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Windows, Windows 95, and Windows NT

When Windows was introduced by Microsoft in 1985 it repeated the pattern of many earlier Microsoft products: it was slow, ugly, and underpowered. Eventually, however, they got it right. In 1990, Microsoft released Windows 3.0, a version that did a lot of useful things. By then the machines had finally become fast enough to support Windows. You could write large applications and multitask (if all the programs cooperated and you didn't mind Windows ignoring your keyed requests until the current program allowed a time slot for interrupts). A few useful applications followed, then a flood of them, as well as even more powerful, cheaper PCs to run them on. With Windows 3.1 in 1992 the speed, reliability, and functions of the product improved yet again. Windows for Workgroups added some networking capabilities for those who needed them.

Windows NT was a much more ambitious product than the original Windows. It aimed to be a fully-featured multitasking, multiuser operating system, something that could compete with server and network operating systems such as Novell's, HP's MPE, the portable UNIX operating system, and someday even IBM mainframes. It had all the features in addition to a pretty Windows-style graphical user interface to make it easier to use, and portable beyond the Intel-based chips to various of the faster RISC chips.

Windows 95 did appear before the end of 1995 and some of our Robelle staff did go down at midnight to buy it on the first day. They love it, when it works, but we have invested -- if one can call it that -- significant time in upgrading just a few PCs. Windows 95 has a new user interface that is faster and flashier, it operates in 32-bit mode (mostly), it multitasks better, it recognizes and automatically configures many devices, it has higher limits on system resources, and it protects memory better. However, to be used effectively, it requires more memory than usual.

Which OS will you be using, according to the optimistic Microsoft roadmap? Over the short term, Microsoft's objective is to upgrade the Windows 3.1 end-users to Windows 95, the power users to Windows NT, and to establish Windows NT as competitive server, displacing both UNIX servers and proprietary servers such as MPE. According to the press, there is a lot of competition within Microsoft between the Windows 95 group and the Windows NT group. Windows 95 will probably be updated to support Unicode and Windows NT will soon have the Windows 95 user interface (NT 3.51 supports the interface elements so that Win95 applications will run on NT and some parts of NT now use those interface elements as well).

By the year 2000, Microsoft should have enhanced Windows 95 into a full operating system and most users will have upgraded their applications to 32-bit versions. Then they can merge it with Windows NT into a single unified operating system for both desktop users and corporate servers. However, achieving this goal and getting corporate data centers to buy into it will be non-trivial.

Windows-Related Sites on the Web

Luckily for anyone who needs to know more about Windows, there are numerous Internet sites to help:

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