back to article Windows 3.0 turns 20

Windows 3.0, arguably Microsoft's first effective graphical user interface, turned 20 this past weekend. On May 22, 1990, Redmond introduced the 32-bit GUI (not an operating system - Win 3.0 ran on top of DOS), and by doing so, it put the fear of Gates into any Apple fanboi honest enough to see the 16-color writing on the …

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Pint

Ok I laughed

(After I'd Googled quondam!)

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eLD
Gates Halo

Windows 3.0 32-bit ?

Actually it kindof was. Remember that stuff with enhanced mode for 386?

Windows 3.0 had a kernel that ran in 32-bit protected mode and ran 2 subsystems under there. Windows (16-bit) and DOS (also 16-bit). Ever wonder how you could run multiple dos boxes at once? It was pre-emptive multitasking even back then.

Still its all a bit academic given that all the apps were 16-bit cooperatively multitasked...

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Silver badge

Serious

It may well be true that GEM Desktop and GeoWorks (OS/2, of course, came much later, and was an offshoot of Windows in any case) weren't serious competitors to the Macintosh. While Windows 3.0 came close to being such a competitor, it still fell short in enough respects that it wasn't until Windows 3.1 came along that the Macintosh had real competition.

Ironically, it was TrueType, licensed from Apple, that made the difference, allowing Windows to be effectively used for desktop publishing without purchasing Adobe Type Manager and typefaces for it as expensive add-ons.

Incidentally, Windows 3.0 and 3.1 did let you run them under protected mode, but it was 16-bit protected mode. To run applications that were in the 32-bit mode of the 386 architecture, you needed to add Win32s, which was a free upgrade to Windows 3.1 that could be packaged with 32-bit applications.

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John - wrong way round on Windows-OS/2

OS/2 wasn't an offshoot of Windows, it was the other way around. In fact, the box for Windows/286 (the precursor of Win 3.0) proudly proclaimed that the "Program Manager looks and feels just like the one in OS/2". Windows was originally just a way to get people with legacy DOS machines ready for the switch to OS/2, which was being jointly developed by IBM and Microsoft at that time. OS/2 2.1 had Win 3.0 built in, and OS/2 Warp had WIndows 3.1 running in it's own memory space, making it a better operator of 16-bit Windows software than Windows 95.

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Silver badge

OS/2 came later?

No. It didn't. Maybe you think of OS/2 Warp.

By 1989, a year before Win3.0, MS & IBM fell out and MS released their own MS OS/2 with LAN Manager as a Server OS.

Why do you think NT "starts" at version 3.1 in 1993?

The development of OS/2 began when IBM and Microsoft signed the Joint Development Agreement in August 1985. The first version of OS/2 was released in 1987, 3 years before Win3.0 Unlike Windows1x to Windows 3.x (non NT), it was a real OS.

At consumer end it couldn't compete with Win95 and at Server/Network end couldn't compete with NT3.x which could run all OS/2 non-GUI server/Console apps natively.

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Coffee/keyboard

I still run it

On top of DR-DOS 7.03 on an old PC just for running very old retro games (DosBox? Pah! Stutters like anything even with the clock cycles cranked up to 15k!)

Ok, actually, I run Windows for Workgroups 3.11. But then, it's still the same codebase, yes?

The article needs to get some things straight tho:

1. Windows 3.0 is 16-bit . You can run 32-bit apps by the way of Win32s, but the compatibility is flaky at best. Believe me, I tried. Even "Enhanced mode" is 16-bit btw, "Real mode" is 8-bit iirc.

2. It does support more than 16 colors, if you run it in "Enhanced mode" instead of "Real mode" and have the necessary drivers (good luck finding for them tho). And no, unlike modern Windows systems it does not support on-the-fly video mode switching, hence the presence of software like S3 Galileo and Cirrus Logic VGA Winmode. Which is godsent when you try to run those archaic software that expect the video to be in 8-bit 256 color mode (those old Broderbund Living Books titles come to mind).

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aye!

I remember doing a installation of Windows 2 on a old 386sx 16Mhz PC, and incanting on the command line to backup the installed files onto a 5.25" floppy for my old IBM PC XT 8088 Turbo with 1Mb RAM and 10Mb hard disk (yes that original IBM PC XT with 5.25" 360Kb) as Windows 2 was on 3.5" floppy (720Kb), and doing another incantation of restore on the XT and got Windows 2 up and running under Dos 3.3 (I had to copy DOS in order for the backup/restore to work!) :P

Wonder does anyone actually remember the switches used to do the backup/restore, let alone the switches to format the disk... :P Happy days!!!

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WTF?

But can Microsoft count?

