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back to article Windows hits 25

November 20, 1985, saw the launch of Microsoft Windows 1.01, the first publicly released version. Of course it was late. Microsoft boss Bill Gates announced Windows in 1983, promising release by the end of 1984, perhaps to counter VisiCorp's VisiON, an alternative PC graphical application manager that launched in December 1983 …

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LDS
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About OS/2 apps and Windows security

It is not really true that Lotus, Ashton-Tate and WordPerfect focused on OS/2. They yes, released something, but was little of of poor quality. I bought in 1994 a PC with OS/2 3.0, and found myself using Windows 3.1 applications. The promised Lotus Smartsuite for OS/2, for example, never materialized. And the Windows version was really ugly compared to MS Office 6. Without applications, and with some rough edges still, OS/2 was doomed despite some nice features.

Windows started to become a much more secure system since Windows 2000, if users and especially developers had started to use it the proper way. The real mistake was not to enforce it since the beginning. I still see developers using Vista and 7 stubbornly trying to bypass security to write in protected directories, just because they don't want to change old habits. It is true that a lot of businesses relies on a lot of old, bad written code, but MS should really start to enforce security instead of hoping end users will understand it. Apple had the advantage its user have not those large heritage of legacy applications to run.

But although the spotlights are on web or mobile apps, your desktop OS is not going to go away anytime soon. My guess is that in 25 years there will be still a Windows on your system. And when mobile device will become more powerful, they will ditch limited OSes and move to full ones supporting much more features.

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SmartSuite on OS/2

Lotus DID release SmartSuite for OS/2, somewhere around '98 or '99. I know because I bought a copy in college to replace my old old old (old) copy of Word for Windows 2.0. The interface was basically about the same as Office 2000 for Windows, but it had that 90's Lotus-y feel to it.

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FAIL

What about Windows 2000?

W2K - the unloved and forgotten brother in the Windows world... but still an important step towards XP, tying 9x and NT together.

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w2k still used by me

w2k was the last MS OS I paid for, though I have XP at work as well. To me, w2k really was NT4 but with USB working.

ME was a botch, a complete waste, and XP really was just w2k with more GUI features.

w95/98 are really different to NT4/w2k/XP as they are a mix of 16 & 32 bit subsystems with piss-poor protection along the lines of Windows 3.11

To be honest, there is little real OS progress from NT4 to w7, a bit of protection added, some polish, but nothing really exciting. These days I use Windows in a VM under Linux, gives me software compatibility for odd CAD stuff but with much better security.

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Here here

I miss win 2k. I only upgraded to XP to run StarCraft 2.

Win 7 I'm skipping unless they add in the classic start menu(like the beta had, and no I'm not buying a 3rd party app that half ass recreates it), and if the next windows gets even crappier(more mac like) probably will go Linux once nothing no longer works on XP.

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Gates Horns

RE: What about Windows 2000?

"W2K - the unloved and forgotten brother in the Windows world... but still an important step towards XP, tying 9x and NT together."

You are not alone in seeing it that way, but I consider XP to be a step backwards from 2k. Not only did it bring the Fisher Price desktop theme, XP was where they started changing things that really worked.

One good thing about XP: when I saw how ugly it was out of the box and the activation scheme, I started ramping up my escape plans.

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Boffin

w2k

"but still an important step towards XP, tying 9x and NT together."

not quite. W2k was supposed to tie 9x and NT together but it didn't do it well enough for people using 95/98 to upgrade to it. Many applications (mostly games) wouldn't work on it and it was for that reason that Microsoft inflicted ME on us all. It was considered the upgrade route for people running 98. XP had lots of problems when it came out, and that was mostly because it was rushed out to replace ME, but it did do what w2k failed to do, it united the 9x and NT bases together.

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N2

& w2k still used by me

On a daily basis, It does a good job too,

Unlike some of the later variants that have heaps of irritating bloat.

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I miss it - but I still have it.

I have a VM of an old development machine and it's a joy to use. The desktop does what I want, only what I want and only when I need it. During startup I can navigate the start menu without fear of it vanishing just before I go to click on an icon. Focus stays where ever I last put it. If I click on a text box it just puts the cursor where I clicked instead of selecting the entire contents.

