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The Software That Failed To Compete With Windows

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the rear-view-mirror-of-history dept.

Microsoft 347

harrymcc writes "When Microsoft shipped Windows 1.0 back in November 1985 — it turned 25 on Saturday — it wasn't clear that its much-delayed windowing add-on for DOS was going to succeed. After all, it was a late arrival to a market that was already teeming with ambitious competitors. A quarter-century later, it's worth remembering the early Windows rivals that didn't make it: Visi On, Top View, GEM, DESQview, and more."

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347 comments

OS/2 (5, Insightful)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307764)

They left out the most viable competitor.

Re:OS/2 (4, Insightful)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307826)

They left out the most viable competitor.

Given that this is a list of "Windows' Failed Rivals", OS/2 rightfully isn't on that list... IBM continued to release new OS/2 versions for nearly a decade after its initial release.

Re:OS/2 (1, Insightful)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307940)

IBM continued to release new OS/2 versions for nearly a decade after its initial release.

That just means it took longer to fail than the other competitors.

I see dead people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34308298)

One of the things I like to think about is that out there, somewhere, is someone still using 1.0 as their daily computer.

"The horror."

Re:I see dead people (3, Interesting)

Teun (17872) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308374)

Yep very likely, it's only a few years ago a Public Notary in Louisiana asked me to have a look at her 'puter and it was running Windows 1.0.

Although I'm since 1979 in IT I had never before seen this stuff...

But knowing DOS and Win3.11 I managed to get it working again :)

Re:OS/2 (2, Insightful)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308410)

Depends on what you call a failure. Considering government and banks depended on it heavily for almost 20 years sounds like somewhat of a success to me.

Re:OS/2 (3, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307846)

They left out the most viable competitor.

I don't believe OS/2 was ever a competitor to the Windows 1.0 that the article is about. Maybe windows 3.x, but I believe Windows 1.0 predates OS/2 by a bit.

TFA indicate that IBM's Top View would have been around at the same time though.

Re:OS/2 (3, Insightful)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307998)

"I believe Windows 1.0 predates OS/2 by a bit."

You're right, but OS/2 is worth mentioning anyway. I tried it back in the day, and really liked it. It was a 32 bit os when Windows was still only 16 bit and REXX was a really powerful shell language, much more so than Batch. I'm really sorry it couldn't survive. Although it gave it quite a go. I think I've read comments from /. readers who still use it.

According to MS, Win temporary, OS/2 + PM future (5, Informative)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308386)

"I believe Windows 1.0 predates OS/2 by a bit."

You're right, but OS/2 is worth mentioning anyway. I tried it back in the day, and really liked it. It was a 32 bit os when Windows was still only 16 bit ...

OS/2 2.0 was 32 bit but OS/2 1.0 was a 16-bit protected mode text based replacement for DOS. OS/2 1 eventually had a GUI called Presentation Manager, the API was very similar to MS Windows. I think OS/2 1 + PM is the actual first competitor to WIndows, not OS/2 2.

In the early MS Windows 3 era MS told developers that Windows was just a temporary GUI for DOS to satisfy existing installations that will eventually be migrated to OS/2 1 + Presentation Manager. They emphasized how source compatible WIndows and Presentation Manager were and that porting would not be a major issue.

IBM and MS were partners in OS/2. IBM was developing OS/2 2.0 while MS was developing OS/2 NT in parallel. While both were 32-bit and GUI based, OS/2 2 was the more expedient reworking of OS/2 1 and ran only on x86 CPUs. OS/2 NT was to be to the complete rewrite that would run on various CPUs. At some point MS decided to ditch IBM and renamed OS/2 NT to Windows NT. Its interesting to note that Windows NT offered OS/2 1 support.

OS/2 NT or was it OS/2 3.0? (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308432)

Now that I think about it I'm not sure whether MS's OS/2 development project was called OS/2 NT or OS/2 3.0.

Re:OS/2 (1)

morcego (260031) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308398)

Windows didn't kill OS/2. OS/2 killed itself.

OS/2 was wonderful until 2.11. When IBM released OS/2 Warp, at least half the users went looking for something else.

Re:OS/2 (1, Redundant)

eln (21727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307848)

They seem to be referring to competitors of Windows 1.0 specifically, not just any old Windows. OS/2 wasn't a competitor of Windows 1.0, if was supposed to be the successor to Windows, developed by IBM and Microsoft jointly. OS/2 didn't really become a competitor to Windows until around Windows 3.0/3.11 after IBM and Microsoft parted ways on the project.

