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back to article Happy 23rd birthday, Windows 3.0

This week marks the 23rd birthday of Windows 3.0, which came into this world on May 22nd, 1990, and gave the world improved colour graphics and the infamous File Manager. Windows 3.0 was all about getting closer to Apple’s Macintosh after Windows 1.0 and 2.0 fell a long way short of Jobs and Co's WIMPy UI. The MSDOS Executive …

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Anonymous Coward

I could understand a birthday party for someone still alive, but Win 3.0 died a long time ago.

A rememberance party perhaps, but a birthday party for the dead, never.

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Anonymous Coward

would have been better (for all) if it hadn't been born

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Anonymous Coward

Oh hello Eadon. I didn't see you there.

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Anonymous Coward

This was 1990, when most people at home would have been using all sorts of different machines. Amigas, STs, Archimedes and so on.

These machines were all good but they all tended to lack something.

If anything made Windows grow in the 1990s it was the explosion of IT in the office. Many working people at that time weren't computer owners and therefore bought a Windows machine at home to practise on. Others would eventually get a computer to go on the Internet when that became popular around the mid 1990s.

Go back to 1990 and look at the prices of computers, I'm pretty sure a Mac was just as expensive compared to a PC as they are now. Linux didn't exist, if you wanted Unix you would be looking at paying a licence fee even for that, possibly from AT&T or someone.

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I'm sure at 1'33" in the video when she sucks air through her teeth she's thinking "Don't bluescreen, please to God don't bluescreen now"

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"would have been better (for all) if it hadn't been born"

Not really. How many IT folk started on DOS/Windows and went on to bigger things? In its day, Windows 3.x was a neat little product that did what was needed - providing a user friendly, (almost) multitasking point-and-click layer on top of MS-DOS.

And in such a small footprint too (what went wrong here, Microsoft?).

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"I'm sure at 1'33" in the video when she sucks air through her teeth she's thinking "Don't bluescreen, please to God don't bluescreen now" "

Sorry, but you get a downvote for obviously never having used Windows 3.0. The chances of Windows 3.0 actually surviving a problem well enough to present a blue screen were so slim it hardly ever happened - these were the days of real system crashes, from garbage all over the screen, accompanied by pops and clicks from the system speaker (if fitted), to crazy flickering screens or just the simple system freeze.

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Alert

Re: This was 1990, when most people at home

Most people at home didn't have a computer at all.

DOS, CP/M, DRDOS and loads of types of incompatible dedicated Terminals all being used in small offices. Almost zero use of Windows 2.0, Windows 286 and Windows 368. Very very few Mac. Far too expensive for ordinary small offices.

In 1989, Apple disposed of approximately 2,700 unsold Lisas in a guarded landfill. Never saw one.

Early Mac used ROM based OS and one 3.5" floppy. I did see some of these.

If you had serious money it was the era of the Mac IIcx, I never ever saw one of these despite working in with computers from 1979 and IT training & Support from 1990.

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

IBM OS/2 + MS LAN Manager, MS OS/2 (released 1989), DR-Multidos, Xenix, Cromix, Novell etc all being used for small office servers.

Win 3.0 was very short lived really. Many upgraded quickly to 3.1, then 3.11 which were the real OS/2 killers. OS/2 Warp was too late.

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Linux

In 1990, I was looking at using Minix.... it looked like a cheap way to improve my unix skills, and the ability to play around with the OS internals looked fun.

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"This was 1990, when most people at home would have been using all sorts of different machines. Amigas, STs, Archimedes and so on. These machines were all good but they all tended to lack something."

Since you mention the Amiga, it's worth pointing out that both its hardware *and* operating system was in many respects more advanced and modern than Windows, even in 1990, five years after its launch.

MS-DOS started life as QDOS ("Quick and Dirty Operating System"), a bought-in, early-1980s 16-bit knockoff, er... workalike of an 8-bit 1970s operating system called CP/M. It was nothing special even then. MS-DOS was upgraded piecemeal over the years with numerous kludges to work round the countless design and architecture limitations of the original PC and OS, which made it more complicated. (The PC itself was made from almost entirely off-the-shelf parts and sold mainly because it was an IBM.)

Windows at that time was just a graphical add-on plastered on top of this text-based OS- more clunkiness for all.

