back to article Windows NT: Remember Microsoft's almost perfect 20-year-old?

If you want to be reminded that you're getting old, ask a youngster what Windows NT is. Chances are, there'll be blank looks all round. Windows What? Is it, like, a codename for a new version? You can't blame them. There hasn't actually been a proper "Windows NT" release since the late 1990s, so for almost anyone under 30 it's …


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  1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Ah, good old NT

    I installed it at home essentially because it had a clear separation between administrator and regular users. This prevented the missus from removing clutter from the root directory (like, config.sys, or autoexec.bat) as she had done under Windows 3.1 (seriously, she did ! (and she was upset at the fact that I was angry, obviously)).

    I did take one look at Win 95 but didn't like it, so decided to go for NT instead. Worked quite solidly (although I would tend to boot to SUSE (6.X I think) at the time.

    1. frank ly

      Re: Ah, good old NT

      So, there is a good use for 'hidden' files.

    2. Callam McMillan

      Re: Ah, good old NT

      I mean, the line "Insert system disk and press any key" is really tidy though!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Amen to that; where server and client basically used the same engine. I recall that with adding one bmp file (the server logo) and changing a single registry key you'd immediately get your client to act and fully behave like a server. Including all configuration options which were server specific (not that there were as many as today, but even so...).

      Of course the server version was a lot more expensive. It's a server afterall..

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah, good old NT

      I installed NT4 soon after I started my developer career. I was working on a 95 machine and a nasty bug in an application was killing the OS while debugging - I had to reboot every time. I asked advice to a senior developer - who was running NT4 - and saw on his machine he could simply kill the hung process without rebooting! I asked to have NT4 on my PC as well (although it wasn't easy to convince the sysadmin it was better than 95 to develop!), bought it for my home PC as well, I run OS/2 earlier, but its lack of applications forced me to switch to 95 until I discovered NT, and never looked back to the 9x line.

      Just I wish MS had implmented *default* security better - at the cost of disappointing some users and developers - NT would have avoided a lot of security issues that plagued it.

      Graphics driver were never an issue for me - if you bought graphics card from reliable suppliers that took care of the drivers properly BSODs didn't appear. But there were then too many PCs assembled by many small local companies too often using cheap hardware and drivers.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    CTRL Alt Delete was how you used to reboot the computer in the old days before Windows NT.

    So when I first saw NT4 at University it really felt odd to be pressing that key combination to logon to a computer.

    Of course they got rid of that login method later on thankfully.

    The NT4 machines I first used demonstrated how bad driver development was back then, there was frequent graphic artefacts.

    I always remember thinking that the move from the 9x code base to the NT code base would fix all of these viruses and malware issues that plagued 98 and ME. It probably did for about a year or so.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: "they got rid of that login method later on"

      Really ? When ? In Win8 ?

      Because I'm using W7 right now and I have to use the famous trio every single time my workstation goes into screensaver lock.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "they got rid of that login method later on"

        Nope, I'm using Win 8 and it still needs ctrl+alt+del, if you want to logon to a domain.

        1. Locky

          Re: "they got rid of that login method later on"

          Kids of today eh, what do they teach you?

          <Ctrl><Alt><Del> was used because that was the hard stop command, the idea being it would cause a virus / keylogger to stop before a user loged in.

          Obviously it didn't work, but it was a nice idea

          1. Colin Miller

            Re: "they got rid of that login method later on"

            Ctrl-Alt-Del is the Secure Attention Sequence. It is impossible for a user-land application to intercept the sequence. On receipt, MS-Windows will switch to a second desktop, and display the login dialog box.

            This is to stop a user-app from creating a spoof login box, or intercepting the WindowsMessages to the real one, and grabbing the user's UID/password.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: "they got rid of that login method later on"

              The fake login prompt was the first thing we did on Unix machines when we learned to put the terminal into no-echo mode

      2. Tridac

        Re: "they got rid of that login method later on"

        They didn't get rid of it afaik, in that there's a registry key that can be set to force c/a/d logon or coming out of "lock computer". Either tweakui power tools, or somewhere in the system management menus, provides an option for this. I always use it on machines here as it's a usefull security feature, since it forces logon at the local console only...

        1. Eddy Ito

          Re: "they got rid of that login method later on"

          To get the vulcan nerve pinch login requirement back, do a search for 'run', in order to get the run dialog box, then enter 'netplwiz'. On the new window go to the "Advanced" tab you will find, near the bottom, the check box that will make users provide the three finger salute prior to logging in. It works in 7 and Blew Blue but in XP I believe you have to go to the Local Security Policy setting in the Admin Tools of the Control Panel.

    2. Daniel B.


      The CtrlAltDel is still there for all of us who have had to login on a domain-attached Windows computer. I know it was still there in Win7. As others have mentioned, it is a security feature to avoid keyloggers and fake login screens as C/A/D can't be intercepted. Kinda like kill -9 in that sense.

      Disabling that feature is a no-no for obvious reasons.

  3. Slacker@work

    I remember when I were a lad....

    Back in the day I started my IT career on Windows 3.1, NT3.51 and Novell Netware 3.11...

    To be fair its not the reminiscing over old OS's that make me feel old - its the 18-19 year olds flatly refusing to believe we used to have offices that:

    a) did not have computers at all

    b) when the first workstations came out nobody had internet access

    c) email was restricted to a single company address and I had to turn on the 28.8kbps modem for 30 minutes a day to download anything that might have been sent us.

    d) there was no spam

    Ahhhh happy days....

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: "there was no spam"

      On the PC, no, but on the fax machine . . .

      1. KPz

        Re: "there was no spam"

        The yoof of today would just say "What's a fax machine?"

      2. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: "there was no spam"

        I had the sobering thought the other day that I have more storage capacity on my keyring (and separately in both my phone and tablet) today than there was in the whole college where I did my Comp-Sci A-Level.

        Advancement in just over a couple of decades. But then I'm a middle-aged dinosaur who can remember the world prior to the Internet...

