Start me up!
You make a grown man cry.
Twenty-five years ago on Monday arguably the most consequential event in modern computing history happened: the release of Windows 95. Let’s take a quick trip back in time. Bill Clinton was US president and the World-Wide-Web-era of the internet was in its infancy; there was war in Bosnia; Oasis and Blur were locked in a …
> I could never understand people were satisfied with what little they got.
Because people never saw anything but MSFT's products. Plus many programs did (and still do) exist for Windows only. Regarding wine, some software seems to do its best to not run under it.
After staying away from Windows since version 3.1 I now have to use Win10 (for remote teaching). I was prepared for a bit of a culture shock, but not for the thing to self-destruct when I am not looking. And getting into my way, like rebooting mid-conference.
Well, Douglas Adams was a Beatles fan ("it was hard... not only were parents and teachers against you, but you had to fight Rolling Stones fans, and they fought dirty and their knuckles were closer to the ground") and an Apple Computer fan. However, it's a logical fallacy to then claim all Rolling Stones fans are Windows fans, or that all Norwegian Death Metal fans are Linux users.
The stereotype that Linux users are also Norwegian Death Metal Fans is not nearly used enough. Can I recommend to the uninitiated, the use of Linux Mint is highly preferable to most of the commercial offerings at the moment. I would also highly Kvelertak as a first foray into the genre. Metallica didn't know how to follow them they put on such a good pre show a few years ago.
...or that all Norwegian Death Metal fans are Linux users.
You need to be listening to bands like Aldius, Demetori (appropriate in that they're doing metal versions of video game music; such as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dSo5cT7JJg), or Master Boot Record (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6KFfYdNPh8)
I’ll never forget that The Times was given away for free, as paid advertising, when Windows 95 launched - marking the final destruction of any remaining illusions that it was a quality paper.
The Telegraph, perhaps in a fit of pique that Microsoft had passed them over, described Windows 95 as “the latest in a long and sorry line of make do and mend operating systems”. Which was nicely put.
And I stuck with A/UX, which was just better, dabbled with Linux - and wondered if Apple could ever recover from its malaise and come up with another decent OS - and, if they didn’t, whether I could ever afford a Sun computer.
No, that was Apple MacOS 9 that in 1999 still lacked protected memory and pre-emptive multitasking.
Win32 applications were run in pre-emptive multitasking mode, only Win16 one couldn't and shared a single thread and kept on working as before.
In some ways Win95 was even better than OS/2 because the latter had a single queue for application messages, and if an application stopped to process messages it could block the others. Win95 already had multiple message queues, with a separate process delivering user input messages to the queues.
It is true that in Win95 processes were not still fully separated as in WinNT (i.e. the kernel ones), a bad behaved application could still create havoc.
parts were cooperative nmulti-tasking, parts were pre-emptive. It depends on whether the GUI was involved.
Although some have said that the scheduler wasn't truly pre-emptive until OSR2, it's pretty clear to me that 32-bit code with threads worked as advertised... and were pre-emptive. Whereas anything dealing with the GUI wasn't.
From the article: And the biggest was the Start button which, even a quarter of a century later still exists albeit after various redesigns and rethinks.
"They" should re-think things BACK to the WAY THEY WERE, thankyouverymuch... (change is NOT necessarily "for the better" - I have seen inevitable change in a package of raw meat - it's called "Rotting")
Having been a software developer for DOS for a number of years, Windows 95 was a breath of fresh air, a new age, things only got better with Windows 98, then ahem MS and Vista (cough). NT was pretty good and Windows 7 rocked. All downhill from there. I used to look forward to the latest MS operating system or major update. Now I don't use Windows at all - exclusively a Linux Mint user.
Around that time, I had a not-very-profitable sideline building PCs for family and friends. I put 95 on them, then 95OSR2 (which inched towards USB support), then 98 and 98SE. Each new OS and version just got better and better. Carried away by this enthusiasm, I’m afraid that I may have unthinkingly put Windows ME on a few PCs before I realized the terrible, terrible thing I was doing.