Anything later than Win2k (basically Active Desktop as it was called) just gets in the way. Seems like I spend half my time fighting the computer.

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What?

The new start menu is one of the best things about 7's UI changes. Forget managing how your programs appear in the start menu and just type a few characters of the program name and it shows up. Much easier than having half your screen covered by a list of folders. If you want to see all that crap, its easily configured anyway. If you really dislike it, Classic Shell and other apps are out there freely that can easily configure the menu to look exactly like XP. Did i say Free? yes. Took me 2 seconds to find 3 of them.

Why would you give up on the power, features, device access, security, backups, management, performance, and more of Windows 7 just because you don't like what can easily and freely be changed?

Actual reasons to stick with XP:

- Your hardware is outdated, even by current generation XP standards, or has no hardware features that Win 7 improves on (DX10/11? Pretty important improvements for startcraft 2). It its at least a lowest end Core Duo and can support 2GB of RAM, you probably can upgrade, it might even run FASTER (7 outperforms XP in many cases on older hardware).

- You're planning on getting a new machine soon anyway (say, within 6 months), and don't want to upgrade the current one.

- You have legacy apps that only run under XP or earlier, and you don't know enough about OS in general to install and use VirtualXP and don;t feel like reading a short manual. Note i did not say you can't run 7 if you have legacy apps, just that you might not want too if you lack the knowledge or will to have that knowledge.

- You can't afford a copy of the OS.

- You're planning on switching to Mac. (even then, 7 runs great in either a Mac VM or Boot Camp).

- Your company policy is not up to speed yet, and they're sticking with XP until June when they have their 2K8 domain, Central AV, monitoring, and SSDM/SSCM up to date and ready for rollout.

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ME was the vendor's fault

ME was not technically a new OS. Unfortunately, all the vendors played i to be, and used it to sell hardware to people that didn;t need or want it, and who would never use ME for what it was designed for.

ME was essentially little more than 98SE with some plus pack additions, and a few underlying changes from lessons learned, but the real deal was all the multimedia editions on top. You could call it the first MediaCenter edition if you like. That's what it was designed to be. It did not replace Windows 98SE, it was to be sold complementary to it, as an upgrade if you wanted to use media on your PC more than just playing a CD.

ME required more hardware than most people had access to. It was put on machines under-configured to run it to keep pricing competitive. Microsoft's only failing was not getting out in control of the situation, but with 2K coming out, and XP already in development, they didn't want to piss off their partners.

On a properly built machine, ME was as good as if not better than 98. On the same hardware as 98, it was abysmal...

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FAIL

Title

Last I checked, the only reason to upgrade to ME over 98SE was because ME actually shut down properly most of the time. 98 and 98SE more often than not wouldn't actually shut down, but rather just hang at the shut down screen (no, not the "now safe to turn off your computer" screen).

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FAIL

nice try Bill G.

Blame partners all you want but we all know Windows ME was a top 5 IT product EPIC FAIL as was Windows ME SE (Vista). Thats not to say all M$ products are horrible but they have laid some real stinkers over the years and ME may well be the worse OS for its time as a large serious commercial product in the history of computing.

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happy birthday

And to celebrate twenty five years, I finally removed the dual boot from my laptop and run 100% Linux. Long live windows, still one of the best around.

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Happy

Simple Times

"At the time Windows was not intended to be networked - the only nod to connectivity was a simple terminal application - so it seemed unimportant."

Connectivity WAS unimportant - PC networking was barely heard of. Remember IBM PC LAN Program? Torus Tapestry? They were just being released, and took so much memory that you couldn't have loaded Windows at the same time, anyway!

Dial up modems? Acoustic couplers for your landline handset were the order of the day.

Security? That would be the lock on the office door, then,

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Silver badge

So true

I remember my first network - I had to install it. Ten Base T. After you'd loaded all the TSRs and drivers you had about 100kB left. Even those days it was pitifully small - I remember the MD pressuring me to try and work out how to get WordStar to run in that :)

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Tiresome

"An OS even Microsoft couldn't botch"

Yawn.

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Paris Hilton

We've come a long way, but there's still annoyances

This reminds me of times gone past. From battling with EMM386 to having to BUY a TCP/IP stack for Windows (Chameleon) right through to the vastly improved Server core 2008.

