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26th of May, 2024



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Work Digs

My buddy Sam sent me an email a couple of days ago indicating that he just might have joined The Family recently. And he joined it a much higher level than I, I might add, considering I’m still lumbering along in the PowerPC world; my G4 Powerbook, though a loyal and trusted friend, seems slow as molasses in January these days.

He also mentioned an old OS/2 habit, one which we separately shared back in the day. I started using OS/2 when I worked at UPS. One of our managers was running 2.1, with the old Presentation Manager that looked like a crappy(er) Windows 2.0, albeit with long filenames and the ability to run concurrent DOS sessions. I avoided it until OS/2 3.0 came out.

In ‘94, when Warp hit the shelves, I rushed out to Soft-Warehouse[^1] in Alpharetta, looked in the Operating Systems[^2] department until I found a box, then gave the man $300 dollars for the privilege of running it. Then, I walked over the desktop applications department, and put down another $495 for Lotus Smartsuite/2. Then I OEM’d 16MB of RAM for about $400 to make it all go.

Now, many may see OS/2 as a butt-ugly cousin of Windows, and they may be right. But back then, it was a work of art. Especially in the sense that it wasn’t an exact science getting it to run. Nothing ever really worked like it was supposed to. Without the fallback of a DOS prompt, you had to have a second, fully-functional machine to do things like edit the CONFIG.SYS on the installation floppies to make sure your DASD drivers were loading. And most of the drivers were written so that, if they encountered an error while loading, they’d bork the whole boot process, just to be on the safe side.

The graphical interface also hung constantly. The Workplace Shell, despite (or maybe due to) all its object-orientiness, was horribly unstable. But I never saw a hang that wasn’t cured with Control-Alt-Delete. That key combo went right down to the kernel, and always gave a satisfying, unconfirmed reboot, wedged GUI be damned. There was even a 3rd party program called Watchcat that sat on the serial port, or on a secondary Hercules/MCGA monitor, and let you monitor and kill programs remotely. The kernel’s Kung Fu was strong like that, but the GUI was just ass.

Now, when Chicago started finally coming down the pipe, and even the Rolling Stones where pulled into the OS marketing world (“Start me up”, anyone?), OS/2 fans like myself were sure that this pissant little DOS extender with a homely face wouldn’t be the future. It couldn’t be the future, it was just too depressing. It still wasn’t a 32-bit OS, though the 386 had been out for over 8 years. It still used FAT, for crying out loud. In short, Chicago sucked.

OS/2 seemed like a scrappy little underdog, nipping heroically at the Microsoft behemoth’s heels. I’m not sure why it gave that impression. At the time, IBM was much bigger than Microsoft, a huge, multinational corporation with interests in basically every aspect of electronics. They just couldn’t write or market good software.

I’m not sure why I just wrote 500 words on OS/2. I actually wanted to write something about Linux.

[^1]:Now CompUSA

[^2]:Software stores used to have a whole “Operating Systems” department, back when there was more than one operating system, and Windows was still called an “Operating Environment”



I moved to OS/2 after using DesqView as a multitasking system. I could run a session of WfWG in a DesqView Window, but if I ever switched to something else, Windows inevitably screwed up the video.

IIRC, you could run Windows in an OS/2 command session, as well.

Good times. Good times.


I never really got into DesqView, though I always thought the idea of running Crosstalk in the background sexy beyond words. Didn't DesqView/386 actually jive around with Windows 3.1 to the point where it was actually running in ASCII-art mode? I seem to remember some screenshots like that.

With OS/2, you could either run WIndows in full-screen "Win-OS/2" sessions, or have the apps running seamlessly on the OS/2 desktop, with the Win3.1 chrome and everything. It actually worked very well; much more stable than a stock Windows box was when you had lots of stuff running.


.... damn, remember that song that shipped as a freebie on the first release of Windows 95?.... Edie Brickell, maybe?...

Jim - PRS

<i>"... I always thought the idea of running Crosstalk in the background sexy beyond words."</i>

That's just farookin' sick.


Jim, did you ever get the feeling that there were things happening in the world that you just didn't want to know about?


CompUsa in Atlanta | /dev/null

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