BeOS despite generally long forgotten (if you were aware of it in the first place) had an interesting past. A Frenchman named Jean-Louis Gassée had for most of the 1980s held senior positions with Apple, where at one point had become head of product development for the Macintosh once Steve Jobs left. He was a staunch supporter of Apple, who believed the company should continue its focus at the premium end of the personal computer market, and that people were prepared to pay up for the Macintosh experience. That was fine to a point, though with more affordable IBM PC clones and Windows 3.0 approaching, this was increasingly becoming unsustainable. By the end of the decade, corporate politics and disagreements with the then CEO John Sculley led to Jean-Louis’ exit in 1990.
Earlier posts on installing Windows 3.1 and 95 with VirtualBox have been consistently popular since I started this blog. This time the focus is on Windows 98, arguably the most popular version of Windows from a retro PC enthusiast prospective, particularly for gaming.
OS/2 initially developed in cooperation between Microsoft and IBM back in the 1980s had a turbulent history over the years. By 1996 with the final retail release of OS/2 Warp 4.0, IBM conceded defeat by Microsoft realising it was not able to compete with Windows 95, although still managed to withhold a portion of the enterprise market. Years later it was still found on some servers and even ATMs on the street.
OS/2 Warp 4.52 was the final version by IBM released in 2001 with official support ending in 2006. It wasn’t offered in a retail package, but for those who had a contractual agreement with IBM for OS/2 support. After this the foundation of the OS had evolved into what is now known as eComStation.
Once the partnership with IBM faltered with the development of OS/2, Microsoft went alone and Windows NT was born back in 1993. Microsoft’s first true 32-bit operating system, it generally was to be seen only on high-end desktop workstations and servers. The first version was 3.1, to match the versioning of the more consumer orientated Windows 3.1 that was released a year prior. There was two editions – one named simply Windows NT 3.1 for workstation use, and the other named Windows NT 3.1 Advanced Server which obviously suggests for servers on a network. A relative lack of 32-bit software and higher system requirements meant success was limited and most of the attention was towards MS-DOS and Windows 3.1.
Installing Windows NT 3.1 is certainly not the easiest Windows to install into VirtualBox due to a few limitations. It’s very easy for the VM to crash or for NT 3.1 to complain about the hardware due to what was available at the time. Back then, Intel had been beta testing their new Pentium processors to supersede the 486, and introduced the CPUID instruction set which allows software to identify the CPU’s features.
Unlike my previous post, setting up Windows 95 is considerably different. Again I’ll be using Oracle VirtualBox 5.1.4. While it can be made to work in a useable state, it wasn’t offered the same support to the likes of Windows NT 4.0 or 2000.
There were a few revisions of Windows 95 since product launch generally offered for the OEM market, the latest being OSR 2.5. My personal preference is OSR 2.1 as it didn’t come preloaded with Internet Explorer 4.0, which had a tendency to bloat the general Windows interface with web orientated options akin to Windows 98. OSR 2.1 came instead with Internet Explorer 3.0 which kept to itself and more inline with the original Windows 95 interface. Not only that but I found IE 4.0 on real hardware of the time (e.g. a Pentium 100 with 16MB RAM) to be fairly sluggish in comparison.
Installing DOS and Windows 3.x is relatively straightforward, though configuring both to perform the best they can can be a little more tricky. For this guide I’m using Oracle VirtualBox 5.1.4 (the latest at the time) on a Windows 10 machine. VirtualBox isn’t my first preference for emulation, however it’s free to obtain.
Windows 3.1 wasn’t technically an operating system in itself, though common perception is that it was. Unlike newer versions, Windows up to version 3.x would typically sit on top of some variation of DOS such as MS-DOS or PC-DOS which was the operating system.