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Windows Operating Systems

The Long Reach of Windows 95 354

jfruh writes: I'm a Mac guy — have been ever since the '80s. When Windows 95 was released 20 years ago, I was among those who sneered that "Windows 95 is Macintosh 87." But now, as I type these words on a shiny new iMac, I can admit that my UI — and indeed the computing landscape in general — owes a lot to Windows 95, the most influential operating system that ever got no respect. ITWorld reports: "... even though many techies tend to dismiss UI innovation as eye candy, the fact is that the changes made in Windows 95 were incredibly successful in making the the system more accessible to users -- so successful, in fact, that a surprising number of them have endured and even spread to other operating systems. We still live in the world Windows 95 made. When I asked people on Twitter their thoughts about what aspects of Windows 95 have persisted, I think Aaron Webb said it best: 'All of it? Put a 15 year old in front of 3.1 and they would be lost. In front of Windows 95 they would be able to do any task quickly.'"
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The Long Reach of Windows 95

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  • by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @04:46PM (#50430815) Homepage
    first install! woo hoo
    • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

      I don't think 00000-00000-00000-00000-00000 would have been valid. I think 95 keys were in the format of 000-0000000 or 00000-OEM-0000000-00000 for OEM keys.

      • by TWX ( 665546 )
        Yep. 111-11111111 or something like that actually worked. There were other variants that were easy to remember at-the-time too.

        Of course, that was back before every OS phoned-home or required registration, so it didn't matter if everyone on the planet used the same key. I suspect that Microsoft didn't make it hard because while piracy hurt their short-term bottom-lines it fostered a culture used to using Windows even though there were, at the time, several other choices, so those kids using Windows 95
        • Yeah, I seem to recall figuring out a key that worked after less than an hour of trying different things.

          I believe it was 12345-67890-09876-54321 that worked for me.

        • by nmb3000 ( 741169 ) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Monday August 31, 2015 @05:51PM (#50431557) Journal

          Yep. 111-11111111 or something like that actually worked. There were other variants that were easy to remember at-the-time too.

          Close! The format of those old Microsoft product keys was actually 000-0000000.

          The trick to making up a valid product key was that the 7-digit field must add up to a multiple of seven. The easiest code to remember was 111-1111111 -- seven ones add up to seven -- which turns out is a multiple of a seven :)

      • perhaps it was 2nd edition disks, but i vividly recall in 2001 having to do installs for some classes i was taking and that key working. I even checked one of my password lists and see it listed as such. I think you are right about first editions though
    • Windows 95 (original) and Microsoft programs to the time, including Money 97, had a simple MOD 7 program key. So, 000-0000000 worked and so did 000-0000007, but 000-0000006 would give an invalid key error. With Windows 98 they introduced a real key that, IIRC, the formula has not been cracked to this day. (In fact, I remember installing Win98 on a 486DX2/66. Verifying the validity of the install key took 15 seconds on that machine...)
  • by unfortunateson ( 527551 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @04:50PM (#50430853) Journal

    was "Windows 95 sucks less."

    • For me, Windows 95 solved a huge issue I was having at the time.

      The problem was plug and play and under DOS. Each manufacturer had their own proprietary PnP configuration utility and they were often mutually exclusive.

      I seem to recall that I had a shiny new graphics card (Diamond Stealth II I think) and a sound card (SB16) that I COULD NOT get to work together in the same system under DOS.

      Windows 95 was a godsend at the time that worked its PnP magic to get both working at the same time.

      • by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @06:46PM (#50432049)
        The problem was plug and play and under DOS. Each manufacturer had their own proprietary PnP configuration utility and they were often mutually exclusive.

        The *real* fun under later versions of DOS was playing the equivalent of Tetris trying to get as much crap in the UMA/HMA as you could so you had enough conventional memory left to do something useful.
      • by ADRA ( 37398 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @11:32PM (#50433707)

        Nah, PnP may have been -possible- in the era of Win95, but realistically, you'd expect any number of incompatabilities well into the 98 era. Only once you had 2000/XP days did MS really shove mandatory driver compatability down manufacturer's throats. That said, the ability to throw together a set of pieces and have them work was largely the work of MS flexing its muscles. Love em, or hate em, PC's may have taken a very different route if there wasn't someone to keep people shooting for compat.

