Operating Systems and File Systems Windows® 3.x

Operating Systems and their File Systems

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Windows 3.x

Microsoft first began development of the Interface Manager (eventually renamed Microsoft Windows) in September 1981. Although the first prototypes used Multiplan and Word-like menus at the bottom of the screen, the interface was changed in 1982 to use pull-down menus and dialogs, as used on the Xerox Star. In November of 1983, Microsoft finally announced the release of Windows, no doubt as the result of pressure from the just-released VisiOn and impending TopView. This, after the release of the Apple Lisa, and before Digital Research announced GEM, and DESQ from Quarterdeck and the Amiga Workbench, or GEOS/GeoWorks Ensemble, IBM OS/2, NeXTstep or even DeskMate from Tandy.

Windows promised an easy-to-use graphical interface, device-independent graphics and multitasking support, however these developments were delayed several times, and Windows 1.0 hit the store shelves in November 1985. The selection of applications was sparse, however, and Windows sales were modest.  It has been said that this first version of Windows® was a very bad copy of someone else’s GUI, but we can’t speak to that as nothing ever surfaced to sustain such an allegation.

In the fall of 1987, Microsoft introduced Windows 2.0, which provided significant useability improvements to Windows. With the addition of icons and overlapping windows, Windows became a viable environment for development of major applications (such as Excel, Word for Windows, Corel Draw!, Ami, PageMaker and Micrografx Designer), and the sales were spurred by the runtime (“Single Application Environment”) versions supplied by the independent software vendors.

In late 1987 Microsoft released Windows/386. While it was functionally equivalent to its sibling, Windows/286, in running Windows applications, it provided the capability to run multiple DOS applications simultaneously in the extended memory.

Microsoft has come a long way since that first version of Windows®. When Microsoft first released Windows 3.0 in 1990, and then released subsequent versions including Windows 3.1, Windows 3.11 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11 in October of 1992, it was readily apparent that they intended to be a leader, if not the leader, in how people were going to interface with the computer age. Rather than discuss each of these former Windows® versions, we are going to refer to them collectively as Windows® 3.x.

In keeping with the context of this segment, Operating Systems and their File Systems, and with a factual point of view, Windows® 3.x is not an operating system at all, but rather a graphical interface. Why? Simply, put, Windows 3.x runs on top of DOS, specifically MS-DOS®, and uses DOS (and BIOS) routines for the majority of its hardware management, which includes disk access. In essence, Microsoft created a pretty interface to replace the rather bland DOS command line interface many users were familiar with, a graphical shell if you will. Since DOS is used for disk access, Windows® is (was) limited by what ever version of DOS happens to form its foundation, which in most cases is (was) MS-DOS 6.22. So, even though we refer to the “operating system” as Windows® 3.x, the true operating system, and its file system, is (was) MS-DOS 6.x.

It wasn’t until Microsoft completed development on Windows® for Workgroups 3.11 did they begin the move towards a partial implementation of the VFAT files system and their perceived enhancement referred to as 32-Bit file access. In this particular enhancement, Microsoft employed the use of 32-bit protected mode routines for accessing the disk, instead of using the standard 16-bit DOS routines. Microsoft later took this implementation further in Windows® 95, although not all of the VFAT features were included, just the use of 32-bit access routines. Regardless of what you choose to call it, the only difference is how the disk is accessed, as the actual file system structures are still FAT, therefore long file names were not included.

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Notice: Windows® 95, Windows® 98, Windows® NT, Windows® 2000, Windows® XP and Microsoft® Office are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Microsoft Corporation.

All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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