output by services. The Novell Network admin got tired of me breaking the network because my print jobs had filled all the available disk space on the network. So he made me a print queue operator and taught me the basics of watching available network space, adding saved files to the print queue, and reordering jobs so I wasn't holding up other people's work. Years later when I was working elsewhere that knowledge, combined with the fact that I wasn't afraid to turn off the Novell server when it had crashed eventually landed me my first real tech support job.
Apple not in the running? Were you serious? The SE10 was a fantastic server and coupled with a bank of MAC+'s you had a FAR better corporate solution than the windows offerings. I remember the alternative was a crappy 3.11 workstation setup to a winchester drive server. The Macs far outstripped the windows machines.
Aldus pagemaker and freehand were better than anything windows had to offer in 1992. It was only when 98 and NT4 were widespread did the MAC base start to erode.
Although there were other OSes around (notable OS/2 - a "better DOS than DOS, a better Windows than Windows") which were arguably technically superior, Microsoft "won" by the simple expedient of licensing a copy of Windows 3.1 with every Intel processor sold (to "combat piracy" - sound familiar?). So manufacturers and home builders got a copy for "free", and to put anything else on the computer increased the cost further (there weren't many credible alternatives to the Intel 386 at the time). Only Escom Office dared to break the monopoly, putting OS/2 on its machines rather than Windows.
It was easy to get chips without Windows back then. However, there was no activation or copy protection on Windows (or Office!) install floppies. This made Windows incredibly easy to pirate. I mean seriously, Jet Set Willy (with that horrible colour map thing) was harder to take a working copy from.
This in turn meant it was effectively free to home users This meant that home users knew MS Office where they didn't know WP or Lotus 1-2-3. An available skilled workforce meant Windows+Office had an immediate financial advantage for any company thinking of installing productivity software.
And thus, Microsoft won. They won due to ease of piracy.
Why they keep trying to stamp it out is beyond me. If MS want Win8 to rule the world, all they need to do is remove Activation and plant a few good torrents.
I agree totally with dogged post, those who want Windows for free and never going to pay for it and the pirates will always find a way around any product keys/activation techniques.
As MS makes most of its money out of Windows from manufacturers paying to have Windows preinstalled on PCs that they ship why bother with all the activation BS which only serves to annoy genuine users.
Why Microsoft (and other major business/entertainment software companies) are so vehemently against piracy?
It creates jobs. DRM solution sellers, IP lawyers, call centers for activating your software, the 'Windows Genuine Advantage' marketers etc.
It's also a method to reassure shareholders that measures are in place to protect their investments in the software company. "Hey, we have DRM, you can park your money with us safely."
Still, anything that is digital will be pirated. You can easily find software from Adobe and Microsoft on torrent sites, and working cracks for them.
It won by two parallel strategies...
1 Allow and encourage people to take a copy and use it at home.
2 Get the PHBs to ignore people who actually knew what was good or bad in IT.
They were not alone in (1). A colleague was once told by WordPerfect that they would be disappointed if he didn't put it on his own computer. It was an industry wide thing that only a few like AutoCad did not follow.
Microsoft stopped this strategy once they were in a position of dominance. Many of the others had already been "taken out" by then.
(2) has been one of the biggest causes of problems in IT. We have management who were taught that the advice they received in the early 1990s was wrong. They have taught their successors this and then some of them have moved into even greater positions of power.
The fact that Dilbert and his boss are still checked every day by IT workers may be an indication that we are still there as well. People in control who not only do not understand what they are controlling but feel that this lack of knowledge makes them better than those who do. This has led to the BOFH being something we recognise as well.
I remember thinking that Windows 3.1 was interesting and then 3.11 did network stuff. I didn't really see what the problem was. Why did those network servers look like that? Surely it would be easier for IT if they had a GUI like me. Now I am IT and have GUIs all over the place. Perhaps the command line may come back. I hope so.
The PHBs have remained under Microsoft's spell though. I see that as the "real" reason that Linux has not taken off on the desktop years ago...
Yet they (and possibly a few like vendors) get hailed like great innovators and causes of world-wide computer-y goodness.
And, yeah, even Trevor wrote an article in which he got all giddy when he discovered windows 8 will have a supposedly usable command line, honestly this time, when he's a complete fanboi-in-denial, running everything with hundreds of GUIs open all the time, including webmin for his linux boxes. His denials that he really isn't a fanboi, honest, sound remarkably like so much marketeering from his governing company to me. But I digress.
The command line has never been away. It got pushed out of offices, but to run a serious infrastructure you can't have your shop consist of thousands of GUIs. You automate. (Clueful shops do that. Not-so-clueful shops fail to scale. If you have chronic IT problems that you can't quite pin down, this is a good angle to investigate.) And as it happens, a CLI is just about the most easily automated interface* we've come up with so far. Humans can use it, scripts can drive it. That's all you need, really.
