What is this "web site" thing you are talking about?


One reaction I've seen when people learn about all the compatibility work done in the Windows 95 kernel is to say,

Why not add code to the installer wizard [alas, page is now 404] which checks to see if you're installing SimCity and, if so, informs you of a known design flaw, then asks you to visit Electronic Arts' webpage for a patch?

Let's ignore the issue of the "installer wizard"; most people do not go through the Add and Remove Programs control panel to install programs, so any changes to that control panel wouldn't have helped anyway.

But what about detecting that you're running SimCity and telling you to get a patch from Electronic Arts' web site?

Remember, this was 1993. Almost nobody had web sites. The big thing was the "Information Superhighway". (Remember that? I don't think it ever got built; the Internet sort of stole its thunder.) If you told somebody, "Go to Electronic Arts' web site and download a patch", you'd get a blank stare. What's a "web site"? How do I access that from Prodigy? I don't have a modem. Can you mail me their web site?

In Windows XP, when Windows detects that you're running a program with which it is fundamentally incompatible, you do get a pop-up window directing you to the company's web site. But that's because it's now 2005 and even hermits living in caves have email addresses.

In 1993, things were a little different.

(Heck, even by 1995 things most people did not have Internet access and those few that did used modems. Requiring users to obtain Internet access in order to set the computer clock via NTP would have been rather presumptuous.)

Comments (29)
  1. One mistake people constantly make is to think of yesterday’s problems with today’s modern onveniences.

    This is the main reason I win so much in the debate classes I have in college. The 19-22 year old kids when faced with a delimma from before 1980 keep forgetting that half the "solutions" they come up with can’t be done because the technology they are so used to today didn’t exist back then.

    Hell, I get a kick out of the ones that refuse to believe that car windows were once rolled down by turning a handle.

    James

  2. Travis Owens says:

    Hindsight is always 20/20, didn’t you know?

    Dos 1.0? What no directories, what were they thinking, I can’t store my MP3s without directories!

  3. you do get a pop-up window directing you to the company’s web site.

    And clicking ‘Send Report’ when a program crashes is sometimes helpful too :

    http://www.apptranslator.com/blog/2005/05/sending-error-reports-to-ms-may.html

  4. The Internet is the Information Super Highway. The Clinton/Gore administration popularized that term as a new and more-easily-mocked name for the Internet, which of course already existed.

  5. Frodo Gates says:

    Remember that the Internet didn’t exist for MS until 1995. So "the Internet Superhighway" was probably mocked internally as being non-existent, thus producing this odd set of comments. /snark

  6. Mike Dunn says:

    I was watching the Felicity season 1 DVDs (aired in 1998) and I got a chuckle out of the scenes where Noel and Hanna talk about their computers. v.90 and 300MHz CPUs were hot stuff back then.

  7. BTX says:

    >Dos 1.0? What no directories, what were they thinking, I can’t store my MP3s without directories!

    dude… you’re old!

    …is that really true?

  8. Dave Solimini says:

    Jeff’s right about "Information Superhighway" being a Clinton/Gore thing. It fit way too well with their 1996 "building a bridge to the 21st Century" rhetoric to pass up. ;-)

  9. Remember that the Internet

    > didn’t exist for MS

    And therefore didn’t exist for most people who used computers. In any case, even for the rest of the world in 1995 "the internet" was the WWW’s crappy beginnings. Not USENET or FTP or Gopher.

    Perhaps you’re thinking about 1997-98, but your quippy comment sort of fell flat there.

  10. Aaron says:

    So does the Windows team still build in compatability hacks like the Simcity one into Windows, or did that end with Windows 95?

  11. Bryce Kerley says:

    I’d guess that they’ll still be built in for a while, since when your program worked in XP and not in Vista, and the program didn’t change, you’re going to blame the variable that did.

  12. Tim Smith says:

    People like Raymond C. and Larry O. (I think) have often talked about the application shims that are still being placed in the operating systems. Search his blog for the word "shim".