      • My experience was quite the opposite.
        Before plug and play you had to adjust the dip switches on the cards. Then they worked extreamly well. After plug and play we needed more complex drivers that caused bugs and random failures over time.
        What made it worse were all the hardware companies who bent backwards to make win-hardware where they took such functionality away and relied on windows to do all the work.

        After windows was released I needed to switch to an external modem just to have it work reliability.

    • Actually, the common saying... was "Windows 95 sucks less."

      No it wasn't.

      The geek is only deluding himself when he claims that Win 95 wasn't one of the most successful and significant product launches in tech.

  • I was 12 with Windows 3.1. In some ways I think it was the best version they ever made.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      95 was the first Windows that was an operating system. 3.1 was still a DOS application.

      • @Anonymous Coward: "95 was the first Windows that was an operating system. 3.1 was still a DOS application."

        Windows 95 was designed to make Windows apps not run on DR_DOS [edge-op.org] and not run on Novell [edge-op.org] Netware [edge-op.org].
    • I think I was 13, and I can say unequivocally that breaking Windows 3.1 and having to fix shit before my parents got home taught me more about computers than the 4 years of college that came later.
    • by PRMan ( 959735 )
      If you weren't a business, maybe. But I spent a considerable amount of time beating memmaker in those days so that business person X could do task Y. It was very irritating and boring.
    • Re:15? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Orestesx ( 629343 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @05:25PM (#50431245)
      I think they mean a current 15 year-old of today (i.e. someone who did not grow up with Windows 95) would still be able to use Windows 95 because it shares so much with the UI of today's Windows.
  • by QilessQi ( 2044624 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @04:51PM (#50430863)

    We still live in the world Windows 95 made. When I asked people on Twitter their thoughts about what aspects of Windows 95 have persisted, I think Aaron Webb said it best: 'All of it? Put a 15 year old in front of 3.1 and they would be lost. In front of Windows 95 they would be able to do any task quickly.

    But this was also true if you put a 15 year old -- or a 10 year old -- in front of a 1987 Macintosh. The true revolution in mainstream computing was the Mac OS user interface, coupled with the Human Interface Guidelines which made all Mac software intuitive.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @05:01PM (#50430967) Homepage

      Yep Xerox got the UI right.

    • by Shinobi ( 19308 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @05:04PM (#50431005)

      And it was true if you put a 10 year old in front of an Amiga in 1985 or 1986. As for the Apple HIG, a lot of it was counter-intuitive, what it did, however, was give consistency, and thus users were conditioned into doing things a certain way, but it also resulted in some applications being hampered etc

    • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @05:10PM (#50431073) Journal

      Intuitive? Are you kidding? Working on OSX is like being in your garage under your car, working, only, you have an obsessive compulsive wife, and every time you set a tool on the concrete in arms reach, she immediately puts it on the shelf because everything must look pretty, at all times.

      I have never hated working with an operating system the way I hate OSX. It has literally brought me within inches of quitting my job in frustration on numerous occassions. It is beyond "bad", it is downright hostile.

      • by mlts ( 1038732 )

        OS X is a completely different thing than System 1-7 or OS 8 and 9.

        The main thing OS X offered that many a Mac person just hated Apple for not having... was true, preemptive multitasking. Before that, if an application or a desktop accessory didn't use WaitNextEvent(), the entire system ground to a halt, requiring a hardware reset. In fact, because OS 9 and earlier behaved like a chain of primitive Christmas tree lights (one bulb goes out, the entire chain does too), one wound up having to reboot every so

        • by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @07:04PM (#50432183)
          Before that, if an application or a desktop accessory didn't use WaitNextEvent(), the entire system ground to a halt, requiring a hardware reset.

          Win 3.x was pretty much the same way - it used cooperative multitasking just like the Mac, and if you took too long processing a given message you could lock your system right up. Two of the biggest things that Win95 brought to the table (that NT already had) were true preemptive multitasking and a per-process message queue, so if you still managed to be sloppy with your message handling, it just locked up that process instead of the whole machine.
    • Sorry, Amiga
    • Yep.. because 10 year olds "intuitively" would know to manually adjust the memory heaps for their programs.. or to use a rom manager to enable 32-bit addressing instead of 24-bit at boot.. yep.. or not spend 20 minutes looking for the damn on button that seemed to be moved to a creatively new and harder to find location with each new Mac.. and command-key click is sooo much more intuitive than right-clicking on menu items!
      • I certainly never had to do any of those things during years of using Macs. No, I'm talking about software like MacPaint, MacWrite, etc. If you put a 10-year-old in front of those, they would figure out the menus and toolbars pretty much immediately. There was nothing nearly as good in PC land at the time.