It really grates when people get nostalgic about messing about with DOS config files and say "that's just the way computers were back then". No, *that's* the way computers running a messily-upgraded OS with very dated origins (even by the standards of the time) were. Those config files were only required because of DOS's hackily-upgraded 8-bit-derived design. People who only used PCs back then have a blinkered view, and it's a shame that the Amiga only really enjoyed success as a games machine and niche use in multimedia and video. It was extremely ahead of its time when it first came out (4-channel sampled sound and up to 4096 colours on screen at once).

The Amiga had true pre-emptive multitasking in 1985, whereas Windows 3.0 (1990) still only supported co-operative multitasking (e.g. I remember Windows 3.1 telnet locked up the whole OS when the remote server didn't respond, and didn't relinquish control until the connection timed out after two or three minutes).

Of course, the problem with the Amiga is that Commodore sat on their laurels and only made minor changes to the Amiga OS and architecture until firstly the PC hardware then the OS caught up then overtook it. I wouldn't suggest that it's a viable competitor today (even though it's still being updated as a niche product in order to milk diehard Amiga fanatics). But at the time of Windows 3.0, it *was* better.

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Mushroom

Actually, as Michael gives us the lowdown on the Amiga, I could say something very similar for Acorn and the Archimedes. While the Amiga was beating the crap out of MS-DOS/Windows with superior sound and graphics, mostly because the people behind the PC at the time couldn't be bothered to develop that side of it or were seriously caught up in the politics surrounding the PC at the time (this, of course, was the time when the PC design was being extracted physically from IBM), Acorn were likewise doing the PC no favours at all when it came to the sheer speed of the processor.

You may have heard of it. It was called the Acorn RISC Machine. Or the ARM. It even got to the point that Acorns could actually run Windows as a side session! The operating system itself wasn't too shabby either and stands up well even now (try a RasPi running RISC OS 6, for example). While there is a command line for RISC OS, the GUI was not just an overlay as Windows 1, 2 and 3 were.

The problem was twofold with Acorn - they continued to innovate right up to the very end but were absolutely rubbish at marketing themselves. In effect, they shared this problem with Commodore in that they were happy to stick with their own market and didn't really do enough to move into other markets. The second problem, however, was the venture capitalists that eventually asset-stripped the company.

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Michael Strorm:"the problem with the Amiga is that Commodore sat on their laurels"

The Amiga line was hamstrung by management that couldn't decide what they wanted it to be. Designed as the super console of its time, management stripped the chip RAM that delivers most of its performance, shrank the base RAM too far and gave out mixed messages about whether it was a gaming or office machine for its entire lifetime.

When I wrote for it, the OS used enough RAM to make life difficult porting from the Atari ST (so many of us just dumped it in the game boot loader) and multitasking was a fun demo but not much use in real office work.

Windows and the IBM PC proves you can survive bad products with the right management, the Amiga was mismanaged to death.

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Happy

I wish I still had to spend hours stuffing device drivers into segments of upper memory without them overlapping. Ahhh, those were the days....let's see....device=\dos\emm386.exe noems /x=A000-C7FF.

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Optional

"(try a RasPi running RISC OS 6, for example)"

RISC OS 5.xx, not RISC OS Six (which is really RISC OS 4 with a silly name).

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If this is really the way the conversation is going, it's pretty easy to rattle off the systems that were technologically superior in many respects to Windows 3.0 in 1990. Off the top of my head: The Amiga Workbench, RISC OS (both as already mentioned), NextStep, OS/2, NeWS, X + e.g. OpenWindows.

Of those, NextStep, OS/2 and NeWS are probably the ones worth singling out for special praise. All three are preemptive, use a protected memory scheme and provide the sort of user-land libraries that we now usually consider to be part of an OS.

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Coat

Ah, QEMM how we loved you.

Mine's the one with multiple config.sys files hand tailored to run various programs.

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Anonymous Coward

qemm was great

Qemm also had a multitasking product that worked. We made communication systems that ran several DOS programs on one pc at the SAME time. Windows could never run even 2 reliably. 3.0 sucked. But 3.1 then wfwg 3.11 stole the world.

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Facepalm

Where did it all go wrong?

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Coat

Well, in the beginning it was all good. Then some lady took an apple that she oughtn't have, and things have gone down since then.

The grey one, please, with the hat.