OK. I'll speak the truth and take the hit. (5, Insightful)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308152)

These are not examples of technologies that Windows beat. They are example of companies, many of whom had superior products, that never made it due to Gates' underhanded business practices.

Re:OK. I'll speak the truth and take the hit. (2, Informative)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308452)

This is an extremely insightful comment. I would add his ability to market vaporware. Remember...He didn't even have DOS when he sold it to IBM.

Re:OS/2 (5, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307920)

From the article: "I considered only environments which were designed to run on IBM-compatible PCs, and which (like pre-1995 versions of Windows) ran on top of DOS rather than replaced it. (That's why the Mac OS and OS/2, for instance, aren't here.)"

Re:OS/2 (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308272)

This article makes me feel old.

Why? Because I remember when none of these OSes exist. When the world of computers was "open" and anyone could win. It was time of uncertainty AND excitement. In fact the #1 selling computers upto 1985 were the TRS-80 (70s), Atari 400/800(early 80s), and Commodore 64 (1983-). The Apple Macs and IBM PCs were not yet the dominant platforms they eventually became.

Aside:

PC/GEOS mentioned in the article originated on the Commodore 64 as a Mac-like clone OS. Apparently it's still being sold: http://www.breadbox.com/ [breadbox.com]

Re:OS/2 (2)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307930)

My memory may be dim, but I don't think that OS/2 even existed in the Windows 1.0 time frame. It wasn't until much later that OS/2 was even started as a project. You cannot compete if you don't exist. This article was about pre-existing projects that existed before Windows was dumped on the market.

Re:OS/2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34307950)

DESQviewX was pretty elite back in the day...

Re:OS/2 (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308382)

DESQviewX was pretty elite back in the day...

[shudder]. The only thing I hated more then DESQView was Gem. That was truly awful.

Back then, there were lots of approaches to getting applications started (given that DOS was/is a single-tasking OS, so stopping programs wasn't an issue). Many went down the path of using LeMenu and similar menu systems. I recall setting up a lot of machines with suites of menus constructed using Norton's extensions for batch files, which allowed us to create menus similar to the kind of thing we can do with ncurses. I can't remember what the collection was called offhand, but those menus survived even through the advent of the 386 machines, simply because they were totally bombproof and had zero overhead. Perfect for commercial environments where the emphasis is on getting work done...

Re:OS/2 (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308006)

They left out the most viable competitor.

Even later than Windows though. They're mentioning competing desktop managers at the time of Windows' inception.

Re:OS/2 (2, Interesting)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308082)

One legacy of OS/2 is NT 3.5. After the IBM/Microsoft split, the Microsoft team turned out the first NT versions... So, in a somewhat obtuse way, if you want to map out the code legacy, OS/2 lives on.

So ... (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307780)

So, is this supposed to be a story of victory for MS or a tale of woe for the rest of us?

Re:So ... (1, Insightful)

bolthole (122186) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307800)

Both.
The "woe" part being, that no replacement for microsoft will succeed, unless it has the same blinding ambition and greed that microsoft had, and the others lacked. This was proven by the fact that the other competitors were "nice", but did not have those qualities, so were dominated.

Re:So ... (1, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307934)

A windows replacement can succeed if it's pushed out by Microsoft. The factors at play were nothing to do with quality of the product. Microsoft "skillfully" pushed its stuff out in such a way that no one else could play in the same market for long. And yeah, OS/2 was effectively stolen by Microsoft and made into Windows NT. I miss OS/2... it was way too good. I wonder what it would be like today if they continued to develop it.

Re:So ... (5, Informative)

mikael (484) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308290)

Thought it was more the "lock-in" provided by the Window API. Microsoft didn't conquer the workstation market until around 1995 with Windows NT/95. One by one they got the workstation vendors to replace their UNIX OS's with Windows NT using a "UNIX is LEGACY" advertising campaign; DEC, Digital, then HP and SGI caved in, as application developers could really only support the three most popular OS's that their customers use. As Windows NT took over one vendor after another, they gradually reached No.1 position and forced customers and vendors to use Windows.

UNIX competitors didn't help themselves by charging "UNIX" prices for components like monitors and RS232 cables as well as having totally different API's for everything - remnants of this can be seen when reading Linux man pages - there will be references to POSIX behavior, parameters or result codes.

