Some Windows Histories

For some reason, this year everyone decided to publish extensive articles on the history of Microsoft Windows and related technologies. Reading all of them will probably take you a month but they are quite informative, so I wanted to collect them here in case you missed some or all of them.

  • Doing Windows at the Digital Antiquarian includes nine consecutive book-length articles, starting with the linked one. Aside from technical aspects such as the evolution of graphical user interfaces and the underlying operating system changes they required to be useful, this series also covers Microsoft’s business decisions, company culture, and long relationship with IBM. The Games of Windows is a tenth related post, featuring mighty Solitaire and Minesweeper.
  • Microsoft’s own Rich Turner has published four posts (so far) on the Windows Command Line, all linked to from this first post. Turner covers the evolution of command prompts in general and Windows CMD.EXE in particular, before going into details of the current design and support for Unix-like programs.
  • Also at Microsoft, Raymond Chen wrote no less than 14 consecutive posts on the PowerPC 600 Series, supported by Windows NT 3.51–4.0 and Windows CE. This is a practical discussion of the CPU architecture with plenty of assembly language code samples. Of course Chen has also written many stand-alone posts about historical trivia related to Windows, most recently on Windows file attributes.

There are several other interesting older or non-Windows articles that I discovered recently, so I might as well add them here.

  • On IEEE Spectrum, former TI engineer Walden C. Rhines tells “The Inside Story of Texas Instruments’ Biggest Blunder:” The TMS9900 Microprocessor. This CPU powered the successful TI-99/4A and was in fact originally considered for the IBM PC, but incredibly turned out to be even worse than the Intel 8088.
  • Eric S. Raymond wrote about Draining the manual-page swamp. This is about Raymond’s doclifter tool that reformats ancient Unix nroff/troff manual pages as DocBook XML, but also includes an informative history of Unix manual page formatting.
  • Did you know? There’s a free Multics simulator! In case you’ve never heard of Multics, it was an early multi-user operating system (released in 1969) that inspired the name Unix as a pun.

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