nav search
Data Centre Software Security DevOps Business Personal Tech Science Emergent Tech Bootnotes
BOFH
Lectures

back to article
Happy birthday, you lumbering MS-DOS-based mess: Windows 98 turns 20 today

Silver badge

Re: The ONLY things going for it were

Linux having bad hardware support in 98 and later ? YGTBK. Used Linux, usually RedHat, often to identify feral unmarked hardware that Windows would not touch. YMMV but my Delphi, COBOL, VisualCobol and VB6 coding did not generate BSODs.

Agree that Win2K was a great OS for theWindows world. Nowhere near the memory leaks that plagued NT4 and much lighter hardware demands than WinXP. Never really liked OS2. Have install CDs still but no hardware old enough.

1
1
N2

Re: The ONLY things going for it were

Yes, I ran 2K well to 2010 most of the other versions were bloated, power sapping, gilded turds.

I suppose 7 was OK, but my 2K box was so reliable, loved it warts 'n all.

4
0
Silver badge

Re: "NT4 was mostly 3.51 with a 'slicker' front end."

No, for example it moved the graphics code in the kernel - performance improved, but it also led to many issues in the beginning because drivers had to be rewritten and bad ones would BSODs easily.

This. Pre-SP3 NT4 choked on the ATI video drivers all the time. In fact, most video drivers demanded SP3 before you could install them. Even the supremely vanilla cards in servers.

Got all the way to SP6a in the end...

0
0
Silver badge
Devil

Re: The ONLY things going for it were

It was a games console. So was Win95.

We used NT4.0 Workstation for real work and NT 3.51 server with WFWG 3.11 clients before NT4.0 came out.

It was shameful the way MS and businesses promoted Win9x/ME to BUSINESSES on NEW computers from 1996 to 2001.

I still have a laptop from 2000 that multiboots DOS 6.2, WFW3.11, Dos7, Win98SE and Win2000, though till about 2005 it had NT4.0 and Red Hat Linux. Win98 needed for programming old Sat boxes and DOS for Motorola Radios. Though I have neither of those now. 1400 x 1050 screen and mobile PIII 450MHz CPU. The Win2000 runs better on it than Win10 on Linx1010.

1
0
Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: Win 98 gold standard of Windows

Nonsense. Only if you wanted games or software incompatible with NT.

Win 95 only advantage over WFWG 3.11 (properly installed with Win32S, VFW, 32bit TCP//IP and 32 bit disk drivers) was the Explorer desktop. NT3.x was best MS server OS in that era and NT4.0 in 1996 was what Win9x should have been. Win9x no security AT ALL. Cancelling login screen only blocked you from LAN server. Win9x encouraged a rash of bad software that on NT4.0, Win2K, XP and Vista could only run under Admin log in, or didn't work at all.

Success of Win9x for other than games held back security & decent program development for nearly 10 years.

1
0

Re: The ONLY things going for it were

Yes, but don't forget the abomination that was WindowsME. It was basically Windows 98, but with GUI access prioritised in the boot-up sequence. It gave the impression of having a UI far quicker than it actually was, as thought the UI was present, it was completely unusable until the rest of the subsystems had loaded. Even when the UI was present it was so flaky that it often took multiple reboots before it was actually possible to do any work (or play games).....

2
0
Silver badge

Re: The ONLY things going for it were

Pardon me for being too young to have any relevant experience*, but the stories I've heard were that '98 was the good one when compared to '95 and would be the gold standard of Windows Operating systems until XP was released.

It wasn't bad really, as long as you stuck with a couple of basic rules:

  • Never ever, ever, ever apply an in-place OS upgrade. Want to upgrade from Win95 to Win98? Start with a blank hard disk. The same goes for the upgrade from Win98 to Win98SE, although that was a little less painful and anything to Windows ME, or just ME in general was best avoided. The most unstable instance of Windows XP I ever came across was one that started life as Win98, the Win98SE, them WinME and finally a much suffering WinXP.
  • Never install the Internet software stack from AOL, or Compuserve (and doubtless a few others). The bundle of crud combined with appalling installers and appalling assumptions was enough to ruin many a PC. Later this changed to never use a USB modem or ADSL adaptor, for similar reasons.

3
0

Re: The ONLY things going for it were

I kept 98 SE until XP Service Pack 3 made XP usable.

I always felt SP3 slowed it down too much and XP SP2 was a point at which M$ should have stopped developing o/s, the other being W3.1 and W2000 (with service packs). NT4 wasn't bad, mostly because it didn't do anything.

