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Windows Microsoft Operating Systems

Windows NT Turns 20 213

Posted by timothy
from the in-many-ways-it-never-really-went-away dept.
An anonymous reader writes with a link to the observation from ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley of Windows NT's 20th birthday (it came out on July 27th, 1993): ""In 1993, Microsoft launched Windows NT 3.1. It was followed up by NT 3.5, 3.51 and 4.0. Microsoft's Windows releases still rely on NT-inspired numbering conventions. Windows 7's build numbers commenced with 6.1; Windows 8's with 6.2; and Windows 8.1 with 6.3." The article also reminds us that "NT's not ancient history, in spite of its age. The NT 'core' is what's inside Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Windows Phone 8, Windows Azure and the Xbox One.""
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Windows NT Turns 20

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  • Lesson One (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 26, 2013 @06:35PM (#44395813)

    The article also reminds us that "NT's not ancient history, in spite of its age. The NT 'core' is what's inside Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Windows Phone 8, Windows Azure and the Xbox One.

    Indeed. No matter how structurally sound your operating system may be, UI developers (receiving messages from on high) can still make it look like trash.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by goombah99 (560566)

      BSD is the core of OSX and it's even older.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by msobkow (48369)

        VMS pre-dated BSD substantially, and NT is basically a rewrite of the VMS kernel.

        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by stox (131684)

          If you call 6 months substantially:

          October 25, 1977 - V1.0 VAX-11/780, Initial commercial release
          March 9, 1978 - 1BSD
          May 1979 - 2BSD
          December 1979 - 3BSD with VAX support. ie. Virtual memory, etc.
          November 1980 - 4BSD

          • by Guy Harris (3803)

            If you call 6 months substantially:

            October 25, 1977 - V1.0 VAX-11/780, Initial commercial release March 9, 1978 - 1BSD May 1979 - 2BSD December 1979 - 3BSD with VAX support. ie. Virtual memory, etc. November 1980 - 4BSD

            "1BSD" was an add-on to V6 UNIX (which was PDP-11 only), and 2BSD was also based on PDP-11 UNIX, so the "BSD" that contributed to OS X was more like 4.4-Lite, which dates back more to 4BSD and 3BSD than the PDP-11 BSDs..

        • by multi io (640409)

          BSD is the core of OSX and it's even older.

          VMS pre-dated BSD substantially, and NT is basically a rewrite of the VMS kernel.

          ...as opposed to OSX, which actually shares and reuses code from the BSD kernel.

  • by JoeyRox (2711699) on Friday July 26, 2013 @06:36PM (#44395819)
    I've seen the source and it's a work of art. Whoever they had working on NT 4 for the PnP and other additions really massacred the code.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 26, 2013 @06:44PM (#44395881)
      I didn't see the source but could definitely tell. I remember NT 3.51 being very responsive even when a program was misbehaving. If I recall I had it run 16-bit programs in their own memory so they didn't affect each other. NT 4.0 did seem like PnP was just crammed in along with the Windows 95 interface. I feel old.
      • by Hartree (191324)

        That was my sense as well. Especially for the DEC Alpha version, NT 3.51 seemed quite stable.

      • Oneof the major issues wit 4.0 was how they switch the video drivers to ring 0 for better performance, but most video drivers in those days were total crap. Things have gotten better.

  • I used both NT 3.5 and OS/2, and OS/2 was much better. Microsoft put more effort into support for the long term.
    • by symbolset (646467) *
      IBM contracted Microsoft to do the update to OS/2 and that was the end of that.
  • by msobkow (48369) on Friday July 26, 2013 @06:41PM (#44395863) Homepage Journal

    Originally it was a pretty good design, based on the concepts implemented by DEC's VMS system. It only got butchered later by people who didn't know their stuff as well as the original engineers.

    Warts and all, Windows owes it's lineage to VMS and the once mighty DEC.

    I've heard there are still places running VMS-based hardware.

    • I've heard there are still places running VMS-based hardware.

