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Windows in 1983|
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Microsoft Windows 1983 pre-Version 1.0 demo
|The following is an article that appeared in the December 1983 issue
of Byte magazine. When I first created this site there was very little
information about early versions of Windows on the web and no references
to this article. It was almost as if there was some conspiracy to hide
the truth about the age of Windows. Thanks to Marcin
Wichary for the improved scans!
A mouse with modest
by Phil Lemmons
The desktop metaphor and the mouse present attractive concepts, but
Apple's Lisa or IBM's PC XT running Visi On exceeds the budget of the average
personal computer user. Both of these systems require a hard disk and great
quantities of RAM (random-access read/write memory). Although the mouse
itself is a small part of the expense, it is a symbol of this approach
to software, and some computer users have been heard to mutter, "What price
Another factor keeping down the mouse population has been the shortage
of things for them to point at (or the shortage of application software).
Until there is a large installed base of Lisa and Visi On systems, many
software authors will forgo the expense of developing applications programs
for these systems. Prospective buyers of personal computers, on the other
hand, are unlikely to buy a Lisa or Visi On until more software is available.
Apple's own software for Lisa is magnificent, but other applications programs
are only now emerging. Visicorp is making a major effort to induce programmers
to write more for Visi On, but the requirements of a Unix development system
is an obstacle to the smaller software houses and independent designers.
The expense underlying the Unix development system is the hardware required
to run it - once again, lots of memory and a hard disk.
This keeps most of us staring a the MS-DOS or CP/M command line and
hoping that a sudden fall in the prices of RAM and hard disk will open
the way to metaphors and mice. With the introduction of Microsoft Windows,
however, the company that brought us MS-DOS promises a mouse-and-window
show running off two 320K-byte floppy disks and 192K bytes of RAM. (More
RAM is required, of course, with each additional application.) To make
Microsoft Windows even more attractive to personal computer users, Microsoft
promises to price Windows "as an operating-system component" - that is,
The economics of Microsoft Windows will also appeal to programmers.
Programmers don't need to buy special hardware or to learn Unix in order
to develop software that runs under Microsoft Windows - they can user their
own IBM Personal Computers. Moreover, programmers can take advantage of
the ability to customize windows so that each software house retains its
own distinct look within the Microsoft environment. The same enlightened
attitude enabled Microsoft to resist the temptation to reserve Windows
as an environment for its own applications programs. Microsoft is making
Windows available to a number of applications software houses, including
some major competitors.
Microsoft Windows is an installable device driver under MS-DOS 2.0 using
ordinary MS-DOS files. Complete compatibility with MS-DOS means that Windows
will at least let you run any application that runs under MS-DOS. In the
worst case, Windows will turn the fill display over to an MS-DOS application
and return you to your place in Windows. "Language bindings" will enable
programmers to write software for Microsoft Windows in any Microsoft programming
Running Microsoft Windows
Photos 1-13 show a sequence of operations in Microsoft Windows. The
photos on pages 52-53 show a variety of machines whose manufactures have
adopted Microsoft Windows as an applications environment.
During normal use, Microsoft Windows displays one or more windows, each
with a different application. You can move the cursor from one windows
to another. You can move windows, change their size, scroll, get help appropriate
to the context in which you are working, and transfer data among windows.
Windows determines the highest level of data transfer mutually acceptable
to the two applications, with plain ASCII (American National Standard Code
for Information Interchange) as the last resort.
The "session-control layer" becomes the equivalent of the empty desktop
where you can manipulate files. The available commands appear near the
bottom of the screen. Normally, Microsoft Windows will restore the desktop
to the state at the time of its last use. In photo 1, we start from scratch.
To see the available applications programs, you either use the mouse
to position the cursor on the command "Run" or type the letter "R." Windows
lists all the applications programs as commands, and you point at the desired
program and click the mouse to run it. You could also type the appropriate
In photo 2, BASIC 86 is running in a large window extending the full
width of the desktop. Because BASIC 86 does all its input/output through
MS-DOS, it can run in a Window. Microsoft calls such software "co-operative."
The bottom of the screen shows the commands available in the session-contol
layer. You can use the session-contol layer to run another program in parallel
with BASIC 86.
The first step toward running a program is shown in photo 3, where the
cursor points at "Run." Microsoft Windows will now display a list of the
Photo 4 shows the next application selected. In this case, the program
that's run is "uncooperative" - that is, it doesn't do everything through
MS-DOS system calls, sometimes going beyond the operating system to write
directly to the hardware addresses such as those of screen memory. Microsoft
Windows can't run such a program in a windows and must give it the entire
screen. That is why photo 4 does not show the session control layer beneath
the display of "Piano."
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