    • But this was also true if you put a 15 year old -- or a 10 year old -- in front of a 1987 Macintosh.

      Given the unlikely chance that his family could afford one ---

      In October 1984, Apple introduced the Macintosh 512K, with quadruple the memory of the original, at a price of US $3,195.

      $7,338, adjusted for inflation.

      Apple released the Macintosh Plus on January 10, 1986, for a price of US$ 2,600.

      $5,661, adjusted for inflation.

      It offered one megabyte of RAM, easily expandable to four megabytes by the use of socketed RAM boards. It also featured a SCSI parallel interface, allowing up to seven peripherals---such as hard drives and scanners---to be attached to the machine. Its floppy drive was increased to an 800 kB capacity. The Mac Plus was an immediate success and remained in production, unchanged, until October 15, 1990; on sale for just over four years and ten months, it was the longest-lived Macintosh in Apple's history.

      In September 1986, Apple introduced the Macintosh Programmer's Workshop, or MPW, an application that allowed software developers to create software for Macintosh on Macintosh, rather than cross compiling from a Lisa.

      This is another way of saying that the barriers to entry for an MS-DOS developer were low.

      In August 1987, Apple unveiled HyperCard and MultiFinder, which added cooperative multitasking to the Macintosh. Apple began bundling both with every Macintosh.

      Updated Motorola CPUs made a faster machine possible, and in 1987 Apple took advantage of the new Motorola technology and introduced the Macintosh II at $5500, powered by a 16 MHz Motorola 68020 processor.

      $11,554. adjusted for inflation.

      The primary improvement in the Macintosh II was Color QuickDraw in ROM, a color version of the graphics language which was the heart of the machine.

      Macintosh [wikipedia.org]. CPI Inflation Calculator [bls.gov]

      To understand the significance of Windows 95, you only have to sense the emotions inspired by the rediscovery of the videos which shipped with Win 95. Edie Brickell - Good Times [youtube.com]

      This was not Charlie Chaplin. This was not "1984."

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @04:56PM (#50430929)

    owes a lot to Windows 95

    Which owes a lot to Windows 3. Which owes a lot to the Mac SE and its kin. Which owes a lot to Xerox PARC. Which owes a lot to Doug Engelbart and SRI.

    By the time Microsoft got to a UI, it was like the shopping cart that got passed around the hobo camp.

    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @05:41PM (#50431447)

      owes a lot to Windows 95

      Which owes a lot to Windows 3. Which owes a lot to the Mac SE and its kin. Which owes a lot to Xerox PARC. Which owes a lot to Doug Engelbart and SRI.

      By the time Microsoft got to a UI, it was like the shopping cart that got passed around the hobo camp.

      And by the time linux got to the cart one of the wheels had a shimmy

    • Yup, but they were good at selling shopping carts.
      Both Apple and OS/2 were available before W95. Young me had OS/2 for months before 95 came out: it never crashed (YMMV), it did more, cleaner, but i couldn't recommend it to my friends because of driver support (thanks, IBM neighbor) and games...

  • Well would have been if I didn't have a fucking bastard BSOD. Twice.

  • by Owen ( 2514 )

    Windows 95 copied system 7, and the Start Menu copied a system 7 extension called the Hierarchial menu which allowed you to put folders of apps, or just normal directory folders under the apple menu and navigate through them.

    • Windows 95 copied system 7, and the Start Menu copied a system 7 extension called the Hierarchial menu which allowed you to put folders of apps, or just normal directory folders under the apple menu and navigate through them.

      Lets just ignore the fact that much of this was in development at Xerox Parc. All you need to do is look at the design elements (including hierarchical menus) from that time and you see the same in Windows and Mac OS. Both companies took the base model and innovated in their own ways. I'm also pretty sure that as their products evolved each influenced the other and both have borrowed from other 3rd party products...