At this time, Microsoft Mail was the dominant E-mail server software, but even they had to adopt "sockets" in order to connect to web servers. Sun came out with this little PC on a board solution that ran a Windows desktop in a window in order to allow users to use Microsoft Office, before buying up StarOffice (renamed to OpenOffice) and released it to break the Microsoft stranglehold, then went on to provide JAVA as a rival to MFC, .NET and C#

You can stand up to Microsoft, but only through co-operation, quality and reliability. Make sure that whatever you develop is to an internationally agreed standard that literally leaves no bit unspecified (even in an API function call). Otherwise, Microsoft will just find a way of embracing, extending and extinguishing that specification through a patent on the use of that single bit. Similarly with "extension" based API's and formats.
Tie down every single bit and avoid any sort of "extension format"

Re:So ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34308448)

Man pages are supposed to have references to POSIX behavior, parameters, and return values. Not sure what that has to do with overpriced cables.

Re:So ... (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308056)

>>>a tale of woe for the rest of us

Yes. Woe. Windows was complete crap prior to 95, which is why I mostly used Mac OS and Amiga OS. Hell even the lowly Commodore=64 had a better "windowing" system called GEOS. I only moved to windows 98 because atari died, commodore died, and apple looked like it was heading the same direction.

DVX (1)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307788)

I still have a copy of DesqView/X which I know came afterward but was a much better alternative. I remember a friend showing me it running on top of DOS and Windows 3.1(or maybe it was '95) running on DVX. That was better multitasking than Windoze ever brought.

Re:DVX (1)

Rifter13 (773076) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308068)

RIP Desqview/X. I remember running it, and loving it. I was able to get a few other friends to try it, too. I agree with you on this.

Re:DVX (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308160)

DesqView is listed in the article as arriving in 1985: "DESQview sold only a tiny fraction as many copies as Windows did, but it was one of the few packages here that qualified, for a while, as a success. At some point, though, sticking with DOS apps and running them in DESQview went from a perfectly understandable decision to a weird affectation."

I dislike windows. Now I have Puppy Linux (based on Ubuntu 10.0) which fit inside just 96 MB of memory, but I still need windows for some apps. Like my Netscape ISP and Accelerator software.

OS/2 (2, Insightful)

Markvs (17298) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307792)

As someone who in 1991 ordered his 386/SX (4MB RAM, 80MB hard drive and 256k VGA card) with MS DOS 5.0 and Windows 3.0, I'm amazed that OS/2 isn't mentioned in the article since it was the other OS option at the time.

Re:OS/2 (2, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307896)

I'm amazed that OS/2 isn't mentioned in the article since it was the other OS option at the time.

Both the summary and the article are discussing the 25th anniversary of Windows 1.0 which shipped in 1985.

OS/2 was not available "at the time" in question, which was 1985, and wasn't an "option" to Windows 1.0.

Re:OS/2 (2, Informative)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307900)

As someone who in 1991 ordered his 386/SX (4MB RAM, 80MB hard drive and 256k VGA card) with MS DOS 5.0 and Windows 3.0, I'm amazed that OS/2 isn't mentioned in the article since it was the other OS option at the time.

OS/2 being a failure would be news to IBM, who sold it for a combined total of 19 years (1987-2006) across all versions.

I used to use GEM / Ventura (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307814)

GEM was pretty good but Ventura was the only app I ever came across for it.

DesqVIEW was useful but really just as a fancy menu / full screen task switcher.

For a while were were an OS/2 shop, it really was better than Windows but Windows did the dirty with Word and here we are.

Re:I used to use GEM / Ventura (2, Interesting)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307928)

I remember that when you ran DOS apps when GEM, it would open a dialog asking how much RAM you wanted to allocate for the program. Hardly a user-friendly desktop.

Re:I used to use GEM / Ventura (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34308088)

It may be true that DesqView was just a task switcher; but DesqView/X -- X meaning X11 -- was much more.

Re:I used to use GEM / Ventura (2, Interesting)

Malc (1751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308146)

GEM Desktop was great (I had it on an Amstrad 1512, with dual 360K 5.25" floppy drives!), but crippled compared with the version running on Atari STs because they removed the "trash can" thanks Apple being predatory.

desqview had windows (1)

hildi (868839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308394)

i ran desqview on an old IBM PC, dos circa 2.1 or 3.3 i had wordstar open in two windows at once. the point was you could copy/paste between them. it was awesome. you could have several windows if you wanted. this was years before DOS 5 and it's "shell" thing. It was a close as you could get to task-switching on an 8088 with MS DOS.

Don't Forget: (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34307816)

DR-DOS.

Yours In Novosibirsk,
K. Trout

X-Windows? (2, Funny)

mozumder (178398) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307834)

Half the audience here is still running it.

Re:X-Windows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34308194)

It came out in 1984, so why are we talking about this MS Windows thing again?

Re:X-Windows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34308302)

Because you're all failures...