I still have some gripes of course; Windows 7 has removed the classic start menu. This is a big deal for some of the older people I help with PCs. You can call them stubborn, ignorant, annoying whatever, but the fact still remains that they don't want too much of a change. I can add a classic menu, but "it's just not the same" in their words.

As for server editions, Powershell and the Exchange Management shell are excellent. Finally having some REAL power is a good thing when business demands exchange server over Linux, but having the ability to run exchange on server core would make it much better. Don't see that happening anytime soon.

For the record, I'm a Windows/Linux admin day to day. Not an M$ fanboi, but credit where it is due.

Paris, because her emails would be worth monitoring for "quality assurance purposes".

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Happy

Start menu changes

"You can call them stubborn, ignorant, annoying whatever, but the fact still remains that they don't want too much of a change. I can add a classic menu, but "it's just not the same" in their words."

I wouldn't presume to call someone stubborn or ignorant or anything else for disliking changes to something they know works well, but it's interesting that Microsoft are *at the same time* both derided for never abandoning backwards compatibility and never making real changes to their OS; and at the same time derided for making changes and abandoning backwards compatibility.

I dislike change for the sake of change myself, but if you're going to get slammed no matter what, you might as well just do what you think is best and to hell with the critics.

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Anonymous Coward

I'm not sure this article's title is quite right

as it reads more like "Windows hits 25 despite being riddled with Microsoft botches from the outset"

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Flame

"likely be less Windows-shaped than the 25 just past"

"The next 25 years will likely be less Windows-shaped than the 25 just past."

Unbeliever! BURN HIM! Withdraw his MCSE certification! Cancel his ticket to PDC! [Even though there is absolutely no doubt at all that he is of course right, there will be some that don't like it]

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Those that don't like it

can just unfriend him on facebook.

I think that the two groups of fanboys are cognate.

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original DOS = bodged CPM86

All the microcomputer based disk filing systems were attempts to emulate UNIX on hardware far below the existing UNIX specification.

The way I heard the story of MSDOS was that Bill has BSed IBM that he made a working OS but when they gave him the contract he had to run down to the local UNI to see if they had anything running on 8086. IBM had only decided to make a business microcomputer because Apple and Visicalc were making so much money so they cobbled the specification out of the parts they had lying around after a telephone exchange project.

The IBM PC was never so much as designed, rather bits of mismatched hardware and software were thrown together at the last minute and it only sold because IBM put their name on it.

Since then Billions has been spent bolting on enhancements to get the hardware and software to work at a reasonable speed.

It is just a shame that they didn't spend that money on pretty much any of the other microcomputers around at the same time as the PC. If they had then now we would have something far in excess of what M$ and Intel cobble together.

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Gates Halo

AC @16.13

"The way I heard the story of MSDOS was that Bill has BSed IBM that he made a working OS but when they gave him the contract he had to run down to the local UNI to see if they had anything running on 8086."

Not quite. IBM were going to use CP/M but couldn't agree with license condtions with DR.

Gates went to Seattle Computing and bought "Quick & Dirty DOS" for US $50,000; and went to IBM with it. The designer, Tim Paterson, was later hired by Micro-Soft (sic).

Seattle Computing later said in court that Gates hadn't mentioned IBM to them during their talks to keep the price down, and MS paid an extra US $1 million.

As the license wasn't exclusive to IBM, MS were able to sell elsewhere (PC-DOS & MS-DOS).

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Pint

Good enough for government work.

>>is just a shame that they didn't spend that money on pretty much any of the other microcomputers around at the same time as the PC. If they had then now we would have something far in excess of what M$ and Intel cobble together.<<

Microsoft's first hardware product was the CP/M Z-80 Softcard for the Apple II. CP/M was the OS of choice for business.

That there was a huge market soon to open up for 16 bit CP/M or a serviceable 16 bit CP/M clone wasn't lost on anyone.

Microsoft held a very strong hand to play in its suite of programming languages for the CP/M - BASIC, COLBOL, FORTAN, PASCAL and so on.

The IBM and IBM PC-Clone became the definitive desktop PC:

It was affordable.