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This post has been deleted by its author

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Joke

Yeah, she was my ex.

I wouldn't have any Apple gear in the house, so I kicked her out.

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Frequently, with Unrecoverable Application Errors (aka UAEs, aka 'You've lost everything since, and possibly before, your last save').

One of Microsoft's big reasons to get you to pay to upgrade to 3.1 was the promise that there would be no more UAEs. And there weren't...

.. they had renamed them to General Protection Faults.

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Anonymous Coward

Ahhh the GPFs. such fun

YYes

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Thumb Down

"popular app Notepad"

I don't think I've ever seen that combination of words before.

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Re: "popular app Notepad"

'cos it used to be a 'prog' and now it's an 'app'?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "popular app Notepad"

Many of my websites proudly sport a "Made in Notepad" icon... It's simple, small, easy, basic, what's not to like? If I need to do complicated things, I'll use Notepad++ or vi, depending upon which machine I'm on. I wish they'd port Notepad++ to Linux and Mac...

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Meh

Re: "popular app Notepad"

"It's simple, small, easy, basic, what's not to like?"

Having more than one level of Undo would make it more likeable!

The Windows 3.x versions were pretty limited on the largest file they could read/edit too.

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Coat

Re: "popular app Notepad"

It was popular because all we had was edlin before that, if for no other reason.

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Coat

Re: "popular app Notepad"

I don't know what Notepad++ was but the problem with Notepad compared to vi was that there was a restriction on the size of the file with Notepad, also as always, you could us vi with a script.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "popular app Notepad"

If you ever use Windows, check out notepad++, it's a really rather good notepad for programmers and engineers.

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Boffin

Re: "popular app Notepad"

Notepad also has a weird thing where you can either have word wrap, or the status bar, but not both. I noticed this in Windows 3.1 and it's still there in Windows 7. However, for all its limitations, it is very rare not to have Notepad on a Windows system and it's useful to have as a scratch pad.

My first PC had Windows 3.1 and DOS 5 so I didn't have to use EDLIN when I could use EDIT instead. All that time I spent playing around with QBASIC eventually led to me taking a software engineering degree and the software development job I'm doing now. Even though I've been using Microsoft BASICs for over 20 years, there are still bits that make me wonder what they were thinking of when they designed it.

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Re: "it is very rare not to have Notepad on a Windows system"

Impossible to not have it unless someone has been monkeying around in the Windows folder.

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WTF?

Re: "popular app Notepad"

It was popular because all we had was edlin before that...

MS-DOS's "edit" (DOS 4 and up) passed you by then? That was actually quite good......

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Re: "popular app Notepad"

Based on the powerful editing component Scintilla, Notepad++ is written in C++ and uses pure Win32 API and STL....

Probably a difficult port then. Nearest thing for Linux may be the Scintilla based SciTE.

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Re: "popular app Notepad"

"Notepad also has a weird thing where you can either have word wrap, or the status bar, but not both. I noticed this in Windows 3.1 and it's still there in Windows 7."

oooooh yeah. so it has.. weird!

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Short Memories

I remember a couple of piles of floppies and 'Bung the new Windows in - and Office'.

'Nurse, coffee on I.V. drip, please'

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Re: Short Memories

oh god don't go there. Dos was 3 disks, windows maybe 7 or 8? Smartsuite was something like 40, corel draw was nearly as bad. Photoshop wasn't terrible iirc. Then you'd hear the drive chunter 75% of the way through and you knew the disk was screwed. Life is so much easier these days!

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Re: Short Memories

I was thinking that just last night after I found that my mobile was only transferring a video at 500KB/s across WIFI. Then I realised that would have been DOS 5 in under 5 seconds

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Meh

Re: Short Memories

I used to install Wfw3.11 which was a floppy for the DOS, another five for Windows itself and four more for all the extra gubbins. I then needed drivers for everything and one more for the TCP/IP stack.

Messy!

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Meh

Re: Short Memories

Dos was 3 diskettes, Windows 3.11 was 7, with 2 drivers diskettes. Photoshop 3.0 came on 5 diskettes. Then you had to load Kai's power tools, and a bunch of other utilities to make it actually useful for work.

SCO came on 43 diskettes, Netware was on 20-25 if memory serves..

One day i have to go clean out the garage, i've still got most all of those diskettes somewhere.

