Windows 3.1 software: difficult to come by

edited November 2021 in Software
It has been my experience that software from the Windows 3.1-era is quite difficult to find, much harder than stuff from DOS and Windows 9x times.

For example, I've undertaken a project to watch all episodes of the Computer Chronicles from the beginning (well, "beginning", because the ones from before Stewart Cheifet hosted it haven't been archived afaik) and trying out programs that I saw there that looked interesting. In the most cases I could find the ones from the DOS-era either here or on, even the more obscure GUIs and random business programs.

With Windows 3.1, not so much. Except for software from the bigger names (Microsoft, Norton) I've got trouble finding them. Not even software that was influential, like SmartSketch from FutureWave that became the basis for Macromedia Flash. I do see them on eBay sometimes so they're not completely lost to time, at least.

Maybe Windows 3.1 just isn't as well remembered (I mean, I barely used it because I didn't need it for my games) and therefor not preserved as much? Maybe it's the same for Mac OS Classic software from around the time of the great Windows 95 migration, when people weren't super excited about Apple? I don't know.

Has this been your experience too? Any other platforms that are seemingly not preserved as much?


  • Well, as far as I'm aware, there's plenty of software for Windows 3.1 in this site's library. However, I'd like to think that Windows 1 and 2 are barely remembered...
  • edited November 2021
    Then you might not be looking very hard or being very patient. A lot of Windows 3.1 software does come up on eBay - it just does not get posted in the "Vintage Computing" category.

    The regular software category can be hard to filter through, but keywords like "floppy", "5.25", "3.5", "1992", "1993", "1994", or the specific title will often turn up all kinds of stuff.

    That said, much vintage-ish stuff is getting harder to come by in general. Hardware typically gets taken to "recyclers" where they at least might re-sell it. Software, on the other hand, too often goes directly in to the trash. And when it does come up on eBeh, some sellers want way too much.

    That said, I actually agree there is lots of Windows 3.1 software that has not been archived here. Of course, we usually ignore shovelware (random bundles of worthless budget crap, multimedia stuff with no actual software, screen savers written by 2-year olds, and such).

    Magazines, and shows like Computer Chronicles, frequently reviewed titles that never became popular, or were limited to mostly corporate use. Even if in retrospect, they were historically important.

    For example, I would love to archive some of the earlier versions of Oracle Forms (may have gone by different names at various times), but how many people actually HAD media for those? Not too many.
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