Letters to Redmond

Windows: Back in the Day

This month's reader letters focus on the Windows that used to be.

In his October column, "Old Salt Remembers 1985," Editor in Chief Doug Barney asked readers to recount their favorite Windows memory. Here's what some of you had to say.

When Windows came out I was working for a large company and running the PC operations for the whole country. At the time, I think we were up to about 22 PCs for a company with 5,000 employees. I'd purchased extended memory boards for all of the PCs. At the time of my purchase, Intel was offering a free copy of Windows if you bought one of the boards, so I sent in a request to ask for a copy. Then I went on vacation for two weeks and didn't give it another thought. When I got back the shipping clerk had stacked 22 boxes of Windows 1.0 on my desk so that they touched the ceiling. He thought it was funny, I guess.

I tried Windows but didn't see how it would help our business, so I ended up giving away all of the copies to anyone who wanted one. Now, I kind of wish I'd kept one as a souvenir. I did learn my lesson, though: I still have my Chicago beta discs.

Brian Underdahl
VC Highlands, Nev.

When I started working in IT about 15 years ago, we were running Windows 3.1 on most of our PCs. The installation package was on a set of 15 floppy disks. Periodically, something would get messed up and I'd need to reinstall the OS. That was when I started telling people that I liked working in IT because so many of my tasks had built-in naps: Windows would even ring a bell to wake me up when it was time to put in the next floppy disk.

Greg Litchfield
Omaha, Neb.

I got started back in the DOS 3.0 era. I was given an 8088 PC and was told all it needed was a power supply, but it would be cheaper to get a new case. It was suggested to me that I get one from a trade show, which were a popular happening back in the day. I bought the case, DOS 3.x, Windows 3 diskettes and a book on putting computers together. I struggled with the BIOS settings for the hard drive, finally got that right and then installed DOS for the first time. Once I had DOS installed I was into the GUI world and I was hooked.

Edward L. Bailey
Livonia, Mich.

I was a student at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh from 1970 to 1974, and I took a few computer courses there. I took Fortran because I was a physics major; the business majors took Cobol. There were even a few people majoring in Computer Science, as if there would be a future in that!

I entered the business world and our wholesale paper distribution company bought a mainframe in 1981. I got my first PC in 1988, an IBM 8088.

Two things stand out in my mind. No. 1: What was this big deal about Windows that everyone was talking about? And No. 2: I could access the Internet through our local library. I could see the World Wide Web, but only text, as my computer couldn't do images. What a world opened to me when I got to see the Web the way it was supposed to be.

Joe Giorgianni
Glens Falls, N.Y.

An Alternate Future for Microsoft
A reader responds to "Redmond's Internal Tug-of-War," Mary Jo Foley's November Foley on Microsoft column.

Since the days of "Microsoft versus the Department of Justice," I've believed that Judge Jackson offered Microsoft an incredible opportunity when he ordered a breakup of the company -- because it presented Microsoft the opportunity to expand its vision far beyond the x86-based IBM PC and its clones.

Had that order been executed, I believe that, collectively, the OS and applications divisions of Microsoft would've made Gates and Ballmer much richer and left the consumer with many more choices of platforms for running Microsoft application suites. Microsoft might've developed a whole suite of tools for running x86 apps on Macintosh and Linux, and Microsoft could've made it virtually impossible for Apple to corner the market for the development of the Apple ecosystem and for Linux.

Granted, the choices Microsoft has made have had minimal impact on Windows market share, but many people use its products begrudgingly. These same consumers worship the ground on which Steve Jobs walks. If Microsoft had broken up all those years ago, Gates could've found himself with legions of loyal consumers.

I'd love for Microsoft to take that next step now, as Foley outlined in her article.

C. Marc Wagner
Indiana University, Bloomington

About the Author

This page is compiled by the editors of Redmond magazine from your letters. Write to us at letters@redmondmag.com and if your letter is printed in the magazine, you'll be entered into a drawing for a free Redmond T-shirt.

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