        1. TheOtherHobbes

          Re: "there was no spam"

          Considering a Raspberry Pi steamrollers the DEC KL10 used at my former uni, that's not hard to believe.

          Shame that OS innovation hasn't kept up with the hardware.

      3. Stevie

        Re: "there was no spam"

        "On the PC, no, but on the fax machine . . ."

        We avoided that in my first shop by using only Telex...

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: "there was no spam"

        And on the Telex in days gone before that.

  4. Cosby
    Thumb Up


    Showstopper is a great book detailing how NT was built led David Cutler:

    Well worth a read

    1. N2

      Re: Showstopper

      Ah good old David Cutler, the man who punch through the plasterboard and opened the office door from the inside to demonstrate what the MS execs were trying to do, shame they diddnt take much notice in some of the recent versions of windows.

  5. Code Monkey

    Ah NT4.0. I ran it for years after its official end of life and it never went wrong. Never.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Up until three years ago I was working at a "very large" UK bank, they still had some NT4, although MS were actually supporting it though.

      Lots of it ran on the most modern hardware that had NT4 drivers, which were basically ageing Proliants, until VMware came along. One of the Windows support guys did comment to me that "it's amazing how fast NT4 is on Vmware, with modern hardware below it."

      1. Salafrance Underhill


        XP is frisky enough to run a passable game of Quake 3 under VirtualBox and Arch Linux, and a Turion RM74 based laptop with 4Gb ram. I've been wondering, actually, just how many concurrent telnet users I could support, given that an 1980s era IBM mainframe running VM/CMS could support something like 400 IBM 3270 sessions.

    2. N2


      But Microsoft don't want you doing that do they?

  6. MrT

    I remember...

    ...reading one review (Computer Shopper IIRC) where the review PC had 96MB of RAM and thinking that the reviewer must be minted to afford all that.

    Also just noticed the banner ad across the page for this article - "Buying a stairlift?"...

    1. Salafrance Underhill
      Big Brother

      @Mr T >Re: I remember...

      Moments earlier, I saw an advertisement for pre-paid funerals on Amazon.

  7. A. H. O. Thabeth
    IT Angle

    Made me smile

    Arrive at work,

    Turn on PC,

    Grab two coffees form the vending machine, ,

    Start Visual C++,

    work until hungry or time to go home.

    One man and his computer; simpler times.

    Happy days.

    1. Robert Helpmann??

      Re: Made me smile

      I got to test our equipment when NT 4 was Microsoft's big product. In fact, I migrated the company off a single Netware server onto NT departmental servers. I got my hands on a SSD (much more expensive and rare then than now) as a demo and set it up in a test box which I used for my workstation until they tore it from my clutches. That thing would fly. I bought several to support the video department who used them for editing, but had no luck getting one for myself for use in a support role.

    2. Tom 7

      Re: Made me smile

      This is the time when keystrokes went up and productivity went down. The old random system/program crashes always left you wondering what caused it - it almost forced you to have a quick look back at what you thought you'd done while the kettle was boiling again and the system re-booting.

      It might have been annoying but in reality it really was bloody useful.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Notable that even 20 years ago, it had a better security and audit model than many other OSs that exist to day, as well as a fully modular and secure hybrid microkernel architecture - significantly more securable than legacy monolithic designs....Also it introduced a scalable database to replace legacy flat files for storing configuration data....

    1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      Oh look, it's mister monolithic whine.

    2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Beats modern Windowses, in a way

      Now I'm trolling a bit, but NT can be secured quite well without breaking it, in stark contrast with the later stuff.

      IE, RPC, NetBIOS and most of the other attack vectors can be either removed or bound to localhost.

      Heck, why stop at that (once trolling) - it was the last decent Win32. After that, franchise was ruined via feature-creep.

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Okay Bill, we know it's you.

      And as for the "scalable database", the inventor of that abomination should take Sysiph's place on the rock. But, in its defence, I will admit that a single point of failure has never been more completely integrated than the Registry has.

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius

        before the registry

        I thought the registry was the descendant of Common Data Dictionary, used on DEC VAX systems. In particular, it was used by DEC's Datatrieve (aka Databungle) which could report from basic files, indexed files, or DEC database products.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: before the registry

          Just to scare you, I'm using Datatrieve this very minute. :)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You do realise that the registry is a fully journalled and ACLd database which exists in more than one location on a disk?

        No, thought not.

        Now, if you want to see a really good SPOF, look at the Linux conf files, hundreds of potential SPOFs, which just require a file to corrupt, or a bit of ham fisted editing or a disk corruption to knacker. They're not duplicated in any way and aren't journalled, excepting that they may be on a journalling filesystem, which isn't really the same. You certainly can make the access to individual settings tied to an ACL. I recently lost a linux box because disk addresses changed and it could no-longer mount up the images that it expected to be there. I've also lost linux boxes for various conf file related balls ups.

        There is no API to backup the conf files and there is no standard in how they're written, is it a conf file, is it a cnf file, is it a file in a subdirectory called conf, etc. etc. The really silly thing is that there was a Linux Registry project, but it got hounded out of existence by people who saw the R word and reacted accordingly.

        Even AIX has MkSysB, which is basically a registry backup/recovery system.

        1. Steve Graham

          You don't have "multiple single points of failure" on Linux. You do have a fragile ecosystem of configuration files, but few if any of them can cause the boot to fail, because they configure individual applications. (Perhaps somebody can think of one that if corrupted can stop you even getting a GRUB prompt? I can't.)

        2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          I'm afraid I have to downvote you. SPOF, which resides in a database, and has multiple copies, is still a SPOF. And it sure fails a lot, for silly reasons, with all copies corrupted and system un-bootable. If there was a proper way to repair b0rked registry, it would be a lesser issue.

          AIX ODM is better in one regard - it is possible to edit it via boot-CD. But still an abomination.

          As for mksysb - no, it's not a registry tool, it makes a bootable OS backup, so allows a bare-metal recovery.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            There is a proper way to repair a damaged registry. What do you believe restore points are for? Also you can backup it on an external support. A registry file can anyway be edited off-line with the proper tools.