In some ways, one could say that MacOS failed against Windows (especially 7), and Linux failed against MacOS. Even Ubuntu is dumping X!

SideKick (by Intuit) (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34307862)

This was perhaps the Enabler for Windows. It addressed the primary multi-tasking via
a terminate-and-stay-resident pop-up that had a calculator, todo list, and the like.
By solving this problem for Word Perfect, Lotus and DB3 users, it delayed the
adoption of windowing environments for another 2-3 years till Windows 3.0

Re:SideKick (by Intuit) (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308138)

DESQview gave you some of the same capability by making entire user environments swappable. I used both, SideKick and DESQview.

Hard to forget hell. (4, Insightful)

pugugly (152978) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307870)

"Twenty-five years and two days later, it’s not just hard to remember an era in which Windows wasn’t everywhere"

Bullshit - As a C64 and Atari ST veteran, twenty-five years later it's painful to remember the extraordinary effort it took to lose to windows. I had better graphics playing Neuromancer on the C64 than windows managed for a decade, and let's not even talk about comparing Star Flight on the ST vs the DOS version.

Jack Tramiel should be strung up for crimes against computing.

{sigh} - Pug

Re:Hard to forget hell. (3, Funny)

Tuan121 (1715852) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307956)

Your solid and detailed argument of "Neuromancer on C64 had better graphics than on Windows" is such a solid argument I'm just not sure where to start attacking it...

Re:Hard to forget hell. (3, Informative)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308496)

The GP had a point. You remember what they jokingly referred to the CGA as? Crappy Graphics Adapater, because it had 4 colors: black, white, cyan, and magenta.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_Graphics_Adapter [wikipedia.org]

Hell, even my Apple ][ had (graphics) Page Flipping plus 6 colors: black, white, green, violet, orange, blue
http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2006/01/i-heart-cheatsheets.html [codinghorror.com]

Re:Hard to forget hell. (3, Insightful)

Mike Buddha (10734) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308012)

So many people have posted that what you need to succeed against Microsoft is simply greed. I think Jack Tramiel is evidence that this is not true. Greed != Business Acumen.

Re:Hard to forget hell. (3, Insightful)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308126)

Bullshit - As a C64 and Atari ST veteran, twenty-five years later it's painful to remember the extraordinary effort it took to lose to windows. I had better graphics playing Neuromancer on the C64 than windows managed for a decade, and let's not even talk about comparing Star Flight on the ST vs the DOS version.

Seriously. I never had one -- I was an Apple II fanatic for reasons (obviously) unrelated to its graphics capabilities -- but the Atari ST was an amazing piece of hardware, way ahead of its time, and in retrospect, I can see that it was clearly the best of the 8-bit era. This was a machine with three microprocessors: one general purpose CPU and separate processors for both sound and video. And it was cheaper than most of its competitors. It probably would have been vastly successful if the Atari name hadn't been so firmly associated with games.

I wonder how old the author of TFA is. It's not hard to remember life before Windows at all. I remember life before DOS, back when the first pull-down menus were implemented in WordStar -- a text editor by today's standards -- solely as an aid to learning the key commands.

Hardware and software have come a long way since then, but it came at the expense of losing the rich variety of the early personal computer era, to the point that people now have passionate arguments about the barely perceptible differences between Mac and PC GUIs.

Hm, if I'm not mistaken, this is where I should tell someone to get off my lawn. ;)

Re:Hard to forget hell. (2, Interesting)

H0p313ss (811249) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308172)

"Twenty-five years and two days later, it’s not just hard to remember an era in which Windows wasn’t everywhere"

Bullshit

My thoughts exactly, it makes me wonder how old this kid was (and will he stay off my lawn?)

Given just how retarded Windows 1 was compared the original Mac we should be more surprised just how successful they've been. Even Win 3.1 only competed with Apple on price. If nothing else Microsoft has my respect for putting lipstick on that pig and finally delivering XP and Win 7 which are pretty damn good.

(Disclaimer: my personal machines run OSX, iOS, Win7, Vista, XP and Linux ... as an oldschool Linux junkie who has version 0.9 on floppy disk I'm almost ashamed to admit that my OS of choice these days is Win 7)

What about GEOS/GeoWorks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34307902)

Exactly as stated. What about GeoWorks, and its Ensemble upgrade? If I recall (which may be incorrect), GeoWorks was another competitor about that time. And it also was one of the (if not THE) first to run AOL, back when it was one of the more easily-used online systems before the Internet became the behemoth it is today.