Built from commodity parts - including the $40 PC-OS - and based on a modular design that allowed easy hardware upgrades.

It had a proper external keyboard and a separate "full-sized" 80 column monitor.

Pefection comes at a price. You get the Lisa, which no one can afford to buy or the Amiga, which no one knows how to sell -

at least not in the numbers which will keep you in business.

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Not so much parts laying aroung, just not a lot of design budget at the Boca Raton

office, so they built it out of standard parts instead of designing some spiffy component IBM could patent and make money from. It was designed, it was tested, and it ran well for where the industry was at that time. But the off-the-shelf components decision was the key one. One without which Microsoft would not be the company they are today. It was that decision which led to the Compaq clones, which even included specific known bugs from the IBM design. Once Compaq established the legal precedent that companies did not have to have licensing agreements with Microsoft, the foundation was laid for the commodity PC market.

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Linux

Kind of summerises it.

I must agree with the author in this, but there are more details that should be included, such as:

The dumb-fu*k move to make the web browser an "OS component" (Win95) and the years of problems that caused.

The move in NT away from good design to put the graphics system in to the kernel space for better performance (NT 3.51 to 4.0 was it?), and the loss of stability it caused (BSOD on lots of things that would otherwise been trapped/recoverable).

And of course the nauseating business of DRM that began with XP and hogged Vista's performance:

http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/vista_cost.html

Yes, they may have polished the turd quite well with Windows 7, but as the author pointed out, the times are a-changing for OS, and the malware situation makes Windows so much less attractive these days.

Tux! At least the sucky-ness of Linux going wrong is at least under MY control, and it lets me do as I please.

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Gold badge

Mistakes you left out

"The dumb-fu*k move to make the web browser an "OS component" (Win95) and the years of problems that caused."

Only if you call user-land libraries "OS components". There are no kernel-mode components to IE and never have been. (Microsoft's suggestion that IE was inseparable from the OS was untrue, as they later demonstrated, and was arguably perjury because it was obviously untrue.)

For Win95, Microsoft *did* introduce a DLL for handling HTML and IE is a very thin wrapper EXE around that DLL. Handling HTML is a sufficiently common task that if MS hadn't invented such a library others would have done. You can hardly criticise them for encouraging component re-use. I imagine your average Linux distro would be rather impoverished if you removed all the shared libraries.

"The move in NT away from good design to put the graphics system in to the kernel space for better performance (NT 3.51 to 4.0 was it?), and the loss of stability it caused (BSOD on lots of things that would otherwise been trapped/recoverable)."

Another myth, I'm afraid. NT3.x was not a micro-kernel and was not Unix. Crashes in GDI and USER (the two components that moved into the executive, which itself already contained much more than the kernel) were always fatal to the OS because the session manager would commit harakiri if they occurred, so there was no loss of stability. The BSODs you are thinking of were probably caused by buggy device drivers from big-name vendors like HP and ATI. Yeah, there were lots of those. Given the choice between the latest and greatest driver that came with the hardware and an older driver from Microsoft that was compatible with that family of hardware, it was *always* a better idea to stick with the MS driver. (Sadly you didn't always get the choice.)

"And of course the nauseating business of DRM that began with XP and hogged Vista's performance"

I'll give you that one. :)

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In the spirit of this comment about OS making HTML library available to apps

It's interesting that I updated Safari on my Mac this morning before setting off to work, and it told me that a reboot of the whole OS was needed.

So were Microsoft ahead of their time, or are Apple repeating some of Microsoft's mistakes on the desktop in much the same way that Windows smartphone 7 (or whatever its called) is much like the iOS of 3 years ago including leaving out things like cut and paste.

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IE & system level code

OK, maybe IE was never a true kernel mode component, but why could it not be updated without a reboot? And why when compromised (a sadly common event) was it so capable of privilege escalation?

Given how much business & gov are stupidly tied in to IE6-only intranet (due to MS' non-standard design and piss-poor coding/contracts, etc), one reason for the sluggish move from XP to Vista/7 is this single issue. So why could they never make IE6 a stand-along product to plug that gap?

Indeed, why did MS struggle so badly to make IE7/8 correctly render IE6-based sites? And why was IE7/8 never possible for w2k even when it was still a supported OS?

