Software Spotlight: Windows 3.0

There have been several interesting Windows 3.0 related additions lately.

First, The Windows 3.0a 360k version has surfaced. This is a rather uncommon release, as it was only available on special request from Microsoft. Most computers that would run Windows 3.0 well at the time had 1.2mb, 720k or 1.44mb drives. However, a few did have 360k drives.

https://winworldpc.com/product/windows-3/30

Please keep in mind the earlier non-"a" 360k version (dated 5/1/1990) has yet to be archived, so please keep a lookout for that. The non-"a" version would be even less common, as the "a" version (dated 10/31/1990) was released a few months later.

The file layout on the 360k disks above are not very well organized. Setup will ask for some disks multiple times, and out of sequence.

Second, the Windows 3.0 TestDrive VGA version has surfaced. This means now you can try out the demo version in a VGA PC or emulator without modifications.

https://winworldpc.com/product/windows-3/30-testdrive

The Windows 3.0 Test Drive is a demo floppy set that could be obtained for free through PC World. It consists of a stripped down minimal Windows 3.0 install and a PC World interactive sideshow.

It doesn't include much. Just the Program Manager, File Manager, a slideshow demo, and everyone's favorite: Solitaire!

Windows 3.0 is sort of an interesting version. It was really Windows 3.0, coupled with the availability of the Microsoft Office Suite, that for the first time made Windows look like a serious business product.

This was all around the same time as the famous IBM-Microsoft fallout, so Microsoft had been putting much effort in to making Windows a solid product that could stand on its own.

In Windows 3.0, Microsoft added the File Manager and Program Manager. These were similar to those in IBM OS/2 1.x. Although rather pathetic compared to the Apple Macintosh desktop, they gave the feeling of being a little more Mac-like.

Windows 3.0 merged the separate Windows 2.11/286 and Windows 2.11/386 lines in to one product. With a switch at the command line, one can run Windows 3.0 in Real (8088), Standard (286), or Enhanced (386) modes.

As I understand it, (and probably have this wrong) Standard and Enhanced modes work quite a bit differently from Windows 2.x. Standard mode somehow shoehorns real-mode applications in to 286 segmented address space. Applications specifically compiled for Standard Mode can make much better use of it. Then, 386 Enhanced Mode supposedly just takes Standard Mode and throws it in to some kind of VM. The 386 mode can emulate EMS memory, and enables ".386/VxD" drivers that run outside of the VM system without taking up real-mode memory. The applications inside this are all still "16-bit", use segmented memory addressing, and have 64k data structure limits.

Windows 3.0a was the last version to support running on an 8088/8086 based PC/XT or compatible. (Technically, Windows 3.0 MME was the last that could run, but all of the MME components required a 286, leaving you with just plain Windows 3.0.)

With the 360k version of Windows 3.0 together with the 360k version of DOS 6.22, you would be all ready to max out your IBM 5150 PC or IBM 5160 XT! Well, unless you are this wiseguy with a Cyrix 586 CPU upgrade in a 5150 that can make it run Win 3.1 and DOOM! http://www.vcfed.org/forum/showthread.php?57033-running-5x86-cpu-in-IBM-5150-with-Inboard-386

Practically speaking, there was very little use for Windows 3.0 on an 8088/8086 machine, as virtually all "3.0" native applications required at least a 286. In 8088 Real Mode it could continue to run most Windows 2.x applications.

The only Real Mode compatible native Windows 3.0 application that I know of currently is AfterDark 1.0 for Windows: https://winworldpc.com/product/after-dark/10

Note that although Windows 3.0 supports 8088 CPUs, oddly the color VGA driver requires a minimum of an 80186 or NEC V20. A patch can be found here (scroll down to the second one)
http://www.vcfed.org/forum/showthread.php?35593-Windows-3-0-VGA-color-driver-for-8088-XT

In the background, Microsoft was working on Windows NT, a cross-platform 32-bit protected mode OS. There were plans to replace Windows 3.x with NT as soon as just after 3.1. But instead, the DOS-based Windows dragged on until about 2001 when Windows XP replaced Windows ME.

Comments

  • Another well written Software Spotlight!

  • Actually, Win 9x wasn't really DOS based, It just used it as a bootstrap.
    At least that is what I have read.

  • Then you read Microsoft marketing propaganda. Windows 95, 98, and ME run on top of DOS just like Windows 3.1 and 3.0. Literally the only significant difference in how "protected" 9x is, is the presence of protected mode CD-ROM drivers.

    If you load a TSR before Windows 9x starts, and then start Windows (you can still start Win9x by typing "win") that TSR will keep running in the background. That is very useful for devices that only have DOS drivers. They still work in 9x.

    The completely different UI, and the integrated Win32 API support tend to throw some people off.

    You can't do that with NT or Linux, even if you could "bootstrap" them from DOS. If you start Linux using Loadlin or such, the DOS environment is completely jettisoned.

    BTW, Win9x is also not "pure" 32-bit, as their marketing propaganda might tell you. Things like printer drivers and core 2d video drivers are still 16-bit. 16-bit Windows 3.1 application support is still native since it was based on Windows 3.1.

  • Looks like there won't be any need for my hacked-together VGA version of the TestDrive (there's a thread about it somewhere here) now that the original version has surfaced. Kudos to whoever found it.

  • The VGA version worked just fine in DOSBox.

  • @dosbox said:
    The VGA version worked just fine in DOSBox.

