I collect manuals. I have so many of them, that I’m starting to wonder where on earth I’m supposed to put them all. Somewhere in the back of a closet, I keep all my manuals in three huge boxes, with manuals dating from the early ’80s to just a few days ago when I bought a new mouse. However, none of them are as dear to my as my extensive, fully illustrated Dutch manuals for Windows 3.0, which accompanied my parents’ first PC in 1990. An enormously detailed manual covering every aspect of Windows 3.0 – with special sleeves for the various floppy disks that held the Windows 3.0 operating system. I still have those original floppies, and they’re still fully functional. Last week, the era of Windows 3.x finally came to an end when Microsoft ceased to give out licenses for the operating system.
Released on 22 May 1990, Windows 3.0 marked the beginning of Microsoft’s road to dominating the desktop computer market. Compared to its predecessor, it featured a completely new interface, support for the new memory management capabilities of the then-new 80286 and 80386 processors, as well as support for running DOS programs in windows within Windows. It also came with a simple digital version of Solitaire, making this card game a prerequisite for any desktop operating system.
For most people, Windows 3.x was their first encounter with Windows, seeing Windows 2.x and 1.x weren’t very popular. Windows 3.0 was the first Windows OS to be bundled by PC manufacturers, allowing them to compete with Apple’s Macintosh. Even though you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone still running Windows 3.x as their main operating system, it was still sold as an embedded operating system by Microsoft to power cash registers and in-flight entertainment systems on some Virgin and Quantas aeroplanes. Regular support ended late 2001.
Despite its limitations, I think many of us will look back on Windows 3.x with a bit of fondness (Stockholm Syndrome-induced or not). As I was reading through the manual during the writing of this news item, I encountered many things that we take fro granted now – the manual explains icons, windows, dialog boxes, menu bars, cursors, everything. How time flies.