After XP, IMO M$ o/s's got more and more bloated and slower and slower. I did some bench marking once and found W7 ran a quarter the speed of XP and W8.1 a twentieth.

As to W98, I had to upgrade my relatively stable W95 machine to it, and the box was never the same. Crashed several times a day.

0
1
Silver badge

Re: Vista (no Service Pack could save that blight).

Win7 should have been free to Vista users. It was the SP.

5
0
Silver badge

Re: NT 3.51 quite a bit more stable than NT4

The issue was GDI moved to Kernel to speed up video & animation and Direct X. Really stupid. With decent GFX hardware & printers and good drivers, the BSOD was very rare on NT4.0. Non-existent on NT 3.5 & NT3.51 unless faulty HW.

NT 3.51 was just the fake extra APIs added to NT3.5 due to MS deliberately ensuring MS Office 95 wouldn't run on WFWG3.11 etc, Many 32bit NT apps ran on Win32s on WFWG3.11. Like Win3.1x, Win95 & Win98 couldn't create Named Pipes, only connect as a client. So the same NT3.5x apps that didn't work on Win32s, didn't work on Win9x/ME.

1
0
Silver badge
FAIL

Re: 95 was a revolutionary change

No, it wasn't little more than Win3.x with Explorer shell, updated Win32s, replacement for VFW and bundled 32bit drivers. The 32bit TCP/IP was optional, and essentially the same.

NT 3.1 was MS's big change. The Explorer shell was even available as a tech preview for NT3.51.

The NT3.51 & Win3.x File manager was superior to Explorer's file manager and still worked on NT4.0 even without Progman shell.

Explorer's file manager got worse with Win7 and is horrible in Win10.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

"YMMV but my Delphi, COBOL, VisualCobol and VB6 coding did not generate BSODs"

BSODs are triggered at the kernel level, by something happening when kernel code is executed and a non- recoverable fault occurs. They are the equivalent of a kernel panic. The system stops to avoid further damage.

Triggering them from user code may be not easy, unless calling into some libraries which have a kernel counterpart, and some bug there. Pure user code may cause other issues, but usually not a BSOD.

Languages like Delphi also had good exception handling, an OO GUI frameowork that hid most API calls, and automatic string management, so unless you did weird operations with pointers yourself it was very difficult to create havoc in the system. VB was even more sandboxed, you'd probably need a badly written OCX to create troubles.

As per Linux hw support, especially in the early days.... let's not talk about it.

1
1
Anonymous Coward

Re: The ONLY things going for it were

The massive architectural change was NT4 moved (video) drivers into kernel space. NT 3.51 ran them in user space, which was slow but reliable.

0
0
Bronze badge

Re: The ONLY things going for it were ( @AC )

Going to have to disagreee. I'm a Linux fan but it wasn't until the mid 2000s that I found it was rock solid.

There were always issues with hardware

- display drivers

- modems

- network cards - in particular wifi cards

Then the software. Yes we got OpenOffice, but original builds were as unreliable as Windows 98 - I lost at least one typed report due to an OOo crash.

Trying to get software to integrate nicely with the KDE/Gnome launchers.

Trying to install/update something and landing in dependency hell.

Eclipse did give Linux a great DE (for those of us who need more handholding than VIM :) )

3
1
Bronze badge

Re: The ONLY things going for it were

Loved 3.5.1 - old school Win 3.1 style interface, but you could amaze your colleagues by firing up a then-modern Office 97 :D

(That was why Office 97 drew it's own controls)

Some 95/NT4/Win32 software ran nicely, mostly those that didn't use the new APIs.

0
0

Re: The ONLY things going for it were

ndiswrapper! oh god forgot how that blew my mind!

Its all a matter off perspective.

0
0
Silver badge

Re: The ONLY things going for it were

A J MacLeod :

Sorry, too lazy to look up when Gnome and KDE came into being, and over-paranoid about factoring in actual uptake - forgot that when I started on 'Linux late '99 it was already on KDE 2.

WindowMaker not old?

The main body of the WM still works, but looks dated, but the WM-Apps widgets are truly dusty, they're like a dusty old telegraph station in a 'old west' ghost town, half the distros I've tried it on they either don't compile or the backends are extinct.

When WindowMaker was resuscitated a few years back, I thought the first thing would be updating those.

0
0

The all-important Second Edition

If you didn't have the pleasure of trying both editions, the Second Edition was a hell of a lot more stable although I am obviously speaking in relative terms. ;-)

25
0
Bronze badge

Re: The all-important Second Edition

@Chewi, Are we still talking about Windows, or has the conversation moved on to spouses?