As to linux, well, their particular fanboi tendencies haven't been productive. Lots of enthousiasm, not enough skill in talking to the PHBs, and often a bit too focused on attacking their nemesis instead of providing real solutions for real problems. That the commercial competition didn't quite deliver is neither here nor there; to be a better replacement you have to deliver on the promise better than the replacee. Yet all the same, linux is quite big, there's lots and lots of software available, and given the right support, reasonably (if not quite perfectly) usable. We'll see more of it, count on it. Might take a generation or two, though.
* I've seen things that were billed "CLI" but were not in any way or form automatable. Then, as would be the obvious conclusion, they weren't command line interfaces. And indeed they weren't. The term for that sort of thing is "TUI".
It was in the WordPefect for Windows v5.1 Licence Agreement that if you had a company copy, you could also load it on a PC at home. It was not "pirating".
I am looking at a copy of that agreement right now, because I still have my boxed copy from work, with floppies, heavy manuals and everything. When my company went over to Word, most people tossed their WordPerfect boxes in the bin, but some of us took it home.
We all (except some PHBs) thought Word was crap compared with WP. We especially missed the "Reveal Codes" feature, and Word would render our old WP files in peculiar fonts; they had only been in Times Roman, but this was Microsoft punishing us for ever having used WP.
I used WP right up until I went to Open Office. I must try re-installing it one day.
It was simple economics, but not there. MS won when they finally got around to leveraging their OS monopoly to undercut the apps vendors: $99 Competitive Upgrade to Word If You Have a WordPerfect License! $99 Competivie Upgrade to Excel if you have a Lotus 1-2-3 or Quatro Pro License!
They also got a boost from a bad PC Magazine review of OS/2. The review complained about the impossibility of installing it from the 17 or more floppy disks (1.44 hard cases actually) about 3 months before MS released 95 on its 22 plus floppies. MS was fortunate in that the CD-ROM drive was just becoming popular when they released their OS, and they were able to quickly move their installation to that instead. Ah those were the nightmares: create a bootable DOS disk that would recognize you CD-ROM so you could install Windows 95 directly from CD.
Economics, yes, but not just for copies of DOS/Windows. MS was primarily a maker of software development tools. Long before DOS, we used MS compilers for 8080/z80 CP/M machines. When DOS got its boost because IBM shipped it with their 8088 PCs, MS already had excellent, for the time, dev tools. As a result, software development for DOS/Windows was easier and cheaper. Apple was a completely closed system and a pain in the a#@$ for developers. IBM had good tools for OS/2, but the cost was higher and the market smaller. MS made deals with PC manufacturers that made DOS/Windows cheaper for them, though they had to agree to ship it on every PC. People didn't care, because all of the software ran on DOS/Windows. It may have crashed alot, but at least it ran. It wasn't even available for Mac or OS/2.
As for the frequent crashes, the same cheap, easy development model also made for quick and dirty hardware drivers. The result was that 9 times out of 10 the flaky crashes were caused by buggy 3rd party hardware drivers. But, it also made every new piece of hardware PC compatible and increased the competition, making peripheral hardware for PCs cheap and plentiful. Apple was quite the opposite. And while OS/2 could run on the same hardware, the myriad hardware manufacturers were not about to double their costs just so it would work for a smaller and smaller niche market. Ironically, what lead MS to dominate the desktop was their openness and catering to software developers.
Some good points there too, especially vis-a-vie third party drivers, which truth be told were still the primary causes of crashes under 95 too. I remember the Sr. Tech telling me to replace the sound card on a system that was having NIC issues. I was all 'WTF?!? It's a NIC issue not a sound card issue.' Of course Sr. was right, the audio card driver was conflicting with the NIC driver and replacing the audio card was the simpler solution.
In the end it wasn't any ONE thing that gave MS the market it was a bunch of them. I just still happen to be of the opinion that a few too many of them were underhanded even if there were legitimate ones like the apps development angle.
More economics. Windows 3.0 worked on much of the installed base of PCs at the time (enough to run Word, Excel etc.), similarly with Windows 3.1. OS/2 (and later Windows NT) had higher memory and CPU requirements usually requiring a hardware upgrade. That was a key OS/2 v Windows discussion point in Microsoft itself around 3.0 launch (Windows 3.0 only had a small development team compared to OS/2. About 30 I think, including management etc.).
The first hit is free and you pay for the rest of your life.
Win 3.1 was almost free, as was the version of MS Office that ran on it.
After a majority of businesses had tied themselves into closed file formats ( "addicted") they started raising the price, justifying it with features that most users would have paid to have removed. But, hey, no way out, and no way not to "upgrade" to a more expensive fix.
They were also ruthless with the competition. Drugs dealers kill rivals. So did Microsoft (metaphorically speaking). It blatantly abused its position to put competitors out of business. Sometimes it ended up in court, but win or lose, it knew its competitors were not coming back from the corporate grave.
It cost more than the 4GB that's probably sitting in the average desktop these days (and that was in 1992 pounds as well).
Intel had stopped making RAM as they were being undercut by Japanese manufacturers and the US government has decided that RAM wasn't a strategic resource (!) so there was no need to prevent the loss of the manufacturing capability. Then Kobe got hit by an earthquake which trashed a large proportion of the RAM fabs. Whoops.