I’d like to take this opportunity to sincerely apologize to the innocent victims of my enthusiasm who had ME inflicted on them. It’s been 20 years now and I hope they’ve forgiven me.
Christmas 1993. The Amiga 2000 is finally replaced by a 486-DX2 50MHz. DOOM, TIE Fighter, and a thousand other classics. DOS 6.22 & Win 3.1. 2 years later Win95 launches and that amazing PC was suddenly ruined with 5-min boot times and woeful performance; not to mention it's hard drive filled with bloat.
Upgraded "back" to DOS & 3.1 probably within just a few days of getting 95 booted.
98SE was the first one that I took seriously for gaming purposes; and even then it's infamous need to be rebuilt literally every couple of months was still utterly infuriating. 2000 was the first copy that impressed me as both a stable and capable system (with the odd dual-boot back to 98 for unsupported titles). It's been downhill since then.
To be fair, a 486 50 is quite a low spec for Win 95. I recall at the time you needed a 486 66 and 8MB of RAM for serviceable performance with 100Mhz (or a Pentium) being preferred. I ran it on my 586 133 system (16MB RAM) and it was fine there. Saying that, "Restart in MS-DOS mode" was a regularly used option for gaming at the time...
Yeah, the 486 was on the low-side for 95; though the minimum requirements were listed as a 386DX with 4MB RAM! I dread to think how awful that might have been. I had 12MB of RAM at the time.
A 2 year old system should not have been brought to a halt by what was ostensibly a OS Kernel that was supposed to make better use of the underlying hardware than 16-bit real mode could.
A couple years later (1997?) I got a Cyrix 200MHz which, to be honest, I still preferred that with Dos 6.22 too. Only resorting to 95 for a Voodoo 2 card. Being a Cyrix, of course it largely sucked at that too, but that's what happens with the budget option!
> Yeah, the 486 was on the low-side for 95; though the minimum requirements were listed as a 386DX with 4MB RAM! I dread to think how awful that might have been.
I did try that setup once. It was completely unusable. As I recall, boot-up time was around 12 minutes. Starting any program would cause it to start swapping. Even a shutdown was painfully slow. This was an install on a freshly formatted hard drive. Fun experiment, back in the day though. (For certain nonstandard values of fun.)
Oh, yes, the regular reinstall of Windows to keep it running well... Don't miss that at all, I wound up moving my profile to a Samba share simply to avoid the endless resetup of all the options every reinstall (please stop hiding file extensions....). Recently, the relative stability has meant the hassles of profiles outweigh the advantages. Doesn't help that a bunch of games store their save files there; took me a while to figure out why logins/logouts were running so slow until I found the 100s of MB of Skyrim save files stashed in there....
I counted. I have reinstalled Win98SE a grand total of 312 times. And that, only on my computer. I have also reinstalled it dozens of times on other people's computers.
XP was truly an Operating System. It worked for weeks at a time (well, my memories are mostly about SP3, so there may be some bias there), had one or two orders of magnitude less BSODs, and was fun to use (ie it didn't get in the way of what you wanted to do). Of course, it had the godawful Registry, but that was its worst point.
Win 7/64 is, for me, the best MS OS. It'll be Mint after that.
I skipped the 95 and 98 editions, and went from 3.1 directly to NT workstation edition on our home machine (in part so the missus wouldn't inadvertently "clean" some mess from the root directory (like config.sys or the like)). Rather liked its stability, even though it was quite resource hungry. Mostly used SUSE Linux on the machine, however.
"even though it [NT] was quite resource hungry"
I never saw a machine that would run Win9x faster than the contemporary version of NT. Architecturally, 9x was a 32-bit "kernel" that had a "DOS box for drivers" with a whacking great mutex to serialise access. It was an impressive hack, but one that had obvious costs in performance and stability.
