Feeds

Windows 3.0 turns 20

'Happy Birthday, Apple crusher'

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Windows 3.0, arguably Microsoft's first effective graphical user interface, turned 20 this past weekend.

On May 22, 1990, Redmond introduced the 32-bit GUI (not an operating system - Win 3.0 ran on top of DOS), and by doing so, it put the fear of Gates into any Apple fanboi honest enough to see the 16-color writing on the display. Cupertino's dominance of the GUI-based PC market had met its first serious challenger.

And, yes, The Reg remembers the Amiga WorkBench, OS/2, NeXTSTEP, and GEM — we said serious challenger.

Windows 3.0 File Manager

Windows 3.0 File Manager (source: toastytech.com)

Elder PC statesmen will remember the tripartite memory system offered by Windows 3.0 — the only version of Windows to have a three-mode architecture. The most-basic level, Real mode, was intended for use on PCs running older 8086 and 8088 processors. Real mode disappeared in Windows 3.1.

Standard mode was just that — standard — and used when running on the 80286 PCs common at the time. Standard mode could take advantage of memory above the 640KB limit — if the PC supported that capability.

The top level, 386 Enhanced mode, was — as its name suggested — intended for use with Intel's then five-year-old 80386. Taking advantage of that CPU's 32-bit addressing capabilities, 386 Enhanced mode allowed for virtual-memory schemes and improved multitasking. By the wonky, crash-prone standards of the time, 386 Enhanced mode also provided increased stability.

Windows 3.0 Color Control Panel

Windows 3.0 Color Control Panel (source: toastytech.com)

Windows 3.0's UI was a notable improvement over that of its progenitors, the woeful Windows 1.x and 2.x. In addition to support for 16 colors, Win 3.0 introduced the icon-based Program Manager and Control Panels, and the list-based File Manager, improving access to and management of files, apps, and system settings.

The similarities of Win 3.0 and the Apple Mac's graphical operating system (then at System 6.0.5) have been endlessly debated and litigated — but such wrangling was mere background noise to the juggernaut that Windows was to become. Milestones in Redmond's increasing dominance included Windows NT ("new technology") 3.1 in 1993, Windows 95 in — you guessed it — 1995, Windows XP in 2001, and Windows 7 last year.

We won't mention Windows Millennium Edition (ME) nor Windows Vista — this is, after all, a "Happy 20th Birthday!" celebration.

But perhaps our focus on Windows 3.0 and what it meant to the future of graphical computing, the fortune of Bill Gates, and the marginalization of Apple is misplaced. Perhaps we should instead be celebrating the greatest good that Windows 3.0 brought to both office workers and home users worldwide: Solitaire. ®

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
PEAK LANDFILL: Why tablet gloom is good news for Windows users
Sinofsky's hybrid strategy looks dafter than ever
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Fiendishly complex password app extension ships for iOS 8
Just slip it in, won't hurt a bit, 1Password makers urge devs
Mozilla keeps its Beard, hopes anti-gay marriage troubles are now over
Plenty on new CEO's todo list – starting with Firefox's slipping grasp
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cloudy CoreOS Linux distro declares itself production-ready
Lightweight, container-happy Linux gets first Stable release
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?