Memories of OS/2

OSNews reports that OS/2 is 20 years old today. Wow, that makes me feel ooooold. My first experience with OS/2 was the 2.0 version (I think) around the end of highschool. According to Wikipedia 2.0 was released in 1992, so that’s about right. I think I remember going with Fred to go over to someone’s house to copy it even (lots of floppy disks). I do know that dad got mad at me for creating several levels of boot menus in our computer (a 386DX-30) that had had to navigate through just to get to anything. The menus of course would change on an almost daily basis as I played around.
The first “real” version of OS/2 was 3.0, or Warp, released in 1994, just before Windows 95. At that time I wasn’t a Microsoft hater, but I could see the marketing hype. As Windows 95’s ship date got closer (or slipped, depending on how you looked at it) people basically had the choice to either believe the Microsoft hype of “it’ll be so good and awesome and amazing you’d better wait for it and not go with the competition!” or go with the product that was already out, OS/2. I went with OS/2, cause while running Doom in a dos window sounded super-cool, full 32 bit multi-threaded multi-tasking sounded even cooler.
And OS/2 was cool, it could crash and still recover easily (not even affecting a modem download!), ran windows 3.x apps, had lots of cool free downloads, had a really neat “feeling” shell. Guess you have to have used it to know what I mean about that though. Something to do with the object-oriented workplace shell I guess.
They did a lot of marketing around this time I remember. Something I vividly remember is going to one of the Comdex shows in Vancouver at Canada place (before Comdex started sucking and way before it was canceled) and seeing an IBM demo where they illustrated the object orientedness of OS/2 vs. Windows 95’s shortcuts, where if you move the source, the shortcut breaks under Windows, but under OS/2 it would keep the same. Last time I checked Windows still had this issue 7 versions later. Obviously not a big enough issue for people to complain about.
I actually bought OS/2 at one point, I know this because I threw out the box a couple of weeks ago. It was a big box as well, multiple CDs and a huge manual. None of this pansy “software box is the size of a DVD case” BS. I resisted throwing it away for ages cause it was something I actually bought for one, but also just because it was such a cool system. Course, when I tried to load it up into VMWare and it told me basically for OS/2 under vmware, “you can’t do that”. Also I saw some screenshots of the OS somewhere and realized just how far we’d come, and while it may have been cool back in the day, nowadays with things like Vista, OS/X and Linux/Beryl/Compiz, things are a LOT sexier.
Anyway, as it turns out of course, Microsoft won this particular battle. Still, 20 years, wow. Interesting to see what would have happened if things had gone the other way.

4 Comments on “Memories of OS/2”

  1. I well remember OS/2. My first self-installed version was 2.10 Presentation Manager, I seem to recall. I continued on with Warp 3 & 4–both very superior object-oriented systems.
    Just before Windows 95 was released, what I remember the most was the hope that for a brief, shining moment, a superior OS might rein supreme. Windows 95’s delay had opened up a very good window-of-opportunity for OS/2 that seemed to be almost heaven-sent.
    But what happened–what I watched happen–were totally unrelated commercials (did the Nun commercial run with Warp 3 or 4?), and a ready buying public totally and completely unaware of what OS/2 was! From the commercials, the only thing a viewer could assume was that it was produced by IBM and therefore must be good. No mention of what OS/2 actually was–like a computer operating system? Oh, heck no!
    Anyway, OS/2 was the bees-knees. Too bad IBM missed their shot. Too bad for all of us.

  2. I think that part of the nonsense and the apparent incompetence of IBM at the time was due to them being under investigation for (ironically enough) anti-trust. The story as I heard it was that they moved so slowly to put out ads or even respond to claims put out by Microsoft because all their publicity had to go through a room full of lawyers.