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RIP Windows 3.x


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The end of an era - Windows 3.x

An application has expectedly quit.

Windows 3.x has come to the closing moments of its long life.

On 1 November Microsoft stopped issuing licences for the software that made its debut in May 1990 in the US.

The various versions of Windows 3.x (including 3.11) released in the early 1990s, were the first of Microsoft's graphical user interfaces to win huge worldwide success.

They helped Microsoft establish itself and set the trend for how it makes its revenues, and what drives the company until the present day.

High flyer

For many computer users 3.x was the first Windows-based operating system they used, and the software established the iconography of Microsoft's flagship product.

As it was updated the software started to make PCs a serious rival to Apple machines, as it could take advantage of much improved graphics, had a broader colour palette, and could use multimedia extras such as sound cards and CD Rom drives.

Microsoft maintained support for Windows 3.x until the end of 2001, and it has lived on as an embedded operating system until 1 November 2008.

As an embedded system, it was used to power such things as cash tills in large stores and ticketing systems.

One of its more glamorous uses as an embedded operating system is to power the in-flight entertainment systems on some Virgin and Qantas long-haul jets.


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My very first computer in 1994 was with Windows 3.11

Of course it had to have DOS running and I stared at the c: prompt flashing at me for 3.11 days before working out how to get windows to start.

I still miss many of the innovative programs written to enhance the interface of Windows 3.11.

Just to mention two, PC Tools for Windows and New Menu for Windows, were astounding in aiding the user to achieve access to other programs and files. It was also the days of Peter Norton's file manager and other utilities.

Sadly none of these have survived to enhance the latest Windows. Vista might have even been tolerable if it could have been overridden by these programs. Of course they would need upgrading to 32 bits.


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Bah. I was using all off Norton's doo-dads with DOS 6 (actually, back to DOS 3 in 1984). The cool program there I loved was Sidekick, where you could enter in all your contacts and phone numbers. That was a great program.

And the other great DOS program was XTree, which let you manage lots of files, sort them by date or by name, all kinds of stuff. We take all this stuff for granted with modern OS's like Mac OSX or recent Windows, but back then, it was like magic.

Windows 3.1 was always a dog of an operating system, at best -- very buggy, ugly as hell, and really unreliable. I was stunned to find out that people were still using it at all. But then, I'm surprised whenever somebody calls into a computer talkshow and asks for advice on Windows 95. To me, that's like driving a 1954 Nash Rambler.

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Aah, Windows 3.11 (with peer-to-peer networking!) - multi-tasking (sort of) environment balanced precariously on top of a single-tasking OS that couldn't directly address more than 640Kb of RAM. It was hopelessly flawed and fell over regularly.

Haven't things moved on from there! This evening I installed the driver for a new printer, a network-connected Canon multi-function thingy, on my laptop running Vista and wireless networking. The install program repeatedly hanged Windows comprehensively, with the hard drive activity light glowing steadily. At one point I got a blue screen error. I had to boot into safe mode twice and uninstall stuff - lots of guesswork - before I could get the install to complete. Eighteen years of trusting Microsoft and where has it got me? On this showing, Vista is no better than Win 3.11!

I really must get Linux under my belt.

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BTW, lest this discussion disintegrate into a pro-Mac/anti-Windows debate, I again point out that I use Windows (reluctantly) every day, and there's certain things I can only do under Windows, due to software availability.

I tell you, though, I've given up trying to run Windows on the Mac. Parallels is just too damned buggy and eats up memory for breakfast. To me, it's a lot cheaper just to get some bargain-basement PC and run Windows on that. I'm using a Gefen KVM switch to switch my Mac keyboard/video display/mouse back and forth between my Mac and Windows machines, and it works flawlessly. To me, I have the best of both possible worlds.

And my little teeny-tiny Asus EeePC is very cool. When a full-size computer is too much, all I need is ten inches. (And who among us can argue with that?)

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...I use Windows (reluctantly) every day, and there's certain things I can only do under Windows, due to software availability...

I have to agree with The Pec. I use Windows for only one reason and it's not because I have any kind of affinity to the advertising or the actual software. I use it to avoid compatibility problems with other software. Let's face it, Microsoft has the bulk of the market, and I for one don't wish to be pulling out my hair to make a point.

Then again...when Vista came along, I had to start questioning that compatibility issue.

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Pecman is right in his statement that there are programs that will run only under windows.

Personally I can't stand the Mac OS, but I dislike Vista even more, because it reminds of the Mac in its restrictions on the user knowing what is actually happening. That's my interpretation and is probably just the way I see it.