15
2

Re: The all-important Second Edition

Unfortunately migrating to a Second Edition spouse is often hampered by vendor lock-in.

4
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Those were the days my friend.

"Windows 98 is regarded as the pinnacle of the Windows 9x era, with an update shipping the following year in the form of Windows 98 SE (Second Edition) including a number of minor enhancements such as the inclusion of Internet Explorer 5".

I recall significant improvements for 98SE were far better support for USB devices, DVD support plus Internet Connection Sharing. It was a long time ago but I recall it being a more major upgrade than is being suggested.

Those were the days when people welcomed Windows 'improvements' and I recall 98SE being roundly applauded by near everyone. How things have changed.

33
0
Silver badge

Re: Those were the days my friend.

Yes, let's be fair to it - it was a significant improvement, especially SE. Still, as a gamer you still got used to reinstalling Windows every 4 months or so to speed everything up. NT managed to get rid of that - sure it was a bit slower, but it managed to maintain the same speed long-term.

Kids these days, and all that...

Edit - oh, and I also bought OS/2 Warp. Did a great job, and was rock solid. I was even able to play System Shock and Descent smoothly in DOS windows. Say what you will about IBM these days, but OS/2 blew Windows out of the water for a long, long time.

21
0
Silver badge

Re: Those were the days my friend.

Difficult to believe now, but those were also the days when punters still queued up at the local computer store to get their hands on a boxed retail copy on release day! A bit like Apple in recent years, but without the yays, high-fives, and eye-watering credit card bill the following month.

11
0

Welp, it was better than 95 and ME ...

... but let's hear it for the NT kernel.

10
0
Silver badge

Simply the worst Windows I ever used, and I used Windows ME.

0
21
Bronze badge
Windows

Simply the worst Windows I ever used, and I used Windows ME.

Did those responsible for vast economical damage and many lost lives ever face a court of law?

1
6
Silver badge

Built many a PC with 98 and 98SE.

Happy Birthday Windows 98

17
0

Still in service... in both industry and with retro gaming!

Alarmingly, I am aware of several high value commodity metering installations still running instances of Win98. Presumably their uptime is not regarded as terribly important?

In fairness to 98SE; it was arguably the most compatible OS for gaming purposes in it's day. I alternated between 98SE and 2K for games and productivity. While the former was a pain to maintain, there was not a title in the land I could not get running on it. It's often the only thing that will manage early directX titles. Now I'll admit, there's not many of those are worth returning to, but try get Interstate '76 running on anything else? Maybe one or two other standout titles.

I recall an interview on GOG commenting on the those early directX and 3DFX titles by far being the most difficult ones to get running on a modern system. Virtualisation isn't exactly well supported for in these niche environments!

11
0
Bronze badge

Re: Still in service... in both industry and with retro gaming!

Have a lot of fond memories of DirectX/3Dfx/Glide games of the late 90s that I just can't run anymore, or if they run they run with graphical artefacts.

0
0
Silver badge

It had games!

As someone who had used Macs for almost the entire decade, games like Quake II and Half Life were the killer app for me (oh, and ASP too). That and the fact that you could buy an OEM PC with a good graphics card for half of the price of an iMac.

I was so happy to be able to replace Win 98 with NT 4.0 and soon after Windows 2000. I found Windows 98 unstable (but I was used to System 7 on the Mac, so it was no big deal) and ugly, but the worth it for the games.

9
0

At least it was better than...

Windows ME

9
0
Joke

Re: At least it was better than...

To be fair, being stabbed in the face with a fork was better than Windows ME.

29
0

Re: At least it was better than...

I was given a copy of Windows ME by Microsoft when I attended some event back in the day. It is still, to this day, in the shrink wrap, unopened and unused.

I mean why would you use it when Windows 2000 rocked up.

6
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: At least it was better than...

That's because Win ME was preinstalled on many PCs back then, and ordinary Joe users simply used what was preinstalled. As long as it played games, connected to the Internet, opened emails, ran ICQ and mIRC they're satisfied.

Win 2K was more for the enterprise folks.

2
1
Silver badge

And if you can't see that Metro is just Active Desktop all over again, then you haven't looked.

14
0
Anonymous Coward

Metro's real progenitor

Is arguably the Web Slice feature introduced in Internet Explorer.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_Slice

0
0
Silver badge

Active Desktop, which allowed HTML content (such as news headlines) to be shown on the user's desktop at the cost of prodigious amounts of CPU and RAM.