I've asked a few tech friends this question and not got a satisfactory answer:

windows 3

win 95

win 98

win 2000

win xp

vista

windows 7

ignoring service packs and inremental upgrades (ie win me),

that makes 5 OS versions between win 3 and win 7. So shouldn't win 7 really be win 9?

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Thumb Up

@But can Microsoft count?

The logic is this:

NT variants = version 3

Windows 2000 = version 4

Windows XP =version 5

Windows Vista =version 6

Windows 7 = version 7

You should see the "NT" line as being totally separate from the DOS/win95 line. It only *looked* similar, but only NT was a proper operating system like the Unixes of that time or MVS and VMS. DOS/win95, AmigaOS, MacOS until and including version 9 were utter crap of the microcomputer age (no memory protection, no preemptive multitasking, no proper access control)

Only microsoft's marketing department messed up the versioning logic a little bit by making the first NT version the numeral version "3". XP and all successors are essentially bloated versions of NT, invented by Dave Cutler, who played a major role in the development of DEC's VMS.

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Close

NT 3.x = Version 3

NT 4 = Version 4

200/XP = Version 5

(Presumably NT 3 carries on the count from where DOS is version 1 and OS/2 is version 2)

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Anonymous Coward

not quite

NT had a version 3.1, 3.5, 3.51, and 4.

Windows 2000 was v5.0

Windows XP was v5.1

Windows Vista is v6.0

Where it (somewhat) breaks is that WIndows 7 is actually Windows NT v6.1

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Pint

How entertaining

Here we have a textbook example of why normals look at us funny when we start talking.

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FAIL

@But can Microsoft count?

Sigh.

Every single article written about windows ends up with a post similar to this. Maybe it should be stickied at the front of the page for all time.

Sorry.

Dos Stream:

Windows 1 (1.x)

Windows 2 (2.x)

Windows 3 (3.0x)

Windows 3.1 (3.1x)

Windows 3.11 (3.11x)

Windows 95 (4.0x)

Windows 98 (4.1x)

Windows ME (4.9x)

NT variants:

Windows NT 3.1 (name chosen to match Windows 3.1) (3.1x)

Windows NT 3.5 / 3.5.1 (3.5x)

Windows 2000 (5.0x)

Windows XP 32 bit / FLP (5.1x)

Windows XP 64 bit / Server 2003 / Home Server (5.2x)

Windows Vista / Server 2008 (6.0x)

Windows 7 / Server 2008 release 2 (6.1x)

Windows 7 is actually built on the 6.1 NT stream, the name was given to try and distance it from the disaster that was Vista (6.0)

I'll get me coat.

( I have fond memories of Windows 3.0 on the school network. BNC on RM Nimbus 386 machines running as dumb terminals off a central 486 server. Took 10 minutes to boot up! I had always assumed "Program Manager" was a school specific lock-down, compared to the freedom of the Mac GUI, until I got my own PC with WFW3.11 and realised the truth!)

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Stop

Very very close

Actually, I think XP was v5.5.

Which in the comparative stakes, means it's a whole 0.4 better compared to Win2k than Win 7 is compared to Vista.

Or something.

I have XP (forced) and OS X (choice) anyway...

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Silver badge
FAIL

you forgot

NT4

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Coat

NT 5.5?

XP was definitely 5.1 / 5.2.

5.5 could refer to Exchange Server?

And yes, good point that NT 4.0 was left out in all the excitement of posting!

IIRC NT 4.0 was basically 3.5.1 with a Windows (DOS-based Stream) 9x (4.x) UI.

It was strange though seeing (DOS based) 9X / 4.x apps such as Office 97 running under a (DOS based) 3.1x UI on NT 3.5.1.

Thought Windows 2000 was a cracking OS too, still very useful on an old Pentium 2 laptop for serial port connections to Cisco Routers and Peugeot ECU ports

Still trying to find me coat.

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Boffin

WinXP 5.1

I know this because I had to check the kernel versions about 4 years ago.

I do find it funny that Windows 7 is a miscount, but then again, it isn't that different from Vista, so MS couldn't just skip the NT counter to 7.0. But it does look quite weirder than Solaris counting techniques (where SunOS 5.4 is Solaris 4) as there is no actual relation between their 7 and the version numbering.

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Pint

Serious?

Ventura Publisher, the defacto DTP for a while was on GEM desktop. Ah GEM, came with my first Amstrad PC.

I actually quite liked WInodws 3.0, it was simple, uncluttered and you could tweak so many things on it to get it do odd stuff. I had page after page of useful tips on tweaking the Windows INI files. Then Windows 95 came along and it was "all mouth and no trousers", plenty of glitz but no guts.