            Saying "it fails a lot" it's just a weasel arguments - it's years I can't see a registry corruption on all my department machines - probably because we don't play much with bad written software and/or "unknown" origin.

            The registry was a good idea because it gave developers a common API and a common structure to save application settings in a clear way, instead of inventing every time a proprietary format and writing a parser for it. Also the registry can hold binary data that cannot be easily written to a text file.

            But often untrained developer abuse it for data that have no reason to be stored there. Oh well, you see how many still try to write conf files in the application directory, which has been forbidden for years, but stubbornly some developers don't want to change their Win 3.0 habits.

            1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad


              Most ways to access registry are usable only when kernel is up. If it fails to start, for example due to 7F checkstop, then this fancy database is just a binary blob. Sure, there are ways to get to it, and a lucrative job it is too, but it just should not have been designed like that.

              OK, if you haven't been there, then I shall not vent too much about it.

        3. John Sanders


          Let's say that I have never experienced those corruption problems you describe, and that I can imagine lots ways to avoid them if really that's what you want.

          Also let's say that most of those files are trivial to recreate, even when we're talking about disk layouts and the like (mdadm, lvm etc.) but if you can not/do not want to waste time I'm sure you are backing up your files, are you?

          Files are not delicate flowers my friend, quite the contrary, but if you're a bit clumsy, here let me make it easy for you:

          mkdir /var/etc_backup

          rsync -avi --progress /etc/ /var/etc_backup/

          There you go, it is free and you can make as many as you want, you can even use your imagination and add the date to the directory name, use incremental backups etc. Use those two lines each time you unluckiest person in the universe login into a linux box.

          I always marvel at people who claim that anything with the complexity of the registry is what one needs to properly store the configuration of a computer.

          Seriously this comes from a hardcore Windows guy for 10 years, who was yesterday migrating the home server from a single hard disk to a raid setup, not only did I migrated all the data manually not losing or corrupting a single file, I borked the init-ramfs completely and I could fix it all by hand using the vi version that comes with busybox.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Yeah, but what about all the stuff that's not in the place it's supposed to be? There are a lot of badly behaved application available for linux which spaff config files all over the place.

            I always marvel at people who think that text files rather than a database is a good place to store configuration information.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              I always marvel at people who think the registry is a good idea:


        4. Anonymous Coward

          Should have used UUID ..

          "I recently lost a linux box because disk addresses changed and it could no-longer mount up the images that it expected to be there."

          'How To Use UUID To Mount Partitions / Volumes Under Ubuntu Linux`

          1. Silviu C.

            Re: Should have used UUID ..

            He should have. Windows should too. After buying and SSD and inserting it in my computer (yay, finally some use for the SATA 3 ports!) Windows' own backup utility would refuse to back up to the drive where it had backed up the system more than a year. The drive was fine of course. Had to dust off an older copy of a disk imaging software because no amount of googling managed to revive Windows Backup.

            Oh but you want some NT 4.0 memories yes? Ok. We met when I was in highschool (I also found out about Linux there so it wasn't all bad) and I was studying CS. We used Borland Tools for Pascal and C++ for learning how to program and used to ping of death random workstations for giggles with programs we did not create ourselves, ofc. Our teacher was a lousy sysadmin. Oh yeah, since the "workstations" did not have more than 16MB (yes kids, megabytes) of RAM, NT would like to grind the HDD like crazy.

            We were also using one of those bus type networks built with coaxial cable. This has nothing to do with NT, but I wonder how many people still remember those .

        5. druck Silver badge

          AC writes: You do realise that the registry is a fully journalled and ACLd database which exists in more than one location on a disk?

          Windows 8 still manages to corrupt the user registry, and the only recourse is to delete the profile and start again. SPOF that.

    4. Salafrance Underhill

      They stuffed things quite a bit when they incorporated the video drivers into the kernel - I was like, OMG! WTF! and sundry other neologisms.

    5. Anonymous Coward

      Windows NT not designed for the Internet ..

      "Notable that even 20 years ago, it had a better security and audit model than many other OSs that exist to day"

      Not according to Wikipedia ..

      'Windows NT and its successors are designed for security (including on a network) and multi-user PCs, but were not initially designed with Internet security in mind as much, since, when it was first developed in the early 1990s, Internet use was less prevalent`

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Windows NT not designed for the Internet ..

        Now now people, lets just agree that a suitably clueless luser can screw up pretty much any system, no matter what OS it's running.

        And lets all admit that we've all buggered up an OS by doing something stupid.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Windows NT not designed for the Internet ..

          " lets just agree that a suitably clueless luser can screw up pretty much any system, no matter what OS it's running."

          I don't agree.

          It is (and has been for a long time) in general very difficult for an unprivileged (non-admin) user on a properly managed VMS system to screw anything much up.

        2. APA

          Re: Windows NT not designed for the Internet ..

          Very early in my career I found myself using SCO OpenServer 4.5. To this day I have no idea how I did this but somehow I manage to kill the password file - you know, the one where all the hashes are kept - it was completely empty. Of course my already logged in terminal didn't have a problem but some of my colleagues did. We had to do a shout around the office to see who already had SU thereby enabling us to restore the poor file from a backup.

  9. simpfeld

    A couple of corrections


    "Every major industry vendor bar Sun promised a port; "

    Amazingly even Sun promised a port, it never came but they were planning to go there:

    PALO ALTO, Calif., July 7, 1993 -- Sun Microsystems Computer

    Corporation (SMCC) and Intergraph Corporation announced today that they

    have signed a development agreement that will accelerate delivery of

    future generations of SPARC microprocessors. In addition, Intergraph

    will port Microsoft Corporation's Windows NT operating system to future

    SPARC microprocessors.

    This was from here:


    "This ended in 1996, when it began to market the server for serious cash and limit the TCP/IP connections a workstation could make."

