Why I Don't Run Win95
by David Parry
There three very simple reasons why I have not upgraded to Windows 95:
Upgrading all my software to the latest version would be expensive. The problem is that there is no assurance that I would get much benefit, since I would have the same programs as before. By all accounts Windows 95 does not give much of a performance boost. On the other hand, I have read numerous accounts about problems with Windows 95.
The general consensus of opinion is that Windows 95 works very well if you install it as a brand-new system and do not attempt to upgrade your old Windows system or to install "legacy" programs. I am not in that situation, so I do not want to spend hours trying to solve technical problems. I had enough of that anyway in dealing with OS/2 and ISDN recently. Subsequently reconfiguring a Windows 95 system can either be painless or purgatorial, so one can't be sure that all is plain sailing once the initial installation is OK.
Concerning the benefits of Windows 95, this again covers three main areas:
I have partly covered the first two by using Norton Desktop for Windows and Ram Doubler. The standard Windows 3.x interface is clumsy by more recent standards, and NDW has many of the features of the Windows 95 interface. The biggest problem is that I cannot be sure that new programs will run on my current system. Microsoft is actually the biggest offender, so I will have to upgrade one day if only to maintain compatibility with WinWord, but a number of new programs are appearing in Windows 95 form only.
This turned out to be a particular problem with PC fax here, as I simply could not find a program for Windows 3.1 that is ISDN-compatible. My low-tech solution to the problem — well, I'll go into more detail in the next Ionic Column.
Obviously, it will get increasingly difficult to swim against the Microsoft current as time passes, but for the moment I note that a large number of corporate users are doing the same thing as I am, and for the same reasons; costs, benefits, problems. Also, I note that many new or updated programs still cater for both flavors of Windows. The resulting byte-bloat is yet another reason why more and more programs are distributed on CD-ROM.
To some extent I prefer to remain with Windows 3.1 because of OS/2. I will try again to set up a second PC, a 386/40 with 8 MB, as an OS/2 test bed. One thing is for sure; that PC could never run Bloat 95 at an adequate speed. OS/2 has the option of its own version of Windows 3.1. The advantage is that I could run different versions of Windows, including one with Russian fonts, and maybe WIN/V for occasional use (mainly printing out; I have occasionally had two-byte ASCII files sent to me for editing from Japan).
But OS/2 is not in itself a big issue, as I do not know how much I will be committed to it. The lack of really outstanding software is one issue. I would like to use OS/2 communications software to download files in the background, and it might be worth having for that one feature. Maybe.
On a long-term basis, I will look hard at the version of Windows that will follow 95 which will essentially be NT for the masses. At that point it would be worth changing over. But not now, because I believe that Windows 95 is another interim product, yet another trial balloon in the scheme of things at Microsoft. Why do I say this?
In my collection of shelfware I used to have copies of Windows/286 and Windows/386. The first did not offer any real advantage at that time, as so few programs were available. This was back in the days when every program came with a slew of printer and screen drivers, each with their own unique bugs. Windows 2.0 made little impact, not least because it was so slow, but you did not need to run the program, as a run-time version was supplied with many programs. I used Scanning Gallery with my ScanJet Plusfor a long time like that, finally migrating it to Windows 3.x when that came along.
Windows/386 turned out to be the real non-event, as it had compatibility problems with older Windows programs, it had few programs of its own, and no real advantages. Within about a year it had been totally eclipsed by Windows 3.0, which made the breakthrough to wide public acceptance. The public included yours truly; that was the point at which I started using Windows.
The cycle is slowing down, but Windows 95 does not look as if it will be a durable product. The civilian version of Windows NT — call it "Windows 98" — is the product with the future. I am assuming that it will be a fully 32-bit program, unless Microsoft wishes to continue recycling code that dates back to Windows/386.
A number of programs written for Windows 95 do not work with NT, so this is another reason for waiting until I upgrade everything at once when I get "Windows 98". Or will it be "Windows 2000?"
I conclude with the caveat that there are many people who are satisfied with Windows 95 and find it easier to use and more stable than the older versions of Windows. Again, this usually applies if you install Windows 95 from scratch or if you bought a new system with preloaded software.
Windows 3.1 with Ram Doubler is reasonably stable, but rock-solid stability requires the likes of OS/2 or Windows NT 3.51. Another caveat; NT 4.0 and its derivatives are not going to be as stable, due to fundamental changes in their internal structure. Nonetheless, "Windows 98" is the future of Windows, and I personally prefer to skip what I regard as a transitional product.
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