The only reason to use 9x was that you had some DOS software that needed to bit-bang on the hardware. (That was usually an actual DOS device driver, but it could have been an application.)
Agreed. I used Windows NT4.0 instead of 95 using dual boot (NT had a boot selector) to run 95 only for games. NT ran everything else for months on end without needing a restart and was rock solid. There were even a few games that ran on NT (WinDoom/GLDoom, Quake, MS Monster Truck, etc). To Me Win 9x was only a wrapper to run Win32 apps over DOS, now NT was a proper OS.
Oh yes, indeed. As relevant now as it was almost two decades ago.
"Cruft Force 1. New. Description: User has taken time to rename cutesy desktop icons incorporating the first person singular possessive pronoun.
Twice, the mouse cursor has done that poltergeist trick where, with the actual mouse stationary, it drifts three inches due east and then stops. For no reason at all. Works fine afterwards though. Brrrrrrr."
Great summary, not only of Windows, but of MS in its entirety. Their approach was, until Azure, to just throw a random collection of poorly implemented functionality into Windows, all bundled together for whatever they charged (around $100 for the weakest tea, IIRC), cutting into the market for anyone who wanted to do a better version of whatever Windows threw in for free. I believe Ballmer called it 'cutting off the air supply' of their competitors, in an accurate turn of phrase that I believe he probably regretted.
Windows NT was the first system whose internals you could study without becoming ill, and that only if you didn't look at its VM or file system interfaces. I haven't dared look at it for years, but I have no reason to believe it's improved. SunOS did the file system / VM system much better than anyone else at the time (thanks, Steve).
MS definitely violated all sorts of anti-trust laws, but what really did them in was the Internet. They just didn't get it, and their browser's attempts at doing things proprietarily continued to hurt them, as their attempts to innovate were labeled, not incorrectly, as 'extend and extinguish'. It took Amazon's success with AWS to define the market well enough for MSFT to actually start competing again, with Azure, in an environment where, for the first time, they weren't leveraging their position in Windows to get an unfair advantage for mediocre technology.
"... Windows XP – built upon its actual proper operating system foundation, the Windows NT family..."
Interesting that the author does not give credit to DEC for providing the "actual proper operating system foundation". Windows NT was essentially a somewhat downgraded version of VMS, with the unfortunate Windows GUI bolted on rather like a perpetual ball and chain.
In a move that cemented its place in computing history and made Bill Gates the richest man on Earth, Microsoft stopped stealing its ideas from the likes of Xerox PARC and Apple – and came up with a few of its own, forming Windows 95. And the biggest was the Start button which, even a quarter of a century later still exists albeit after various redesigns and rethinks.
Redmond Windows 8 Brilliant New Idea Taskforce: "That Start Button thing is useless, let's remove it."
I always bought PC without an OS - even then - because I never installed a consumer OS but was using OS/2 and NT which I bought separately- but I didn't buy from generic "electronics" shops either.
MS did anti-competitive agreements with OEMs - but that barred pre-installing other OSes, not installing nothing.
I buy my PCs from the Chinese manufacturer (Eggsnow) via Amazon. It's the best way to buy a good quality high spec computer for around £500 that is ready for me to install Linux on. Haven't bought a computer from PC world since buying a Windows ME laptop - and that is going back a bit. I used to buy most Windows desktop computers from a local company that built them to my spec but they eventually went to the wall undercut by the likes of PC world. Very little choice on the high street nowadays for high spec desktop computers - take your pick Windows or Apple or nothing.
"And the biggest [Microsoft idea] was the Start"
Or, to look at it another way, it consolidated the several menu buttons of CDE and its predecessor, VUE, into one. I'd been using Windows 3 to run VisionWare's X server to run VUE for since about '91.
In fact W95 had a lot of HP ideas in it. It directly incorporated stuff from HP New Era; it was right there in the copyright declarations if you looked.
