Windows 2.x Windows 386

edited July 2018 in Product Comments

imageWindows 2.x Windows 386

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  • "Microsoft Windows 2.11 386 [NEC PC-9801] [Japanese] (3.5-1.23mb)"

    This is Windows/286, not Windows/386. I've tested it on NP21w.
    Its splash screen does not mention 386, and it uses expanded memory.
    The 386 version should be like this:

  • @raymai97

    I've downloaded and checked it with Hex Editor.

    Well, this seems to be Windows 2.11/386 (Not 286).
    Because 386 related memory manager and system driver is included on disk.

  • By the time I got a 386, Windows/386 was impossible to find. I did have a copy of Windows/286 and I had to admit, the ability to multitask MS-DOS on a 286 was amazing, although you were basically limited to 64kb of RAM per box. It was borderline useless, but 'neat'. Although OS/2 1.x basically was far more useful.

    I didn't rediscover Windows/386 until much later, and compared to Windows 3.0/3.1 the MS-DOS multitasking feels so much smoother as the "Windows overhead" feels much lower.

    And that was the killer feature, being able to run more than one MS-DOS session at a time. granted there was no DPMI back then, so you are restricted to real mode stuff only, and there is no pager, so you are restricted to being able to only run from RAM, another reason why it may have felt so much more snappier. You really needed 4MB of RAM (super expensive at the time) to use it effectively.

    What really sets Windows/386 into a special place though is that it did launch at the end of 1987. It, along with Xenix were the few 386 only OS/Environments out there at the time. And it shows that Microsoft could write not only 32bit code, but also could operate the v86 mode correctly. Thanks to the early football/pigskin OS/2 betas on pcjs, there is OS/2 betas also from 1987 with the ability to run more than one MS-DOS session. But IBM forced Microsoft to make OS/2 a 286 only affair. The inability to multitask MS-DOS sessions severely hampered OS/2 in the legacy application space.

    On the Windows side, the disappointment is real. Although the hypervisor runs in 386 protected mode, it just spawns in ram v86 machines, and you are left with Windows 2 running in a v86 VM. This means that Windows apps are fighting the same 640kb real mode memory war as they always were. The Windows memory manager has a primitive segment swapping VM, paging in and out 64kb chunks from EXE's and DLL's as needed, but no swapping of the heap/stack. This really did limit how big and how much you could run.

    On the otherhand, version 2 of Windows is where it really all began to shine, with overlapping windows, and all the investments in cheap/free SDK's began to pay off with applications. More and more people began to write applications for Windows. While everyone was expected to eventually port to the OS/2 Presentation Manager, IBM had forced Microsoft to NOT port the Windows UI to OS/2, but allowed them to keep the SAA look and feel to Windows.

    Combined with an incompatible API, and no good support for legacy MS-DOS apps OS/2 was doomed the day it launched in 1988, but Windows/386 was on solid footing with apps not just from Microsoft (Word & Excel are available for OS/2), but other vendors as well.

    It's no wonder that the success of Windows 2.0 in gaining market traction + the skunks work project to run Windows 2.0 in protected mode which gave us Windows 3.0 would push Microsoft to dump IBM, take ownership of NT OS/2 and take it all in a new direction with the release of Windows 3.0 and the upcoming Windows NT.

    And it all started here, along with Xenix for the 386.

  • @ibmpc5150 said:

    I've downloaded and checked it with Hex Editor.

    Well, this seems to be Windows 2.11/386 (Not 286).
    Because 386 related memory manager and system driver is included on disk.

    "386 related memory manager and system driver is included on disk"

    Do you mean driver like EMM386.SYS? Well that doesn't make it Win/386.
    The driver is optional. Windows/286 can run with or without it.
    It is there so that users with 386 CPU can emulate expanded memory from extended memory.

    First, let's get on "NEC PC-98 Win2.11".
    For test purpose, I've minimized the content of config.sys.

    SETVER is needed because I'm using MS-DOS 6.2.

    There is 191KB of memory.
    No expanded nor extended.

    Now we go to "Windows/286 2.11" downloaded from winworldpc.
    For test purpose, I've minimized the content of config.sys as before.

    Note there is only one launcher, "WIN.COM".

    There is 375KB of memory.
    No expanded nor extended, just like the NEC PC-98 one.

    Now we go to "Windows/386 2.11" (from winworldpc too).

    Note there are two launchers, "WIN86.COM" and "WIN386.EXE".
    We will run "WIN386.EXE" for obvious reason.

    There is 418K of conventional memory + some expanded memory.
    Remember that "config.sys" is clean.
    There is no HIMEM nor other memory driver yet we get Expanded Memory.
    Now that is what we call Windows/386 edition.

    Features of Windows/386:

    • Able to run multiple DOS programs at once.
    • Most DOS programs can run in window mode.
    • Provide EMS (expanded memory) emulation.
    • Won't work if there is any High Memory user/server
      for example the famous "DOS=HIGH" statement.

    If the aforementioned "NEC PC-98 Win2.11" is Win/386, it should be able to provide EMS emulation without HIMEM.SYS + EMM386.SYS, but it is not. It works with "DOS=HIGH" statement and plays well with EMM386.EXE (Win/386 would choke on it).
    Thus I stand by my point, that this is not Win/386.

  • edited January 2

    Arguably, the greatest lasting, non-technical impact of Windows/386 is displayed in this promotional video:

    I don't think OS/2 ever replicated the Windows 2.x look, contradicting the comments made by that first guy. And I'm sure OS/2 ended up never being recommended in that (thankfully) hypothetical office environment...

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