The price of RAM rocketed so much that when offices got burgled (as ours did) the thieves would strip out the RAM and leave the rest of the PC behind. In the middle of all this we've got a new version of the OS that needs a RAM uplift like a fish needs water. Oh dear.
I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, thank you, it reminded of many battles lost and software written that's still somehow limping on. (Oh, and Word 2 would do everything that I need to do today, while Word 6 will still do everything that I want to do, even now).
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One of our security guards was busted for lifting RAM from our machines (this was in the HQ campus of a very large company). I still remember coming in one morning in 1996 to no memory in the machine.
By the time they finally caught him, he had lifted $40,000 dollars worth of the stuff.
One of our students (probably) was a smart thief. He worked out that there was only one piece of software that used RAM above 1Mb. After that course module had been taught, he stole 3/4 of the RAM out of every machine. Nobody noticed the missing RAM until eleven months later. What chance of getting caught?
I guess he sold his next idea to a Chinese crime syndicate. they bought up tens of millions of low-grade electrolytic capacitors, used forced labourers to replace all the labels with fake high-grade labels, and sold them back to PC manufacturers. All capacitors lasted 2+ years before they started to ooze brown gunk, or (occasionally) exploded.
In St Pauls Square in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, you can see a Georgian office building with a notice that says 'memory chips removed from computers overnight'. Its engraved into the glass of the door. Always brings back memories of those times when I walk past. Just down the road a bit by the Mail Box you can see an architecht's office with 70+ iMacs each with a 27 inch display. Thats a quarter of a billion pixels...
As I remember it, another reason Windows 3.1 came out on top was the kernel code that prevented it from running on PC-DOS. As it so happens, that smidgen of kernel code was the only code in all of the Windows code base that was obfuscated, a fact that came out in the later anti-trust lawsuit in '98. So you could say that anti-trust behaviour was programmed in from the beginning. If only Microsoft had been stopped then, we would all probably be using a descendant of OS2 Warp or BeOS, both of which were massively more stable and forward looking than Gates could ever be.
I'm not sure how it would have went. We'd probably have gotten OS/2 which only was marginally better than Windows NT.
What would have tipped the tide if there were any good unixoid operating systems around, but those still were in their infancy. People back then did want something unixoid, Sun has proven that with their workstations. However few people could afford it. A Unix cheaper than DOS, running on about the same hardware might have changed something.
IBM only tested it on IBM hardware. The chances of ugly installation failure on anything else were high.
IBM initially crippled it for the sake of compatibility with obsolete (286) IBM PCs making it a worse DOS than DOS and frankly a non-starter.
That incredibly stupid decision to sacrifice software backwards compatibility for the sake of hardware backwards compatibility is the reason we are all running windows and not OS/2 or 3 or 4 or whatever it would have been by today.
No doubt the decision was the result of pressure from the hardware side of the business who couldn't stomach telling their customers all the expensive 286 based PS/2s they just bought were obsolete crap. The 386 was a real game changer, Intel got the backwards compatibility so right and IBM ignored it.
It is true that IBM wasted a lot of time making earlier versions of OS/2 compatible with 286s. But they had dropped that idea by v2.0 AFAIR.
I was around back then, and what you need to understand is that there was no processor arms race then. It was assumed by most people that 286s would be around for a long time to come and that 386s were only for power users and servers. When I first bought a PC I seriously considered getting a 286 even though 386s were already available. Then suddenly everyone went CPU power mad and we got 386/486/Pentium/Pentium2 in rapid succession, and I actually got a 486.
To think of an analogy today, the 286 and 386 were regarded like entry-level and professional level Nikon SLR cameras. No one is expecting Nikon to drop their entry level SLRs just because their professional model is more powerful.
But that was not the reason OS/2 lost the race. It was the MS tactic of getting Windows pre-loaded onto every new PC, apparently "free", and the negative attitude of the computer press towards OS/2. I am sure a lot of money changed hands under the tables for MS to get into this position, because OS/2 v2.x was certainly better than the contemporary DOS/Windows v3.x
Some of the underhand MS tactics have become public knowledge since then, but I suspect we still do not know the half of it.
Some very advanced assembly guy spotted a quirk (yes, these guys read hex) which would be impossible to get shipped from Microsoft like company. It is from "The Microsoft file". Remember this happens while "good cop BillG in charge.
He found out it is triggered once customer runs dr-dos. Dare to run better DOS under windows? That is what you get.
People wonder why all got shocked when Icaza like people pushed for Microsoft stuff inside Linux. That is the "ethics" of company they deal with and their promise they trust.
Was really too orientated for Games.
Companies that installed NT 3.5 / NT3.51 servers in 1995 and held off till NT4.0 to buy new computers saved a lot of grief and money. WFWG 3.11 with file & print sharing off, 32bit TCP/IP, decent graphics and decent 32bit Disk and a few other tweeks was superior to "out of the box" Win95a for Business.
Also in 1996 there was little need for USB in business. Professional scanners used SCSI as did Professional backup etc.
Oddly on Win 3.1 /WFWG3.11 I had a 3rd party spelling checker that worked with ALL applications. Why now does each application have it's own or none and separate dictionaries for each?