MS repackaged stuff that had been going on for some time in the Unix world - X, Motif, VUE/CDE and others. The likes of Gnome and KDE picked up on the W95 interface PDQ and continued the evolution. Because of the way the GUI is layered on top of the kernel in Unix-like OSs it's been possible for them to develop in several different directions.
The aspect of the GUI that was a real innovation to my mind was an unwelcome one.: adding the X button to close a window. Previously an application was closed from the system button, the one at the left of the title bar. Now there was a button that did that right next to the maximise button, just waiting for a misplaced click. Previously closing an application couldn't be done accidentally like that so there was less need for a confirmatory dialog box so quite a few old Windows applications didn't have one. I'm sure every W95 user must have lost work when a mis-click closed the application immediately. And it still galls me that the buttons are in the wrong order - minimise, maximise, zeroise.
Windows '95 was the Chernobyl desaster of IT. I wonder why Bill Gates was never convicted for genocide. Windows 3.1 was stable as long as you ran no third-party drivers or application programs.
The odd thing is that Microsoft had a half-decent OS, called Windows NT, but it did not catch on, so they cobbled up Windows 4.00 (an extended version of Win32S with the new GUI designed for NT 4.00) in order to stop the growing sales of IBM OS/2 3.00, which was a decent 32-bit OS with 16-bit Windows compatibility.
"The odd thing is that Microsoft had a half-decent OS, called Windows NT, but it did not catch on"
Didn't run DOS software, had worse driver availability/quality than Win3.1. Slower to boot (and use) than Win3 and Win9x, harder for end user to manage and it cost much more per seat. Things started to change for the better after NT4. For consumers NT offered no benefits until WinXP.
"so they cobbled up Windows 4.00"
Cobbled? NT4 was quite stable and the new GUI was much better than the old one.
"growing sales of IBM OS/2 3.00, which was a decent 32-bit OS with 16-bit Windows compatibility"
OS/2 was the best multitasking PC OS at the time and I used it plenty, but it had poor selection of drivers and software and I especially remember the tardy boot times. Quite stable until you triggered the dreaded SIQ... OS/2 was a single-user system with no concern for security; both contrary to NT.
I rather liked the little Windows 95 booklet that came with the restore disk on the PC I bought a year or so after Win95 came out. It had a series of task oriented examples based on the use of the file manager, wordpad, paint &c. Very logical build up that was a tour round the features.
Some badge wearing microserf deep in Redmond must have had a clue about how to introduce ordinary punters to the system and managed to get it through the bureaucracy with all the dosh flying about.
Icon: at work things got sane with Windows 2000. Very few issues. ME was utter madness.
"...Icon: at work things got sane with Windows 2000. Very few issues. ME was utter madness...."
Weird how so many seem to think it went Windows 95, 98, XP.
Windows 2000 was a solid OS and of course was the first to introduce Active Directory. And was the first platform built on Windows NT, not XP.
Windows ME though...what the hell were they thinking?
Windows 2000 wasn't regarded "consumer-ready" by MS, there were still a few possible compatibility issue with software written for previous versions, hardware drivers still had to catch up, and the hardware requirements were still higher, and the software itself costed more - there was no "home" edition. It was the successor of NT, evidently built on it.
But on the proper hardware it could fully replace the Win9x line already with very little issues, without waiting for XP. AD made a big difference in business environments, consumers usually don't use it.
Me was probably an attempt to still address the low-end market, but backfired spectacularly.
I recall rebuilding a Sony laptop for someone with the FACtory bundled install media on 2000 or XP (I think it was XP).
The background during the install was the standard default grassy field, however the grass was waving in a breeze with a really cool instrumental song in the background.
If I recall correctly it was New Order's Ruined in a Day (K-Klass Remix) playing, which I realized much later when I bought "The Rest of New Order" and instantly recognized the song and where I had heard it.
Always thought that was so cool, though the name of the song is a weird choice for a commercial product.
