back to article Windows Vista woes killed MS Pinball

Pinball, the popular game shipped with desktop versions of Windows from 32-bit Windows 95 to XP, didn’t make it into Windows Vista because Microsoft just didn’t have the time to port its code into a 64-bit version. So says Raymond Chen, author of MSDN Blog The Old New Thing and a long-time member of the Windows Development …


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  1. koolholio
    Thumb Up

    Also look at...

    How the "proper techies" generally, despise windows NT 6.2 with a passion (the technical name of win 8)

    Infact most also despise embedded DOS, just like people will soon learn the core differences between Virtual and Physical hosts!!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Also look at...

      Luckily for MS 99.9999 % of the buying public are not "proper techies"

    2. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Also look at...

      Apart from the 'proper techies' who run servers, who are surely the most proper of all.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        Re: Also look at...

        "Apart from the 'proper techies' who run servers, who are surely the most proper of all."

        No offence , but "proper techies" are the ones who write the code that runs the servers. The people who run them are called admins for a reason. Its like comparing the people who design cars with the people who drive them.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Also look at...

      Embedded DOS? have you heard of PowerShell?

      1. Zaphod.Beeblebrox

        Re: Embedded DOS? have you heard of PowerShell?

        Two completely different things. One is an embedded OS, the other is a scripting language.

    4. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Also look at...

      The version of Pinball from Microsoft in the Windows 8 Store is excellent...

  2. pierce

    cute. except... win8 has pinball fx2 via the Microsoft Store (free app)

    no idea if its any good as I don't mess with games.

    1. Tom 35

      The Microsoft Studios FX2 is also available on the Surface. Free with one table, more cost extra.

      The free "Mars" table is on the over complex side, kind of like the last of the real pinball games when they were trying to compete with video games. Not the same as the classic MS Pinball.

    2. Neil B
      Thumb Up

      It's very good, as it happens

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'Free' as in bundled together with the default installation of the OS

      No need for an internet connection, no need to mess with an app store.

      And definitely not give Microsoft a chance to brag about download counts on its online app store.

    4. Pie

      It's a great pinball game, although like most of them I never understand the way to get 'big' scores.

  3. Beritknight

    How does Win7 fit in?

    So there's no pinball in Win7 either, and it seems to be doing OK. How does that fit into the theory?

    1. Simon Harris

      Re: How does Win7 fit in?

      Must admit, in the 20 months that I've had a Windows 7 machine, I'd never noticed it was missing!

  4. Notas Badoff

    But it's not 64-bit so you can't have it?

    Good grief. Just tried my copy of NT pinball.exe on Win7 and it runs just fine. Running as a 32-bit program works. So what the hey?

    Oh... It was Vista's problems running 32-bit programs that stopped them. Yes, Now I remember tweaking weird options to make old programs run under Vista.

    Great, now you've ruined me for hours... stewing on Vista I'll have to zone out playing pinball...

    1. James 100

      Re: But it's not 64-bit so you can't have it?

      Raymond explained this himself in the article's comments section - at that point in development, their Setup infrastructure couldn't cope with 32-bit exe files getting mixed in! (A bonkers limitation, IMO, and apparently one they fixed later, but I can understand them not wanting to put that effort in just to keep a freebie game working.)

      Knowing Microsoft got suckered like this (comment-free source) I feel slightly better about having to kludge around a mass of undocumented outsourced Java spaghetti at work. Only slightly, though.

  5. James O'Brien


    "nobody at Microsoft ever understood how the code worked (much less still understood it), and that most of the code was completely uncommented"

    So atleast new we know why M$ is the way it is. Does anyone, even Billy boy, know how the code works in Windows? And apparently they go with the popular concept comments in the source are for newbs. Why not just code Windows in the mindfuck language?


    1. E Haines


      In your amusement you seem to have missed this line: "That thinking derives from the fact that Microsoft didn’t write the game: an outfit called Cinematronics did."

      1. P_0


        MS should have rejected it after looking at the source code for five minutes. No comments, no documentation? No money. I've done that before.

        1. James O'Brien

          Re: P_0

          I did read it and found it utterly hilarious that M$ saw this game and it didn't raise any red flags. This tells me that they didn't practice due diligence and send this back so that it could be properly documented.