      It's like harping that Jeep has a blind spot warning system in their cars when Volvo had

      • ...and sometimes it passed back and forth a couple of times.

        Apple added aliases to System 7 (essentially symbolic links, though a little more clever). Visually, the way you could tell an alias from the real file is that it's name was in italics. So the filename under the icon would say "Microsoft Word" instead of "Microsoft Word". It was a clever idea.

        Unfortunately, it didn't work all that well with non-roman characters. There's no Italic in Japanese. So you couldn't tell them apart.

        Microsoft implement

  • Try NextStep (Score:5, Informative)

    by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @05:02PM (#50430985) Journal

    That was a sexy geek OS on top of Unix back in the day before it morphed into present day MacOSX when Steve Jobs brought it along to Apple.

    It had right mouse button clicking and the menus and dockable icons and launchers (though were not on the buttom) but the concept was part of Windows 95 to its core with the start menu emulating much of it.

    AfterStep which was Robs founder of slashdot favorite back in the day as well as WindowMaker were WM's which tried to clone part of the functionality into Linux at the turn of the century. WindowMaker was the most popular before Kde and then Gnome started to mature to what we have today.

    • I like the original idea behind AfterStep - to make an open source implementation of Obj-C and the Foundation, and Appkit frameworks to make porting OpenSTEP applications to Linux or other open source operating systems easier. But IMHO, trying to duplicate the NeXT STEP look and feel all the way down to the vertical menus and '90s-style icons might be a fun project for a few dedicated people, but it's not a very useful endeavour.
      • by alexhs ( 877055 )

        I like the original idea behind AfterStep - to make an open source implementation of Obj-C and the Foundation, and Appkit frameworks to make porting OpenSTEP applications to Linux or other open source operating systems easier.

        You're thinking of GNUstep (which by the way is not limited [etoileos.com] to OpenStep's original floating menus).
        AfterStep started as a configuration file and some applets for fvwm, before forking.
        Window Maker was written from scratch, and they wrote the WINGs toolkit for it. As the toolkit name says, WINGs Is Not GNUstep.
        I'm writing this on a Window Maker desktop :)

    • by SumDog ( 466607 )

      I was using Window Maker in high school.

    • by mlts ( 1038732 )

      NeXTStep had a lot of nice nifty features. Anyone remember FastECC... an E-mail encryption program so secure that it got pulled out of the OS. Even the "demo" program that used a password as a private key, and a hex string as a public key was nice, but never lasted long.

    • I agree. The 2 best OS's I used were:

      * NextStep
      * BeOS

      Everything else pales in comparison.

  • How much has the basic UI changed since Windows 95? It hasn't, because 95 got it just about perfect for comfortable productive. There are minor variations in the size of component and placement, but almost every OS since has used the same basic concept: A 'launch programs' button, a task bar with a tab for each open window along one edge of the screen, and a notification area. Almost all major linux distros use that, Ubuntu with Unity being an exception. Microsoft tried to change to something new in Windows

    • > It hasn't, because 95 got it just about perfect for comfortable productive.

      Except the fucking close button is next to the maximize button instead of being on the other side of the window where you can't accidentally mis-click it.

      It hasn't changed because MS doesn't know what the fuck they are doing on how to make _great_ UI. The only thing they know what do is copy others without understanding why or why not.

      Window's UI for window management is still shit compared to BeOS. e.g. You can "drag" the Wind

  • Not really (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday August 31, 2015 @05:06PM (#50431029) Homepage

    I would agree that Windows 95 is influential, but let's not go overboard. It's the first instance that I know of with the "taskbar" along the bottom including a main menu button on the lower-left, which has become a very common arrangement. However, it's largely become an arrangement common to desktop environments attempting to mimic Windows in order to be approachable to Windows users. It's not the arrangement of all operating systems.

    Claiming that OSX is copying the task bar with its dock is a bit of an overstatement. Various environments had different permutations of a "dock" concept, including NeXTSTEP, the forerunner to OSX. I think BeOS and Amiga also had docks of sort, though I admit I haven't seen any of these operating systems in action and I don't remember exactly what they looked like back in 1995. Also, the way the Apple dock operates is significantly different from the Windows task bar, and arguably the Windows 10 taskbar takes some things from Apple's dock.