Bonus question, what colour were the four 5 1/4" floppies that Amstrad gave away with the 1512/1640 PCs?

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Silver badge
Boffin

Can Microsoft Count?

he logic is this:

NT variants = version 3

Windows 2000 = version 4

Windows XP =version 5

Windows Vista =version 6

Windows 7 = version 7

Actually Win7 is 6.2 or 6.3 really. see Ver. It's a SP of Vista in reality.

Windows 2008 is 6.1

First version may be 3.1 for two reasons:

1) The next 32bit MS OS after MS Version of OS/2 + Lanmanager. NT has OS/2 and LAN Manager subsystems.

2) Match DOS GUI Win numbering?

NT 3.51 is NT3.5 with the gratuitous WinAPIs added to win95 that Office 95 used and only existed to stop Office95 running on Win3.11

NT 4.0 = 4.0

Win2000 = 5.0

XP = 5.1 (a complete version of 5.x)

Windows 2003 = 5.2

DOS Versions GUI

Win1.0, a failure

Win 2.0, Win286, Win386 all 2.x versions

Win 3.0, Win 3.1, Win3.11,

Win 3.2 (Chinese?)

WFWG3.1, WFWG3.11: Versions with Client For NT Server and LanManager Peer to Peer Networking. NetBEUI by default. TCP/IP and Novell options. Support to connect to NT named Pipes but not create them.

there is a DOS WG version with Named Pipes and TCP/IP

The only extra of Win95 was Explorer and bundle all the free option add-ons that WFWG3.11 had.

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Silver badge

Emulation/Virtual

Win3.0 loads on 8 old PC with XP via DosBox in < 20 seconds.

DosBox is a virtual environment also available for ARM. You can trivially run 3.0 on DOSBOX on Symbian.

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Linux

The days before the monopoly when Amiga ruled.

Commodore were just about to release the Amiga 1200 (the best machine I have ever owned - and the cheapest) which was multitudes of light years ahead in graphics, sound, games, stability, usability (and actual multitasking) and the computing industry still seemed innovative .

Shortly after the death of commodore Microsoft achieved total monopoly and the computing (at least the OS industry) went through a dark age that lasted a decade, during this time people got used to the idea that complete crashes were just normal...

My Dark age ended with the installation of Madrake Linux in 2002. (thank god)

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Black Helicopters

Amiga?

As much as I love the Amiga, it was never a contender in the business market (Where most PCs are sold), except for some Niche markets. (captioning and certain video related stuff)

Also Windows had an effective monopoly long before the A1200.

I did my final year project on the Amiga, in pagesetter. IRemember that it was a royal pain in the arse converting it to something that the Uni PC's could understand so i could print it out.

Shame. I did like my 1200, and despite popular opinion around here, i did much prefer the WB2+ workbench over Windows 3. (Admittedly, the WB1.x workbench, with its really wierd colours was horrendously ugly).

Windows was also a step down from the other Acorn A3000 i was programming on at College.

It was just an order of magnitude better than anything else out there, probably until XP came along. (IMHO, RISCOS 3 blew Windows 3.1, 95, 98 and ME out the water)

Now *there* is a bunch of people who could have done with a decent marketing department.

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@spodula

Totally agree re: RISC OS... If Acorn had been able to release their Archemedies machines in the USA there is a fair chance that I'd now be typing this from an ARM powered ROSC OS machine, rather than an Intel powered XP box. There were some copyright "issues" with an other company's OS, can you guess who?

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Silver badge

A RISC OS fan

Let's not forget the system offered properly anti-aliased text before Windows 3 even existed, various patches to use it as the "system font", this later becoming official.

A coherent and logical method of internationalising software. MessageTrans wasn't perfect, but it's a lot better than some of the "hack the res files" methods used under Windows.

Little icons on the icon bar (task bar) to wih you can drag a file to in order to open it as a new file. Windows doesn't do this, even today.

A powerful file path system with "obey" macro-variables as a part of the command interpreter (but also useable in filesystem-related calls). Nothing I've seen otherwise has offered anything near that level of flexibility.

As much as the world might diss Econet for tragic slowness, it was a fully fledged functioning network system (widely used in UK schools) long before domestic computers offered networking abilities. In addition to the usual file sharing, it worked with the concept of ports, so could support all sorts of extra functions, like printer sharing. I wrote a chat program, and because our IT teacher hated Greensleeves, myself and a friend wrote a software where each Beeb in the room would (randomly) play a note - all synchronised using Econet.

.

