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Windows Operating Systems Software Microsoft

Microsoft Discontinues Windows 3.x 384

Posted by kdawson
from the an-application-has-expectedly-quit dept.
rugatero writes "The BBC reports that, as of last Saturday, Microsoft is no longer issuing licenses for the 18-year-old Windows 3.x. Many here may well be surprised to learn that anyone still has use for the antiquated software, but it seems to have found a home in a number of embedded systems — including cash registers and the in-flight entertainment systems on some long-haul passenger jets (Virgin and Qantas are cited). Considering Linux's credentials as an embedded OS, this news could very well indicate the possibility of more migrations in the pipeline."
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Microsoft Discontinues Windows 3.x

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @01:52AM (#25636991)
    Windows 3.x is a lean, stable, functional, and secure OS! How could they do such a thing?
    • by MrNaz (730548) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @02:01AM (#25637041) Homepage

      Surprised? Surprised to learn that Win3.1 is still in use? I think the descriptor they're after is totally fucking gobsmacked so hard my gob flew across the room and bit me in the ass when I passed out and fell on it.

      • Re:How dare they! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Gordonjcp (186804) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @04:41AM (#25637765) Homepage

        Surprised to learn that Win3.1 is still in use?

        I've got an old Compaq Portable II, which has Windows 3.0 installed on it. It's got an 8MHz 286 CPU, and a whopping 1.5M of RAM.

        Now, surprisingly enough, it doesn't feel slow. Complex windows take a noticeable amount of time to draw, but it does have unaccelerated graphics (I don't mean 3D, I mean even graphics primitives in hardware - it's just an EGA card, which is a plain vanilla framebuffer). I can only imagine how responsive it would be on a more modern CPU...

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @06:32AM (#25638219)

          I guess it would be like one of my first game I made in assembly (on a C64). It was a "snake" kind of game and as soon as I typed run the game was displaying the "game over" screen. The reason is the game was so fast I didn't even had time to see both "snakes" going straight into the wall.

          So I guess on a modern hardware, Win3.1 will be so fast the only thing you will see is a blue screen of death.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by theaveng (1243528)

          It might work, but I doubt you could play movies on it. That's one of the problems I have with my Windows 98 laptop. Technically it can play amy movie I throw at it, but only the MPEG and Quicktime movies play at proper speed. The rest are like watching in slow motion (10 frames per second).

          >>>Windows 3.x is a lean, stable, functional, and secure OS!

          NONE of the DOS-based Windows (1,2,3,95,98/me) were stable. They were kludges sitting on top of an ancient DOS, trying to be a Mac-like environmen

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by bhtooefr (649901)

            Well, they're perfectly fine when single-tasking, and being used as a GUI framework for a kiosk app. And, because they take so little resources...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dwedit (232252)

      Now that's a ROFL.

      "WARNING - The system is either busy or has become unstable."
      An error has occurred in this application. Close / Ignore

      Windows 3.1 was full of random errors and crashes.

      • by phyrz (669413) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @03:23AM (#25637461)

        I wonder if Qantas is using 3.1 for its navigation system as well? It would go a long way to explaining their recent issues...

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Tontoman (737489) *
          I came back from Australia two weeks ago, and Qantas entertainment system spent about half the time broken down. They even apologized for it in their announcement. Now I know why!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bhtooefr (649901)

        "The system is either busy or has become unstable" is a Win9x error, no?

        Windows 3.1's error of choice was the General Protection Fault... but it was better than the Unrecoverable Application Error of Windows 3.0...

        But, the bigger problem in Win3.x is running out of "resources," especially in Windows 3.0... while newer versions of Windows were still susceptible (I've actually successfully run a Win2k machine out of resources - it took a very, very buggy beta version of Opera that had serious resource leaks,

  • by DigiShaman (671371) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @01:54AM (#25636995) Homepage

    in-flight entertainment systems on some long-haul passenger jets

    Ahh, so that's what they ment by "Every seat is a window seat".

  • by vovin (12759) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @01:55AM (#25637003)

    Just in case you were interested China Airlines uses Linux on their in-flight.
    I flew another airline that also used Linux but I don't recall which one. It's not very often you get to see the boot up but in one case they rebooted the system after they landed and in the other my partners crashed when we were trying to change the default language.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jrumney (197329)
      I flew Cathay Pacific recently, and they were using Linux for their in-flight entertainment too (my screen was stuck in standby at the start of the flight, so I got to see it reboot).
      • by mpe (36238) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @06:22AM (#25638163)
        I flew Cathay Pacific recently, and they were using Linux for their in-flight entertainment too (my screen was stuck in standby at the start of the flight, so I got to see it reboot).