    Part way through the article, there's a big quote that says, "Without Windows 95 there would be no Steam or XBox and we would still be playing Pong." That's just nonsense. I mean, it's true there might not be steam or XBox, in that Steam was originally developed for Windows and XBox is a Microsoft program. However, we wouldn't still by playing Pong. There were more advanced games than Pong before Windows 95, and it's not as though people wouldn't have continued to develop video consoles and video games. In the end, he wraps things up by arguing that Windows 95 was just so amazingly good that it pushed everyone out of the market, as though Microsoft's monopoly was a good thing that was achieved purely through the quality of the product.

    Honestly, I don't know if this author is a bit dim or ignorant, or if the author is intentionally pushing a false narrative, but this article is pretty bad. Obviously Windows 95 had a big impact on the computing industry and the operating systems that came afterwards. I wouldn't argue against that. Still, let's not pretend that it was a wonderful product that took over the world by being the best thing ever, and let's not pretend that everything that came after is simply copying Windows 95. It was a relatively crappy operating system that became dominant because Microsoft was largely already dominant, and there wasn't really anything much better at the time. Microsoft had already squashed a lot of their competitors, and continued to do so with anti-competitive practices.

    • by Voyager529 ( 1363959 ) <voyager529@y[ ]o.com ['aho' in gap]> on Monday August 31, 2015 @05:14PM (#50431111)

      Honestly, I don't know if this author is a bit dim or ignorant, or if the author is intentionally pushing a false narrative, but this article is pretty bad.

      ...And now you know why there's a rule against reading the article.

    • Re:Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @05:28PM (#50431285)

      As far as games go, Microsoft (smartly) killed gaming on the Mac.

      There was an awesome game called Marathon on the Mac, from a new firm called Bungiesoft. It was a quantum leap past what most Mac games were (and PC for that matter), and could have made PowerPC the gamer's choice (anyone remember the Pipin? im sure you don't). But Microsoft and Gates smartly bought out Bungiesoft, and their next Mac game Halo got quickly made into a PC/XBox only affair. Imagine a world where Halo was a Mac game, a Halo halo effect as it were, and the home computing world is much different.

      In MacOS6, all control panels were in a DeskAccessory called Control Panel. There was a selector on the left, and a general area to fill with content on the right. Why did the author pick windows 95 for this "all in one control panel" instead of the Mac's own legacy from 5 years previous to Win95 I don't know.

      Also, the 3 buttons in the window, that's as much to do with XWindows as Microsoft. Remember MacOSX has roots in NeXT which has roots in UNIX. It's odd to attribute to Windows when there's a direct line to XWindows.

      I had TCP/IP on my personal Mac in 92 or 93, with MacTCP and either MacSLIP or MacPPP (as my back end improved). I don't know how you go from "Apple bundled previously separate Mac Specific freeware" to "it was Win95 that did it sir!". Everything going to TCP/IP was obvious back then.

      There are several stretches in the article to attribute things to Win95 when it's easy to see sources elsewhere. Not that Win95 didn't have influence. But no need to say the world changed ONLY because of Win95 when there were several things moving in the same direction.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I remember thinking that Windows 95 was just a bad copy of OS/2 with some Macisms sprinkled around for good measure. I don't think it would be too far off the mark to say that Windows 95's main claim to fame was that it copied the right combination of features from other systems which were already around. That's not necessarily a bad thing; it's frequently how big successes happen in computing and elsewhere. However, to say those features themselves were Win95 innovations would be stretching things more tha

    • Re:Not really (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mvdw ( 613057 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @06:40PM (#50432015) Homepage

      Part way through the article, there's a big quote that says, "Without Windows 95 there would be no Steam or XBox and we would still be playing Pong." That's just nonsense.

      Absolutely. Doom predated Windows 95, which was in turn predated by wolfenstein 3D which was arguably the most influential game of all time. How many FPS games owe their look and feel to those two games?

    • by PRMan ( 959735 )

      Space Invaders was 1978

      Asteroids was 1979

      Pac-Man was 1980

      Donkey Kong was 1981

      Dig Dug was 1982

      Punch-Out!! was 1983

      etc.

      There were plenty of games beyond Pong even before 1995...