    Even the EGA version did, frankly :smile: I've installed it numerous times, no glitches or hangs whatsoever. Perfect for playing Solitaire all day :tongue:

  • edited November 2017

    @Erito17 said:

    @dosbox said:
    The VGA version worked just fine in DOSBox.

    Even the EGA version did, frankly :smile: I've installed it numerous times, no glitches or hangs whatsoever. Perfect for playing Solitaire all day :tongue:

    I didn't try the EGA version, but solitaire is certainly decent

  • I certainly like Reversi on Windows 3.0. :)

  • @LOOLS98 said:
    I certainly like Reversi on Windows 3.0. :)

    What's even better is that if you keep upgrading Windows, it stays and works properly. Heck, I managed to get regular Reversi on Windows XP!

  • Someguy said:
    "Practically speaking, there was very little use for Windows 3.0 on an 8088/8086 machine, as virtually all "3.0" native applications required at least a 286."

    At the time the original Win 3.0 came out, all I had was a 64k PC clone with a 35mb HDD (Sanyo 16EX), and Win 3.0 ran very poorly on it. That is when I discovered Geoworks Ensemble. It had all the features of windows and ran beautifully on my PC clone and could front end all my Dos programs.
    It included all the basics (GeoWrite, GeoPlanner, GeoDex and GeoDraw) and I was sure it would supplant Windows. However, that was not to be, as Microsoft had too much of a grip in the market and Geos just went down as footnote in PC History.

  • edited April 10

    This is obviously one of my most favourite operating system ever!

    I originally purchased Windows 3.0 on August 15, 1990 and had it installed on a Datalab 286-based PC with a 42.7 MB MFM hard drive, 1 MB of RAM and a Trident 8800CS video card with just 256 KB of RAM.

    I repurchased Windows 3.0 off of eBay in Christmas 2010 and only used it for PC emulation purposes.

    I'm currently running Windows 3.0 on the AMI486 on 86Box with six 1 GB SCSI hard disks, 32 MB of RAM and a Tseng ET4000AX video card with 1 MB display RAM! I'm having one hell of a time with the emulated 486 machine! ;p

    On the downside, I would also like to mention that Windows 3.0 was full of bugs, the product could only address up to 16 MB of RAM and Windows 3.0 would hang of more than 16 MB of RAM was present. The Windows 3.0 File Manager was not even Year 2000 compatible.

    The good news is that Windows 3.0 was bundled with two games - Solitare and Reversi! They're fun games to play.

  • @altracker9 said:
    Someguy said:
    "Practically speaking, there was very little use for Windows 3.0 on an 8088/8086 machine, as virtually all "3.0" native applications required at least a 286."

    At the time the original Win 3.0 came out, all I had was a 64k PC clone with a 35mb HDD (Sanyo 16EX), and Win 3.0 ran very poorly on it. That is when I discovered Geoworks Ensemble. It had all the features of windows and ran beautifully on my PC clone and could front end all my Dos programs.
    It included all the basics (GeoWrite, GeoPlanner, GeoDex and GeoDraw) and I was sure it would supplant Windows. However, that was not to be, as Microsoft had too much of a grip in the market and Geos just went down as footnote in PC History.

    Why did you get rid of the quote arrows ">"? Triggering your OCD or something? Or did you just not see the quote button? Just curious.

  • Why did you get rid of the quote arrows ">"? Triggering your OCD or something? Or did you just not see the quote button? Just curious.>

    What???

  • @altracker9 said:

    Why did you get rid of the quote arrows ">"? Triggering your OCD or something? Or did you just not see the quote button? Just curious.>

    What???

    Quote, it said SomeGuy said, but it was not quoted.

  • I have not seen such a thing in Windows 3.0 (PC World Main Menu) Test Drive. I installed Windows 3.0 Test Drive in Windows 3.1.

  • WinWorldpc had 3 Beta Build of Windows 3.0. Windows 3.00.14 ISV Alpha Build. Windows 3.00.55 Beta Build. Windows 3.00 RC 6. All these Windows 3.00 Beta Build on VirtualBox.

  • edited April 13

    @BF10 said:

    @LOOLS98 said:
    I certainly like Reversi on Windows 3.0. :)

    What's even better is that if you keep upgrading Windows, it stays and works properly. Heck, I managed to get regular Reversi on Windows XP!

    I even managed to run it on XFCE Linux. :smile:
    With Wine of course.

  • edited November 26

    @SomeGuy said:
    If you load a TSR before Windows 9x starts, and then start Windows (you can still start Win9x by typing "win") that TSR will keep running in the background. That is very useful for devices that only have DOS drivers. They still work in 9x.

    This is true. Back in the day (1992, in fact), I was writing some Windows 3.11 MIDI software (attempting to create a proper score-orientated interface with a MIDI sequencer backing - eventually abandoned when I bought a Gravis Ultrasound with that very software solution already bundled with it!). As part of the exercise I wrote a DOS TSR that would provide a 1ms resolution timer "callback" service that could be tapped into and used by any DOS or Windows 3.X / Win95 program for improved accuracy multitasking purposes. Probably still have the source code for that somewhere in my archives. :smile: This later became a cornerstone for a great many DOS and Windows test-driver programs for various embedded control systems projects. Whilst it didn't exactly turn Windows into an RTOS, it certainly provided just enough speed and accuracy for test-driving the electro-mechanical actuators we were developing back then. Being "outside" the Windows API and attached to a hardware interrupt certainly gave it a lot of benefits.

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