Feeds

Windows 3.0 turns 20

'Happy Birthday, Apple crusher'

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

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. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
ONE MILLION people already running Windows 10
A third of them are doing it in VMs, but early feedback focuses on frippery
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Sway: Microsoft's new Office app doesn't have an Undo function
Content aggregation, meet the workplace ... oh
Sign off my IT project or I’ll PHONE your MUM
Honestly, it’s a piece of piss
Do Moan! MONSTER 6-day EMAIL OUTAGE hits Domain Monster
Customers freaked out by frightful service
Return of the Jedi – Apache reclaims web server crown
.london, .hamburg and .公司 - that's .com in Chinese - storm the web server charts
NetWare sales revive in China thanks to that man Snowden
If it ain't Microsoft, it's in fashion behind the Great Firewall
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.