I remember 1990, and spending 4 -5 hours loading up the o/s on a basic novell file and print server.

I have some fond memories from that time.. but flipping disks isn't one of them.

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Pint

Re: Short Memories

"flipping disks isn't one of them" and I still have nightmares about sitting in some office in some city at some customer at night looking at that damned piece of wobbling "paper" floating from the left to the right hours after hours. It must have been the most stupid copy program ever made. Our mind concerning speed is rather interesting, on a Sun hardware, in the shell, I had a counter going from 100 to 200 and so forth. The customer looking at that said "it looks very slow". So I changed the counter to going 1,2,3 and this customer looked happy again. To be honest I have not been any better, at times. Compiling on CP/M the whole thing just died, no sound, no life, stone dead. Pissed off, I went for some beer, forgetting to shut the damned thing down, And when I returned the compilation had finished OK. This stone dead period lasted from 20 to 30 minutes (Cobol).

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Coat

Re: Short Memories

and you get a read error on disk 6...

I'm going for a lie-down. Ask the nurse for my medication.

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Re: Short Memories

Compiling on CP/M the whole thing just died, no sound, no life, stone dead. Pissed off, I went for some beer, forgetting to shut the damned thing down, And when I returned the compilation had finished OK. This stone dead period lasted from 20 to 30 minutes (Cobol).

'twas always the way, with non-multitasking OSes; go to build something big and you just had to wait for it to finish. Of course there were some development environments (hello, Turbo Pascal 3.0!) that provided progress indicators and watched for keyboard input, but if you were using good ol' standalone compilers, forget it.

And even multitasking machines are often used to run big builds that pretty much tie them up. The first AS/400 I worked on was the smallest '400 you could get from IBM at the time (right after they came out, circa 1989), and we were building a big middleware system plus its administration system, utilities, samples, testware, etc. You could fire off a system build and it might finish in a couple of hours. The system was usable while the build ran, but only just - latency for the simplest commands was long enough to let you take a sip of coffee, and in some cases go and refill your cup, without missing anything.

Hell, even now my "desktop replacement" class laptop with gigs of RAM becomes completely unresponsive for 15-30 seconds at various points when I kick off system builds. That's mostly due to contention for the hard drive, but from the user's point of view, the underlying cause hardly matters.

Still, it's better than having to do every build as an overnight batch job, as was common practice back in the day.

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Happy

Happier, crappier, simpler times!

I remember actually buying a full boxed edition of this and 3.1!

I remember having to dial up the AST Computers ( remember them? ) bulletin/support board at 2400 baud and download some specific Windows 3.0 drivers for my whopping 512KB graphics card so I could drive it at top resolution to a huge 640x480 display!

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That look and feel

Which they got from HP, MS and HP agreed to pool the look and feel stuff so that you got the same appearance in both X-Windows and MS Windows. But that's where the 3D look came from, not from Apple, which still had flat looking windows till MacOS8 about 7 years later. Where as HP had had the 3D look on the Integral PC back in 1985.

I'm not Eadon, but I still think that celebrating Windows 3 is a bit like asking turkeys to celebrate Christmas.

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How many hours wasted?

I remember installing Windows 3.0 from 5.25" floppy disc. It took quite a while to install.

Although installing Windows for Workgroups 3.11 from 3.5" floppies sometimes took upto 2 hours to install.

Installing Windows95 from CD was a giant leap forward.

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Re: How many hours wasted?

quicker than putting OS/2 Warp on, then the Windows, then Lotus Smartsuite. I do miss the user manuals though.

Port Win 3.11 to ARM and I'd still use it on a tablet/tv key. It wasn't that bad at the time.

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Re: How many hours wasted?

I installed early versions of 95 from floppy, IIRC. Fun. See also under installing Netware from floppy.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How many hours wasted?

I worked in a local computer shop at the time and we found that you could make the install massively faster by xcopying the disks to the local HDD, then installing from there. If you had enough space, that was.

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Windows

Re: How many hours wasted?

I managed to cut Win 3.1 down to a single floppy that you could boot from. Ran like a tortoise, but helped me repair many a corrupt config.

Buggered if I can remember the details now (nor care), though I'm pretty sure I still have the disk somewhere...

That brings back memories. I had disks dedicated to different boot configurations so that I could have the right memory split to play games like Frontier/Elite or POP.

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