      Hell, VMS-on-VAX was Digital's replacement for the PDP line of minicomputers (phased in in 1977), and even their predecessors are still running [slashdot.org] in a few places.

    • by SlashDread (38969)

      I'm sure OpenVMS is in use, running some COBOL for a bank orso. In 1995 VAX/VMS was HUGE in network cluster tech.

      I was right in the middle of that, since we were pitching a VAXcluster box against Appleshare and WinNT for serving Computer Based Training for Fokker Aircraft (now sadly defunct).

      Our requirement was to serve a classroom full of Apple Mac's (Apple OS 6.x, oh good times), Appleshare won.
      VAX/VMS choked on 2Mb/s on a 10Mb ethernet. Still I loved the architecture, and it sparked by furure *nix intere

    • by TAZ6416 (584004)
      I'm the sysadmin for a cluster of 3 VAXserver 4000's, they haven't been switched off since 1994. They once supported over 1000 users doing various stuff but now sadly all they do is some legacy COBOL stuff and print jobs.
  • by lobiusmoop (305328) on Friday July 26, 2013 @06:47PM (#44395905) Homepage

    The Linux kernel would have bought it a beer, but it hasn't turned 21 yet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SimonInOz (579741)

      Legal drinking age is 18 in Finland (and much of the civilised world, actually. USA is kinda weird. Mind you, allowing driving and drinking at the same time, does that sound like a good idea? Maybe they are right. No, surely not).

      No, wait, Linux first release was 1991, that makes it, um, 22. What the heck is wrong with your arithmetic? What do they teach at school these days? Bah. Get off my lawn. (And yes, I did program PDP 11s back in the day. Why do you ask?)

  • Windows NT's name (Score:5, Interesting)

    by norite (552330) on Friday July 26, 2013 @07:07PM (#44396047) Journal
    In case anyone was wondering what NT stood for

    V +1 = W
    M + 1 = N
    S + 1 = T

    • by Tynin (634655)

      In case anyone was wondering what NT stood for

      V +1 = W M + 1 = N S + 1 = T

      I forget where I read it, but I recall NT standing for New Technology.

      • by norite (552330)
        That's what a lot thought....but when you boot up NT 4.0 you get the 'Based on NT Technology' splash screen.
        • Well, you know, that New Technology Technology is what powers Automated Teller Machine Machines.
          • by Guy Harris (3803)

            Well, you know, that New Technology Technology is what powers Automated Teller Machine Machines.

            ...into which you type your Personal Identification Number Number.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        I forget where I read it, but I recall NT standing for New Technology.

        My, possibly time-addled, memories from the OS/2 days were that the future of the PC was going to be OS/2 NT (OS/2 New Technology), but then Microsoft announced that they were releasing a new OS called Windows NT, which was nothing to do with OS/2 New Technology at all, no sir.

  • Seriously? (Score:4, Informative)

    by BobNET (119675) on Friday July 26, 2013 @07:18PM (#44396119)

    An article for WinNT turning 20, but nothing for Slackware when it did the same [slackware.com] 10 days ago? What is wrong with you, Slashdot?

    Wait, don't answer that...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by peragrin (659227)

      It takes a lot of skill to keep windows running for 20 years.

      a 24 year old could have run slackware for the last 20 years.

    • An article for WinNT turning 20, but nothing for Slackware when it did the same [slackware.com] 10 days ago? What is wrong with you, Slashdot?

      Wait, don't answer that...

      You could have submitted it to Slashdot. That's how this place runs...

  • A few releases are missing in the partial Windows NT history mentioned in the article:
    - Windows 2000
    - Windows XP
    - Windows Server 2003
    - Windows Server 2003 R2
    - Windows Vista
    - Windows Server 2008
    And the Xbox.

    • You forgot 2008 R2. But I think their point was the Windows that are most current. Besides, MS has client and server go hand-in-hand so it's a little redundant to mention both.
      - 2000/2000 (obviously)
      - XP/2003/2003R2
      - Vista/2008
      - 7/2008 R2
      - 8/2012

    • The current NT 6 core of Windows is quite nice.
  • by WaffleMonster (969671) on Friday July 26, 2013 @07:37PM (#44396245)

    When every new release of NT brought with it new and useful features at least I was always excited to upgrade from 3.5 on till about 2K8.