I have WFWG 3.11 on CD via MSDN clients disc years ago and about 5 sets of Word 2.0a with licences/Manuals. I copied the Word 2.0a floppies to "gold" CD about 8 years ago.
There are better VMs to run Win3.1 in probably than the Oracle one.
Win95 was always oriented for home users, enterprise users were supposed to make the move to NT4 Workstation on the desktop. Win95 was still a GUI layer on top of DOS despite the shared graphics, they didn't properly integrate the OS kernels until Win2K.
I still can't forgive them for moving the GDI into Ring 0 in the shift from NT3.51 to NT4, a precursor of the sloppy thinking that eventually led to Vista.
(Old Git because there's no Old Grandma).
3.11 A proper minimal OS that didnt get in the way of what you actually wanted to do with YOUR computer, providing you knew about alt-tab. If i could install Chrome on top, find a bit torrent client, somehow burn avi's into dvds & use some sort of USB emulation for my flash drives & stuff, I'd consider going back to it.
Funnily enough I'm thinking of doing something similar with an old PC this weekend, only with Win98SE & KernelEx, which extends the 9x kernel to run some 2k/XP applications: http://kernelex.sourceforge.net/
98SE+browser+BitTorrent client+VLC should make for a decent media centre in 64Mb RAM - though I'm going to try Debian Stable on it as well for comparison...
Reminds me of an article I wrote, oh, six years ago
I put DOS and Windows onto a PII-400. S**t the bed it was fast! I'm still of the opinion that most users really do not need anything more powerful than a PII-400 and [a stable] Word 2. With "thin clients" and SaaS of course this is irrelevant. But still true in it's own context.
Fond memories of Windows. I had been using a PET, TRS-80, C64 and Amiga from the very late 70's until 1991, when I was posted to an "in-house" IT unit in the Forces, and struggled with Unix, StarLan, terminals, and Informix (spit). And then 3 months later we changed to DOS. And I learned how to make SuperCalc sit up and beg. Fond memories of hand-optimising the config.sys and autoexec.bat files to maximise conventional memory, playing with QEMM and OS5. And 8086 assembler to make TSR keyboard hacks. And then moved from DOS to Windows 3.1, and Wfwg 3.11, only to find QEMM didn't work. Still have QEMM7.1 somewhere here, and a set of MSDOS6 disks.
My own PC come 1994 or 95 was an Apricot F1, 386SX-25. In 93 I was lusting after a 486DX-50, or DX2-66 - am I the only one who thinks that 386-DX33 and 486DX2-66 sound 'sexy' - although I had a bought a 16mb P133 from Escom, obtained a 486 of some flavour from the resettlement course I did. The P133 came with Win95, so the 486 was used to run 3.11 and for a few days OS2.
Would I go back to running Win3.1? Despite my experiment 6 years ago (THAT long!! Where did the time go!), probably not. It's like a rose-tinted dusty childhood memory, when TV was innocent, Mars Bars cost 9p (and were bigger), and the summers were always very hot an very long; best not to go back, because then you don't just relive the bad bits (GPFs), but become painfully aware of the limitations...
Nice article. Thanks.
I did a similar experiment around the same time - the goal to see how connected I could get it with my test 2003 server. I was running it on an Athlon 1Ghz CPU and you'd barely see the blue WFW loading screen.
Networking was quite a surprise, I did have to lower some security settings on the 2003 server, but:
And for those old school Delphi programmers:
If you really want a good Windows 3.1/WFW 3.11 experience AND you are running a Windows host OS use MS Virtual PC 2007. No weird mouse jumping problems, copy/paste works well and you can choose video drivers with resolutions up to 1280x1024 32bit. I still have a VM that I like to fire up every once in a while when I feel nostalgic.
Like many others here I used DOS for most of my tasks, running Windows only when I needed fancy fonts or graphics (MS Publisher for Win 3.1).
I also agree with those comments comparing Word back then and Word now. A few more features were added but the resource requirements have increased by unprecedented amounts. Think about it. You were using Word back then in Windows 3.1. You time travel from 1994 to 2012 and are shown a modern era PC. Wow, cool flat screen! You fire up WIndows then Word and after checking them both out you ask, "Cool, what else does it do? THAT'S IT?!?". I'm going back to 1994!"
I spent far too much time playing with Win3.1. We bought a machine with it on in 1992 and it was only when I went to uni in 1997 that I got round to using something more up to date. With practice you could get Win3.1 to run Excel 4 with 2 MB of RAM, which we did until we saved up enough to double it to 4 MB. It was slow and you couldn't do a great deal before it started running out of memory, but try doing that with Win7 and Excel 2010 on 2 MB.
Win3.1 included a tutorial that assumed not everyone had a mouse, so it gave keystrokes as an alternative. Most of those keystrokes still work in Windows 7, including Alt+space to activate the window control menu, and +, *, - and ctrl+* to expand or contract directory trees in (then) File Manager or (now) Explorer. Knowing you can maximise a window by double clicking the title bar or close it by double clicking the top left corner (where the control menu sometimes appears) also saves a bit of time. Ctrl+Esc no longer calls up a task manager but pops up the Start menu instead.