  13. Mark says:

    Remember that the Internet didn’t exist for MS until 1995<

    perhaps true from the client side, but we had http://ftp.microsoft.com, gopher.microsoft.com (first internet searchable ms kb), and http://www.microsoft.com online in mid 1993, late 1993, and early 1994 respectively. although, in those days, http://ftp.microsoft.com was known as gowinnt.microsoft.com after the compuserve command to get to the winnt forum ("go winnt").

    thanks,

    Mark (original MS.com "Internet Server Administrator" because webmaster didn’t exist as a term back then. :)

  14. mikeb says:

    >> Hell, I get a kick out of the ones that refuse to believe that car windows were once rolled down by turning a handle. <<

    ‘..once rolled down…’?

    My car still has them ol’-fashioned crank things. *AND* I have to actually insert and turn a key to unlock the thing.

    No fancy push-buttons in my car (I do, however, have a garage door opener – I’m no luddite).

  15. Cheong says:

    >Dos 1.0? What no directories, what were they >>thinking, I can’t store my MP3s without >>directories!

    >dude… you’re old!

    >…is that really true?

    That’s true. Because CP/M do not have directroies either. And DOS was made to be compatible with CP/M.

    (I believe that’s also the reason for the .COM executable format exist)

  16. Pax says:

    Since DOS 1.0 was (I think) even before the 3.5" floppies arrived, you didn’t need subdirectories since your 50Meg MP3 file had to span about 140 5.25" floppies at 360K each (aside from the fact that MP3’s didn’t exist either :-).

  17. Jonathan says:

    "…50Meg MP3 file had to span about 140 5.25" floppies at 360K each…"

    … and be decoded, using a decoding algorithm that didn’t exist, on a processor too slow to decode MP3 in realtime, into a non-existant sound card.

  18. Anon says:

    "I was watching the Felicity season 1 DVDs (aired in 1998) and I got a chuckle out of the scenes where Noel and Hanna talk about their computers. v.90 and 300MHz CPUs were hot stuff back then."

    I always thought it was funny the way they never say computer, only iMac. Brilliant piece of product placement.

    I wonder if Apple paid for it, or if the writers were just enthusiasts.

  19. Norman Diamond says:

    In response to several of the other comments here, yes PCs were toys in 1993, in the ways being snarked upon and in other ways. But real computers were not toys in those days. Real computers of those days would be toys today but they were not toys then. A Cray 1 could animate a movie. An Intel ISIS-based machine could handle a hard disk. Computers of 50 years ago could handle hard disks (well some couldn’t but some could). A lot of programmers of mainframes and some minis even believed that 32-bit programming was already legitimate.

    Sure a recommendation to log onto Arpanet and download a patch from a commercial vendor’s site wouldn’t have gone over well, unless the commercial vendor was Honeywell and the patch was for the … oh, I forgot the name for the machine that served as combination router and broadband modem in those days. Actually those things were designed to be administered remotely. And they were all one model. Now wondering why a worm didn’t just bring them all down.

  20. Peter Ibbotson says:

    Out of the OSs I used around the time of MSDOS 1.x there were only two with subdirectories, Unix and Apple Prodos. The Mac didn’t have folders on it’s initial release either.

    BTW those OSs were:

    Apple Dos3.3, Prodos, Unix, CPM 3.? and CPM 2.2, USCD-P system[*], MacOS whatever the early version was and several BBC micro variants.

    Life back then was fun, you could understand all of a computer and the OS

  21. Ben Hutchings says:

    Jeff Robertson: "The Internet is the Information Super Highway. The Clinton/Gore administration popularized that term as a new and more-easily-mocked name for the Internet, which of course already existed."

    No, it isn’t. The information super-highway was supposed to provide real broadband (tens of megabits per second) via fibre to the home/office/wherever. I believe this is what Bill Gates (or Nathan Myhrvold, allegedly) was writing about in The Road Ahead, not realising that dial-up Internet access would provide a stepping stone to higher bandwidth connections.

  22. Tim Smith says:

    Personal computers were not toys in 93. In 1983, Epson released the QX-10 which was used by many companies for word processing. By the time 1993 rolled around, PCs running windows had long since been taking over the industrial automation world as the prefered SCADA computer.