  • A menu that pops on the bottom right on clicking 'START' can hardly be called UI innovation. If you turned it upside-down and enabled it by depressing the esc key, It would be similar to any number of such menuing UI around at the time. See this image [wikipedia.org] from 1991, where if you click on the apple icon or click on the 'apple' key, you get the main menu.
    • by ichthus ( 72442 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @05:30PM (#50431301) Homepage
      Also, let's not forget OS/2 Warp [wikipedia.org], which came out in 1994. It had something very similar to a start button and task bar, only it was located at the top by default.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        That was the second OS/2 Warp (OS/2 4) actually. OS/2 3.0 Warp used the launchpad still - kind of CDE like in retrospect. Among us OS/2 users at the time few of us liked the addition of the top bar in Warp 4.

    • by Yunzil ( 181064 )

      A menu that pops on the bottom right on clicking 'START' can hardly be called UI innovation.

      Which is why MS put it on the bottom left.

  • The virtual reality interface in Minority Report, it's Microsoft Bob i tell you. If you rent the movie and freeze frame, you can see that dog pop up every once in a while. And Clippy talks to Tom Cruise in Comic sans thought bubbles.

  • Just sayin'....

  • by AchilleTalon ( 540925 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @05:42PM (#50431453) Homepage
    you are off by an astronomical unit if you believe it was the GUI that made the success of Windows 95. Its success is mainly due to the inclusion of the TCP/IP stack which standardized how PC owners can connect to the internet in an easy manner since then. Done with Trumpet IP and the likes trying to make things working. What drove people at this time was already the desire to access the internet, the real new thing. Most Joe users had to ask a relative if they were lucky enough to have one in the computer science field to setup their PC with Windows 3.1. Windows 95 made this easy.
  • newshell.exe (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lkcl ( 517947 ) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Monday August 31, 2015 @05:48PM (#50431519) Homepage

    actually... newshell.exe as it was known was written by the NT team, when Windows NT 3.1 was new and NT 3.51 was in beta. the windows 95 team - who were universally absolutely hated by the NT team - legitimately "stole" newshell.exe from the [internally and legitimately accessible] source repository of the NT team at the time, and release it as the default shell of windows 95 *before* the NT team were able to release it. it wasn't until NT 4 beta that the NT team was able to catch up.

    unnnfortunately, the NT team were being pressurised to do some pretty stupid things, because windows 95, being a PROGRAM-RUNNER *NOT* repeat *NOT* repeat *NOT* an "Operating System" (windows 95 didn't even have proper virtual memory management for god's sake: programs were either fully-swapped-out or fully-resident: absolutely nothing in between) - windows 95 was unfortunately *faster* than the flagship operating system (NT).

    so they were forced to remove the user-space GDI implementation and associated API (which buggered up citrix and other screen virtualisation technology completely: it had to be re-added back in many years later and was called "RDP"... it was actually another company's screen virtualisation technology... bought and re-badged... but we're talking windows 2000 by then...). removal of the GDI implementation meant two things: firstly, lots more speed, and secondly, if you moved a window off-screen it caused a BSOD in NT 4.0 betas because of course there was no range-checking any more and this was all kernel-space!

    many people loved the fact that NT 3.51's user-space screen driver could actually crash, leaving you with no screen... but the mouse, keyboard and the rest of the OS was working perfectly. many sysadmins didn't bother with a reboot when that happened because they could just use keyboard short-cuts, remote logins, or just pure mouse-guesswork!

    the NT team did at one point also try to move printer drivers (including 3rd party ones) into kernelspace (to again avoid a userspace-kernelspace context switch... or 100). for obvious reasons that initiative didn't last long....

    yeahhhh we don't hear about the history of pain that windows 95 caused within microsoft. and now, many of the people who knew what was going on have retired as millionaires on the stock options from so far back...

  • by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @06:36PM (#50431985)

    Before Windows 95, PCs had a vibrant marketplace of GUI shells, file managers, e-mail applications and web browsers. Netscape introduced Java applets and Javascript, updated frequently and was free with honor system payments. UNIX-based system had a wide choice of free and commercial Windows managers with features like virtual desktops that Microsoft only added in Windows 10.