I smell deep & murkey coding practices.

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The day when MS was really helpful

In the mid-90s I was running a business that needed to develop a wide screen video driver for Win95, but something in the OS kept trashing the parameters that we set - you could only have the video formats wot MS defined. Then along came an SR update with a lovely new driver development kit. Unfortunately the big set of MS Developer Network CDs didn't include the dev kit. Cue phone calls to the USA, payment of about $40, and many hours of overnight tuition of our programmer by phone. Bingo!

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Anonymous Coward

MS-DOS was it

I think MS-DOS was the closest Microsucks ever came to delivering a decent O/S. It's been all down hill since then. I doubt that Microsucks could deliver a worse O/S than the current offerings, if they actually tried. Never in history has sellect defective goods been so profitable.

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Boffin

OS?

DOS ... is still a real mode only non-reentrant interrupt handler, and always will be.

--Russell Williams

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Gold badge

Couldn't do worse?

"I doubt that Microsucks could deliver a worse O/S than the current offerings, if they actually tried."

I challenge that assertion!

I'm not aware of any respect in which Vista doesn't suck more than Win7.

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Anonymous Coward

downhill?...

i want to learn how to make THAT amount of money running down hill...

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Grenade

Claptrap

'Microsucks'?

Their family of operating systems and their applications almost single-handedly launched then supported the growth of personal computing from a hobbyist/corporate niche to something that is almost as ubiquitous as the Television.

It and its offspring has faults but they still account for far away the largest majority of software running on personal computers. Despite all the years and hype of Linux. Despite even the fact that its free - it's still only a minority OS.

If you're trying to be an advocate for penguin land I suggest you stop with the name calling and learn what 'sucks' mean. It does not apply to one of the biggest and most successful companies in the world.

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Xerox Parc invented windows and mice

I was using an X-Windows based system on an Apollo workstation (Domain OS) in 1986 which was much more like a modern windowing interface than what could be done on PC or MAC hardware of the time costing a tenth as much. The first multiwindowing Apple released around the same time looked very primitive in comparison. I was surprised that Apple were able successfully to sue DR's GEM considering the prior art in use on Unix based workstations.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_graphical_user_interface

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Happy

@corpsewood

Mmmm Apollo Workstations, now there was a serious piece of kit. I used them in the late 80s for schematic design, I have no idea what the software was. 24" CRTs with 1600x1200 or thereabouts resolution. Proper working network with your bulk storage off the local machine and the ability to send a print/plot to any machine in the building, all backed up by those nice people in the IT dept. Bourne shells, Kourne shells, CReePing other departments machines to pinch their faster CPU cycles and seeing how many of the site mainfraims, minis, HP networks and so on I could recursively log on to from one chair via telnet. Fun times. Oh, I nearly forgot usenet news and email.

After I left that job to go to Uni I encountered so many people spouting forth on these wonderful things called PCs. What a heap of poo they were with their 14 or 15 inch goldfish bowl screens compared to what I was used to. An Archimedes was a bit more expensive but knocked the living shite out of a PC in so many ways, if only I could have afforded one. My BBC micro kicked a PCs arse for several applications, boot up and into wordwise in under a second - yummy (hold down w as you switch on iirc). About half way through higher ed the 486 came out and a screen refresh in OrCad dropped under a minute all be it at a poxy 640x480 resolution. A PC had potential at last and in my final year of Uni I took the plunge.

A year or so after I was back at work 3.11 came out (networking), then NT (proper log on), Demon Internet, Nvidia and ATI started producing decent graphics cards and then Win2k arrived. At that point PC hardware had finally caught up with an Apollo from over a decade earlier. In look and feel only, it never will in quality and reliability.

Schematic capture still hasn't caught up IMO. I'm yet to find any suite that matches the Apollo software for completeness, ease of use and aesthetic gorgeousness.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane Mr Corpsewood.

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Apollo Workstations!

Wowsers, I used an Apollo network at Sheffield Polytechnic at the arse end of the 80s. They were running Autocad and CGAL. They were superb machines and it was always a nice warm room due to the massive CRTs. Always a bonus for poor students facing a walk home in the snow to a flat with ice on the inside of the windows.