    This is pretty much the case with maybe a clarification, they planned to physically limit the number of incoming TCP/IP connections to 10 on NT4.0 workstation. This limit was there for the beta but after an outcry this went away when it was released. The restriction was still however in the EULA. I wonder if this act MS alone cemented Linux's leadership in web hosting.

  10. Dan 55 Silver badge


    I thought NT always meant Nice Try.

    1. Trygve Henriksen

      Re: Mythology


      Nearly There

      Network Trouble

      No Tools...

      1. mhoulden

        Re: Mythology

        I remember a story in Personal Computer World in about 1993 where someone was pleased to see "NT Magazine" on the shelves. It was only after he got it out of the shop that he realised he'd bought a copy of the Nursing Times.

        1. MrT


          ... "Making the most of the micro" wasn't a 1983 cookery show - but my mum only found that out after taping an episode... ;-)

  11. Anonymous Coward


    Nostalgia ... Who else immediately played the boot-up jingle in their heads upon seeing this?

    An interesting tidbit … if my memory serves correctly, the Windows NT4 start-up sound is identical to the shut-down sound in reverse.

    Sadly, it's not so much "nostalgia" for me. I observed one of the colleages arguing with it over a PC-Anywhere link on Friday.

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius

      Re: Trivia

      As jingles go, how about the jingle from the pinball game, if you chose the 'music' option.


  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Linux is the new Windows

    Business people are of a strange kind. MS and Windows prevailed and everyone suddenly bet on inferior Windows. Windows won. Just like Betamax and VHS - Betamax was the better alternative but every big company bet on Betamax. It is like the big companies CEOs meet and agree on a business decision "yes, let us bet on Betamax". I have worked at Fortune 500 companies, and when I tried to buy some piece of hardware from a vendor, management said "No, we have stopped buying from XXX. Orders from senior management". And at the same time, I could read in the forums that other companies have stopped buying from the same company XXX too.

    Even though Windows was the worst alternative, companies bet heavily on Windows instead of OS/2 or something else. And people say "Windows is so widespread, it must be good". Today, the companies have bet heavily on Linux instead of, say, FreeBSD which do have a more liberal license more fit for companies. Linux was not mature, FreeBSD was. But everyone bets on Linux today. Including IBM and Oracle, why would they, they have their own mature high margin Unix? Why switch to Linux? Have all companies simultaneously agreed on betting on Linux at the same time? Back in those days, Linux was not good at all, FreeBSD was way better. And AIX and Solaris too.

    So, Linux has become the new Windows, everyone is betting on it, and using it. The large companies have simultaneously agreed on Linux, not FreeBSD or any other open sourced mature alternative. Linux it is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Linux is the new Windows

      Hi eadon. Nobody missed you.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: "everyone bets on Linux today"

      You need to get out more.

      Linux is taking a bigger piece of the server room, unquestionably, but in offices it is still Windows and only Windows.

      I have been a consultant for nigh on twenty years now, and I have still to spot a Linux desktop in the hands of an end-user of any kind. For some engineers, yes, for graphics designers, of course, for some specialist applications, sometimes. But in regular, day-to-day office use ? Windows, obviously.

      And that will continue until Outlook runs on Linux boxen. Natively. Which is not going to happen any time soon, apparently.

      1. WylieCoyoteUK

        Re: "everyone bets on Linux today"

        You're forgetting the Android phones and tablets, and the telephones, photocopiers, faxes and printers running Linux. (Funnily enough, quite a few of the latter run BSD).

        I even saw an Android monitor the other day.

      2. craigj

        Re: "everyone bets on Linux today"

        "for graphics designers, of course"

        Wait... What? Macs, sure. Windows, Sure. Linux? for Graphic designers?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "everyone bets on Linux today"

        "And that will continue until Outlook runs on Linux boxen. Natively."

        Or until someone writes a feature complete, Exchange compatible program - basically an open source Outlook. That's the proper Outlook and not Outlook Express, nor does yet another web front end count

        1. Paul 129

          Re: "everyone bets on Linux today"

          "And that will continue until Outlook runs on Linux boxen. Natively."

          Either that or someone tarts up evolution.

      4. Martin Maloney

        Re: "everyone bets on Linux today"

        Linux has an Outlook clone -- Evolution. Combined with the word processing, spreadsheet and presentation apps in OpenOffice/LibreOffice, the typical home office/small office user has all of the MS Office functionality that he needs.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "everyone bets on Linux today"

          "Linux has an Outlook clone -- Evolution."

          That's the usual response in this situation. Evolution is NOT an Outlook clone. It provides Outlook Express levels of functionality which in turn provides no real advantage over Outlook Web Access which is available to any authenticated machine with a web browser on the same network.

          Still waiting on something which delivers the enterprise level functions in a nice, open sourcey way. There are any number of word processors and spreadsheets, but full Outlook functionality (not just email but calendering, multiple mailbox management, public folders, task management, rules & alerts, etc) would strike a major blow for the adoption of Linux.

      5. DutchP

        Re: "everyone bets on Linux today"

        Outlook is only part of it, you'd need an exchange-like back-end as well to offer proper calendaring and such. There are a few groupware solutions for Linux. As it happens, I do some volunteer work for Kolab in my spare time. Check it out on At the very least it proves you can do this on Linux, but the Outlook/Exchange platform is very deeply entrenched in business, so it'll be Windows for a while yet.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "everyone bets on Linux today"

          " the Outlook/Exchange platform is very deeply entrenched in business, so it'll be Windows for a while yet."

          Does El Reg's own Trevor Potts agree with you?

          If I've undertsood him right, he seems to think that MS want that kind of thing to go into the Cloud, either a public Cloud (in various senses of public) or an in-company one. Basically, back to what might once upon a time have been untrendily called "thin client" computing, and more recently has been promoted as "software as a service".

