We already played a game of Name That Windows Version. Let’s expand it a little and see if you can figure out what operating system is being talked about in this article from the New York Times.


A couple of weeks ago, we played a game of Name That Windows Version where I found a press release about a version of Windows from some time in the past, stripped out the identifying information in the release, and asked if you could identify it. It was an exercise to prove just how the hype of each version of Windows matches the previous one.

This week, I thought we would try again. This time, however, I’m going to include more than just Windows as an option. Don’t take that as a clue that it’s not Windows though. I just wanted to make the test harder.

Hot off the presses

This article appeared in the New York Times. As before, I’ve stripped out the name and some of the things in the article that would make the choice obvious. See if you can tell what this article is talking about:

Whether, or When, to Buy XXXXX

SOME people loathe XXXXX, some say it is the greatest development in personal computing in many years, and most don’t know it from chopped liver. But the new operating system for powerful personal computers is eventually going to affect everyone who uses a PC in business.

While XXXXX will become the new standard for business PC’s, that certainly won’t happen today, or even next year. For starters, XXXXX brings with it a lot of additional costs. Last week’s column discussed some of the costs of switching from XXXXX to XXXXX: Customers will need new hardware to provide enough memory, new versions of favorite software programs and retraining for everyone who works on the computers.

Is XXXXX worth that cost? Not surprisingly, … , says yes. Many other experts agree. So do the corporate users who’ve begun working with XXXXX since it was shipped early this month. They say it’s better than they expected, with few of the bugs common to the debut of any program and a potential that is strikingly clear the moment the system is turned on.

Does that mean corporate buyers should rush out and pick up XXXXX tomorrow? Or should they wait, particularly since advanced and extended versions of XXXXX are promised in the not-too-distant future?

Right now, XXXXX is an obese, snorting memory hog that demands a minimum of xxxx xxxx bytes just to boot it up and xxxx xxxx bytes before it can run any of your …. software…

”Users and vendors are excited by the possibilities unleashed by XXXXX,” said John McCarthy of Forrester Research, who polled 18 independent software vendors, nine large industrial companies and six computer system suppliers.

XXXXX will allow those companies to begin sniffing out the emerging capabilities and strengths of the new operating system, which include multitasking (running more than one program at the same time), improved memory management, superior networking, data base and communications features, and, generally, a better computer environment for programmers to work in.

Of course, it is also a more complex environment for programmers. ”To say, ‘Hello’ in a window under XXXXX requires 300 lines of code,” one programmer said, compared with five lines in the computer language C.

Yet many businesses will discover, perhaps to their delight, that they don’t need to take the XXXXX step at all — that they can get along quite nicely for years to come with XXXXX. They may not need to spend the estimated $xxxx to $xxxx a machine it will take to convert existing hardware and software to run XXXXX

So most businesses probably ought to wait at least a year before deciding whether to make the giant step to XXXXX. That year should see the arrival of new software applications for XXXXX – which, … will make PC software appear much like the easy-to-use Macintosh software.

Name that operating system!

OK… so you’ve read the article. Now — Name That Operating System!

Do you think you got it right?

Get the answer.

The operating system mentioned in the article was the ill-fated OS/2. Specifically, this article discussed OS/2 1.x, the very first version of OS/2. This was from the time when IBM and Microsoft were happily working together on what Bill Gates described as the “platform for the 90s.”

The article appeared in the New York Times on December 27, 1987. It was originally entitled “THE EXECUTIVE COMPUTER: Whether, or When, to Buy OS/2.”

This time, I left out not only the name but also the entire passages that referred to the different versions of OS/2. OS/2 1.0 came in Standard and Extended versions, which did different things. I also left out references to mainframe connectivity, which would have been a dead giveaway.

One of the things that kept OS/2 1.x from being more popular in 1987 was its large memory footprint. As the article (in correct form) states:

“OS/2 is an obese, snorting memory hog that demands a minimum of 1.5 megabytes just to boot it up and 2 megabytes before it can run any of your DOS-based software – and that’s Standard Edition 1.0, the early diet version.”

Kind of describes Windows Vista in a nutshell, doesn’t it? Just swap gigabytes for megabytes and away you go.

Remember that in 1987, most computers came with only 640k. High-end 286s may have come with as much as 1Mb of RAM, but 2MB was unheard of. To expand memory to 2MBand beyond was a small fortune.

Another thing that doomed early OS/2 was the reliance on 286 machines. The 386 machines were only starting to come off of the assembly lines, and IBM wanted to sell as many 286s as possible. The problem was that 286 machines were limited in their multitasking capabilities and couldn’t multitask DOS apps (95% of the market) very well at all.

The high memory requirement and poor multitasking ability doomed OS/2 from the start. After that, Microsoft concentrated on Windows, and IBM took the OS/2 ball and went home. Subsequent versions were much better, even better than Windows 9x, but eventually Microsoft’s marketing power, OEM relationships, and Windows NT/2000 code doomed OS/2.

The last fun quote comes from page 2:

So when will the scales tip decisively toward OS/2? ”It’s quite possible that by 1989 it’ll be very close and we might likely sell more OS/2’s than DOS,” Mr. Reiswig said. ”But it will be quite a time before the whole installed base is OS/2.” And what is the message I.B.M. wants to send to executives? ”Try it, you’ll like it,” Mr. Reiswig said. ”It’s not something you have to throw a big switch on and say we’re gonna buy all OS/2’s tomorrow. It has been couched that way, because everybody’s been wondering about it.”

When people are busy talking about how soon we’ll all be running Linux, Mac OS X, or Vista, remember that in 1990 we were all supposed to be using OS/2.