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Unhappy

Wait.. what?

"Oracle Virtual Box"

I needed to reread that part several times before i could get it in my head. i think the fact that oracle bought sun is just stating to sink in...

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Happy

Yeah wait a minute...

Ah, so *that's* what the author meant, "Sun VirtualBox". Oh wait, ^W^W^W^W^W^WOracle VirtualBox" of course. And I'm using VirtualBox something like every other day.

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virtualbox

While i understood what he meant the first time, it severly stalled my reading for a moment - during which i wondered whether el reg at least receives money for mentioning the name of the new owner whose almost-screen-sized logo now on the installer seems to me like the so far only contribution to virtualbox.

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Me

Ah, Windows Me. The Vista of the 1990s ... Hated by everybody... No wonder XP had such a take-up. Mind you, Windows 2000 was pretty decent.

As for Windows 7 ... What the hell have they done with Explorer? If you are used to running detailed view and navigating with keypresses, it's a nightmare. Many of the shortcuts have gone, information has been removed from the status bar, and changing folders doesn't refresh the contents pane. I've been running Win7 for six months now, and I still hate it...

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WTF?

Dave Cutler was from DEC!

Shame on you Reg for mixing up Digital Equipment Corp, makers of the famous PDP and VAX (and later the ill-fated Alpha processor, killed by Compaq when they bought them) with Digital Research, a software company (aforementioned in the article).

Dave Cutler was the main architect for RSX and later VMS. He was hired to make a real operating system out of Windows, actually something completely different from the DOS GUI and task dispatcher it was. Rewritten from scratch, it became Windows NT. Unsuprisingly, Windows NT's internals were heavily based on the same concepts as VMS. Some internal data structures even had the same names. We all know the old joke about W.N.T. being V.M.S. + 1 letter in the alphabet don't we?

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(Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

Re: Dave Cutler was from DEC!

Thanks for the catch - and to others who spotted this mistake.

Fixed

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SE

title? it's a comment.

"We all know the old joke about W.N.T. being V.M.S. + 1 letter in the alphabet don't we?"

... like HAL and IBM. No such thing as a coincidence.

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Boffin

How did Windows do so well?

Working in IT support more than 20 years ago, I was regularly asked if Windows was a good thing. Like others I said that it was not a great idea - poor design, poor standards and poor implimentation of them.

How did it catch on?

Management mind share. Microsoft never even tried to convince people at the 'sharp end'. They spent huge ammounts of advertising convincing management that this was the way forward..

Windows did not become so common because of its superiority. It got into business because MS had persuaded the people at the top. They then set the policies and that was it...

Oddly, they did not succeed in some areas where Apple was a better visual fit - creative industries, They also never caught on amongst the people who were building the internet. Perhaps their management actually understood what they were in charge of?

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Gates Halo

RE - How did Windows do so well?

Every computer you sell has to be licensed for Windows or we don't sell you Windows.at all.

Every advert you run has to contain the words "X recommends MS Windows".

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Anonymous Coward

Decision makers and users

Windows succeeded where it did and how it did because the people who BOUGHT the machines rarely had to USE them. In the early years, the decision makers had secretaries do their typing and lesser people doing their number crunching. If they had actually be forced to USE the machines that they bought, things would have been quite different.

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Gav
Gates Halo

the alternatives were no good

>How did it catch on?

When people asked you if Windows was a good thing, and you rubbished it, did they never ask you what the alternative were? Did you have any answers for them? It caught on because GUIs were the way to go for mass-user computing and the alternatives all had major drawbacks. Simple as that.

Mac OS was notably superior, but was tied to the expensive hardware. OS/2 was bloatware that need super-specced machines that no-one had.. DESQview was nice, but essentially just a DOS utility for power-users. GEM was also nice, but crippled to oblivion by in order to avoid being sued by Apple. Linux didn't surface until the 1990s, by that time the boat had sailed. And, er, that's it..

On the other hand; Windows would run on the computer you already had, and was produced by the company whose software you already had. Most companies at the time were on their very first desktops and they were expensive. The idea of replacing them after only 3 years just to update your software would have been regarded as ridiculous.

The question is not "How did it catch on?" It's "How could it have ever failed?"

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