Once Win95 with 32-bit computing came out for desktops (even with all its bumps and bruises), it seems Geos wasn't able to keep up, unfortunately.

Re:What about GEOS/GeoWorks? (2, Informative)

abigor (540274) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307958)

GEOS is mentioned on page 2. I remember using a version of it on my old C64! Remarkable software.

I used GeoWorks (2, Interesting)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307904)

I was working as a paperwork generator for a school funding appeal in 1994. They wouldn't pay the bucks for Windows 3 (why spend $45 when you're only trying to make $3 million), but I did get GeoWorks to run on my 386SX (which I had only because when my 286 died, they couldn't get a replacement 286 motherboard; they were very annoyed). It was very nicely designed, ridiculously usable and very fast. Fatal problem? It was ridiculously unstable and would crash if you looked at it funny. Windows with Wordpad would have beaten it as a productivity tool. Oh well.

Desqview (4, Interesting)

TheDarkener (198348) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307908)

was awesome. I used it to run multiple nodes on my Renegade BBS. Of course, back then nothing was truly multitasking, but this was pretty darn stable for its time. We moved to Windows '95 when we were told that it would provide better multitasking abilities.

It was at that point I started truly despising Windows/Microsoft. "What are all of these files in my root directory?" I remember exclaiming. I always kept a very organized filesystem, and now my operating system was telling me I couldn't do that anymore.

It was all pretty much downhill from there.

Re:Desqview (5, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307988)

Of course, back then nothing was truly multitasking, but this was pretty darn stable for its time.

Well, except for UNIX and a couple of others. There was real multi-tasking in 1985, don't let anybody tell you that Windows '95 was first with it.

MS was actually late to the game when it came to multi-tasking.

Re:Desqview (1)

TheDarkener (198348) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308048)

Well, except for UNIX and a couple of others.

Sure - I should have clarified, no real multitasking in MS-based operating systems =)

Re:Desqview (1)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308414)

What is the difference between real multitasking and fake multitasking? I don't think processors with multiple cores existed back then.

its hard to true-multitask on 8088 (1)

hildi (868839) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308472)

since it is lacking a lot of the CPU code for task switching... i.e. there was no memory protection, any program could write to anywhere in memory. (which spawned a million keyboard-hook malwares) i really wonder how desqview accomplished what it did. did it rewrite the machine code of the programs it loaded into memory?

Re:Desqview (3, Insightful)

elbobo (28495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308032)

Same experience here. Nothing at the time other than DESQview was offering decent multitasking for tasks like BBSes. Windows was a joke in comparison.

Eventually I gave up DESQview, but it was a painful transition and I bitterly resented Microsoft for winning in the market with their inferior product.

Re:Desqview (3, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308058)

Lord I miss those days. I ran Renegard multinode until I bought MajorBBS (which was really efficient, but proprietary).

Remember the Extended versus Expanded memory hub-bub way back when? 640K is enough for anyone!

DESQview (4, Informative)

elbobo (28495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34307946)

DESQview was brilliant. It was completely workable on the hardware of the time, functional, did what the box said, fast... It was the right solution for the time. It just happened that hardware moved on and left the phase in time that DESQview occupied behind.

I was running multinode BBSes under DESQview back in the day and getting fantastic performance. None of the graphical competitors were in any way workable alternatives for that sort of performance on the hardware available.

Re:DESQview (4, Interesting)

Tanktalus (794810) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308282)

I started running my BBS under DESQview. However, I then wanted to learn to program C++, and went out and bought Borland C++ for Windows. Silly me. At least it was the student edition (read: cheap). So I thought, well, Windows 3.1 claims to multitask DOS apps, so why not try it? Well, just running the single DOS app under Windows, not even having anything else loaded, on a 486dx2/66 w/16MB RAM, resulted in users complaining about speed - on their 2400 baud modems. So I knew that was a no-go.

Then, someone at work (I was a co-op student at the time) suggested OS/2. After buying a student copy of that, too, I installed it. I could run two nodes of the BBS at 33.6kbps PLUS compile under Windows, or I could run one node AND use the other modem to connect to the internet via the university, and load up a web browser and do all of that stuff while the DOS BBS continued to run just fine.

Later I switched from Renegade to Maximus which had a native OS/2 version. Used a lot less resource that way, but even then, Renegade for DOS still *worked* under OS/2, which is more than I could say for the same machine running DOS 5.0 / Windows 3.1.