          My own allegedly world class employers, spread over multiple exchange servers on multiple sites, can't even get shared calendaring right. "The cloud" would have to try hard to be worse (ignoring the inevitable cloud-related issues of trustworthiness and availability).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "everyone bets on Linux today"

          "you'd need an exchange-like back-end"

          Not got a problem using Exchange, just that all the attachable Linux clients are pointless

          Linux does need an Exchange-a-like but it already has serious server room presence - what is required is a revolution on the desktop and this is the way to do it

    3. Salafrance Underhill

      Re: Linux is the new Windows

      Actually, when NT came out, Linux was still getting up to speed, commercial Unices were either pants or cost a liver and kidney, and the ever trendy Apple crowd had the line leading up to OS/9 - a crashy task switcher lacking support for protected and virtual memory but oodles of style for the coloured-crayon department. NT wasn't perfect, but it was a nice apology for foisting MS-DOS upon the world.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NT 3.5.1

    NT 3.5.1 is still quite a usable system, nice for confusing people with your retro 3.1 interface running Office 97 which is still a very usable office suite.

    4 was 3.5.1 with 'newshell' 95-alike, 5 being the well regarded 2000 release, then 5.1 onto XP, and we know what happened later.

    1. Salafrance Underhill

      Re: NT 3.5.1

      I think 4 was also the version in which the graphics driver moved from userspace to kernel space, with a corresponding drop in reliability.

  14. Matthew 3

    I remember awaiting with bated breath the update from NT 3.5 to the (far more usable) NT3.51, on which I got my first MCSE. That was before the dumbing down of MCSE bootcamps of course. It's like they say about school exams now: far harder in the old days! ;-)

  15. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    Windows NT device drivers

    Been there, wrote that. "The horror! The horror!"

    1. hplasm

      Re: Windows NT device drivers

      Or lack of.

      Tried it, it complained about 60% of the hardware.

      Uninstalled NT.

      Not Tested.

  16. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

    nice touch, and great article!

    "And it had one API to rule them"

    Allusions to One Ring are quite justified here. Win32 API was a powerful instrument in their rise to power.

    Now that power is waning, and MS does not hold sway over the whole industry anymore.

    Joel noticed this happening back in 2004:

    1. Javapapa

      Re: nice touch, and great article!

      Nice reminder of Joel's article, I re-read and noticed six things he complained about in 2004:

      "Here are a few examples of things you can't really do well in a web application:

      * Create a fast drawing program

      * Build a real-time spell checker with wavy red underlines

      * Warn users that they are going to lose their work if they hit the close box of the browser

      * Update a small part of the display based on a change that the user makes without a full round trip to the server

      * Create a fast keyboard-driven interface that doesn't require the mouse

      * Let people continue working when they are not connected to the Internet"

      In the next paragraph he desribed the progress Gmail and Oddpost had made, and predicted more progress.

      Fast forward to now: HTML5, JIT compiled Javascript, Ajax, Chrome, Firefox, even IE9+.

      An excellent prophet, who can find?

  17. Vociferous

    Yes, I remember it.

    The Win NT beta was, as far as I can remember, the last OS I've ever installed from floppy disks. I don't remember if it came on 50 or 60 disks, but naturally the last one had a read error. The next version thankfully came on CD.

  18. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    "Ctrl + Alt + Delete to log on"

    Ah, back in the days when they knew that the verb is spelled "log*SPACE*on".

  19. Jesse G

    I'm annoyed when I hit a page on the intranet that says to use my NT logon. Like anyone not in IT knows what that is.

    Seems there are still some die-hards around creating helpful tips for how to login.

  20. rictay

    It was pricing wot dun it in

    As I remember, IBM priced OS/2 somewhere in the stratosphere where only business users could justify the purchase. I'd used OS/2 at work and liked it, but for a private purchase it was an expensive joke. The attitude of an IBMer who queried my use of a Microsoft OS on my PC instead of their very expensive offering was "that's what you have to pay for a quality product". Obviously the market had a different position on this and OS/2 faded away into some digital Sargasso Sea where only whispered rumours hint at its prior existence.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It was pricing wot dun it in

      "As I remember, IBM priced OS/2 somewhere in the stratosphere where only business users could justify the purchase."

      "Effective April 17, OS/2 1.3 Standard Edition will be $150; OS/2 1.3 Extended Edition will be $690; o Effective April 17, IBM DOS users can receive OS/2 1.3 SE for $99, and OS/2 1.3 EE for $635" link

    2. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: It was pricing wot dun it in

      I never used OS/2 at work - we were still a mainframe and UNIX shop at the time, with desktops just starting to replace terminals.

      Just before IBM finally gave up Computer World included OS/2 in the cover CD so I tried on my 486 box at home. It worked well, but the moment had passed.

      NT4 was where I started to question MS. NT 3.51 was so well designed that I couldn't believe some of the dumber decisions they made with NT and I wondered how they could have been so stupid. How little I knew what was to come.

      1. fedoraman

        Re: It was pricing wot dun it in

        Ah yes, the great OS/2 Warp giveaway. I still have that cover CD somewhere!

  21. Spoonsinger

    DEC's VMS...

    On the occasions I get a contracting gig at some 'big industry' site which still use it, I always get the same glow as, when at school, a sexy teacher leaned over me to show how to do something. Old NT installs just give me the feeling that that teacher was plied away by nefarious dubious folk and forced to work on a street corner.

  22. Mr Anonymous

    Booting up

    I just dug out my old HP Vectra XW workstation dual 200Mhx Pentium Pro, plugged it in and pressed the switch, booted first time, not even a BOIS reset from a dead battery.

    Wow, SCSI hard disks are noisy and the fans sound like a hover craft, but it's got Win2000 on it!!!

    I can remember my old 14 char password, event log has the last entry at 13 Dec 2003 @ 13:01:03 Event Log Stopped.

    The old NT box and disks are some where around so I might re-install.

    1. The Wegie

      Re: Booting up

      You are a better man than I. The old NT 3.51 boot floppies finally got thrown out when we moved a couple of years ago.I think the earliest thing I now own is a copy of win2k.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Booting up

      Windows passwords are easily reset, Mr. Anonymous - there are tools out there to help you.