And bandwidth. I can remember one cow-orker enabling it, which rapidly became apparent when we looked at the ISDN logs and discovered that his desktop, left on overnight, had been connecting every few minutes, bringing the line up over and over again, incurring a call charge every time.

14
0
Bronze badge

There's no patty, like a Vista party ... just bring the morphine !

0
1

Not bad in the long run

My first experience with 98 was the CD-ROM catalog computer at my uncle's hardware store, and I thought it was shit, to put it bluntly. (Although having the catalog on CD-ROM instead of a dozen volumes of paper was nice. I remember having to update the paper ones...)

It was over a year (2, 3, 5?) later that the CD-ROMs were deprecated and all catalog work was to be done through the corporate web-based extranet. (He also moved from dial-up to DSL.) At that time, he finally let me clean up the machine because the web browsing was so much slower than the CD. Turns out that Windows was okay, and the specs were fine (nothing else on the machine, really) -- it was MacAfee being a total pain since day one. Once I figured out how to remove it without nuking the whole thing, things got a whole lot better. (Yes, riskier, but not my problem.)

Around that time, corporate was also starting to force the franchises to change their POS (point of sale, you gits!) from older systems to a Windows-based full-internet one, making a separate extranet terminal redundant. Not sure if he changed before selling the whole store outright to a rival chain.

3
0

W98 and USB support

Hello:

USB support came as standard.

I seem to recall that USB support came as standard with W98SE.

That there was (?) some crap going on or USB needed something extra in plain W98.

Cheers,

O.

10
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: W98 and USB support

IIRC, didn't really matter at that time.

USB was still something fairly exotic and a novelty.

Keyboards and mice used the PS/2 ports. Disk drives used the P-ATA ports.

It was only at the turn of the millennium (Win ME period) when portable CD writers, USB input devices and USB modems started gaining prominence.

3
0

Re: W98 and USB support

I remember 98 SE had USB 1 support for flash drives, once the proper driver was loaded.

WIN95B had USB support as well, but I never really played with it.

I do know WIN2KSP4 on my Thinkpad 600E ran circles around regular-consumer-spec Vista machines of the day. At least for the important things like DOOM, word processing, Autodesk Inventor, and Altera Quartus.

Fond memories.

I've never ran XP, VIsta, 8, 8.1, or 10 before on any machine I've owned.

The bad part being I did run ME for a bit. Once you re-enabled DOS access and tweaked things a bit, you could get it to be slightly less bulimic with the BSOD's...

3
0

Re: W98 and USB support

I think it was NT that was due a service pack with USB support, but it was superceded by XP. True?

0
0
Silver badge
Alert

Ekkkk

All that talk of win 95 and win 98 has set off my PTSD

Be quiet or I'll take you all back to .dll hell with me !

Ah yes the joys of when windows did'nt protect their key files and some random program decides to overwrite a .dll with an older one that does'nt support anything win98 throws at it........ and your PC is dead.

10
0
Silver badge

I still have a set of Win98SE floppies. I expect many readers remember sitting feeding them one at a time, and having to fetch a spare when the inevitable disk read error occurred.

5
0

Did they come in a suitcase of 12?

0
0
Silver badge

Ah, Windows 9x. The joys of writing PIFs to launch MSDOS games, having to reboot if you changed the screen resolution and having to pay extra for an upgrade from a 4X to an 8X CDROM drive.

I actually had a 98SE PC until about 6 months ago for playing games on, although DOSBOX can handle most things the PC had a 3DFX Voodoo3 in it so was seriously cutting edge for it's time. Made £100 on eBay too.

3
0
Silver badge

Wasn't that around the same time that Linux was going to take over the desktop?

And I think Linux has done so for a lot of people - at least at the hypervisor level. Now that the hardware and OS implementations allow VMs to run at near full-speed, we can bring up that MSOS whenever we need a bit of relaxation or hilarity.

8
2
Silver badge

Re: Wasn't that around the same time that Linux was going to take over the desktop?

My first daily Linux driver was 0.99PL13 in end of '93. That was the first one I installed myself w/o any help.

My FVWM config has mutated to the point no one else can use my PC... not a bad thing!

0
1
Anonymous Coward

Win 98 SE

The gold standard of the pre-NT Windows era. Many memorable games released during that period. Internet in its infancy. Advent of 3D games and CD-ROMs (supplanting floppy disks).

Win XP SP2 was the next gold standard. Followed by Win 7.

8
0

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing