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84 votes
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Why did Windows 95 crash the whole system but newer Windows only crashed programs?

You are comparing apples to motorcycles. Windows 95 traces its lineage back through Windows 3.x all the way to Windows 1.x and MS-DOS/PC-DOS, themselves inspired by CP/M. It was conceived and ...
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74 votes
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How exactly did Windows become the OS of the home PC?

The short version is that Windows became the de facto operating system thanks to Microsoft’s business acumen (or shenanigans, depending on your point of view), marketing, skilled developers, a strong ...
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74 votes

Why did fonts in Windows 1.01's Write application look so poor?

Your images appear to have been generated via emulation, with heavy anti-aliasing that doesn't show what it looked like in reality. Here's Windows 3.1 Write in native VGA resolution without any image ...
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63 votes
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How should we interpret Dave Cutler's criticism of Unix?

The I/O model on "Cutler systems" – RSX-11M, VAX/VMS, Windows NT – is an asynchronous packet-driven I/O model, rather than the fundamentally synchronous I/O model of Unix. At its core, you ...
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63 votes

Why does Windows 1.01 crash at the splash screen?

This is a botched version check error message. Windows 1.x was designed to run under MS-DOS 2.0, 3.0 and 3.10; to ensure it only runs under one of these, it performs a version test on its host DOS. ...
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55 votes
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Did Windows NT 4 emulate x86 on non-Intel platforms?

There was x86 emulation on Windows NT, on MIPS, Alpha, and PowerPC — in fact, more than x86 emulation, PC emulation. The operating system itself ran natively, and applications could be built natively ...
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46 votes
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What are the "virtual machines" that were running on 80386 and later x86 CPUs before full hardware virtualization?

I would think the articles you've read were most likely about the Virtual 8086 Mode introduced with the 386. Here a host OS (running at privilege 0) would create a standard protected process, but mark ...
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45 votes

Why did fonts in Windows 1.01's Write application look so poor?

Because those were low-resolution bitmap fonts. In Windows 1.01, most fonts were monochrome bitmap fonts, and not particularly high-resolution at that. (There were CONTINUOUSSCALING ‘plotter’ fonts ...
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41 votes
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Where did the term ‘blue screen of death’ come from?

I bear disappointing news: the conventional wisdom seems to be that the term arose organically among Windows users of the mid-to-late 1990s. It’s probably hopeless to establish a definite coinage of ...
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  • 17.2k
39 votes

Why did Windows 95 crash the whole system but newer Windows only crashed programs?

The decision about whether to kill a process or crash the OS generally depends on whether the problem can be isolated to the process. For example, if a running process in user mode attempts to read ...
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36 votes
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What is the best way to obtain old versions of MS-DOS and Windows?

The legal way to obtain old versions of Microsoft operating systems and software is to buy a Visual Studio subscription (formerly known as MSDN subscription). That page has a link to the complete list ...
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35 votes

Why did the original design of COM on Windows rely on the Registry?

At that time, developers at Microsoft were still dreaming the dream of version independent management of libraries, so newer, more powerful libraries could replace older, less powerful or buggy ...
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  • 173k
35 votes

What are the "virtual machines" that were running on 80386 and later x86 CPUs before full hardware virtualization?

"Virtual machine" has a long and varied history, not always meaning exactly what it means today. Early designers of timesharing systems viewed what they were providing to their users was a ...
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  • 28.3k
32 votes

How exactly did Windows become the OS of the home PC?

The other answers include a lot of sound historical information about how Windows evolved into its dominant role on PC's in both the home and business environment. But I think the most fundamental, ...
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  • 57.3k
29 votes

Where did the term ‘blue screen of death’ come from?

The Jargon File suggests the term is derived from an earlier Windows crash, the Black Screen of Death. This was a lockup experienced when launching a DOS session under Windows 3.1, commonly associated ...
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  • 5,882
27 votes

Why did ScanDisk exist?

There are quite a few differences between the MS-DOS CHKDSK and ScanDisk, beyond the latter’s friendlier interface. ScanDisk can “repair” cross-linked files, i.e. files which end up pointing (...
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26 votes
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How does Windows 9x determine which disk drivers correspond to which BIOS disks/DOS drive letters?

By their contents. When Windows boots, the I/O Supervisor VxD (IOS) uses BIOS interrupt 0x13 services to read sector 0 (the Master Boot Record) of each drive. It then looks at two bytes at offset ...
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  • 17.2k
24 votes

Were Mac systems faster than Windows in processing performance?

Why Mac systems were always faster than Windows in processing performance? Mind to give any proof to this claim? According to various Benchmarks, the PCs usually outperform Macs of the same time. ...
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24 votes
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How did malware spreading through PIF files work?

Real PIFs are indeed “only” configuration files, but they are executable: running a PIF will run the corresponding program, with the configuration specified by the PIF. This can be used as-is: a “real”...
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23 votes
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Running DOS, Windows 3, and Windows 98 from one FAT32 partition?

The first part isn’t too difficult: install Windows 98 as usual, then edit MSDOS.SYS to change its BootGUI setting to 0. This will disable the automatic GUI startup, and the computer will boot to a ...
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  • 96.6k
23 votes

How should we interpret Dave Cutler's criticism of Unix?

While I am sure that the merits of Cutler's stated "low opinion" could be debated, I'm interested to better understand exactly what he was referring to here. There's no citation, and I haven't ...
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23 votes
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What was the first Windows NT build to support Windows Registry?

Build 196 (the first release outside Microsoft, September 1991) doesn’t use the registry, although it does create a C:\REGISTRY directory when running. Build 297.1 (the first public beta, July 1992), ...
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21 votes
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Which was this game with collectibles, that came with a washing machine detergent?

I believe the game is Max & Sparky. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQn3gF7RM4U It is: an isometric exploration/platform game with hazards given away with laundry advertainment compatible with ...
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  • 10.1k
20 votes

How should we interpret Dave Cutler's criticism of Unix?

At the operating system level – as seen by applications – files in VMS are very record oriented. Guide to OpenVMS File Applications (336 page, 2MB PDF) probably goes into far more detail than anyone ...
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17 votes
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Why didn't PostScript eliminate the need for printer drivers?

they save every program from needing its own separate encyclopedic knowledge of every printer on the market. But then came PostScript, the theory behind which was that you would prepare a printable ...
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  • 173k
17 votes

Why did the original design of COM on Windows rely on the Registry?

It's great to look back at a technology developed nearly 30 years ago and say "whoa, those are poor design decisions". OLE, and then COM answered questions that were apparent in early Windows. In ...
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  • 491
17 votes
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Where can I find software that was designed for Windows 1.0?

David Simunič maintains a website dedicated to Windows 1.0, which includes lists of third-party software for it. I don't believe he hosts the software itself, but knowing the names of packages may ...
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  • 5,882
16 votes
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Is WinWorldPC legal?

The situation isn't nearly as cut and dried as Wikipedia might make it sound. For example, under US copyright law: § 117 . Limitations on exclusive rights: Computer programs (a) Making of Additional ...
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  • 3,872
15 votes

Formatting a 720K floppy disk over USB fails with Windows 10

There are some USB drives which support double-density disks and formats, but as you suspect, not all of them. It is still worth trying a plain format a: to see what it does — USB drives control ...
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