      Just don't tell the ordinary users.

    3. Robert Sneddon

      Re: Booting up

      I put NT4 Workstation on a dual-PPro box doing graphics work for a printing firm. It was pretty stable as I recall. We had specified a Matrox Millenium for the graphics card, it wasn't fast but the video drivers were solid and well-supported.

      The only thing that would blue-screen it reliably was our attempt(s) to install an early version of Open Office -- the installation process would attempt to overlay its own windowing manager on top of the Windows one then crash out. We did get other blue screens occasionally when our main application, Corel Draw went boink on us after doing nasty things to the 256MB of memory this monster was populated with but saving early and often meant it didn't affect us much. Corel Draw did that two-step release thing, step 1 would introduce a lot of new features along with new bugs and the next release fixed most of the bugs. A lot of the bugs caused blue screens from memory allocation faults.

      Today I can reboot my current Win8 desktop after a power cut and have it come back up where I left it. Progress, eh?

  23. stephajn

    Windows 2000's 63,000 bugs

    I went back and read that article about Microsoft issuing that award. Interestingly enough, at the time the guy who wrote it said that they seemed to be using it for internal use only. Makes me wonder if this is where Team Foundation Server gets its roots from?

    At any rate, that software was able to see 63,000 bugs in Windows 2000. And yet, with all of these failed patches that we keep on hearing about, it makes me wonder if they are even REMOTELY still using something like that software or not.

    "Things that make you go hmmmm....."

  24. John Ellin

    I remember when...

    Back in 1990, I was reviewing databases which were to run as NLM (Oracle, SqlBase, a few others). MS provided my with SqlServer for NT. When I pointed out that we didn't have NT, they provided it. On 35 floppies.

    After 12 had gone back to MS with read errors and I said "No More", they asked if the machine had a CD drive. "Sure does," said I. And so I got a new installation: three floppies and a CD.

    Disk 1 booted: no problem

    Disk 2 loaded: no problem

    Disk 3 loaded: no problem

    Then I got the message: "Please insert the Windows NT CD-Rom into drive A: and hit any key to continue..."

    1. N2

      Re: I remember when...

      Class, you couldn't make this stuff up if you tried, but somehow MS managed

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I remember when...

      Microsoft was good at such oversights, like asking for a floppy with drivers to be loaded into drive A: on a machine with no floppy drive present.

      I recall seeing a German version of MS-DOS 5. Trying to format a floppy, it asks a question in German with the prompt "(J/N)".

      We press J and wonder why it asks the same question again. Turns out, pressing Y worked.

  25. Suburban Inmate

    A question from a young'un of 31...

    Ever since I learned of the distinctions between NT and 95, back when I was just getting proper in to computing on my then bleeding edge AMD K6-2 400mhz system, built with the help of me new mate Andy*, I have wondered WTF was the bloody point of Windows 95, 98 and (trigger warning) Milennium Edition?

    Mickeysoft had (so I thought) a dependable workhorse with NT, so why not tart that up for a consumer windows version rather than pissing about making the incontinent epileptic donkey that was 9x/ME?

    *Best BOFH mates to this day, seeing Elysium IMAX tomorrow. :)

    1. Nuke

      Re: A question from a young'un of 31...

      Wrote :- "WTF was the bloody point of Windows 95, 98 and (trigger warning) Milennium Edition? Mickeysoft had (so I thought) a dependable workhorse with NT, so why not tart that up for a consumer windows version"

      I have always wondered that too. Certainly by about 1998, even entry level PCs were capable of running NT. I ran it on a less than leading edge PC but with perhaps more memory than was usual. Both NT and OS/2 loved memory, but it was becoming cheap.

      I have read that the real reason why MS kept the DOS/95/98/ME crap alive was internal politics. The two separate teams were in rivalry, and perhaps Gates thought that was a spur. There was also the excuse that games required the direct hardware access that DOS allowed - but the games writers soon adapted to XP when they had to.

    2. Cucumber C Face

      Re: A question from a young'un of 31...

      >I have wondered WTF was the bloody point of Windows 95, 98 and (trigger warning) Milennium Edition?<

      NT 3.5 won me over and 3.51 was a revelation. It was games which kept me (and millions of others) dual booting into DOS/95/98 well into the noughties. Doom, Duke Nukem etc. needed to hit the hardware (the ports you get now weren't available and would probably have been too CPU/RAM intensive even if they had been). Most business DOS apps could be coaxed into running on NT with various degrees of pain.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A question from a young'un of 31...

      The DOS ancestry line (95, 98 etc. could reasonably be expected to run most of the DOS software users already had, and in particular games which was the big thing for most home users, the DOS line was also a lot more forgiving on hardware requirements, it's easy to forget that memory used to be very expensive and it was a long time before anyone had more than 640k on their PC's particularly in large corporates with hundreds of PC's.

      I remember testing OS/2 version 1.0 for the large corporate I was working for around 1987, what killed it at the time was the fact that it needed a Meg or so of RAM effectively killed it as the price of add on memory at the time would have made it's use prohibitively expensive, it took a long while before RAM prices came down to allow widespread adoption of both NT and OS/2 an option for everyone.

      Now NT had a " DOS" window, however this was in fact a DOS emulator not proper DOS (cmd.exe as opposed to, and NT was crap at running proper DOS software for some time.

      Interestingly NT would run character based OS/2 programs up until NT4 at which point Microsoft removed OS2.dll (dll name from memory, my aged brain cells may be letting me down) from their builds (for "marketing' reasons at the time), it was possible to copy this dll to NT4 and still run OS/2 programs.

      1. yuhong

        Re: A question from a young'un of 31...

        I think this character mode OS/2 1.x subsystem (and POSIX subsystem) lasted all the way to Win2000.

    4. Philip Storry

      Re: A question from a young'un of 31...

      The immediate reason at the time was simple... Money.

      Windows 95, shipping in August 1995, had a minimum requirement of 4Mb of RAM, and recommended 8Mb of RAM.