        Probably because it's powered from the cabin bus, which is the dirtiest and least reliable power supply on the aircraft. It will also glitch by design when switched between external and internal power.
        • by CustomDesigned (250089) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @09:08AM (#25638971) Homepage Journal

          I flew across the US with my daughter, and I immediately turned off the in flight "entertainment" system on our seats. Well, I turned the brightness and volume all the way down - you couldn't actually turn the dang things off. The attendants kept walking by, seeing our screens dark, and without talking to me, rushing to the front of the cabin to announce, "Please be patient, we need to reboot the in-flight movie system." This happened about 6 times before they finally figured out that I was turning them off on purpose.

    • by antifoidulus (807088) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @02:18AM (#25637133) Homepage Journal
      I think more use Linux then use Windows. Every airline that I have flew on internationally that had an in flight entertainment system(Delta and Continental for sure, probably others) used the same in flight entertainment system that was linux based. I got to see the penguin a lot when my system repeatedly rebooted on a flight from Atlanta to Munich..... Now that the companies saved money by going Linux, maybe they can invest it in some touch screens that can actually take abuse.
    • by PCM2 (4486) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @02:18AM (#25637137) Homepage

      It's not very often you get to see the boot up but in one case they rebooted the system after they landed and in the other my partners crashed when we were trying to change the default language.

      Oh my God, that's terrible! My condolences for your loss, and I will never use Linux again.

    • by 2Bits (167227) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @02:41AM (#25637275)
      Just about every in-flight or on-board system in China used Linux by now. Those in the subway (Shanghai), on the bus, on the train, etc. Sometimes, you are on a bus, the bus runs over a hole or a bump, it shakes too much, the system flickers, and then you see a Linux boot up screen. Boot up time is pretty short, from black screen to fully animated screen with sound in less than 15 seconds.
  • Darn (Score:2, Funny)

    by Misanthrope (49269)

    I guess this means my sweet 386DX with the 2400 baud modem is going to be hacked the next time I dial into Prodigy to access Mad Maze.
    I wonder if this will simply end up with companies using Wine over linux to run their legacy apps?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by freedom_india (780002)

      Man i pine for the old days.
      I had a 486DX2 running at 66MHz with 8MB RAM and windows 3.11 WFW. It used up 24 3.5 floppies.
      I even cracked a shareware which provided simulated taskbar for Win 3.11 (this was just after Win 95 release). The code was COOKIEFEAST.
      I also tried to run the JDK 1.0.2 on it by adding 32-bit extensions to the Win 3.11 but it never ran.
      The bootup was significantly faster than my vista today (am downgrading to XP today; call up Dell and tell them to shove their Vista DVD up their a**** a

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @01:56AM (#25637007)

    Upgrading from Windows 3.x to Vista Ultimate should provide a significant performance boost for any application.

  • I know it's not the same situation, but finding systems with XP is now difficult. Why not wait until 2017 (or how ever long now + (now - windows 3.x coming out) is to support XP. (I know levels of support are different, but I'd like an easier time of finding XP)

    • I suspect that support for XP will actually be fairly similar. Its just that that will only be of use to you if you are a legacy customer with a load of XP embedded machines. Embedded is a totally different world. Heck, according to The Register [reghardware.co.uk] Intel only stopped shipping embedded 386s, perfect for running embedded Win3.1, in September of 2007.

      Unfortunately, the economics of user and embedded environments make for very different horizons.
    • by afidel (530433)
      MS will probably sell XPe licenses until the next embedded windows OS has been out for some time. This will likely be around 2015 (Win7 ships 2010, add 5 years) so your estimate probably isn't far off.
  • Oh yeah (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @01:58AM (#25637023)

    They are all nice to you when you retire. "Have fun on the beach," they say. Then one day, when you are relaxing in your hammock enjoying your time off maybe sipping a gin and tonic, the phone rings. "It's Linus and the Mac fag," they say, "They're back." "No way, I'm out of the game," you say. Then Windows ME bangs on your door, his back riddled with bullet holes, you know now and then that the computing world needs you. Up in the attic, you grab a handful of floppies and your trusty 2400 baud modem. "Fuck it," you mutter.

  • I still have it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arrenlex (994824) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @01:59AM (#25637025)

    Somewhere in our basement there is still an old machine which dual-boots windows 3.1 and windows 95A.