Sorry... just having a nostalgic moment. Acorn made ass kicking computers at least twice in their history, but they never really ran with them so the world passed them by. At least I can smile and count the ARMs in my room (mobile, PVR, smart-printer, MP3 player...) and be happy that a part of the Acorn legacy did find a way to shine, and my God, how bright it is!

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Pint

Postscript FTW!

"I did my final year project on the Amiga, in pagesetter. IRemember that it was a royal pain in the arse converting it to something that the Uni PC's could understand so i could print it out."

I, too, was using an Amiga (500) at university. I just installed the Apple LaserWriter driver, and copied the PostScript output to 720K disks using some utility or other (MessyDos?). I was then able, if I could find a PC to use as a terminal emulator rather than an actual VT220 terminal, to log into one of the VAX machines and print out my PostScript pages on the university's laser printer.

Beer, because I needed one after doing that.

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@Heyrick

It's worth noting that econet pissed all over appletalk at the time...

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Win Versions

Jlocke is correct, although, pedant alert, Windows 7 is based upon a modified Vista kernel, which is version 6.1 (to Vista's 6.0). Windows 95 was version 4.0 of the non-NT 'kernel', 98 was 4.5, ME was 4.9. After the debacle of ME, and presumably to save the effort of maintaining a second OS (especially one which was 32bit extensions to a 16-bit shell, running on an 8-bit OS, as the 9x/ME kernel was, iirc), they canned the 4.x kernel and released XP Home/Pro, based on the same kernel (NT 5.0).

Micros~1... can't believe I have never seen this one before, must have fallen asleep in Flame class

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wonky, crash-prone standards of the time

Funny, I remember better stability back then than now.

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FAIL

Funny...

... your head must be full of revisionist rubbish then. Back then, it was FAR worse, with innocuous crashes taking down the entire OS - and regularly.

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Seriously?

We used Win 3.1 at work with PC-NFS to handle the networking side, that meant every DOS box was reduced to below 520M of memory and the whole shebang would fall over on at least a twice daily basis.

By the time you needed to run a simulator package or something else memory hungry it was a total joke.

Whatever we have now, I don't want to return to the days of DOS 6, QEMM and a hundred other nasty kludges.

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Gold badge
Happy

Re: Seriously?

Actually I found that with DOS 6 you could wring more memory out of it with the included himem.sys and emm386.exe than you could with QEMM.

For networking, I found that the answer was to install the Novell card driver and the Link Support Layer from the ODI stack (whether or not you were actually using Novell) and then tell everything else you installed it was on a Novell network and to play nice with same. That cut out most of the memory use and all the network stack conflicts.

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Same here...

My Win3.11 PC never crashed - I used a tool to manage all the ini files and was able to completely restore by simply copying a backup on to a formatted and bootable drive after my boss trashed my PC when I was on holiday.

We used to program Progress systems on Unix and DOS and remote desktop into all kinds of PC's to provide remote support. And use several different terminal programs.

Of course, then came Win95. I only switched to get experience cos I knew I was leaving. The registry joke, not being able to simply copy a drive to make backups, regular crashes etc etc all started from there.

It always surprises me when people say that Win95 was a big leap forward - to me it's where the rot started.

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Joke

@Test Man

Apologies, please find attached the icon I forgot to include last time.

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Grenade

@Brian Morrison

Wow, I wish I had 520Mb of memory in DOS on Win 3.1. I was lucky to have 1/1000th of that.

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Gates Horns

I still run a Win 3.1 machine....

Which is crucial to my work. We have to supply digital audio files, encoded to an archaic and proprietary derivative of MPEG1, supplied on PCMCIA cards formatted in DOS.

You can't even format under Win3.1 - it HAS to be DOS (and no, it doesn't work if you so it under Windows). Nor can you just format as FAT under anything later than DOS, despite Microsoft insisting that the format is the same. The cards simply don't work in the end units if you do that.

Fun, eh?

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@censored

Have you tried mkdosfs on Linux? I don't know if it'll work but it takes a lot of options and might be able to produce a filesystem your devices won't choke on, which could be handy when it finally becomes actually difficult to find a machine that will run 3.1.

Alternatively, you could take a very close look at the 'correct' filesystem with a hex editor and write a program to reproduce it on a more modern platform.

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Silver badge

@ censored

Would it not be possible to take an image of a blank formatted device, and then lay down this onto new devices?

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Boffin

Holy Crap

That explains why my PCMCIA card stopped working after I formatted it. That was a 4Mb PCMCIA Flash Drive that went with our Kodak DC50 digital camera; I formatted it under Windows XP and it never worked again with the camera. Had I known...

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Anonymous Coward

NT = 3.5

As someone else has mentioned NT was version 3.5, 3.1 was not "New Technology".