      Which everybody regarded as a joke. Sure, Windows 95 ran in 4Mb. And you could even run Notepad or Clock, too! But if you ran both of them together, your hard disk began to glow red hot as the swapping kicked in.

      Realistically, everyone recommended a minimum of 8Mb and you should really want 12Mb or 16Mb.

      For Windows NT? Version 2.51 was released in May 1995, and the minimum requirement was 12Mb, with the recommended 16Mb. And again, everyone laughed at that - you wanted 16Mb, preferably 24Mb.

      Why is this important? Well, back then in 1995, RAM was for sale about 33 US dollars per Mb. (I couldn't find a reliable GBP price, so we'll have to use USD - sorry!)

      That's before any taxes, too.

      Let that sink in. If you'd bough a 486SX machine in late 1994, and it had 4Mb of RAM - fine for Windows 3.11! - then you were probably going to have to spend another 132 bucks just on RAM before you could spend your 90 bucks on the Windows 95 upgrade... Is your motherboard full already with four 1Mb sticks? Not unusual. You now get to throw away the old 4Mb, and spend ~270 bucks on four 2Mb sticks.

      Eager to upgrade to Windows NT 3.51? Well, just double the prices... And start weeping, presumably.

      Over the following few years, demand for RAM drove the prices down fairly quickly. But still, the requirements of Windows NT were a little more than Windows 95, and it never quite lost that reputation until Windows XP came out. (And perhaps not even then!)

      There are other hardware issues, too. Windows 95 brought us Plug & Play, but that didn't come to Windows NT until Windows 2000 shipped in late 1999. And Windows NT also had a different driver model. Most manufacturers targeted Windows 9x for driver development as it had a wider installed base, so you were both more limited in the hardware Windows NT could run AND you sometimes had to fiddle with IRQs/memory addresses manually to get things working.

      (Although in its favour, high end hardware like SCSI cards usually had much better Windows NT support and took a lot of the hassle out of hardware configuration anyway...)

      Now on top of these costs and hardware issues, add on all the software compatibility issues that others have raised.

      Windows NT was superb. Brilliant. Faced with a choice between Windows 98 and Windows NT 4.0, I jumped at Windows NT 4.0. But I was savvy enough to know how to select/handle my hardware, and how to tweak software to run under it.

      It rewarded me with greater stability and reliability. But I wouldn't have recommended it to the average user on the street until WIndows 2000 SP6.

      On its release, I didn't like Windows XP's crayola-inspired interface tweaks, or paying for what was effectively Windows 2000 Service Pack 7. But with hindsight, Windows XP was the version of Windows we'd finally wanted - a great blend of the plug & play and software compatibility of Windows 9x, and all the stability of Windows NT/2000.

      And by then, RAM was so cheap (by comparison) that it really wasn't an issue. :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A question from a young'un of 31...

        "If you'd bough a 486SX machine in late 1994, and it had 4Mb of RAM - fine for Windows 3.11! - then you were probably going to have to spend another 132 bucks just on RAM before you could spend your 90 bucks on the Windows 95 upgrade."

        I bought my first PC in 1993 specifically to play with NT. Gateway 2000 were new to the UK and the prices were attractive.

        486/33, 12MB RAM (8+4), 400MB HDD, proprietary CD-ROM (via the sound card?) plus a 15" 1024x768 monitor. How does £1500 sound?

        Crappy tape drive for Colorado Backup too (duly replaced by a Ricoh CD writer costing £100+).

        These days I don't pay more than £100 (incl CoA) for a desktop (I buy ~3 year old refurb).

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: A question from a young'un of 31...


        You've just broght back memories of customers complaining about slow Internet - and then discovering they had installed Win95 on their old 4Mb 386sx25 or 486sx25 system. It didn't so much run as crawl. 25 minutes to bootup etc.

        And then they would get upset when we told them we couldn't support them with that kind of configuration as it simply wouldn't work reliably.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: A question from a young'un of 31...

          RAM was definitely Windows 95's Achilles heel.

          I remember running it with reasonable success on a 386DX 33MHz with 8MB RAM, but a 386SX 25MHz with 4MB RAM really did crawl! In fact, Windows For Workgroups crawled with 4MB RAM too, it really needed 8MB.

          For Windows NT, its model was of course much more heavy on RAM. Given my observations with WfW, makes me wonder if it was the network stack (which was integral to WfW, Windows NT and Windows 95, but not included in Windows 3.1 which ran fine in 4MB).

      3. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        Re: A question from a young'un of 31...

        "Well, back then in 1995, RAM was for sale about 33 US dollars per Mb"

        There was a huge upshot in DRAM prices before that. In 1993, a substrate factory in Japan burned down, so nearly 80% of DRAM manufacturing capacity was stalled. As MB price shot over §100, it created quite a havoc. Heh, burglars started to snatch DRAM sticks and leave the computers behind.

    5. Suburban Inmate
      Thumb Up

      Re: A question from a young'un of 31...

      Many thanks for the replies, guys :)

  26. Inachu

    I do prefer a total Microsoft network and not some shoddy rickshaw network with Novell installed making the OS booting slow and cranky.

    I am so happy NOVELL is going away. Buddy diagnosis. Is it the pc the network or novell netware messing up?


    Now I have to put up with the Winddows 7 lock screen with the dings that keep reminding me of the Dpeche mode song called - Personal Jesus ...... After the lock screen dings I always whisper --- REACH OUT TOUCH FAITH!!

  27. asdf

    > Windows Phone 8 today runs the ARM port of NT, smoothly and nimbly compared to Google's VM-powered Android.

    Decent article until that line. Lets see how well WP8 would run on a phone from 2010 that Android ran decent on. Plenty of very impressive games run just fine on Android (fyi check out the Android NDK if you want to run native instead of in a VM). Not so many games run fine on WP8 because game makers tend to only port to OSs that people actually buy.

    1. asdf

      >that people actually buy

      That should read that people actually own.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Mmmm, but only Microsoft owns Windows.