          Still find it funny as hell.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: AAAAAAAHAHAHA@E Haines

        So what? They should have done due diligence on any code they buy and ship to customers. If it wasn't properly documented then WTF might have been going on inside it? And how would they maintain it? (A: They didn't).

        Yet more worryingly, what if MS commissioned Cinematronics to develop the shipped Windows version? If that is the case then MS are fully accountable, and it suggests that other MS code is similarly flawed. Given the lead time they had on pushing out Vista (about five years), if it really took that long to port a few million lines of code and required them to leave out the frilly bits, it would suggest that that too was of an equally inspiring standard as pinball, wouldn't it?

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: AAAAAAAHAHAHA@E Haines

          They should have done due diligence on any code they buy and ship to customers. If it wasn't properly documented then WTF might have been going on inside it?

          What on earth does the legal process of due diligence have to do with assessing the quality of source code? If lawyers were involved then might explain the fiasco as they might have been satisfied by reams of documentation. Documentation of how code works, as opposed to how to use it, is almost inevitably a kind of obfuscation. Tests are much more important and the degree of test coverage can be measured empirically and if you have high test coverage then you can survive architecture changes. I can imagine that MS was not that keen on software tests when they did XP but would have hoped they would picked up by Vista.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        But the OS/2 article pretty much said Microsoft didn't comment much either. So I guess that outside company just followed the methodologies of Microsoft.

      4. Anonymous Coward


        Yes but numpties like that just cant resist having a rant about MS, as they sit there, writing such verbal bollocks on a XP laptop with Word, but just daren't admit it...

    2. GerryMC


      What part of " but given that this was code written several years earlier by an outside company" don't you understand? It's not like it a core part of the kernel.

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge


        The trouble is the same goes for a lot of the code that was written inside the company as well. This is why they have been so reluctant to move from Intel and why your ARM tablet which is several orders of magnitude faster than our old Windows machines apparently cant handle some office documents and VB stuff from the past.

    3. Alan Bourke


      James, read the bit where it says that MS Pinball came from Cinematronics.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microsucks Windoze O/Ss suck

    That being true and said, I doubt the "pinball" game had anything to do with the success or failure of this crapware. I think that all WIndoze versions fail on their lack of merit, including Windoze 8 and all it's poorly written/designed/impeimented iterations.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Microsucks Windoze O/Ss suck

      Ooh! Keep using Windoze in your comments! It's the best way to look clever and original, after all :) Haven't seen Microsucks or crapware before either. Thank God for people who can come up with new stuff, rather than weakly repeating tired old insults that looked lame years ago ...

      1. Alan Bourke

        Re: Microsucks Windoze O/Ss suck

        "Ooh! Keep using Windoze in your comments! It's the best way to look clever and original"

        Yes! Also stick a few "M$" in there like the razor-sharp satirists you are!

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: Microsucks Windoze O/Ss suck

          I prefer Microsloth myself. I find them a little slow.

          (How many years did it take them to finally start adopting W3C standards? How long did it take for them to start plugging OS holes? How long has it taken them to make a serious attempt at mobile? I rest my case!)

        2. Gav

          Re: Microsucks Windoze O/Ss suck

          Yes please keep using witticisms like "Windoze" and "M$". It makes filtering out the dumb comments not worth reading so much easier. Same goes for "Linsux", although you see that much less. And "CrApple". Use of any of these keywords immediately voids anything else you have to say.

          1. Daniel B.

            Re: Microsucks Windoze O/Ss suck

            I also filter out "slowlaris" as well, as it is in the same jest.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Actually, Daniel B. (was: Re: Microsucks Windoze O/Ss suck)

              The nickname was "Slowaris", and even the Sun engineers called it that, which almost makes it official! :-) Rather than re-type(o) it, see my post from a couple years ago:


      2. Lamont Cranston

        Re: Microsucks Windoze O/Ss suck

        Has "Micro$haft" fallen out of fashion?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Microsucks Windoze O/Ss suck

      Did you ever read about when the Windows 2000 source code was leaked, well quite a lot of it.

      It has been analysed and the quality was generally high:

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "[Windows 2000 source ...] analysed and the quality was generally high:"

        Many clued-up folk would rightly believe that. Windows 2000 quality overall (internally and externally) was quite high. Win2K was demonstrably compact, stable, and/but also not very flashy. Bear in mind that it was probably the last major Cutler-influenced release in the NT stream, and that much of the trouble started as Gates-domination increased.