There was also the time when MS introduced a deliberate bug into Win3.1 so it wouldn't run on DR-DOS: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AARD_code. That didn't get settled until 2000, by which time Digital Research was owned by Caldera, and they agreed to settle for $280 million.
I'll use Word if I have to but when you compare it to what WordPerfect can do, Word is a really crappy word processor - more like a mincing machine than a word processor. It was a stinking pile of shite then and it still is - a monument to programmers who had to look up kerning in a book and then implemented it while playing Solitaire in the background.
WordPerfect isn't "perfect" by a long way - but it's a tool several orders of magnitude better than Word.
so what exactly is so good about word perfect? I'm not exactly a fan of MS Worse - I tend to use LibreOffice when I want something done on my linux box - but am intrigued by the thought of something new that might be a bit more stable and with the commands not hidden behind some bloody indecipherable ribbon shite.
Anthony Hegedus wrote :- ".....so what exactly is so good about word perfect?"
The "Reveal codes. " function.
When I use Word it manages to get its knickers in some awful twists, which seems to be beause it is putting in layer upon layer of formatting codes, most of which are contradicting each other.
Reveal codes in WordPerfect and you could see what is going on and clean it up if necessary. MS thinks we are dumb and need to be "shielded" from the formatting codes.
Open/Libre Office is not much better.
...was an Opus from late 1993. Had a 486DX, 170MB HDD, 4MB of ram and a Cirrus Logic graphics card. Was also a VL bus machine too.
I remember having to adjust the config sys etc to get games to work. Got quite good at it too. Used to annoy me when games used high or low memory to work.
Then getting 3.1 to hook up to the internet in 1994. Had to install Trumpet Winsock, configure my static IP address (those were the days) and download Netscape V1.0 from a dial up bulletin board. Also plugged in and manually configured the IRQ for a 16650 serial port to get the best from my 19200 Multitech modem.
Was so excited when my first actual Internet page loaded in all its grey/Times New Roman glory.
That Opus machine kept going till around 1998. It did get a few upgrades like 8MB of ram, DX66 and a SoundBlaster 8bit card.
I'm another one who can remember keeping a few machines running on 3.1/3.11 for our school back in the day. Sadly, my original install floppies started getting a bit "sporting" years ago, so now I have to install from a subdirectory containing all seven discs - although, to my surprise, my equally ancient 1-2-3 and WP floppies still work just fine. Whaddya mean, your machine hasn't got a floppy drive?
Apart from recognising the comments about the expert lore required to "tune" config.sys and autoexec.bat, though, the most noticeable thing is that my old DX2-66 boots into 3.11 in a tiny fraction of the time that my later machines took to start any of the later versions, which makes one wonder just how much cr@p the thing is loading now that isn't strictly necessary to the task of running the user's programs. (The XP machine I'm typing this on, f'rinstance, starts loading, then stops doing anything at 45 seconds in for a whole two minutes before it resumes. Yes, I have run BootVis. It shows the machine doing nothing at all for two minutes starting 45 seconds in, without comment or explanation!) You can see why stuff like sleep mode, Splashtop and so on had to be invented.
The good news for nostalgiacs is that you don't even need a fully fledged VM to run 3.x. My current 3.11 nostalgia install runs as sweet as a nut in DOSBox - and uses very little of the GHz, GB etc. available to it. Oh, well, back to Bloatworld ... they call it "progress" ...
I figured something was wrong when I loaded up a Windows 3.1 version of Missile Command.
I had a version called Armageddon written for the 16k Spectrum that must have run in around 12k.
The Windows version looked and played very similar but ran in around 600k. Not quite sure what that extra 588k was doing really.
One of the very few computers I've hung onto after all these years is the 386 I learned DOS on. I'm now feeling inspired to fie the beast up later on - all 25mhz (no co-processor), 2 meg of ram, 80 meg hdd, dos 5 and win 3.11 of it. If I can find a 5 pin din keyboard and a 9 pin serial mouse, that is..
That is almost the exact same spec of mine, although it only has a 20MB hard disk, it does trump yours totally by having a Sega MegaDrive built in. PS/2 mouse and keyboard is useful for nostalgia moments, but you should be able to get those DIN-PS/2 adapters on eBay still. :P
I went with market share but, you are right. Without all of those gamers with jobs, getting that market share would not have been as easy. IBM inexplicably created an "open" or non-proprietary hardware platform, so video cards and games were P.C. compatible long before Windows was an actual O/S, ... (and Microsoft benefitted greatly).
btw, I still think minesweeper rocks.
Was 3.1. I got very good at wrangling the underlying DOS to fix problems for our poor users, some of whom had just had old dumb terminals replaced by not much smarter PCs. Going home to AmigaOS reminded me daily just how primitive the Windows boxes really were.
How I wish we could go back to having Word 2, with just the stuff needed to write a neatly formatted document. We installed the first 6 Pentium systems in the office back when 100MHz was the 'nads and it actually scrolled uncontrollably fast!