Arguably NT should have been version 4 but, I think, due to the then ongoing MS/IBM spat over OS/2 it was designated as a "version 3 variant" to avoid issues with IBM (I think if it was version 4 then , as the next OS from version 3, IBM might have some claim over it since IBM and MS had an agreement to co-develop this)

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NT 3.1 *was* NT

Just do a Google Images search for Windows NT 3.1 - it's not hard

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Happy

But it cant beat (the) Windows-Windows-w-w-w-w-Windows 386 (video)

Any excuse to (re)propagate this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0gJ1FUHkN8

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Weird

That was the weirdest thing I've seen in a long time.

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Stop

If Vista was so bad then....

Why do I find myself wanting to return to it then?

For starters I really miss the "Ultimate Extras" that were in Vista ~namely~ Dream Scenes.

And why did Microsoft have to go and remove the Calendar App from 7 as well?

Yes Vista kinda sucked on older XP Hardware DX7/8 Graphics with ~512Mb DDR-RAM

But ya know what?

On my Laptop with a C2D @ 1,83Ghz w/4Gib or RAM and DX10 ATi Graphic, and probably most importantly Service Pack 2.

I never had any issues that made me want to go back to XP (Save the very early days before I actually used the OS).

I only uped to 7 so as to stay current, to be honest, I can only spot the flaws in 7 (see above!)

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Get yourself Object Desktop from Stardock

At least their Deskscapes option will do what you want - I think Stardock developed Dreamscene for Vista initially, anyway.

I never used Dreamscene as it doesn't like multi monitor, and it didn't like my high resolution desktop either..

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maybe you're just crazy

on my account under Vista (which I boot into once every couple of months or so) after the 10 minute boot time or whatever, the mouse works fine for 10 minutes while I'm using it - then suddenly becomes jerky and unusable at regular intervals for the remainder of my session. Apparently it doesn't happen to my brother on his account and we both have the same software, that being bugger all other than games. So why it doesn't work for me is a complete mystery and one which I am not going to even bother solving as the exact same mouse works great on Linux all the time with no exceptions (ever). And how WOULD you Wintards solve this one? Have me re-install Windows? Live in the real world babes.

Vista is a pile.

And if the way Vista handles the mouse seems like a lame reason to diss it:

a. you are wrong

b. I could list a dozen other faults but honestly it aint worth the time.

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WTF?

Re: If Vista was so bad then....

So, in short, you miss some meaningless fluff that could be easily replaced by any number of freebie apps?

You, sir, should be ashamed to be posting that nonsense here. Get thee to the PC World forums.

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Silver badge

Yet another Windows quirk

The system tray. If I switch on and go into my user account on my eeePC (either manally or, as currently, autologin), about half the stuff that is supposed to be in the system tray doesn't appear. It is loaded, just no icons. If I log out and go to my mother's account, or back to me again, everything is fine. My actual current account (and a lot of paths) is called Rick_2 because I created a new account and got rid of the old one. And, hey, guess what...

This is Windows XP. An obscure bug (it is "known") kicking around for over a decade now. Any suggestions on ideas to try? [hint: "Change to Vista/7/Linux/MacOS" are not valid responses! ;-) ]

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Great, so I'm an elder PC statesman now?

I'm not even forty and I remember Windows 2.x, never mind Windows 3.0/3.1

Personally I'd say that 3.1 was the first usable Windows. It's true that 3.0 was the first version to successfully increase the Windows application base - a failing that OS/2 1.x did not manage to beat, 3.0 was plagued by horrid GPFs.

XP was definitely the client release when everything successfully came together. Windows Server 2000 was probably the best server OS overall. For the time, even NT 3.1 wasn't bad - it was properly architected, unlike OS/2 (technically there was, and is, a fair bit of 16 bit code in OS/2 even if the userland has been 32 bit from 2.0 onwards), which wasted a lot of time on OS/2 PowerPC that could have been better achieved sorting out OS/2 x86. OS/2 Warp v3 was definitely the best client version overall.

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Thumb Up

Windows Runtime anyone?

You lot don't remember very, very early MS apps like Excel coming with a "Windows Runtime"? I remember my old man with his mono screen 286 around 1988, buying a £400 copy of Excel on eight 5 1/4" floppies back in the late 80's! The Windows Runtime was purely for running the Excel app and nothing else, it had no File Mangler, no control panel, no nothing, just ran the app in a GUI environment from DOS.

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I'd forgotten about that, but now I remember..

Windows 2.x (probably the real mode version) and a Windows app bundled up. Delightful...

To be almost as sick, I could mention family mode applications.

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