Windows’ backwards compatibility is still unrivaled
March 22, 2017 7:32 PM   Subscribe

In 2011, Andrew Tait installed MS-DOS 5.0 and systematically updated it all the way through Windows 7. Now he's done it again, but starting with MS-DOS 3.10 and going all the way to Windows 10.

Cameo appearance by Monty Python's Complete Waste of Time game.
posted by Chrysostom (24 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
NB: the video contains a large number of poorly drawn penises for some reason.
posted by jedicus at 7:41 PM on March 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

This video is great! It's a real nostalgia trip seeing that MS-DOS box in particular.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:45 PM on March 22, 2017

Yes, thanks for calling that out, jedicus. I should have mentioned it.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:45 PM on March 22, 2017

Isn't this the kind of thing you'd do if you're doing time for manslaughter?
posted by marvin at 7:47 PM on March 22, 2017 [10 favorites]

There's something terribly wrong about being nostalgic about an operating system.


I loved the comment about Windows 10 being installed "simply by leaving the room".

posted by adam hominem at 7:53 PM on March 22, 2017 [14 favorites]

I got a computer from Mefi's own Sparx with win2k on it about 12 years ago and have steadily upgraded every single component except the case and four versions of windows without ever doing a fresh install.
posted by Sebmojo at 8:29 PM on March 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Ahh, DOS. Those were the days.
posted by notyou at 8:37 PM on March 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, in the write-up, the mention of Gparted. Kinda felt like a minor deity with that. "I'll just boot this CD and make my own darn partitions."
posted by notyou at 8:43 PM on March 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

“username: twatface” 

posted by migurski at 8:50 PM on March 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

In his previous video his username is shitballs.

Would it kill him to make a video I can show the kid?
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:53 PM on March 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

NB: the video contains a large number of poorly drawn penises for some reason.

Early versions of Windows do look pretty bad by today's standards, but there's no need to be childish about it.
posted by No-sword at 9:06 PM on March 22, 2017 [10 favorites]

If you are in need of nostalgia and serenity, enjoy Windows 95 Startup Sound (slowed 4000%), and Windows Startup and Shutdown Sounds 800% Slower for more takes but less serenity. More modern sounds, stretched: Windows 8, 8.1 and 10 Logon Sound 800% Slower. All done with PaulStretch.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:53 PM on March 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

jedicus: "NB: the video contains a large number of poorly drawn penises for some reason."

No-sword: "Early versions of Windows do look pretty bad by today's standards, but there's no need to be childish about it."

They didn't call it "Hot Dog Stand" for nothin'...
posted by Rhaomi at 1:35 AM on March 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

They didn't call it "Hot Dog Stand" for nothin'...

Along with the Blue Screen of Death Screen Saver via remote registry editing, setting your buddy's Windows theme to Hot Dog Stand were the go-to standard practical jokes for new IT helpdesk employees. As a supervisor, I tolerated it from those folks because it taught them some valuable skills not only about remotely working on a computer but also about not taking their machine's security for granted.
posted by Ausoleil at 5:48 AM on March 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Windows' backwards compatibility is without a doubt a Herculean feat of programming and really impressive. As a Mac user, I of course question the necessity of a gazillion man hours and who knows how much software cruft so that someone can play Snipes from 1982 on a current PC, but hey, it's pretty shocking when you can.
posted by fungible at 8:27 AM on March 23, 2017

I was inspired by this video (and also by a friend who was desperately trying to get a couple of his old games working on his machine) to play around with installing some older Windows versions as virtual machines in Oracle's Virtualbox.

I started with Windows 95, and I have to say that looking at it again after twenty-plus years of evolution and refinement in hardware and operating systems, I didn't really realize at the time how much of an absolute pain in my ass it was to install and get working at a reasonable level.

Then I tried Windows XP, which went much more smoothly...and then I branched out into other operating systems and went a tiny bit overboard. I now have twelve--twelve--virtual machines installed, including Windows 3.11/95/XP, two different flavors of Linux, FreeBSD, and Solaris. The others are more or less obscure/exotic ones--Android x86, Haiku (formerly BeOS), OS/2 Warp, ReactOS (an open-source binary-compatible version of Windows), and KolibriOS.