        How would the same kind of OS source code analysis look if repeated now? MS Research have lots of perfectly capable Fellows who could do that kind of analysis (as do lots of outsiders). But the MS Fellows just seem to sit on the payroll not doing much at all (Cutler moved to Xbox earlier in the year). I suppose being on the MS payroll stops them going anti-Windows in public.

        Merry Christmas.

      2. dajames Silver badge

        Re: Microsucks Windoze O/Ss suck

        ... the Windows 2000 source code was leaked ... and the quality was generally high ...

        That sounds to me to be damning it with faint praise.

        I'd be very surprised indeed if the quality of code in what was once the most widely used OS on business computers in the world wasn't "generally high" ... it's the bits that weren't high that we should worry about.

        This isn't a dig at Microsoft, though, it's a cry of anguish at the fact that we software developers still don't seem to have learned how to write software that is uniformly excellent ... and many of us still don't seem to understand the importance or the value of doing so.

    3. JDX Gold badge

      I doubt the "pinball" game had anything to do with the success or failure

      No, really?

  7. Bob Vistakin

    Good job no-ones using Win 8 then!

    Well done whoever noticed this - you just doubled the Win8 user base. For a while.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: Good job no-ones using Win 8 then!

      I do love it when Linux users make jokes about other OS not being widely used.

      1. Daniel B.

        Re: Good job no-ones using Win 8 then!

        "I do love it when Linux users make jokes about other OS not being widely used."

        Though it is right, win8 is headed to be the next Vista; most corporates have begun win7 migrations and *don't* support win8 at all. One of our consultants got bit by this, he went all "ooooh win8 upgrade cheap" only to get bit at the client's premises: "your setup is not supported. You can't plug your lappy into the network!"


      2. jason 7

        Re: Good job no-ones using Win 8 then!

        I'll add another fave oft used witticism -

        "(insert any year here)...the year Linux goes mainstream!"

      3. GreenOgre

        Re: Good job no-ones using Win 8 then!

        Oops! You're a little behind the times aren't you? Goldman-Sachs stats for consumer market share:

        Windows = 20%, Apple = 24%, Linux > 42% (all versions, including Android)

        Who's laughing now, eh?


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Good job no-ones using Win 8 then!

          "Windows = 20%, Apple = 24%, Linux > 42% (all versions, including Android)

          Who's laughing now, eh?"

          Does that figure also count almost every consumer switch/adsl-router and other "white-goods". All of those "devices" and not regarded as computers by joe public, they just things that they hope do a rather specific job.

          Personally I have never like any linux/unix systems as computers, because without a flashy GUI they make RSTS on PDP's look flashy.

          That didn't stop me buying my Kobo e-reader though, the fact that it's running linux is utterly irrelvent as long as it does what it was bought for.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good job no-ones using Win 8 then!

      Do penguin shaggers, like yourself, have NOTHING better to do with you lives???

      If you dont like windows, fair enough, thats your choice. But stomping some supposed morally superior verbal bullshit around makes you look and read like the sad, boring, closed minded fuck wits you all really are...

    3. Gerhard den Hollander

      Re: Good job no-ones using Win 8 then!

      I still sadly miss a good pinball game for Linux ... any pointers ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: pinball for linux!

        good pinball game came pre-installed on my android tablet

  8. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Decision making

    I can only assume that someone in M/S saw the game, thought "It works, it's not too expensive, lets bung it in|" or words to that effect, and didn't think too much about the future.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Decision making

      Probably very true.

      It's a fairly good marketing approach as well: MS Pinball was accessible to a lot of people in a similar way to which MS Solitaire is, just not quite such a wide audience (you can sneakily play solitaire in the office, you can't do that with pinball). On the other hand it had a lot more wow factor to it which would appeal more to a slightly younger audience.

  9. Fuzz

    win 95

    "...32-bit Windows 95 to XP..."

    Pretty sure pinball was only in NT versions of windows

    1. whitespacephil

      Re: win 95

      It was in the Plus... pack, I seem to recall - along with IE!

      1. jason 7

        Re: win 95

        I don't remember seeing it installed on many machines.

        I never played it either.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft killed InkBall in Windows 7, it was available on Vista

    I am still waiting for an official explanation as to why that happened.

  11. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    I don't care.

    Windows versions went down hill when they stopped supplying Tetris as part of the Operating System.