"In 1992, Microsoft had around 11,000 employees and executed its desktop Windows strategy to perfection. "
The intel 386 chip with a proper 32 bit protected mode came out 1986 (!). MS did not have a half-decent (preemptively multitasked as the chip designers intended) OS until Windows 95, a full 9 years later ! OK, you could count NT on its technical merits released in 1993 so only 7 years later. That's a bloody eternity in computer time. I remember in those times the long long long wait for a real operating system that would actually use the 80386 in a non-catastrophically crappy way.
Clean_state wrote :-
"MS did not have a half-decent (preemptively multitasked as the chip designers intended) OS until Windows 95, a full 9 years later ! OK, you could count NT on its technical merits released in 1993 so only 7 years later"
I don't know why you mentioned NT as an afterthought. It was NT that was half-decent; Win95 was crap.
Only problems with NT were its cost and the fact that it would not run apps that needed direct hardware access - mostly games, but some other stuff too like Logitec scanners.
What MS should have done in the mid-90's was to produce a lightweight version of NT; by then even entry-level PCs could have run it. Instead they persisted with the 95/98/ME line in parallel with NT. They said it was to support games, but the real reason was MS internal politics. There was rivalry between the two separate teams (95 vs NT). Either Gates thought this was a good thing or he did not have the bottle to bang their heads together.
As a result the 95/98/ME crap reputation got associated with everything with MS / Windows branding, at least with people who knew there was better to be had.
When they eventually dumped ME and and went to NT entirely (in the form of WinXP) the games writers soon adapted after all.
Ah yes, TrueType scalable fonts, which they got from Apple in exchange for a printer architecture that Microsoft never delivered. (And according to one MS employee I talked to, never even started on.)
MS won because of sharp and illegal business practices. Looking at nostalgic screen shots of software won't give you any insight into that. At least until your NT retrospective, in which case some old DEC VMS screen shots might prove illuminating.
There were (as far as I recall) 4/5 contenders for scaleable fonts for Windows. Adobe was the front runner but ruled out because Warnock wanted a royalty for each copy of Windows sold. Apple second - to have a defacto open standard and mutual self interest brokered that deal - I heard on impeccable authority that BillG was crowing on the phone to Warnock immediately the deal was done but nothing sharp or illegal here.
Coincidentally I knew one of the guys working on that software printer project and understand it was cancelled because HP etc. could not be persuaded to move away from PCL and PostScript. Your 'MS employee' can't have been in the loop.
"Yes it crashed a lot. It crashed less than its predecessor though, and kept Microsoft on the path to desktop domination. This was Windows 3.1"
You're kidding, DR-DOS + XTreeGold + Novell Netware were a more powerfull combination. I don't think Windows even up to the current incarnation ever beat it for usability. Netware came with its own set of DOS-like commands that were titled N-something. It also came with a powerfull scripting language and I haven't seen anything better since.
I remember WFW 3.1 and 3.11 with not the same fondness as many of y'all. I had to support a bunch of machines running "dual stack" NetWare plus TCP/IP (to run TN3270 primarily) and I spent hours researching BSOD issues (where the B meant Black). This was typically cause by some errant program branching to memory location 0. Oh, how I cursed NetWare, assuming that it must be the problem.
So at the new company we get Chameleon TCP/IP because it has NFS support, and we use an old Sun box as our (only) server. PCs ran great, but the file locking support didn't work properly in Chameleon (I think), so having shared directories was dangerous.
Enter NT Server 3.5 running on a 486DX2/66 Compaq server to do file and print serving. So now we need to run NetBIOS and Chameleon as a "dual stack" to get access to everything, and lo and behold the dreaded BSOD is back. We never did resolve the problem on Win 3.x - either both dual stack setups had a buggy driver or it was inherent to Windows. I was quite happy to upgrade to Windows 95 which had built in TCP/IP support and finally cured the problem.
"how did Redmond win?"
In my life, Redmond only won my disgust and derision. I learned on DOS and went on to use Windows extensively. Thankfully, however, in 1991 I graduated to using an Apple Macintosh as well. I tossed the PC I owned into the local dumpster and never allowed a Windows box into my home again. I currently have five Macs, all working, ranging from 1997 on up through this year. My 1997 PowerMac tower still runs 24/7 on the Internet as an FTP server. Therefore, from my perspective, Apple won.
Apple's Mac has also been eating at Microsoft's OS market share for the last few years. And don't forget Linux, the brave open source OS for the masses.
I seriously doubt Window L8 is going to do much for Microsoft apart from inspire widespread user disgust and derision. The Metro GUI is that bad, IMHO. But we shall see.
My happiest memory of Window 3.1: The moment I realized I never had to use that POS again.
I thought it was smegging brilliant! Is it really that long ago? Yep, I had 2 meg. of ram, and (IIRC) a 2 gig. drive. It was a real (not 'quantum' - that's really tiny) leap forward. I ran mine - not on MS-DOS, but on DR-DOS for a bit more memory usage.
I think that 100 meg.(ish) processor opened files quicker than my mate's 3Gig. Vista machine...
How easy was it to find printers that worked with other systems...you only had to find a printer that was compatible with Windows, not each and every application you had. MS won the battle with the 'openess' of the Windows printer sub-system long before 3.1 hit the shelves, they just hammered the coffin lid down with Word and Excel and a less unstable GUI-like OS than their previous offerings. It was made easy for hardware manufacturers to develop compatible devices while Apple were too busy developing their own printers and annoying the printer manufacturers in the process. Ok Win 3.x died regularly, but let us not forget how prone to dying just about everything was that could be run on any computer and printer combo that a typical small-business or home user could afford. MS made it (relatively) easy for the world to print just like a decade later Apple made it (relatively) easy to listen to digital music.
Windows 3.1 worked. Often quite well. I did most of my uni work on it. Once you learned how to keep a lean, clean PC it was a joy to work with.
I learned a lot with Win 3.1 that still serves me well today - install ONLY what you need (seriously, you don't really use more than about 4 main apps) and thats it. Keep it clean, keep it lean, and be amazed at the performance, whether it is Win3.1, Win 8 or OSX.
Back in the early 90s I was at university which had a boatload of Sun workstations running (then called) SunOS. Proper pre-emptive multitasking, multiuser , remote access of command line AND graphics (took MS 2 decades to catch up there) and running Openwin which at the time was a first rate graphics enviroment. Hell, there were even some Mac IIs which had a well designed GUI (shame about the OS kernel).
Then a friend as pleased as anything showed me Windows 3.1 he'd just installed on his 386 and expected me to be impressed and couldn't understand why I just laughed at the sorry little piss poor graphics shell.
I've now had a career in unix programming for almost 2 decades and have yet to regret not going down the MS route.
Back in 1992 I was using Windows NT 3.1 Beta, swings and roundabouts I guess with SunOS at the time. Sure unix if multiuser or remote access mattered but it came at a high price. Your university probably got heavy discount but for the general PC market unix was never a serious option unfortunately as vendors kept pricing it out of the market.
Guess your friend had the last laugh but piss poor or not, your bragging about being able to use a much more expensive PC back then can't have been an endearing quality.
I switched to Windows 3.11 on a PC from an Amiga in late 1994. It was something of a culture shock to switch to an OS that didn't multitask in the way the Amiga did even though the hardware was more powerful.
Nothing worked without drivers and a hell of alot of fiddling, blue screens were commonplace.
And while the article talks about how little resources 3.11 required, again coming from the Amiga although you had all this power it seemed quite bloated and resource hungry in comparison. I quickly had to upgrade to 8mb to do the stuff I was doing in 2mb on the Amiga.
I was much happier when Windows 95 came along. Although MS's boasts at the time also annoyed me because again the PC was only getting stuff the Amiga had from day one in 1985!
It's hard to believe that it has been twenty years since Windows 3.1 hit the shelves and the computer market. There are things I do and don't miss, along with fond and not-so-fond memories.
When it worked, Windows 3.1 really did open up some impressive capabilities. It certainly didn't represent the technological pinnacle of achievement, though it was good enough for many including myself. I was, after all, a child at the time. While I knew OS/2 existed as a competitor, the odds of my getting it weren't very good. High resolution graphics, multi-tasking, easier data exchange between programs (via copy and paste or even the more rarely used OLE), and (slightly later on) multimedia were all there. At the time, when everything was working, it was hard to imagine how things could be any better. At the time, I ran it on a Dell Precision 433Si and a Packard Bell "Multimedia" 486 system. Both were massive leaps over the Kaypro PC I had been using.
There were certainly drawbacks. Memory management (due largely to the underlying DOS), running out of system resources, and the oddball crashes that usually took the whole system with them--usually when you hadn't saved your work for quite some time! (How some things haven't changed.)
Some have asked what later versions of Windows have brought us, besides larger disk space, memory and processor requirements. Windows 95 went a long way to relieve the pressure on the three system resource stacks, and it was a little harder for a wayward application to bring the whole system down. With any kind of serious use, I can't see Windows 3.1 staying up as long as any NT-version of Windows could, especially Windows 2000. And these days, it's a lot more difficult for a wayward application to take the whole system with it. (One can still get into situations where rebooting soon is clearly a good idea, but at least you can usually save your work before having to flip the big red switch.)
There's also the matter of things you "probably could do" on Windows 3.1 as compared to "definitely could do" or "are easier to do" on a later version of Windows. Handling things like digital photographs and multimedia stuff, while doable on Windows 3.1 (within reason) is much more easily done on more modern operating systems and more modern hardware. And in some regards, system management is easier than it used to be. It's easy to forget fighting for hours to get enough free interrupts, DMA channels, I/O ranges or dealing with odd interactions between hardware devices that didn't always have a clear explanation. Thankfully, at least some of those problems are much less common today.
I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that the flat memory model came as standard with Windows95, though it was possible on 3.1(1) but only under a DOS extender such as DOS/4GW (and a 32-bit processor). 3.1 still used the x86 16 bit segmented memory model of MS-DOS.
As a previous commenter has said, it took MS ten years to catch up with the likes of Amiga, Atari and Apple who already enjoyed flat 32 bit access to memory locations with the MC68000 family.