KolibriOS, by the way, is kind of amazing. It's a full-featured OS written entirely in assembly language. The entire installation image is less than three megabytes, and the system runs on a machine with only eight megabytes of RAM. It's also blindingly fast--it boots to the desktop in under ten seconds. Now I just need to figure out something useful to do with it.

...I'm not sure if I have a new hobby or if I need a support group.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 8:42 AM on March 23, 2017 [14 favorites]

I am very much this dude's target audience but I will say that I laughed out loud so abruptly I scared those around me when he installed the insanely backwards-compatible IE5 just to see what would happen when a later Windows version tried to install IE4 on top of it.
posted by range at 8:50 AM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Funny thing: the backwards compatibility of the MS line of operating systems is completely precedented. There are a number of systems, most older than MS-DOS, that still have a current incarnation that will run unmodified code lifted from punchcard. Notably, I worked on one system written in VAX Assembly that was originally written for the very early VAX, pulled onto OpenVMS on the MicroVAX, when that was discontinued was then pulled onto OpenVMS on Alpha, and then when that was discontinued, was pulled onto OpenVMS on the Alpha Emulator on Itanium.

I think the VMS lineage is starting to crumble (although the modern Windows kernel itself has some tangential, irrelevant relationship to VMS). However, the IBM zSeries mainframe still drags forward such charming antiques as paper tape support. I still often look at systems I work in today based on how they must have been implemented using punch cards in order to dissect their underlying design assumptions. Often, the underlying calls to long-dead card sorters are still dutifully being emulated in the background, and in the foreground, knowing how an operator was expected to deal with a shoebox full of accounting cards goes a long way in knowing how to fix today's spurious accounting problem.

One odd thing is that the MS line of OSes is actually beginning to see the likely decline of its continuous compatibility. Owing to the fact that they have never provided cross-processor binary support (e.g., a guarantee that x86 Windows NT binaries run on Alpha) which is the thing that kept systems like VMS, MVS, and zOS compatible, it's unlikely that, as the ARM revolution begins to fully unseat the Intel x86 / AMD64 instruction set, later versions of Windows will continue to provide support between old x86 software and new ARM OSes. Thus, MS's success on this front has a lot more to do with Intel going to heroic lengths to provide an unbroken line of CPUs that support backward compatibility than it does with MS.
posted by kochbeck at 9:51 AM on March 23, 2017 [9 favorites]

I work in IT and I wanted to send this around the office (including a number of student employees who work for us and would get a kick out of such a thing) but I had to stop myself because, you know, GIANT FUCKING DONG.

I really wish he had made the video without that. Draw a picture of a flower or something. Come on.


Otherwise, I mean, I thought it was really very interesting and I was transfixed.
posted by kbanas at 11:54 AM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

...okay, I was going to fire up Windows 3.11 and be all I AM POSTING TO YOU FROM THE DISTANT PAST ALSO IS GRUNGE STILL A THING PLEASE ADVISE, but as it turns out, Internet Explorer 5.01 is too creaky and decrepit to handle the MetaFilter login page (even after installing the 128-bit encryption update).

So I might just have to fire up Haiku and do GREETINGS FROM THE ALTERNATE TIMELINE WHERE THIS TOOK OFF AND MAC OS DIDN'T instead. :P
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:08 PM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you're feeling dedicated, you might be able to log in on a modern browser, then export your cookies and figure out how to import them into IE5
posted by vibratory manner of working at 4:25 PM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

This is my kind of goofing off!
So much time wasted, and where did he get the install media and a floppy drive to read the disks?!
posted by Gadgetenvy at 8:56 PM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I laughed out loud at the "left the room and Windows 10 installed itself," partially because I'm not 100% sure whether it was a joke.
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:59 PM on March 23, 2017

Monty Python's Complete Waste of Time included soundscape where all of your keystrokes triggered various rude noises: farts, belches, etc. Pretty sure this is still the funniest thing that's been done with a computer...
posted by Locobot at 10:42 AM on March 24, 2017

« Older The biggest shakeup for dinosaurs since that big...   |   PMJ covers Metallica with 15-year old Caroline... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments