Flaw reported in Windows 95


One of my colleagues ran across this old news clipping from 20 years ago today.

Flaw reported in Windows 95

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

SAN MATEO, Calif. — Microsoft Corp.'s long-awaited Windows 95 operating system has a flaw that can freeze up computers when running certain applications, InfoWorld magazine said Friday.

The company is aware of the problem but is shipping 450,000 anyway as part of a preview program, the magazine said.

"I fear that unless Microsoft goes back to the drawing board on this operating system, only light users will get anything out of it," said Nicholas Petreley, the magazine's executive editor.

He said the system's inability to handle several types of sophisticated applications at the same time made it questionable for business use.

I can't find a copy of the original InfoWorld article online; all I can find are citations to it, like this one and this one.

The clipping had a handwritten note attached:

Bob,
You guys may want to respond to this.
Mom

The report was shortly followed by a rebuttal from Windows Magazine, pointing out that this was a beta release, it is not unusual that an unfinished product has bugs, and that a similar bug in an earlier beta was fixed within two weeks.

ZOMG! A beta product has a bug!

I found it cute that my colleague's mother chose to bring this article to her son's attention.

Comments (24)
  1. Sven2 says:

    My Linux box window manager crashed recently when I tried to copy a >4GB file to WebDAV.

    I fear that unless the Linux folks go back to the drawing board on this operating system, only light users will get anything out of it

  2. foo says:

    I'm impressed that there were 400,000 testers in 1995. That's some serious coin. Thanks.

  3. OldFart says:

    Until the last sentence, I thought we had learned that Bill G signed notes "Mom".

  4. Jason Warren says:

    I suppose the interesting part for me was to many people in 1995, it was a time when computers and operating systems and software was so new that the idea that it can be shipped with bugs and defects and issues and problems and unexpected behaviors and the like was not understood.

    To the point where the Associated Press felt it was newsworthy and threw it on the wire.

    That said, I think every media outlet in the world got into bashing the Windows 8 Start "bug," so I suppose you can keep expecting more gems like this in the future.

  5. Keith P. says:

    I remember another story that went around the national news that said Win95 was being released with something like 50k known bugs. IIRC: It was conflating incident issues in the tracker (doc misspellings, etc) with functional bugs, but it was still sensationally pushed.

  6. Jens Mühlenhoff says:

    Apparently Google has all the old InfoWorld issues, the particular article can be found on page 3 of the 20 Mar 1995 issue here:

    books.google.com/books

  7. 12BitSlab says:

    @ Jens, good find – thanks!

    On that same page is an article about IBM licensing an app suite for OS/2.  Of the two articles, one of the products became Very successful — the other, not so much.

  8. alegr1 says:

    >I thought we had learned that Bill G signed notes "Mom"

    MomCorp

  9. Anon says:

    @Jason Warren

    I don't know that I'd consider Win8's lack of a start menu to be a "bug," but I'd definitely argue that the person responsible should never again be allowed to do UX work without supervision.

  10. Henri Hein says:

    @Keith P:

    I remember that incident, though I believe it was NT and not Windows 95.  Somebody had leaked the entire DTS, which includes not only document bugs, but every thing ever logged: fixed bugs, duplicate bugs, issues that were by design, etc.  The total still got reported as "NT has NNNNN known bugs!"  I have learned not to expect too much from the press, but the Open Source crowd on Slashdot had several field days with it, and it seems to me some of them should have known better.

    [I remember this incident. The number was taken right after a static code analysis run was made over the entire operating system, so most of the "bugs" were things like "Static analysis thinks there may be a memory leak here. Please confirm." In other words, they weren't even defects. They were potential defects. (Static analysis had a high false positive rate.) -Raymond]
  11. Myria says:

    How would it really be news even if a non-beta product with millions of lines of code has a bug?  Only if it were of particular severity–security, particularly damaging, easily triggered, etc.–would it be newsworthy.

    @Anon: More like, the supervisors should never be allowed to do supervision without supervision.  Don't blame user experience designers when bad orders come from above.

  12. Kirby FC says:

    I like how The New York Times referred to  Microsoft as "The Microsoft Corporation".

    Someone must have been listening to The Led Zeppelin at the time.

  13. Anon says:

    @Henri Hein – Slashdot will salivate over anything that puts Windows/Microsoft down. It doesn't have to be true or factual – they don't care.

  14. sagacis says:

    "In postings on CompuServe last week…." Wow, that was a long time ago!

  15. xpclient says:

    Well even if it *was* a serious bug in the shipped version, Microsoft would've denied it anyway, refused a hotfix, called the customer afraid of change, called the bug "By Design" or some absurd insult and fixed it in vNext.

  16. boogaloo says:

    @Anon I witnessed the hate for Microsoft adding the Start Menu in the first place when Program Manager was considered the height of UX design. The majority of hate comes from people who barely use the Start Menu as it had become unwieldy and instead have short cuts on their desktop, these people shouldn't be allowed near a computer without supervision. I love Windows 8 and I have no need for emotional crutches like installing Start Menu replacements (Although I am "l337" and use the command line a lot).

    "I don't know that I'd consider Win8's lack of a start menu to be a "bug," but I'd definitely argue that the person responsible should never again be allowed to do UX work without supervision."

    You can argue whatever you want.

  17. cheong00 says:

    [so I suppose you can keep expecting more gems like this in the future.]

    No need to suppose, I remember seeing review on Win10 TP last week that it has so much "flaw" that makes it not a productive choice for consumers. (Basically lots of "old users need to learn where the things are placed" sort of things) Heck, it's not even a beta release.

  18. Scarlet Manuka says:

    @Myria: "Only if it were of particular severity–security, particularly damaging, easily triggered, etc.–would it be newsworthy."

    According to the second citation, running (an unspecified selection of) the applications that came bundled with the preview was enough to trigger it. Surely that counts as easily triggered?

  19. 640k says:

    As usual, Raymond is conveniently leaving out incriminating information, but it is described in the linked InfoWorld article, it was an architectural design flaw. Not a fixable bug. The flaw was never fixed in windows 95, because windows 95 was never meant to have this kind of isolation between apps.

    [As I noted in the article, I never found the original report, so I didn't know exactly what they're complaining about. But the article you refer to doesn't match the reports. The complaints weren't about memory safety; they were about apps locking up. Also, the reports were that there was already a fix for the bug. (Though in the article you refer to, I like how people are complaining that a bad driver can corrupt memory. That still hasn't bee fixed.) -Raymond]
  20. cheong00 says:

    Btw, Google books has the original copy scanned:

    books.google.com.hk/books

  21. cheong00 says:

    @640k: See the InfoWorld article, it's supposed to be fixed in M8 (the next milestone), just not shipped with the test release at that time.

  22. RKPatrick says:

    @Henri Hein: I probably conflated that story with another one about a manager downgrading a bunch of Win95 bug severities to help move it out the door (IIRC, of course :) )

  23. DWalker says:

    @xpclient:  Thanks, your comment was SO productive.  Not.

  24. 640k says:

    OS/2 was running drivers in ring1, that's a real *fix* compared to NT. In NT (which was destined to become OS/2 3.0) drivers are running in ring0 and can corrupt memory all over. Please fix ASAP.

    [OS/2 was a very x86-centric operating system. Not all processors support more than 2 privilege levels. -Raymond]

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