    What Microsoft taught users is to be lazy and not look beyond built in software with mediocre feature set. They have ultimately hurt themselves as mainstream applications became so dumbed down that you can just run the same thing on 4 inch phone and not miss much. Have they cultivated a healthy 3rd party ecosystem, people might be still interested in more powerful desktop/laptop experience in addition to phones and tablets.

    • by djrobxx ( 1095215 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @07:35PM (#50432391)

      That's exactly what I don't miss. Regular people aren't power users. They just want things to work. If the included feature set is so deficient that they have to rely on third party software, it's more stuff they have to learn, and more work for those who help them to support.

      In the DOS days I used to use Norton Commander. I felt blind without it. I'd go to work and my boss would ask to look at something on his machine, and he was an XTreeProGold guy. OK, it's a great program too, but it's like we spoke different languages. To use someone else's machine, there was always some learning curve to figure out THEIR "bag of tricks". These days I can get most everything done with the tools included with Windows. I don't want to have to rely on some "vibrant marketplace", everything I really need is consistently included on any Windows machine I touch.

      Power users are a different breed. Linux seems to offer exactly that "vibrant", choice-filled competitive atmosphere you're looking for. Seems like an OS that would fit you better.

  • God, Windows 95 vs Amiga 85...
  • by rbrander ( 73222 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @07:08PM (#50432203) Homepage

    This may (also) have been stolen from some other OS, but Win95 was this Great Leap Forward in usability for one innovation alone, the right-click menu. I think it was the first time that "object-oriented" really showed up at the user level. Whatever object you clicked on - file, device, folder, data-object inside an application - you got the list of methods associated with the object, what you could do with the thing. Instead of applications having menus for their various functions, *data* objects had a menu appropriate to that data-item.
    If Microsoft invented that, they have to be given some props. Certainly all the larger Linux distros paid them the homage of stealing the idea.

    Oh, and minor point by comparison, but still, props: I remember everybody giving rave reviews to their workaround for storing long filenames while remaining backwards compatible with 8.3 names. Not exactly a leap forward, but it countered the Great Leap Backward that 8.3 was and made the transition away from them almost painless.

  • Though at the time, I was a long time user of Commodore Amiga. Most PCs at the time were extraordinarily difficult to configure and keep running. I remember the multi-tasking in Windows 95 being really bad-- explorer.exe getting blocked. Other things that stick out to me were over use of modal dialogs and that lower-right notification tray filling up with animated distracting icons.

    Don't get me started on clippy, or DOS, or file system naming conventions. Sure, compared to Windows 3.1 it was bliss-- bu

  • by WheezyJoe ( 1168567 ) <fegg.excite@com> on Monday August 31, 2015 @10:33PM (#50433457)

    Windows 95, if I remember correctly, solved the modem-to-internet problem. Up until then, I remember getting a modem to dial out meant starting some specialized dialer app or other (like AOL), and this might make it possible for other internet programs like FTP or telnet or Gopher [wikipedia.org] or Navigator [wikipedia.org] to work. Windows 95 had all this plumbing built-in. You set up your dial-up number (or two) and account information in a control panel applet, and then whenever an IP-aware program or app tapped for an address that wasn't available locally, the modem would automagically wake up and dial your ISP while your program patiently waited for the handshaking to complete.

    This was pretty damned cool. You could have a LAN card and a modem on the same system, do all sorts of LAN-based stuff and the modem would stay asleep until you pinged a host outside the LAN. It. Just. Worked. With Windows 95, people could ditch AOL, and just subscribe to something cheap and simple like Earthlink [wikipedia.org]. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Macs got this functionality until the iMac [wikipedia.org] in 1998. For Windows 95 users, this made the Internet a LOT easier to use, and meant any internet app like Navigator would just plain work.

    This magic carried on into Windows 2000. I once carried a mid-size office LAN over a single dial-up bridged by a Windows 2000 box and a modem. Windows reliably squeezed every packet through, and re-dialed automatically whenever the connection went down. Slow, but it worked! Why do something like this? Because Verizon couldn't deliver our T1 on time!

  • by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Monday August 31, 2015 @10:57PM (#50433573) Homepage
    It makes a grown man cry.

We can found no scientific discipline, nor a healthy profession on the technical mistakes of the Department of Defense and IBM. -- Edsger Dijkstra

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