        Microsoft has never ever sold a single copy of Windows to anyone. They only sell licenses. Important distinction there.

  28. Greencat

    NT 4.0 - a wonderful OS

    Coming to NT 4.0 after Mac OS 7.5 crashes was a breath of fresh air. I can still remember the bliss of having Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver and Director - plus a couple of different browsers for testing - in my start up folder. Switch on the computer, go and have a cup of tea, come back and everything is loaded up and ready to go. Speedy and reliable all day - and in 'just' 80MB of RAM. Microsoft really had cracked it - and then came 98 and....shudder....Me.

  29. Choofer

    NT4 also killed Novell. Remember the Gateway Services for Network? It allowed any windows PC to connect to your Novell Netware network and all appear as a single client. Microsoft didn't enforce CAL's, so you could buy one copy of NT4 and save a fortune in licence costs. And you could use the same key on all your servers... I knew many organisations that did this to save money, and this resulted in no more Netware purchases and a slow migration to Windows based services. Very smart from Microsoft.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There were a lot of good ideas - thanks to Digital Equipment Corporation - but I vividly remember how much work I lost when that "blue screen" suddenly raised its ugly head...

    Give me Linux any time.

  31. Huckleberry Muckelroy

    The Greatest Spider

    Back in '96, my 18-year-old puter guru insisted I trash Win95 and run a bootleg of NT4 Server. That was well worth the effort and led me to being the network drudge I am today. The absolutely most impressive part of the package was the spider app that came in the Resource Pack. It had this spherical gui that looked like a spider and worked really well. I have actually reinstalled NT4 just to gain access to that spider to run it on a site. I have never found a spider app to equal it, please let me know if you've found one.

  32. PassingStrange

    Ah, yes - Win NT and OS/2

    It's worth pointing out, to anyone too young to remember, that Microsoft were playing their dirty old "embrace and extinguish" game even back then. MS was heavily involved in writing the first version of OS/2, and there's plenty of evidence to support the suggestion that they took active steps to make sure it failed. After which they launched Win NT, using quite a few good ideas that came out of that period of collaboration. By the time IBM was able to come back with a new version unsullied by MS involvement, the battle for hearts and minds was already over. I have no love of today's IBM - but MS became the Evil Empire in my book right then, and have done nothing in the mean time to change my opinion. I won't give a penny to them that I don't absolutely have to.

  33. Martin Maloney

    Correcting this history

    "(Readers with very long memories will see an irony here. The original 1981 IBM PC, which made Gates' fortune, shipped with a choice of the then-very-fashionable UCSD p-Machine, a VM-based OS, and Microsoft's MS-DOS, which was rebranded as PC-DOS."

    The choice was between MS-DOS/PC-DOS and CP/M-86.

    And, yes, the icon is a put-on.

  34. Belardi

    NT 3.x wasn't ready for the masses... with over 90% PCs running MS-DOS, NT wouldn't work. WIn95/9x was a stepping stone. So yeah, Win9x was crap - it always was. But it was their first consumer GUI OS.

    WinNT4.0 was sloppy with many many service packs. Installing a driver would KILL a SP, which prevented an application from running.... install SP again, then the hardware driver would fail. This is the kind of crap you didn't see in MacOS, Amiga or Linux.

    "OS Wars"?! There were quite a few. Okay, 1990~95 were the "PC OS Clone wars", kinda of. It was really only between IBM and MS - Apple Macintosh wasn't in the picture with its 5% or so market share. You would have thought that IBM learned their lesson from the 80s. WinNT was ONLY able to come about with MS working WITH IBM on OS/2. NO OS/2 = NO NT. MS worked on NT, IBM became pissed - the crack got bigger until the partnership broke.

    IBM was content with MS making their junky MS-DOS and pure shit "Windows 3" which was never an OS.

    OS/2 was supposed to go hand and hand with their PS/2 line of computers. But it simply didn't offer much over the clones and really were not targeted to small business or home users. (IBM never did well with the home market)

    The original Computer wars was in the 80s.

    1979~1985 = AppleII / Commodore 64/128 / TRS80s / Atari / PC/MS-DOS and CP/M

    1985~1990 = Macintosh / Amiga / Atari ST / MS-DOS.

    If there was NO CLONE Market, MS never would have become big and would have died with its garbage MS-DOS. Yes, Microsoft is excellent in marketing and business - that was it.

    Mac had the desktop publishing and artwork. It was easiest for people who didn't understand computers.

    Amiga had video, gaming and home market with its power Multi-tasking OS (not properly going after the business market because Commodore was a stupid company)

    MS-DOS had the business market - to run WordPerfect and Word, Excel, Lotus 123... yeah, a CLI interface when Mac and Amiga had GUI!

    Atari ST had some games, but more support for the music industry. But it never had a real future. Lets see: Amiga type hardware with Macintosh looking GUI but with an MS-DOS limited OS with 8.3 file names and single tasking operation. Basically, Windows 2~3.x but from 1985~1992.

    WinXP in operation in 2001 finally caught up to Amiga in many ways (not all). Every time I installed XP on a computer, I'm reminded how low-tech it was compared to a 1990 Amiga OS 2.0~3.0... and people thought XP was the best thing since slice-bread.

    Windows7 is the first Windows OS I actually enjoyed using and is mostly modern inside and out.

    Windows 8 made me installed Linux full time onto one of my notebooks which get uses almost daily. I will never ever use Windows8. There is no reason to do so. If I need to play games, Playstation 4.... otherwise Windows7 and Linux. I expect to have Linux as my MAIN OS in the next 2-3 years.

    From what is going on, the Microsoft empire is on the verge of collapse. PC sales are hitting about 25% less than a year before. Tablet sales are surpassing desktop sales and very few of those are MS-RT/8 units. Smart phones are Android, iOS with WP8 being a very distant 3rd. Will Microsoft die? No, I doubt it. But they will change into a service company and live off their IP for decades.

  35. yuhong

    I have a blog post on the MS OS/2 2.0 fiasco

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