What I find really amazing, interesting even, is the large number of our members who use and recommend the Mac when the PC with Windows is the dominant system on the planet. It's as if we only allow Mac users. :stare: Did I miss out on the Mac gene?

In any case I can't afford either the time or the effort to switch to a Mac, even if it was what I wanted.

Neither can I see the point in trying to prove one is better than the other when it is obviously a matter of personal choice.

In the end, it is not the computer OS that is important, but what you produce with it.


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(Breaks habit of lifetime and contributes to a serious geeky thread)

I have a real problem that some of you clever folks may be able to help with:

I want to drop Microsoft but I can't afford a Mac.

There are two reasons I want to do this:

1/ I do try to run legal software and for years I paid Microsoft an annual fee to give me the right to use their software. But it's no longer economically viable for me to do that, and Office for instance is about ?500 ($800?) which is ridiculous when OpenOffice is free.

2/ Windows doesn't seem to be getting more reliable (okay, XP was a big step forward, but Vista has been a step backwards) and still crashes a lot. There's no excuse for that after nearly 30 years of PC development, I think.

There are two reasons I haven't already loaded Linux on my machines:

1/ I have some devices which aren't supported under Linux (I just bought a Canon printer/multifunction gizmo that doesn't have Linux drivers, and I occasionally use other wierd and wonderful stuff too)

2/ I need to use book-keeping software and can't find anything native to Linux.

There are programs now that let you run Windows apps under Linux so my second problem may be a thing of the past.

I like the architecture of the PC - parts are freely interchangeable and I can buy them cheaply. I don't think that's true in Mac world. Linux is genuinely free and so are almost all apps. And it's reliable. But often badly documented (The GIMP image manipulation may be as good as Photoshop, for all I know, but I'm still struggling to work out how to use it!)

Does anyone have experience going through this process? Any advice?

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I am no Mac expert, but to start things off without Mac bashing, and I hope we don't let this spiral into a bash Windows Micro$oft for the fun of it, I will say that much of your post reminds me of why I am using a PC.

So I will list my reasons and then open the discussion for those more knowledgeable on Macs to contribute their thoughts.

1. Like you Bruin I like the PC architecture. In Australia, PC parts are considerably cheaper for the same quality and capacity of product.

-In addition, help for most things PC, are but a friend or a phone call away. I also enjoy the small freely available utility programs that assist my creativity and productivity in Windows.

2. Open office is acceptable in place of Microsoft office for everyday stuff. PowerPoint and some Excel problems, do exist if the fancy stuff is required. They don't fully transfer well to OpenOffice.

3. Gimp has a learning curve that made me feel I don't have enough time to study it.

-PaintShopPro has a smaller learning curve if you know Photoshop and is one tenth the price of Photoshop. It is Win XP or Vista only, though. It also has to suit what you want.

4. Linux is for me like Gimp, too much to learn. We old people have a deadline so to speak. :stare: I suppose I can add the Mac to that list.

5. I was told by a senior Mac technician that emulation programs which allow you to run Windows programs under the Mac OS, have been reported as buggy, resource hungry and not always cooperative. I believe that situation has improved since about two years ago when he told me.

I guess it really gets back to why you want to swap from Windows. XP is very reliable for me. I won't touch Vista or Office 2007 until I absolutely must.


Now the Mac brigade may be a whole lot more helpful than I can be. :stare:

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I held fast to my Window (PC) for many years. By the time I had my third burnout of HD and once my motherboard, I finally decided that enough was enough, and switched to a Mac. During the same time I'd been struggling, my best friend had operated his Mac for 3 years without ever even having to reboot his machine. I'm glad I made the change, but I also still run a small laptop with Windows XP, for those few things the Mac cannot do, mainly changing the mapping on my Garmin GPS. I run Open Office there, and Neo Office on the Mac, and they are (as far as I've been able to determine) 100% interchangeable as far as files go. One bonus, O/O and N/O both handle printing of cells in the spreadsheet more (and I mean MUCH MORE) effectively than MS Excel can or does. That's really important for me since car rally instructions are printed using the spreadsheet program.

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I want to drop Microsoft but I can't afford a Mac.

I bet you can. Get a used Mac, preferably one that can run Leopard. No need to buy a new machine.

I do try to run legal software and for years I paid Microsoft an annual fee to give me the right to use their software. But it's no longer economically viable for me to do that, and Office for instance is about ?500 ($800?) which is ridiculous when OpenOffice is free.

Amazon sells the student/educational versions of MS Office, which are theoretically available only to qualified students. Technically, this is breaking the rules, but you could buy and run these versions. The only thing you miss out on is the ability to upgrade to brand new editions. (You can update with fixes, but not an entirely new version.)