    Oooh... a game as part of the OS? Hmmm... :)

    1. dajames Silver badge

      Re: I don't care.

      Oooh... a game as part of the OS? Hmmm... :)

      I recall reading somewhere -- might have been Microsoft Systems Journal -- that Bill Gates himself commissioned the minesweeper game (which is effectively unplayable without a mouse) to encourage users to become accustomed to using the mouse and so wean them off the keyboard for everyday tasks.

      Not one of his stupider moves, IMHO.

      Now, of course -- with surface -- Microsoft is trying to make us give up the mouse in favour of touch and the keyboard. I wish they'd make up their minds and stick to it!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I don't care.

        I heard the same thing about Solitar, getting the user to click and drag the cards around was a good start for some with poor hand/eye coordination.

  12. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    MS developers port millions of lines of code? Strange. I usually just update a few type definitions and give it a good testing.

    We took the C++ source for a multi-file system data recovery suite from DOS to Win16 then to Win32. From what I remember it took two or three days and most of the source didn't change. Of course the underlying file system structures weren't going to change and we'd been sensible and used fix bit-width types for the data structures. But it was a pretty trivial exercise from what I remember. The big ticket item was implementing an MFC based equivalent of the Turbo Vision UI and allowing both to build from the same source. That shouldn't be an issue going from Win32 to Win64.

    1. JimC

      Ah yes but..

      Are you sticking strictly to documented APIs on your code or are you using loads of undocumented APIs and other tweaks, workarounds or other strange hacks?

      Not of course that we would ever expect MS to do the latter

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ah yes but..

        I wouldn't expect Microsoft to do it either. I actually had access to the NT and Windows builds in the mid-90s and saw no evidence of this rumoured cheating the conspiracy theorists love to imagine.

    2. JDX Gold badge


      Games code from that era could well have been full of all kinds of horrible low-level tricks which would actually need modifying for 64-bit compilation...

    3. Kubla Cant Silver badge


      That's what I thought. And to judge from the article, that's what the team at Microsoft thought, too. But, as it says, the resulting build had broken collision detection.

  13. Miek

    Was going to read the article but the IBM background and flashing banners put me off.

    1. Elmer Phud

      What background and flashing banners?

      1. Miek

        The ones that my Adblocker is now refusing to block.

    2. Stuart Elliott


      This site has ads ?

  14. Paradroid

    Open source to the rescue

    I dare them to open source it, I bet that collision detector would be fixed in no time at all by a coder with some talent.

  15. Greg J Preece

    Windows has built-in games?

    And people play them? Seriously?

    Given the option of Solitaire or something from my Steam collection....Steam wins.

    1. Greg J Preece

      Re: Windows has built-in games?

      Wow, quite a surprising level of butthurt over an OS-included pinball game...

      Step 1. Go to

      Step 2. Register. Receive Beneath a Steel Sky/Duke Nukem 3D/Ultima IV for free.

      Step 3. Buy the Independence War games for $3.

      Step 4. Get over yourself.

  16. RAMChYLD

    Of course they don't understand the code!

    Space Cadet Pinball was originally written by Cinematronics as part of a pinball games package. Microsoft probably bought out the right to that particular minigame along with it's source code, and the code is most likely poorly documented.

    A quick search on Google will have Wikipedia and several other sites will tell you that B)

  17. Paul 135

    After Windows 8, was Vista's bad reputation REALLY deserved?

    Thinking back to the amount of hate landed on Windows Vista, I am finding it increasingly difficult to fathom all the hate iHipsters landed on Windows Vista back in the day. Windows 8, and even Windows XP upon launch, is much worse.

    Vista simply introduced the same driver model that Windows uses today, with time taken for component manufacturers to supply proper drivers. I actually find the default user interface in Windows Vista to be superior to that of Windows 7 (In Windows 7 hated this childish Mac-inspired trend of encouraging users to clutter the bottom of their screens with a large bar of 30 useless icons which have no use whatsoever to the current task being performed other than wasting space and adding distraction).

    Yet, somehow the hipsters seem to love Windows 8 because it adds a lot of pointless new shiny; the fact that it drives most who have to actually use it for something useful insane matters not one iota to the hipsters.

    The moral of the story: ignore everything a hipster says, especially if wearing a black turtleneck.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: After Windows 8, was Vista's bad reputation REALLY deserved?