I continued with OS/2 for years, and avoid Windows still, just because it has never, in my estimation, been able to handle what I threw at OS/2, or now throw at Linux. I still miss the OO desktop OS/2 had, that and the Extended Attributes. They were really really useful things - metadata attached to a file that when you removed the file, the metadata automatically went away. Brilliance. Copy the file, the metadata copies along. Move the file, the metadata moves with it. Absolute brilliance. The 64KB limit might have been a bit low to continue on into today, but the idea was still awesome.

Re:DESQview (2, Interesting)

elbobo (28495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308428)

Well, just running the single DOS app under Windows, not even having anything else loaded, on a 486dx2/66 w/16MB RAM, resulted in users complaining about speed - on their 2400 baud modems.

Yep. Same here. I gave it a try, and wow was it ever bad - completely unworkable.

I never got into OS/2, having no copy available to me (I just couldn't afford it). I did my C in Borland's DOS based Turbo C++ inside DESQview and was blissfully ignorant of what life under OS/2 might be like.

By all accounts I heard soon after that time, OS/2 was a glorious thing, so I'm always mildly disappointed I missed out on it. I think I held out in DESQview land (and then Linux without X) until almost Windows 98 times.

Re:DESQview (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308504)

By all accounts I heard soon after that time, OS/2 was a glorious thing, so I'm always mildly disappointed I missed out on it. I think I held out in DESQview land (and then Linux without X) until almost Windows 98 times.

I used both in the 3.0 days: OS/2 was architecturally superior, but Windows was cheaper and had more software and hardware support so it was pretty much a no-brainer for home users.

DESQview/X (2, Interesting)

lophophore (4087) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308412)

DESQview/X was even cooler than DESQview, which was a remarkable piece of software.

This could display MS-DOS character cell and Windows 3.0 apps onto an X-Terminal, could run X apps locally, could display X apps from Unix onto your pc.

It was too late to market. Windows 3.11 came out soon after, with reasonable networking, and that was the end... Sadly, even the X window system is now a niche player...

Re:DESQview (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34308456)

Desqview didn't fail either.

It did what it was supposed to do. And the first versions worked perfectly. And amazingly... the company would actually support the thing you bought! (gasp) A real live human would help you!

I've STILL go an ancient little machine sitting somewhere running desqview.. And it still works perfectly 20 years later and barring hardware failure. I imagine it will sit there doing it's jobs for another 20 years.

Amiga had a real shot, but dropped the ball (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34307984)

http://technologizer.com/2010/07/23/amiga/ [technologizer.com]

It was ahead of pretty much everything at its début. But they managed to cock it up something fierce - it was amazing to see a decade of PC technology leadership go "poof" with bad management at the helm.

GEM (3, Interesting)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308016)

GEM was a damn good piece of software. It was actually multiplatform (CP/M on 8088 and 68000, DOS (any CPU), and I think I saw floppies of GEM for the Commodore 64.

Incredibly powerful considering the tiny resources it needed. One of the first DTP softwares, Ventura, was based on GEM for its user interface.

Like X, GEM isn't quite an operating system. It's a graphical shell. Well... more or less what Windows 1.0 was!

Re:GEM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34308120)

GEM was clearly better than Windows 1.0. I used it on a TI Professional, which was the best PC in 1983. They didn't waste the 128k of lower memory on a limited version of basic, and gave it to the main memory. I had GEM for the TI, and could run Ventura Publisher on the full version of GEM, rather than the limited version that was needed to run Ventura on the IBM PC, because I had 768k of lower memory rather that the IBM's 640k.

The thing that I haven't seen mention is the fact that Windows didn't get to its position of power by playing fair. (They were found guilty in their trial vs the DOJ, and they settled in Comes vs. Microsoft in Iowa because they didn't want all their dirt aired.)

Windows did fail... Totally. (5, Insightful)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308028)

Windows 1.0 was a total failure. Nobody used it. I worked at a computer store at the time and people would ask us to take it off the drives of the compter because they had no use for it.
Windows 2.0 was also a total failure.
Only when Windows 386 and WIndows 3.0 came out was Windows usable. Even then most people didn't use it. It just slowed down their dos programs.
Only when Windows 3.11 came out did WIndows become popular. Mostly to run DOS apps. Windows won because Microsoft just gave it away for the longest time. Almost nobody would have paid for it. That is why all the others failed. Most people wouldn't pay for a program to run programs!
Microsoft used the drug dealer method to win market share. But to call any version of Windows before 3.0 as not a failure is just not valid.

Microsoft's business model ... (2, Insightful)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308034)

... is to own everything from the application down to (and in some cases including) the hardware. It was inevitable that add-ons to DOS were not going to be allowed to survive. The only viable UIs have been those on top of other (non Microsoft controlled) O/Ss. And they have been viable only because Microsoft hasn't been able to kill them off. Yet.

