Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Windows 95

The PC turned 30 a couple of weeks ago but it really took its current form 16 years ago when Microsoft released Windows 95.

Prior to Windows 95, Microsoft sold MS-DOS and Windows separately. Both had some serious competition. DRDOS was as good or better then MS-DOS and IBM's OS/2 was better at Windows. Windows 3.1 was clunky and suffered from some serious limitations. The biggest one was memory. The original IBM PC used a chip that could only address a megabyte and the designers reserved memory above 640k for system calls and hardware mapped interfaces.

By 1995, most games and business software needed more that 640k. There were several ways of getting around this but the were mutually incompatible. It was common to have to use a different boot disk for each game in order to get the memory drivers correct. MS-DOS also suffered from a file system that only allowed short file names - eight characters followed by a dot and a three character suffix.

OS/2 got around these problems and supported superior multi-tasking. And it could run Windows programs.

Windows 95 was years late. There were jokes about Microsoft merging with the Catholic Church in order to gain control of the Gregorian calendar. That would allow them to extend 1995 until Win95 was ready for release.

Microsoft solved the problem of DRDOS by bundling MS-DOS and Windows and claiming that they were inseparable. Actually, the PC still loaded DOS then loaded Windows but the process was seamless. Other features were much more important. Win95 had a new interface, the basis of the one still used in Windows 7. It allowed long file names. It had a built-in memory manager which would emulate the main alternatives so nearly anything would run on it.

It also had basic networking built in which was something that OS/2 did not have. Overnight OS/2 became irrelevant. If you wanted to connect to other computers you had needed Win95.

This also became the high-water mark for Microsoft's market dominance. Prior to Win95, most people used 3rd party programs like WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3. There was some question about these running on Win95 and most analysts recommended switching to Microsoft Office. Within a couple of years the previous market leaders were gone.

At the same time that Win95 came out the public suddenly became aware of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Win95 could handle these out of the box although Win98 did a much better job.

While a big improvement over previous versions, Win95 had some serious limitations. It did not have real multitasking and its security was a joke. Microsoft solved some of these problems with Windows NT but that platform did not have the performance for games and CDs. Windows XP married the two platforms in their most successful product to date.

1 comment:

galeri foto Windows 3.1 said...

windows 95 is remembering me to the first time when i was learning at the school,, looking so oldiess.. hehe..:D

thanks for the article