      Did you actually use Vista for any length of time? I am a very happy MS camper - but even I admit Vista was a turd. Any major OS release which is significantly slower than the previous version despite a RAM upgrade is obviously not going to be popular.

      An OS should be transparent, invisible. I use any OS because it enables me to use my applications. Vista meant that all of the stuff that I needed to do my work (my apps) ran a little bit slower and a little more judery. No thanks - I switched back to XP.

      > Vista simply introduced the same driver model that Windows uses today, with time taken for component manufacturers to supply proper drivers.

      Yes but they crammed it down people's throats, removing the option to buy XP with most new PCs, and at the time it simply was not ready. Their GPU "accelerated" UI was slower than the not-GPU accelerated XP and it needed far more RAM because of their composition model using the GPU. It took them until Win 7 to fix that one - and Win 7 is actually pretty nice.

      1. jason 7

        Re: After Windows 8, was Vista's bad reputation REALLY deserved?

        Hmmmm it all depends really.

        My experience of Vista from day one was as follows -

        Installed on a dual core machine with 2GB of ram with a clean bloatware free build it ran just fine. I never had any problems with the two Vista machines I ran (with OEM copies of Vista 64bit) and in fact the best version IMO was Home Basic as it did all you wanted with less stuff thrown in.

        However, if it was installed by Dell/Toshiba/Fujitsu/Asus/Acer/HP etc. etc. with the general lack of attention they give, the dodgy pre-release drivers and masses of bloatware that was designed to work with XP then you got into trouble. That and the low ram and single cores they were pushing out at the time.

        I get these old Vista machines in from time to time to service and they are truly awful disk thrashing machines. But I back up the user data and then install a clean fresh build of Vista with all the service packs and latest drivers and it runs as sweet as a nut. Basically as good as 7 does.

        Customers are amazed when I hand them back.

        The problems with Vista were it needed another couple of months polishing from MS.

        The Hardware manufacturers needed to have developed proper drivers (32 and 64bit) for it. They had plenty of warning but had got lazy over XP lasting so long before Vista.

        The PC/Laptop sellers skimped on the specs and loaded up the wrong bloatware (if there is such a thing as right bloatware).

        A clean fresh install of Vista works fine.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: After Windows 8, was Vista's bad reputation REALLY deserved?

          Re Bad Rep:

          I didn't use Vista Pro, but Home Premium wouldn't allow you to turn off the 'feature' that automatically restarted the machine after downloading updates. This meant that you couldn't leave it running, say, some rendering or downloading, and be guaranteed to find everything running when you got back. Okay, I can see the argument for getting security updates installed when MS realised that many users weren't restarting their machines for weeks- but MS's solution would loose people any unsaved documents. (Yeah, I know, but...)

          The UAC was fairly obtrusive, too.

          Other than that, I found Vista stable (when attended!) and usable, though it was on a new machine. I was a bit miffed that I apparently didn't have the RAM to do things I had done on an older machine, though.

          I think a lot of the upset over Vista was over misleading hardware requirements re existing machines, which understandably annoyed businesses, and I remember something about longer start-up times, too.

          Ah well.

  18. billium

    hidden from addd remove programs

    What got me about the pinball was why was it hidden from add/remove programs in XP?

    Because of this I always removed it (edit sysoc.inf) from customers computers, thinking it was some sort of MS spyware.

    .. and Gates had the nerve to call Linux 'Pacman'

  19. JimC

    I hope you boys realise

    That you just cost me half the afternoon digging out that rave from the past. Still Captain level and 12 million points is my second best ever score on this box, even though I expect serious games players will be sniggering to themselves at that...

  20. Gordon 11

    I don't see why they had a problem...

    ...given that Vista was supposed to be able to run 32-bit code. Why not just ship the 32-bit version?

    Mind you, I've switched lots of code to 64-bit just be recompiling with the correct compiler options. If you've written the code correctly, and have a decent environment, it should just work. But that was on Unix/Linux.

  21. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Win code quality

    The NT kernel itself is well written and has a lot of advanced features which aren't in unix. Most have their ancestry in VMS.

    The multitude of issues virtually all arise from poor coding in the UI, associated libraries and applications - which is the "windows" part of the OS.

    As long as there's no UI running, windows servers are remarkably stable. Of course you can't do much with them either but that's just the way it goes.

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