back to article The PainStation runs Windows XP because of course it does

Curious about the history of home computing both west and east of the iron curtain? Berlin's ComputerSpieleMuseum in Germany's capital has you covered. Museum director Matthias Oborski was The Register's guide around the ground floor site of the museum, which is located among the Soviet buildings of Berlin's Karl-Marx-Allee (a …

  1. Admiral Grace Hopper


    Win XP was indeed painful, but Vista was pure evil.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Pain

      NO, XP was very functional in the working environments (are you just a game player?), I saw a lot of software created on the XP systems that worked well and even ran FORTRAN, it also had good multiple language support so lots of people used it worldwide.

      Vista was a very nice graphical improvement, it's "problem" that users complained about was that it started to require user security and the changes made it difficult to hack compared to earlier operating systems - essentially just problems that were resolved by creating Windows 7, where everyone setup both a user account and an administrator account - a mainframe security standard.

      I don't play games, I spend a lot of time trying to help students and researchers get things working so all of these "painful" and "evil" complaints just need to get resolved in my world.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Pain

        I don't think the user security was the main problem for Vista with the average user. I think the main problem with it was that it scaled up the performance needed for some of the OS tasks and the OEMs weren't consistently matching hardware fit for it. It ran well if you had a nice processor, but if you had something that previously ran XP or just bought a cheap machine, performance was bad. I think the reason that 7 helped fix this is just that they had three more years of hardware advancements when people were replacing older CPUs, so by the time it was released, the mid-range machines were performant enough to run it well. Perhaps it also put off those who didn't upgrade from trying to run Windows 7 on a Pentium from 2003, who stuck with XP until that machine broke. It was only in the 2010s when eight-year-old processors became fast enough to run modern Windows atop eight years of indifferent maintenance; older machines required some effort to keep them fast and the average user wasn't doing it.

        1. Cliffwilliams44 Silver badge

          Re: Pain

          While the performance problems with Vista were real, IMO that was not the reason it failed, at least in a corporate setting. We immediately shuttered any plan to move to Vista because of that abysmal touch oriented interface that you could not change back! The crash in productivity and the subsequent increase in Service desk calls would have been monumental! Windows 7 returned to an interface that people could somewhat understand.

          I see the same problem with Windows 11 but thankfully MS has allowed for that to be changed.

      2. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: Pain

        ...that were resolved by creating Windows 7, where everyone setup both a user account and an administrator account


        What am absolutely brilliant idea. Microsoft is synonymous with cutting-edge innovation.

      3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Pain

        Yerwot? The very first thing I did with Windows XP was set up separate user and admin accounts. Automatic instinctive behaviour from 20+ years before, starting with networked Beebs. Applications live in Read-Only areas with Access=PublicRead only. Before then I was continuously frustrated by Windows' inability to catch up with other systems.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Pain

      I know it's fashionable to diss WinXP (hinting current Windows is perfect...), but IMHO and for what it's worth, WinXP was peak Windows from a user's point of view. It was easy to master, things were all in logical places (like settings in - Settings (go figure!), it didn't take too many unwanted initiatives, and you could easily configure it to suit your needs.

      There is no point retorting that you couldn't run it for over a month without a reboot, this isn't something a workstation ever needs to do. Also the "you have to reinstall it once a year" bit is probably due to you people constantly installing/uninstalling all kind of junk. I know of several XP installations which have worked just fine for decades (10 years and more) without needing reinstalling. It just happens they were task dedicated workstations and users didn't mess with them.

      Win7 was already far on the slippery "we know what's best for you" dumbing down slope, XP's straightforward settings had already started to be replaced by idiotic unsuitable "wizards", and fundamental things like the file explorer had been rendered more messy and difficult to use by 1. hiding vital information (like the little crosses to unfold folders), 2. increasing as much as possible the noise level by cluttering the window with things which had no reason to be there and you couldn't hide.

      /steps off soapbox

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Pain

        Yup. The XP on my old EeePC is still going, it's the original install. Ditto my P4 desktop box. I absolutely hate reinstalling the OS as there's so much screwing around in the registry that everything else needs to be done, then the tweaks made and settings changed and... such a pain.

        So it's good that XP is stable enough that it "just works".

      2. LybsterRoy Silver badge

        Re: Pain

        I got so fed up with W7's file explorer deciding everything was music or a film and giving it a star rating. I bought XYPlorer - much better

      3. Nicodemus's Knob

        Re: Pain

        I know of several XP installations which have worked just fine for decades (10 years and more) without needing reinstalling.

        I can take your 10 years and double it and go back another generation.

        We have Windows 2000 still running in a production environment after 22 years. And has never been reinstalled ! It runs one very specific program and nothing else. Still on the original hard disk.

        1. ThatOne Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Pain

          > We have Windows 2000 still running

          Agreed, I had a Win2000 computer at home which worked and worked and worked for almost 20 years, till a couple years ago the magic smoke escaped from the power supply. Unfortunately spare parts are impossible to find for a computer that old, else I would have repaired it no matter the cost. It ran all kind of old hardware it would be impossible to make work nowadays (hint: serial port, SCSI interfaces...).