Captcha: penguin

Revisionist history (3, Informative)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308100)

What a load of shit. It is pretty hard to compete when PC vendors were tied by jackbooted licensing deals with Microsoft and they sabotage their own software so competing software won't or runs "poorly" compared to their own. What's that? Oh yeah, Microsoft was sued just for that; sabotaging their own software.

Wayfarer (2, Interesting)

Gallenod (84385) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308104)

My favorite Windows alternative back in the early 1990's was Wayfarer, a freeware replacement for the Windows v3.x Program Manager. Long before Microsoft figured out how to do tabbed and nested windowing, Wayfarer did both.

My favorite trick as to post a screenshot of the Windows Program Manager as the screen background and then turn off Progam Manager completely and replace it with Wayfarer, which would minimize to a single desktop icon. People would click on what looked like Program Manager icons with no result.

(Including the tech support guy who showed up unannounced at my desk one day to install software while I was out and was five minutes away from wiping and reinstalling my entire PC because he couldn't figure out why it wasn't working. I told him the next time he wanted to hijack my PC during the work day he needed to schedule an appointment so he didn't interfere with my work day.)

Ah, those were the days when we could still have some fun with customization. Now it's all "safe choices" or lock-downs, depending on how you look at it.

The real question is: why just one big incumbant ? (2, Insightful)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308132)

There are plenty of motor car manufacturers, and most people don't just drive a Ford (or whatever). So why is the computing market so different ? I don't believe that it is down to manufacturing capacity, ie s/ware is so much easier to make many of once you have the first copy; if that was so then the many smaller manufacturers, the list is huge [wikipedia.org].

I think that the key is standards, everyone wants the same - especially file formats. The way that MS got to where it is was by taking everyone else's standards and keeping its own as secret as it could. Whatever reasons: it is something that we should learn from and stop from happening again.

Disclaimer: my desktop has always been Unix based since 1986, Linux for the last 15 years.

Re:The real question is: why just one big incumban (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308418)

There are plenty of motor car manufacturers, and most people don't just drive a Ford (or whatever). So why is the computing market so different ?

Windows programs run on Windows. Some of them run on Linux through Wine, but that's still a crapshoot.

So if you have thousands of dollars of Windows software, you can't just switch to a different OS and continue to use it.

Re:The real question is: why just one big incumban (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308512)

There are plenty of motor car manufacturers, and most people don't just drive a Ford (or whatever). So why is the computing market so different ?
I don't believe that it is down to manufacturing capacity, ie s/ware is so much easier to make many of once you have the first copy; if that was so then the
many smaller manufacturers, the list is huge [wikipedia.org].

I think that the key is standards, everyone wants the same - especially file formats. The way that MS got to where it is was by taking everyone else's standards and keeping its own as secret as it could.
Whatever reasons: it is something that we should learn from and stop from happening again.

Disclaimer: my desktop has always been Unix based since 1986, Linux for the last 15 years.

The issue certainly is standards.

I can drive whatever car I want on basically any road I want because the interface is standard. You've got some kind of more-or-less flat surface that my tire roll on.

Similarly, I can get behind the wheel of virtually any car and do OK because the interface is pretty standard. Ignition, gas pedal, brake pedal, steering wheel, spedometer, etc.

The problem, when it comes to computers, is that there's precious little standardization.

A specific piece of software will run on one OS, but not another. Or it'll run with a specific service pack installed, but not without.

A specific OS will only run on certain types of hardware.

A specific piece of software will draw its UI one way... Another piece of software will have a completely different UI... Maybe you can hit CTRL+Z in one app, but not in another... Maybe the middle-mouse button works one way here, and another way there...

So people just pick what's going to behave the way they're used to. They pick the OS and the software that they're familiar with. Which is why everyone yelled and screamed when Microsoft rolled out the whole "ribbon" thing - it was too different.

Deskmate (3, Interesting)

coolmoose25 (1057210) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308148)

I had a Tandy 1000 (still do actually) and ran Deskmate during the Windows 1.0 days... It is hard for people to understand just how messy things were in those days... printer drivers were essentially non-existent and you had to embed printer commands in documents if you were doing anything fancy (meaning different fonts or sizes). There were a plethora of TSR programs (Terminate-Stay Resident) like Sidekick. There were all kinds of hacks to make your machine use memory above 640k. Deskmate was basically something more similar to the Office suite than a real Windows replacement. There were all kinds of menuing programs at the time, many of them shareware, that would essentially allow you to build a simple application launch screen. Deskmate did a pretty fair job of documents and rudimentary spreadsheets... It was the MS Works of its day. Other applications like Lotus 123 and dBase (or Clipper) were the norm - and you ran one of them at a time. (No multitasking) So Windows 1.0 was basically a fancy menu program and as TFA points out, it had many competitors... It wasn't until Windows 2.1 came out that it advanced any farther than that...