Linux isn't there yet for mere mortals. I use Linux every day for video post-production chores, and while it's reliable, it's still not a user-friendly system, plus there isn't enough software available to compare with Mac or Windows. If you dedicate Linux to just doing one big task -- like running a website or a server -- it performs very well. God help you if you try to run four or five programs on it at once, and use it as your everyday machine.

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  • 5 months later...
Cost and the fact that you can actually get hold of a cheap PC that will do some things that can't be done or are very difficult to do with a Mac especially when one considers the staggeringly high price tag that goes with a Mac.

This was in YESERDAY'S Business Week. Pretty much makes your argument (which perpetuates a myth that hasn't been true for years) moot:


Have a nice day :)

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Money isn't everything. When cost is no object, there's no question to me that the Mac operating system does far more of what I need it to do, and stays out of my way, better than any operating system I've used. (And I've used everything, from CP/M to every flavor of DOS, Windows, Linux, and even oddball crap like the Amiga.)

Don't slam the Mac unless you've sat down and actually used it for a month. I have to use DOS, XP, Linux, Windows 2000, and Mac OSX every single day in my job in video post-production. No question, the Mac operating system gets me from point A to point B faster and more comfortably than anything else. I readily agree it's a personal experience, and your miles may vary. (And note that the machines are affordable, provided you shop around and are willing to compromise, like buy last year's models, use educational discounts, buy B-stock, and other thrifty workarounds.)

Read Apple's propaganda:


and try to come up with objections beyond price. The good news: no bloatware, tons of free software (that actually works), very well-made hardware, no viruses, no adware, no spyware. Apple has more than 20% of the laptop sales in the world right now, and that's huge for a single brand. There's many good reasons for it, and it goes far beyond the machines being cool and sexy.

Note also that Intel Macs run Windows. I do it every day for those few applications for which there aren't any Mac equivalents. Works great. 90% of what I enjoy doing on a computer is on a Mac. I'll dump it in a second if something better comes along, but Vista ain't it, and neither is Windows 7.

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I think the biggest 'component' of Apple appeal is being missed in this discussion; ease of use for the non-geek. The person who doesn't know HOW to install programs, and is boggled by many of the 'simple' directions, can generally use an Apple, right from the moment it is turned on.

My nephew is adamant that PCs are much better, and can do more than my Mac. Probably, possibly, or maybe it can, but to hear what he has to do to the machine, and how many 'connections' he's got, in order to get a good price, to install that hardware, software, how many hours he spends learning how to do that, you quickly realize that it is not for the casual user.

I'll compare the situation to horse riding. The Mac is the horse with the western saddle, with lots of people with hardly any practice or skill riding around on trails and enjoying themselves. The PC is the English saddle and dressage. Highly skilled and elegant riding, it is for those who want to specialize in it, not the casual rider. There is a learning curve and effort required, and while there is that for the western saddle (Mac) as well, it is so much less that is almost ceases to exist.

While the Mac 'people' seem to be concentrating on fighting off the criticisms of PC users, the PC users seem to be almost in a religious fervour to denigrate the Mac. I almost think of the Mac users as the 'gays' of society, with the intollerant PC users as the bullies, trying to take away our pride in what we have and are; proud Mac owners.

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I think it is genetic. You have the Mac gene or the Windows gene.

I never saw or used a Mac until after I had used a PC Windows machine for 6 years.

I can build a PC from scratch and usually troubleshoot the physical breakdowns.

I can install the Windows OS, programs and updates whilst I cook dinner.

I still can't work out how to switch off a Mac machine or why I have to configure its memory for certain programs and not others, if I can find where to do that. Its video card controls are an enigma that seem greyed out or frozen.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say everything I need to do on a Mac is hidden, frozen or not available.

However I will leave you with this thought, Windows Vista is so rotten, so useless, so intrusive to my work, that I consider that it must be Microsoft's answer to the Mac.

But as I said at the start of this unholy tirade, I think preference is in our genes, I just prefer Levi jeans with a man, rather than a Mac.

Seriously, whatever gets your work done for you is okay by me. I hate to think we could have a holy war over something as stupid as a belief in which computer is your deity's first choice. :lol:

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Quick update: my PC laptop just quit. Poof, well, poof would be too magnanimous a word. It just went black, and even the LED light that has always lit up when plugging in the charging unit doesn't light up. Removing the battery and then plugging the charger in again (something that was told might help if the battery itself is defective) had done nothing. My PC wise nephew stated, "I've never seen anything like this before. Wow!" Gee, I feel all goose bumpy now. :lol:

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