          1. Eltonga

            Re: Pain

            ...magic smoke escaped from the power supply. Unfortunately spare parts are impossible to find for a computer that old...

            You can always rig a new power supply and replace the connectors on the new PS with the ones in the old one. From that time, the only thing that got added was the "power on" ability which you can bypass by shorting the corresponding contact to ground. Plenty of tutorials on you-know-tube.

            1. ThatOne Silver badge

              Re: Pain

              Thanks, but unfortunately when frying, it also took something else away (RAM? CPU? MB?). Unfortunately it isn't as simple as just changing the power supply, I tried, but it won't boot.

              (I have a small treasure trove of spare parts, but unfortunately I don't have a spare AMD "Socket A" CPU, and obviously not a spare motherboard... So it's RIP, old friend.)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Pain

          I assume it is responsible for something safety critical?

  2. Michael Strorm Silver badge

    Bond enemy with an arcade game? Yeah, it was 1983 obviously...

    The "PainStation" sounds like that arcade game owned by the baddie in the "unofficial" Bond film "Never Say Never Again". Wonder if they had that in mind when they invented it?

    1. Dave@Home

      Re: Bond enemy with an arcade game? Yeah, it was 1983 obviously...

      I think you're confusing it with "Moonraker" where he plays the game against Drax

      1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: Bond enemy with an arcade game? Yeah, it was 1983 obviously...

        Nope. The game with the pain is "Domination", which Bond plays against Maximilian Largo in NSNA.

  3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Oooh, hadn't heard about this one

    And it just so happens I need to go into Berlin Thursday afternoon... thanks.

  4. Tubz Silver badge

    All developer PC's should become PainStations and linked to the helpdesk, so when an app crash is reported, unexpected app behaviour or a bug is found, they get the appropriate zap, you get the general idea of motivation for quality assurance ;)

    1. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

      This can work both ways: in case of a PICNIC error the manager of the user who reported the error to the help! desk gets a bucket of ice water emptied over them.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      No no no! Manglement is paid a lot to oversee things. If you make an error that causes a crash, they get zapped. After all, the buck stops with them, right?

    3. ShadowSystems

      OMG! This! This! A trillion times THIS! =-D

      *Hands you the keys to the brewery & RiverDances on the upvote button in the hopes the site glitches & accepts a few quintillion*

  5. Howard Sway Silver badge

    Oborski winced a little at the word "temporary" – it had been set up in 2019

    Man, that's almost yesterday. I know that some "temporary" code I wrote 20 years ago is still running at a former workplace.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oborski winced a little at the word "temporary" – it had been set up in 2019

      Just found some temporary code from 1994 in our codebase. The comment reads "A TEMPORARY BODGE-JOB, WHICH WILL EVENTUALLY BE REPLACED WHEN IT IS RE-WRITTEN (IN COBOL)". It hasn't been re-written yet.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


  7. PRR Bronze badge

    > the PainStation ....Lose, and there is every chance the game will dispense an electric shock, a bit of heat or a thwack....

    Laumer described that over 60 years ago.


    "Maybe you'd like to try Slam. Slam pays good odds," the man said.

    "You take the hand grip. When you squeeze, it unlocks. The globe starts to turn. ...The harder you squeeze, the faster it turns. Eventually it'll turn over to where the hole is down, and chips fall out.

    "On the other hand, there's contact plates spotted around the bowl. When one of 'em lines up with a live contact, you get quite a little jolt--guaranteed non-lethal. All you've got to do is hold on long enough, and you'll get the payoff."

    "Oh, by the way, one more thing. That lead block up there--...It's rigged to drop every now and again."

    Retief looked at the massive block of metal. "That would mess up a man's dealing hand, wouldn't it?"

    "The last two jokers ..had to have 'em off. Their arms, I mean. That lead's heavy stuff."


    Gambler's World, by Keith Laumer, Worlds of If, November 1961.

    1. LybsterRoy Silver badge

      I think Retief is brilliant - my best memory of him is having to punch his way out of a wet paper bag.

      Thanks for the link

  8. MacroRodent

    Bene Gesseret technology

    The PainStation sounds like something from Dune...

    I did visit what was probably the same museum in 2017 or so, but I don't recall seeing the PainStation then, clearly they have updated the exhibition. Certainly on my if and when I get to Berlin again.

  9. Blackjack Silver badge

    Just one Playstation? Why not two with the connecting cable, plus two CRT TVs?

    So then they can do that dual TV playing so few Playstation games used to recreate that Arcade feel?

  10. chileboy

    Good times

    I was heartened to see in the main article pic that the center console was displaying arguably the best port ever of Burgertime, that of Mattel's Intellivision. My brother and I spent countless hours mastering that one. I still occasionally find the jingle running through my head.

    1. jeffdyer

      Re: Good times

      9 months later and I logged on to say the same thing

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A mobile app would be hilarious

    imagine all the phones hitting the gutter as people lose

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