    Now nobody seems to care about technology anymore... It is all politics, marketeering and guarding the table to ensure no excess value is ever left upon it. Innovation is now measured by games with shells, errecting walled gardens and fresh paint of questionable quality. Sad to see so much potential go to waste.

    • by SJHillman (1966756) on Friday July 26, 2013 @08:18PM (#44396501)

      2008 R2 has some nice improvements over 2008, and 2012 has a lot of nice new stuff, but I *hate* that they decided to use the Metro UI for Server 2012. I liked having the Windows Classic theme for 2003/2008. The Metro UI makes it more difficult to get to some basic settings. It's a server, make it simple and straightforward and aesthetics be damned.

      • Do you realize that you just spent your whole post describing the detail of what you hate about metro, but never actually mentioned what it is you like about 2012 and the "nice new stuff"? As an OS X/linux user who has not yet even seen Win8, I was all ready to hear about what is nice & new in it, but I never found out. This isn't a criticism, just an observation: an uninformed reader might take away that your emphasis on what is wrong with Windows 8 drowns out any benefit.
  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Friday July 26, 2013 @07:53PM (#44396337) Homepage

    NT was the last revolutionary product put out by Microsoft. VB3 came out the same summer, and was also revolutionary. Excel 4.0 and Word 2.0 were the only other two revolutionary Microsoft products, and those came out the year previous.

    All of these products are essentially unchanged over the past 20 years, with even the same codebase, with the exception of VB 3.0, concepts of which continue in the 2nd generation Visual Studio product (based on the late-90's Visual Interdev platform, chucking the highly responsive 1st generation that ended with Visual Studio 6.0).

    • by mlts (1038732) * on Friday July 26, 2013 @08:22PM (#44396523)

      Being my usual devil's advocate, there have been some innovations which have been useful that MS has made. They are not revolutionary as NT (which was nice at the time because it was completely pre-emptive, while Windows and System 7/8 were cooperative multi-tasking operating systems.)

      One of the bigger ones was the jump from NT 4.0 with all its service packs to Windows 2000. The old domain structure got tossed for a new directory server model, which has proven to stand the test of time in companies. Nothing is perfect, but AD has been decently reliable and secure. I don't often hear about complete compromise of AD unless someone managed to get complete rights on an AD server.

      GPOs are another item. This is something that has zero value to all but enterprises, but are extremely useful when they come to play. The enterprise-tier management tools in Windows are not perfect, but they are extremely useful. If I want to lock access to USB flash drives to certain users, I can easily do that with security groups and OUs. This isn't flashy, but it makes life easier to turn the legal department writings into stuff I can say I can implement.

      Then, there are some cool features. Windows Server 2012 has disk deduplication. This will come in handy on VM servers. It isn't perfect deduplication, as it is a two stage thing (writes are done normally, and a background task removes the duplicated blocks with links), but it is something useful.

      There are also things that get the "A for best effort" award. .NET comes to mind because it does help with some basic security issues, and allows one to use their language of choice (I even remember visual ADA.)

      To me, MS is a mixed bag. They do some cool things in the enterprise. However, on the user front, they need some help/polish. They need to focus on developer morale so a new platform would get a critical mass of apps/games on it when it comes out.

      • by cartman (18204)

        C# is an excellent language, and is superior to Java, in my opinion.

        C# hasn't really gone anywhere, because MS isn't really pushing it anymore, but it was well-designed.

        There are some other MS products which were pretty good. SQL Server was fine (I realize it was based on Sybase 4). Visual Studio is pretty good.

        MS's worst products, in my opinion, were Exchange and Outlook. MS should have fired everyone that was working on either of those. I was astonished that Outlook still sucked so badly after a decade of

      • by Alioth (221270)

        The trouble with GPOs is that many of them are extremely porous and can be bypassed with minimal effort. They are enforced mainly by the programs that they apply to. For example, the GPO to stop people using the command prompt can be easily bypassed simply by having a cmd.exe binary that ignores the setting. Similarly with regedit.