The summer of 1995 also gave you "DragonBall Z", "Mobile Suit Gundam Wing" and "Sailor Moon Super S" (not especially a DBZ fan myself, but it *is* a major series). We'd have to wait until the fall for "Neon Genesis Evangeleon"
I just remember the first machine we installed a MSWin95 beta on (early-mid Spring '95). It was a Packard-Bell tower system, which would never run (or even boot properly) afterwards. Yes, a MSWin beta actually *trashed* the hardware.
In spring of '95, MS's (beta) plus pack had internet access, unlike many other networks, via MSN. It took CompuServe another YEAR to get internet access... and AOL too, as I recall.
I thought IE 1.0 was pretty cool. No excessive fluff, lightweight, did what a browser SHOULD do. And nothing more... pretty much what Netscrape and Mosaic were doing.
An important Windows 95 attribute that was left out of the article is the TCP/IP network stack. Prior desktop versions of Windows didn't come with a TCP/IP stack, leaving the third-party market open to "innovate." This led to multiple commercial TCP/IP implementations for those prior versions of Windows, and 3rd-party application vendors typically only worked with one of those alternatives. If a user wanted to use two different applications that themselves used different TCP/IP stacks, reboots were necessary to switch between applications. This was a pathetically non-user-friendly approach, and one that helped maintain about a 50-50 mix of Apple Macintosh (with Apple's MacTCP networking stack) and Windows desktops in the large corporation at which I worked at the time.
The Windows Sockets API (not from Microsoft!) was a step in the right direction, but the Windows 95 TCP/IP stack, included with the operating system (and actually released separately and earlier to run on Windows 3.1), was a major boon. If Microsoft had continued to keep its head in the sand with respect to TCP/IP and the Internet, Windows 95 might not have been quite so successful. You can write encomiums to the Start button, but the native Windows 95 TCP/IP stack was just (if not more) important to the success of Windows 95.
One must never forget that the Windows 95 CD-ROM came with the Buddy Holly video from Weezer, which was the first music video for most people on a computer. Still, for word processing at first I dropped out of Windows to DOS and used WordPerfect until eventually moving via Ami Pro to Office, and for me all gaming was in DOS until Windows 2000 came out (Not counting a few-hours-a-day minesweeper addiction chasing the sub-100 second game on Expert, but I am all right now, thanks for asking).
When the Internet arrived for me in 1997 I used Netscape and Outlook Express, which finally gave me reasons to spend more time in Windows then in DOS. I suppose back then, the real excitement was, that after installing the OS on a newly built box, one started the driver installation process for every card and port on the motherboard, every so often reconfiguring the IRQ jumpers on the extension cards.
While NT4 had the same interface and was an actual operating system, it never had the drivers to make everything work on the gaming side until the great Domestic-Commercial unification that was Windows 2000. I have to admit, I still run a 95a, 95b & a 95c VM in captivity. Just for the fun of it.
You could run 3Dfx Voodoo with OpenGL drivers on NT4 and then run OpenGL games like Quake on top. This was at a time when DirectX hadn't caught on and OpenGL was the only serious API around. Graphics card vendors like 3Dfx shipped OpenGL drivers with their cards as that was the only way to make them work. This was at the time when Graphics cards were strictly 3D and graphics acceleration just meant hardware 2D blitting.
Anybody else recall the frantic phone calls: "I've lost the whole interwebtubes from my computer - HEEEEEEEELP!"
Yeah, somebody deleted the big blue 'Internet' from the desktop (IE).
Actually, during a pseudo cleanup recently (you know - you basically move junk from one side of the room to the other but don't disgard in case you need it) and found all original floppies for MSDOS, Windows 3.1, Windows For Workgroups, Win 95, 95b, 98 plus updates and a heap of matching CDs for those posh enough to have those coffee cup holders installed.
Not "Happy Days" but the video for Buddy Holly by Weezer, which (pretty seamlessly) merged video of the band with original Happy Days footage. Similar to the conceit employed by Star Trek DS9 in the "Trouble with Tribbles" episode, albeit less sophisticated.
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