(95, 98, and ME
) were consumer operating systems
. By consumer
, I mean that they were built to be sold to the masses
. They were not constructed
with the same goals as a product such as Windows NT
, and thus did not have true protected memory
. If Microsoft
had a superior product in hand (Windows NT 4.0 came out a few months after 95a did), why continue to build 9x
OS's? There are several fairly rational
- Windows NT's requirements are too high. Windows 95 and 98 (all the way up to SE) needed a good deal of memory (like 16 megs) to run. At the time, that was a ton of memory, and you could not gaurantee a computer would have that. The "next generation" of Windows had to run on about the same hardware as Windows 3.1. That meant keeping the requirements to somewhere like four or 8 megs of memory. When we look at it, that's really tiny.
- The existing software base (especially DOS-ware) would be broken by protected memory. Certain DOS-based items took advantage of the fact that there was no memory protection, and did what they wanted with memory, with no regard for life, limb, or other programs. Different DOS shell managers, certain user-end apps, etc took advantage of cheap DOS hacks like watching certain values, catching events, overriding handlers and the like to accomplish their task-at-hand. MacOS is the same way. Apple is having a hell of a time going from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X, seeing as one is a BSD, the other has weird memory setups (memory partitions on apps, etc).
- Windows NT has built in file permissions, DOS / Win9x doesn't Ton's of programs would break if suddenly their file handles were invalid because they didn't have permission to write to a directory (like C:\winnt, or C:\windows). While entirely not related to protected memory, a secured system like this would not be able to handle software (with 100% accuracy) with the assumption of an unprotected system.
- Compatibility and speed were the goals of Windows 95. My old friend Jac tells me the story of his manager doing a compatibility test for Windows 95, back in the old Chicago days. His manager walked into Egghead in Bellevue, WA (it was still a brick and mortar shop then) with his truck and the corporate credit card, and bought one of everything. They took it all home and looked at every trick DOS programmers used, and then made sure that the OS could handle the problems. It was built to be compatible with something that had older requirements. Windows 95 was meant to be a seamless transition.* That's where the "shielded" memory came in. One could anticipate the tricks, and the obvious pitfalls therein, and thus stop certain types of errors, if you knew what you were looking for (not calling the right entry point on a DLL, trying to execute memory that nobody owns, stop writes to NULL, etc). Windows got better and better at stopping memory stuff like that, but in the example above, if you want to brute force through memory, execution is going to stop.
- The hardware support bar was at a different height for NT and 9x Windows NT 4.0 supported like next to nothing in the hardware department because it wasn't worth it for third party people to write drivers that met the different and more tightly set up NT driver object model. You can't ship what is going to be the most popular OS on the planet, and then break everyone's odd hardware configuration.
- Windows NT wasn't ready for consumer demands Windows NT was terrible for games, and it didn't run much legacy DOS stuff (some, not a lot). It didn't do full screen DOS graphics, for instance, so people couldn't play their Warcraft 2. NT 4 wasn't the OS for the masses.. the install was a tad harder, the software wasn't all there for it, and user accounts were a tad foreign to the user base. Windows 95 was put together to handle all of these demands, while NT was set up to be a good workstation in a corporate environment. There was always a quiet MS internal competition between the two groups, as to who got what right (speed, stability, compatibility). Windows NT eventually won by taking the long path to compatibility, workability, ease of use, and thus quality, ending up as Microsoft's choice for the new PC with Windows 2000 (and Windows XP eventually).
People compare Windows 98
all the time, and that is definitely an apples
comparison. No one compares Linux
would surely win). The real bout the UNIX
crowd has is against NT. Windows 9x was built for speed, wide hardware acceptance, low requirements, and compatibility with a huge software base (as stated above). Protected memory
(while obviously do-able), didn't fit in these requirements
. So what if people have to reboot
a few times
, or a bad program would take down the computer
. How different
is that from DOS
, or from Windows 3.1
? Windows 9x
was a transition
series of OS improvements
until we are at the bar we are today... protected memory
, good networking
, and server capabilities
. The PC has come a long way.. let's keep the comparisons
on an even plane.*One noticable difference in compatibility was that undelete was expressly forbidden from running on Windows 9x.