    It probably doesn't boot anymore, as it was having motherboard problems late in life, but a year or so ago I converted it to a virtual machine image under qemu. I can, within 5 minutes, boot a virtual machine into a legal copy of windows 3.1 that runs and contains useful applications that we don't have equivalents for.

    It's amazing that all this software still exists and is used by people, even after 18 years. Old tech is not as dead as you might think.

    • by poetmatt (793785) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @02:18AM (#25637131) Journal

      On a funny level, I'm curious what you think is a useful application on windows 3.1 that we magically somehow don't have an equivalent of. What do you have in mind?

      • Re:I still have it. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @02:44AM (#25637287)

        we have lumber cut optimizer which is not available for new platforms. it optimizes the number of boards the lumber cutting saw can slice for a given varying shape of wooden log.

      • Re:I still have it. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @03:12AM (#25637403) Homepage Journal

        On a funny level, I'm curious what you think is a useful application on windows 3.1 that we magically somehow don't have an equivalent of. What do you have in mind?

        One word (well, two words really, but only one when smashed together like marketing people like to do): SkiFree [ihoc.net].

        Sure you can get a 32-bit version that runs under XP and even Vista, but come on! That's nothing like playing it the way it was meant to be played - 16 bits, 100% CPU usage, and Windows 3.1. Everything else is just a poor copy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by RichiH (749257)

        > I'm curious what you think is a useful application on windows 3.1 that we magically somehow don't have an equivalent of. What do you have in mind?

        Although that is more a DOS than a Win domain, there are many old controller cards for machines, radio equipment, measurement solutions etc. Those things were custom-built. A few dozen to a few hundred might exist world-wide. The software is often even more restricted than simply 'I need OS foo'. You might need a certain serial port chip or whatever. Replacin

  • Incredible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp.Gmail@com> on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @02:01AM (#25637039) Homepage Journal

    Ok, I'm genuinely surprised at this. Considering how unstable 3X was, I'm shocked that anyone is using it for anything. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see DOS used in embedded systems, but 3X? Lots of people should have been fired a long time ago for going there in the first place.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by NJRoadfan (1254248)
      OS/2 1.3 lived on for many years in ATM machines. Unlike Windows 3.1x, it was considered the most rock solid 16 bit OS out there. What did a majority of the machines get replaced with?... oh Windows.
      • ATM machines (Score:5, Interesting)

        by PCM2 (4486) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @02:16AM (#25637125) Homepage

        OS/2 1.3 lived on for many years in ATM machines. Unlike Windows 3.1x, it was considered the most rock solid 16 bit OS out there. What did a majority of the machines get replaced with?... oh Windows.

        And as I've said in earlier stories, that's a bummer.

        Here in California we still have two types of Bank of America ATM machines. The older models, with the amber monochrome screens, I am told still run OS/2. The newer ones, with the color LCD screens, run Windows, and they are MUCH slower than the old ones and their interface is much less streamlined and intuitive.

        Now I ask you: It's an ATM machine. What was gained by the transition? The new ones allow you to do some fancy things -- such as setting preferences, so you can hit a "Quick Cash" button and get a predetermined amount with one keypress -- but most folks are just trying to get money out of the things and never spend the time to configure their own preferences. Really the only benefit of the new machines was the ability to show color ads during the transaction, but otherwise the OS/2 software was perfectly capable of handling the required operation (and even more so).

        Sometimes I wish more applications developers had experience with the embedded systems world. Know what I mean?

        • Re:ATM machines (Score:5, Interesting)

          by cgenman (325138) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @02:28AM (#25637201) Homepage

          They also use the windows default sounds... Incorrectly! The ATM's use the "Error Beep" to confirm proper operation. After years of conditioning, it drives me nuts.

          At least do a little legwork [pdsounds.org].

          • My favourite misuse of standard sounds is the software that powers our "Telstra" broadband cards (I think they're Sierra wireless cards). When you disconnect the data session -- or it's disconnected for you -- it plays the TADA sound.

            Always struck me as being an entirely inappropriate way to indicate the connection has been ended.

        • Some of the new Bank of America ATMs will scan your checks at the machine, allowing you to make instant deposits without a slip at any hour of the day.

          IMO, this is a pretty darn cool feature.

          Their use of the Windows default sounds, though, is indeed maddening.

        • Re:ATM machines (Score:4, Interesting)

          by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @03:41AM (#25637541)

          Now I ask you: It's an ATM machine. What was gained by the transition?

          If they are like the color BofA ATMs I've seen in Northern California, they play full motion video ads, which are maybe not what customers want, but presumably very significant to banks.

        • Re:ATM machines (Score:5, Insightful)

          by phantomcircuit (938963) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @03:52AM (#25637583) Homepage

          Ever notice that the part that is slower involves you looking at an advertisement?

          Me thinks that is not a coincidence.

    • Well, to be honest, if they're running 3.1, they ARE running DOS. :)
    • Re:Incredible (Score:4, Informative)

      by DerekLyons (302214) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [retawriaf]> on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @03:11AM (#25637397) Homepage

      Considering how unstable 3X was, I'm shocked that anyone is using it for anything.

      Unstable? Maybe to your average Joe Luser who, ignorant of computers, let programs install all kinds of crap in CONFIG.SYS, AUTOEXEC.BAT and WIN.INI... Or didn't know how to properly set paths, or any one of dozens of other ways to tune his machine. But to those who did know how to tune, and how to clean up after crappy installs, Win 3.X was very stable.
       
      I think Windows 3.X got a bad rep because, unlike vanilla DOS systems, you actually had to know what you were doing to set everything up properly. Few people bothered.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by RMH101 (636144)
        It also taught me a lot: getting stuff working in the first 640K, installing hardware pre plug-and-play (IRQ and DMA settings), etc. Just like CP/M before it, Win3.11 was partly responsible for me becoming a geek.
  • Damn it! (Score:5, Funny)

    by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @02:10AM (#25637097)
    I was finally getting my config.sys and autoexec.bat files optimized. I suppose I could try putting Vista on my 33 MHz 486 (don't worry, it's a DX) ...
  • by mattytee (1395955) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @02:10AM (#25637099) Homepage
    Windows for Workgroups 3.11 gets my vote as the best OS Microsoft ever released, warts and all.

    Reliability, ease of configuration, scriptable network installation (remember how you could just toss all the install files in a directory?), and I miss those good old PIFs.

    Unlikely though it sounds, I ran a physical window manufacturing plant on Windows 3.11 with some DOS machines too -- all on 10base2 ethernet at 2Mbps. Bus topology and thin coax -- I still have nightmares where a NIC dies somewhere between the data entry machines and the Paradox (for DOS) server.

    The glass cutting optimizer was maybe the highest-uptime box I've ever seen, and it lived in a terrible environment of dust and glass shards and extreme heat and cold. Windows 3.11, we hardly knew ye!
    • by Mr. Roadkill (731328) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @02:29AM (#25637205)

      WfWG 3.11 with specific, well-engineered apps? Great.

      Any MS OS with bloaty, ill-conceived apps from a multitude of vendors, many of which don't play nicely with each other? (I'm looking at you, Netscape and Hewlett-Packard!). Not so much.

      I've little doubt that even though there will be no new licences issued by MS, there will continue to be pockets of it in production systems for another decade or two.

    • 10base2 ethernet at 2Mbps

      10base2 ran at 10 Mbps, not 2Mbps. The '2' was the original spec'd maximum cable run (10base2, 200 meters, 10base5, 500 meters).

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by mattytee (1395955)
        Wasn't the coax itself limiting speed, it was the NICs. NC2000s only supported 2Mbps.
  • by FlyByPC (841016) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @02:20AM (#25637149) Homepage
    ...Ford announces they are discontinuing production of Model-A parts. Wright Aircraft and Bicycle Company is also rumored to be considering scaling back licensing of its iconic Wright Flyer, citing loss of market share to "those new-fangled planes with landing gear and ailerons."
  • by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao&hotmail,com> on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @02:24AM (#25637177) Homepage
    I still remember the first time I used a PC running Windows 3.11... I was in my early teens. I recall it was during a party at my uncle's place. I played with it just a bit, but it was enough to make a very strong impression on me. The interface, the usability, those things led me to make me a very important choice. That day I swore to myself: when time comes to get my own computer... it must be a Macintosh.
  • Mordor: The Depths of Dejenol [wikipedia.org], a game written for Windows in Visual Basic 3 back in 1995, still has a number of loyal players [mordor.uni.cc]. Last time I checked Mordor did not work with Wine, and many people have had issues running it in Vista (it apparently requires UAC to be disabled). Mordor plays perfectly in DOSBox with Windows 3.1 installed, though.

  • by DaveAtFraud (460127) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @02:39AM (#25637271) Homepage Journal

    I just watched Windows 3.1 start up a couple of weeks ago. The town where I live had an e-cycling day where you could recycle a variety of electronics for either free or only a nominal fee. So, I fired up my old 80386/25 DX (with an installed 80387 co-processor) just long enough to do a "format /u c:" and then dropped it off for recycling along with a bunch of other old computer junk I had accumulated over the years (full length, 8bit monochrome video cards, lots of various ISA cards, a few 10-base T NICs along with some co-ax cable and such).

    I still have a "true blue" IBM PC/AT (6MHz 80286) with a full height 30 MB hard drive and dual 5.25 inch floppies that I decided to hang onto just in case it actually becomes a collector's item. And, in the same vein, a still shrink wrapped copy of Windows/386 (5.25 inch floppies for installation media).

    Cheers,
    Dave

  • Hmm, coincidence? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BlindSpot (512363) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @03:06AM (#25637365)

    The place I just started working at decomissioned their old point-of-sale software only a couple months ago. They still have to use it for reporting and I was asked to troubleshoot their printer the other day, so I had them start up the software and print something, and there was the unmistakable look-and-feel of a Win3.1 app. <shudder> Well now I know why they had to decommision it! (It was running under Win95 though.)

  • by danwat1234 (942579) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @03:23AM (#25637465) Journal
    I used to work at ON Semiconductor in Gresham OR, and they have win3x on a wafer stress testing machine as of 2008. Its an old machine, but still perfectly good because as the feature sizes get smaller with Photolithography, stress testing is the same (as far as testing the flatness of the surface). So yeah, there are still uses for that OS I suppose.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @03:34AM (#25637517)

    They could release the code, but I guess they can't give the core of Vista away...

  • by master_p (608214) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @04:05AM (#25637635)

    ...Windows 3.1 installs so fast, that I can hardly see anything other than the reboot option, after installation.

    And the GUI is so fast, and so snappy, sometimes I have to do things twice just to check if the action has been done.

    Of course, the GUI system in Windows 3.1 was only one layer (Win32 drawing directly to the frame buffer), while todays systems are 7 or 10 layers before a pixel is actually drawn on the screen.

  • Sad... (Score:3, Funny)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @05:23AM (#25637941) Journal

    You can still run Windows 3.11 on DosBOX (complete with a working Microsoft BOB install! Really!). What am I going to do now? :-(

  • XP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @07:06AM (#25638375) Homepage

    Wait, I thought Microsoft had been trying for the past year to bury Windows XP - and now we find out they were still selling 3.x all along?

    Does this make sense to anyone?

  • by zakezuke (229119) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @07:18AM (#25638429)

    It seems to me that it's somewhat silly to actually "discontinue" a software product. After all, it's software. It's not a physical product. It's something you can download, and it seems somewhat nutty to not accept coin for it if asked.

    There are exceptions when you don't want a prior product like XP to compete with a current product, say vista, but win3.1 is some of those cases where there is really no threat of it competing with a current generation product.

    I'm not saying that microsoft shouldn't abandon support for win3.1. Far from it, only it seems to make little sense since win3.1 was used on a number of systems, and if you lose your drive and for some reason simply have to have that legacy system operational, there is some wisdom is keeping the product available for purchase. Otherwise you run into some questionable situations where you "need" win3.1 but can't buy it.

    IBM for example at one point offered PC DOS 5.0 as a free download. It was a commercial product but by 1998-1999 it had NO commercial value. According to wiki you can get PC-DOS 2000 (Chinese Edition) for free. They seem to understand the value of this being a vital port of legacy systems, and make it available. Microsoft offers a ton of files from their dos distribution available.

    That's my only bitch, if you need it, the only solution is hunting around for it, or pirating it.

    ftp://ftp.boulder.ibm.com/software/dos/ [ibm.com]

  • by oudzeeman (684485) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @02:26PM (#25646529)
    I was on a flight recently and there was trouble with the in flight entertainment. They tried rebooting it twice, and we all got to watch our seatback screens booting linux complete with a penguin in the upper left of the screen during the boot.
  • by jriding (1076733) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @03:54PM (#25647983)

    so it takes 18 years to stop selling Windows 3.X but only 8 years to stop selling XP???? what gives?

  • It lives on! (Score:5, Informative)

    by dakameleon (1126377) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @07:18PM (#25652817)

    Even in Vista, the spirit of Win3.1 still lives on in the Add Font dialog box!

    (Anyone know if they've updated that yet in Windows 7?)

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