        • The trouble with GPOs is that many of them are extremely porous and can be bypassed with minimal effort. They are enforced mainly by the programs that they apply to. For example, the GPO to stop people using the command prompt can be easily bypassed simply by having a cmd.exe binary that ignores the setting. Similarly with regedit.

          Uhm. Not all GPOs are security policies as you seem to believe. If you do not want users to access resources on the local computer then use permissions to restrict users instead of trying to stop them from going to the command prompt. This is not your stupid sudo. There are other and better ways to secure resources than trying to prevent users from running applications that can access them.

          You may hide the command prompt if you don't want your users to strafe out where they don't know how to come back from.

    • by mendax (114116)

      I would opine that Windows 95 was actually the last innovative product that Microsoft brought out. Think about it: 16- and 32-bit program support, plug and play (or "plug and pray" as we called it early on), protected memory support, good virtual memory support, pre-emptive multitasking, networking support. Yes, as a multitasking operating system is was mediocre and its stability left little to be desired when compared to Windows NT, but compared to available alternatives (Windows 3.11 and MacOS) it was

      • by nukenerd (172703)

        I would opine that Windows 95 was actually the last innovative product that Microsoft brought out.

        WTF ?! - a kludgy OS that was outdated at its launch - it had been preceded by better OS's in Windows NT and OS/2. MS should have been producing a Lite version of NT in 1995, but someone in MS was still in love with DOS and wanted to keep building OSs on its ricketty foundation - as they did with Win95/98/ME for 5 wasted years.

        AND it ran on just about every configuration of PC hardware imaginable.

        That is not thanks to MS, it is thanks to the hardware makers who knew that without W95 drivers for their kit they would never sell it. MS was in the fortunate position that they co

    • I forgot to mention Visual C++ 4.0 from 1995, which introduced the modern IDE. I just now updated Wikipedia [wikipedia.org].
      • by Locutus (9039)
        Because Borland C++ wasn't a modern GUI IDE and predate MS Visual C--( remember it was not C++ compliant for about 2 decades ).

        I do remember when Microsoft got rid of the multi-window IDE and everyone else followed. Hated it and still do.

        LoB
      • by spongman (182339)

        huh? everything in that wikipedia (except the name 'developer studio' which was decided on for 4.0 by Julie Larson in a rather contentious meeting) was part of Visual C++ 2.0.

    • by unixisc (2429386)

      I was really excited about NT when it first came out - I wanted there to be a common OS, living on different microprocessors, not just x86, and NT was that for me. The Unixes were fragmented, each w/ a different one for each platform, but NT had the potential of being common - b/w Intel, MIPS, Alpha and later, maybe others.

      I was however disappointed that NT never progressed on the RISC side at all. NT-RISC on both Alpha, as well as MIPS R4x00 was a golden opportunity for Microsoft to develop a win64 sub

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      I tend to agree about NT. Once you add the GUI component Win2k was the pinnacle of their OS line. It was uphill to that point, and has been downhill ever since.

      I disagree on excel being revolutionary however, it was evolutionary, from competitors products and ideas.

  • proof... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pbjones (315127)

    ...that 640k was not enough!

  • Windows NT 3.51 was the most stable operating system I have ever used.
    I miss it sometimes.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      Start up Visual Studio. Enable a breakpoint in C/C++.

      Insert a CD and start playing it.

      Run your program and wait to hit the breakpoint.

      Now wait until the CD player skips to the next track.

      Guaranteed blue screen.

  • I might just crack open my old copy of the book "Show Stopper!" by G. Pascal Zacharay. A great read on the design and development process involved in releasing Windows NT.
    • Just read this over the past week. Never knew Cutler was such a douche. Reminds me of the argument that came up here a few weeks ago about Linus's management style. Cutler makes Linus seem like a real hoopy frood in comparison.

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