Anonymous Coward (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34308150)

DESQview rocked back in the day!

Ran several PCBoard BBS nodes off of one machine with DESQview.
Would not even think of doing that with the old versions of Windows.

GEOS (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308176)

Did anyone else try out the version of GEOS for the Commodore 64?

Re:GEOS (1)

StuartHankins (1020819) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308274)

Yes, I remember it was a big deal to me and I loved it. I used it for (admittedly simple) desktop publishing tasks. Memories of it are a bit vague since I was still a child, but I seem to recall having lots of fonts and how cool that was.

XTree? (2, Interesting)

bughunter (10093) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308230)

Given the particulars of the DOS environment, and the capabilities of the displays at the time, I found XTREE much superior to anything prior to Win95.

(Excluding the Macintosh and Amiga GUIs, of course.)

DESQview on a 386 was incredible for its time! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34308236)

IMO, for a year or two DESQview was a real marvel compared to anything else out there, it even had early cut and paste of ASCII text between applications. I once visited their small office not too far from the Santa Monica pier. (I think it was on Pico)

- TWR

CP/M (2, Informative)

formfeed (703859) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308242)

CP/M? Features almost like *nix but could run on a 32kB computer
Ah, now you remember!
No? Anybody?

The lessons of "just okay" (2, Insightful)

mpapet (761907) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308248)

I think sometimes the geeks forget the Marketing adage that most enduring products are functionally "just okay." Typically a successful product uses lots of cash to drown their competitors. Might makes right.

Someone somewhere said "Early to bed. Early to rise. Advertise Advertise Advertise"

And Symphony didn't make this list? (2, Interesting)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308350)

A spectacular opportunity, dommed to failure for all the same reasons as the others.

Nice trip down memory lane... I used DeskMate at home for a while, got into configuring DesqView for clients, and talked clients out of most of the rest.

I used DR-DOS for a long time to generate bootable floppies for stuff like patches and Norton Ghost, avoiding some of the unpleasentness of the various MSDOS problems. Ultimately, didn't DR-DOS go to Caldera? I have some of those disks still.

But Windows was pretty much unstoppable. My old buddies from then still lament that Apple never wrote Mac OS for Intel processors, but that would have gotten Apple into DLL and driver hell, trying to support even the worst drivers from the worst writers, and then getting tarnished with the reputation of unreliablility.

Still, Windows seems to have come out of that ok.

Did anyone else get a MACH board for Christmas, and drool over that awful mouse?

Anyone else ever play Balance Of Power? Damn, I miss that.

Desqview rocked (1)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308366)

Man I loved Desqview. It had true preemptive multitasking and separate virtual desktops for processes years before Windows.

Re:Desqview rocked (1)

Radical Moderate (563286) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308522)

I wasn't a user, but I used to do support for the annual users' conference they put on in Santa Monica. They were a fun company to work with, good people, I was sorry to see Windows steal their thunder.

Ahh DESQview... (1)

steppin_razor_LA (236684) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308488)

It's been a long time, but my recollection is that Windows used to multi-task anything that wasn't actually a Windows application *terribly*. I ran DESQview for a long time with plenty of fond memories. In fact, I want to think that a later version of DESQview was my first X-Server on my PC....

Mondrian (2, Interesting)

russryan (981552) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308502)

Mondrian was a TopView clone created by Dynamical Systems Research, a company formed by Nathan Myhrvold and Chuck Whitmer. Microsoft bought them because Mondrian was arguabley smaller and faster than the IBM product. The team of engineers went to work in the WIndows team and were a good part of the reason that Windows 3.0 emereged as the "good enough" GUI to dominate the industry efver since.

DoubleDos (2, Informative)

ShavedOrangutan (1930630) | more than 3 years ago | (#34308508)

For running a BBS on an 8MHz PC/XT, DoubleDos was great.

No windows or GUI, but you'd get two functioning DOS environments. Even better, you could run a CGA adapter and a Monochrome adapter at the same time. Each would be like its own functioning computer. It was extremely simple and lightweight.

Desqview was cool, but with 640K ram, more than 2 programs at once was unrealistic so DoubleDos was still better.

Windows was a pig. I tried it once and threw it out. A windowed GUI was pointless at 640x200 black and white.
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