    Sure, they were lagging behind mainframes and supercomputers. But to say a PC was a toy in 93 because it wasn’t doing what supercomputers were doing is like saying minicomputers (i.e. VAXes) were toys using the exact same rational.

  23. bramster says:

    Norman Diamond:

    PCs in 1993 were NOT toys. Major programming tasks could be accomplished. It did take some creativity. . . for example, sorting 5 Gigs of data on a couple of 512 Meg drives.

    Others:

    360 kb floppies? as the yorkshireman said, you were lucky! Those were preceded by 180 kb single-sided 5-1/4" Floppies. And before that, my very first IBM PC, with 16 KB memory (upgradeable to 64 KB on the motherboard — install your own dip chips) — had a cassette port on the back to read and write by BASIC programs. I had to take out a bank loan to buy that puppy. Probably the best investment I ever made!

    Today, I can plug my HP Digital Camera into a USB port and have a 1-gig portable drive.

    Tomorrow?

  24. Rune Moberg says:

    That IBM cassette port — it used the same plug as the keyboard, or is my memory faulty? I had a second-hand IBM PC in ’87 or so. Using a newer BIOS (Oct 12th 1982) I expanded that puppy with an EGA card and 20MB hard drive. :D (I might even have changed the CPU, the NEC v20 or v30 was a more powerful 8088 IIRC)

  25. Merle says:

    Pax: you’re right, MSDOS 1.0 predates 3.5" drives. The first time I saw the 3.5" drives were… hmm. Around the time of 386s and VGA?

    Peter: ProDOS wasn’t around until late 83; MS-DOS predates that by a few years.

    This gives a couple of timeline points:

    http://apple2history.org/history/appy/ahb3.html

    And this is even better:

    http://www.jmusheneaux.com/index0D.htm

  26. In the early 90s, I used an Amiga 500 (an old PC long dead, thanks in no small part to poor marketing on the part of Commodore Business Machines, also defunct) to help compose and print sheet music (classical music, much of it choral), as well as handle word processing tasks for term papers.

    I also worked with people who used PCs for writing magazine articles for publication back in the early 90s. And we used Quark to help lay out that magazine using a MacIntosh PC, prior to submitting the magazine to the printer.

    Furthermore, even as far back as 1985/1986, while working as a journalist, our office used IBM PC clones to write our newspaper articles. I remember having to hand-carry the 5 1/4" floppies to the publishers on several occasions to get the story printed on film so we could lay the paper out (wax-backed film sliding on top of wax covered sheets… man, have we come a long way).

    I think I recall the printers were using MacIntosh PCs to do the actual printing to film.

    None of these tasks strike me as something one does for fun, in particular, and therefore don’t really strike me as a ‘toy’ use for a computer.

    However, none of those tasks, with the possible exceptions of printing to film or printing sheet music, strike me as particularly taxing on a machine. Especially since word processing tasks did not require WYSIWYG processing, as we were happy to use plain ol’ text modes to handle our word processing needs back then.

    As pointed out, you had to use a little creativity to do some of the tasks we do today with our comparitively super-powered systems. People had to become accustomed to textual encodings (more primitive than HTML tags of today), slow performance, limited space, and the use of lots of floppies (as well as their occasional degradation).

    Personal computers were much more exciting back then, in many respects. But ordinary people got some serious work done with them, even as far back as the mid 80’s.

  27. Michael J. says:

    360 kb floppies? as the yorkshireman said,

    > you were lucky! Those were preceded by 180 kb

    > single-sided 5-1/4" Floppies.

    How about 8-inch floppies?

  28. Mitheral says:

    Since DOS 1.0 was (I think) even

    >before the 3.5" floppies arrived, you

    >didn’t need subdirectories since your

    >50Meg MP3 file had to span about 140

    >5.25" floppies at 360K each (aside

    >from the fact that MP3’s didn’t exist

    >either :-).

    Heck at dos 1.0 you were limited to 180K per disk. Double sided floppy support under dos didn’t come out until 1.1

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