It took NT before Windows had pre-emptive multitasking that even came close to the Amiga.
Program Manager was a dog because it only listed applications and never data files. The likes of Amiga, Apple et al had a filesystem browser as a GUI frontend. Again it took 95 for MS to do what everyone else has been doing for a decade.
And by a strange coincidence, we seem to have come full circle as the iPhone frontend is effectively the same as PM showing only your apps...
Back in the days when Apple tried to do the right thing with a better quality OS, better chipset and hardware rather than preventing you from doing things; MS struggled to play catchup; and the next big thing was more CPU power, not less.
Can you imagine, hardware innovation instead of software patents!
Win95's 20th anniversary. Are you going to combine the re-review of Win95 and MS Bob together or separately? You aren't going to forget Bob, are you? I mean you even included this updated Bob icon. I admit I haven't kept in touch over the past 17 years, so did he finally get contacts or lasik?
Win 3.0 was the game changer. That was what allowed me to access more memory so I could create larger spreadsheets in Lotus 123 V3
Luckily it took a couple of months after the release of Win 3.0 for the Lotus User Group to issue their newsletter saying it was impossible to get 123 running under Windows due to incomparable memory management.
Two days later they released an update telling people how to do it.
It had taken me most of the day to install the eagerly awaited Win3.0 and figure out how to get 123 working on it, but it was worth the wait.
Upgrades to Windows since 3.0 have all just been minor, it was 3.0 that broke us free from 640k
Microsoft focused on market share while companies like Artisoft and Quarterdeck concentrated on technical excellence. The bigger the market share for Microsoft (and the crappier the O/S) the more customers were created for the likes of Spinrite, PC Tools, Xtree, Artisofts LANtastic and, Quarterdeck QEMM.
With LANtastic running on a stand alone file server (in protected mode) the rest of the office was spared the act of eventually getting around to rebooting their P.C.'s on a peer-to-peer network, just because one person got GPF'd. We were also able to share our Hitachi single speed CD-ROM drive (cost $800) across the network. And what could be better than 2 M/bits per/sec ARCnet cards to do it with?
With PC Tools and/or Colorado Memory Systems QIC 80 compatible backups on 250 meg tape drives, we could walk the backups around like they were floppies and they worked everywhere with no incompatibilities.
Spinrite allowed us to RLL all of our MFM drives once we started sticking Adaptec RLL controllers in all of our computers. AWESOME.
Xtree freed us from the evils of Microsofts File Mangler AND, ...
QEMM made it all possible. I never would have been able to configure four fax modems in a single P.C. without the help of Quarter Deck.
We launched it from a password protected ascii graphics app called MicroMenu, just like any other app. It was still just an over glorified GUI after all.
... and thank you Ami Pro for saving me from the horror that was Word 2.0. Also known as Weird for Windoze.
Thank you Lotus for actually implementing OLE 1 uniformily across your entire office suite. (Which is something Microsoft never bothered to do.) It's just too bad nobody did it again with OLE 2. There was lots of print generated on the subject. Lot's F.U.D. and buzz. but, not lots of code written and compiled. The great vision Microsoft laid out for all developers was one which centered around an across the board implementation of both OLE 1 and OLE 2.
Implemented? Usually. (or unusually) Implemented across the board in office suites written for Windows? OLE 1 in Lotus Symphony remains the LONE exception.
...and Visual Basic? Lucky for me, there was Microsofts own Quick Basic 4.5 which was really more of a BASIC compiler than an interpreter and also Lucky for me, there was Borland Internationals object oriented Turbo Pascal 5.5. If I craved inheritance, ecapsulation, early/late binding or extensibility, a handful of compiler directives were all that was needed. Once I declared my variables, all I had to do was start typing.
So why did Microslop succeed? Because the technologicaly superior companies needed a technologicaly inferior O/S to run on. Nature abhors a vaccuum. The above mentioned champions of office software did not rush in to write a better O/S. Instead of competing against Microsoft, they filled the need created by Microsoft to make a bad product better.
I have a 486 laptop (I had to part with all the 386's & the 286!) with wfw and Caldera on the top of that to give a "win95" feel. It really is rather good.
See someone else's at
The floppy drive has died but I have a backpack CD ROM with sound that connects via the parallel port. Normally I use a parallel port ethernet adaptor and map a drive to a real PC for installs.
File manager is a pain compared to explorer, compatability issues are still a pain - install one app and it may mess up others. Finding drivers is no fun (it never was but there isn't a lot of 311 support anymore for some reason(!))
2K was OK, XP was pretty good, 7 no real improvement (office is now dire) 8 looks disastrous for serious use. Unfortunately Ubuntu may be picking up some bad habits.
I have all the original Win3.1 installation 3.5inch floppies... except for Disk 7. The label should read Windows ver 3.1 Disk 7 of 7. I'd dearly love to get my hands on an original. And I'm willing to pay dearly.
So if anyone has some loose floppies rattling around inside the proverbial shoebox under the bed, have a look and see if you have the one I'm after, and please get in touch.
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