On Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 11:43 AM, Bret Johnson <bretj...@juno.com> wrote:
> The are only a few practical differences between Windows 9x
> and similar DOS applications.  The first is that Windows 9x comes
> with a version of DOS that has special enhancements the Windows
> application requires to operate properly.  But, it is still a general
> purpose DOS that other applications can use -- it isn't a special
> version that only works with Windows 9x.

Right, but MS was trying to start anew with Win95, esp. after the 1991
split from IBM re: OS/2, hence the new (proprietary) native Win32 API
for both console and GUI. (Win32s previously existed but only for
limited GUI stuff. DOS was still the console in the older Win 16-bit
days.) So it was clearly legacy (as NT took too much RAM, which most
people didn't have). Win95 could allegedly run (slowly) on a 4 MB 386
box (though I think most brand new computers at the time were
Pentium/60s with 16 MB or similar).

A lot of DOS software still worked with Win95, but most people (e.g.
id Software, Raven Software) soon switched to Win32 for various
reasons (better drivers, esp. networking), not counting the advantage
of avoiding NTVDM bugs (e.g. Quake). And MS was clearly pushing Win32

While it's true that DOS compilers were still being developed and
worked on (e.g. DJGPP v2 in 1996), once Win2k (FAT32, DOS LFNs) and
WinXP became ubiquitous (circa 2002), NTVDM was the best you could
get, which meant buggy but overall "good enough". And even that got
worse and worse with even succeeding Windows version, if you were
"crazy" enough to not upgrade to the clearly "superior" Win32 (via
Cygwin or its offshoot MinGW or otherwise, which eventually eclipsed
DJGPP in users).

So yeah, people wanted flashier features, easier compatibility,
followed latest trends, hence DOS support got weaker and weaker
(despite ongoing work with DJGPP and OpenWatcom). Most other DOS
compilers gave up the ghost as the API wasn't considered a first-class
citizen (or even second-class) anymore (esp. with demand for Unicode
support on the rise).

I know all that seems off-topic, but that's the real reason that MS
dropped DOS support in lieu of Win32. They wanted to "control the
standard" (to paraphrase Gordon Letwin).

> The second is the OS (DOS) is set up to automatically load
> the Windows application.  But, you can easily change this
> by simply adding a "BootGUI=0" line to the MSDOS.SYS text
> configuration file.  You can then boot straight to a DOS
> command prompt, and run all kinds of DOS applications
> other than Windows 9x.  If you then decide you want to run
> the DOS application called Windows 9x, you can simply type
> "WIN" at a DOS command prompt (just like you do with earlier
> versions of Windows).

This was only until older apps could migrate to the newer API.
Similarly with Win2k "Ex" APIs or .NET or Win64 or WinRT or whatever
they're pushing nowadays. Back in 1995, not nearly as many Win32 apps
existed, so compatibility was important. Similarly with AMD64, there
are already efforts to imply that 32-bit is obsolete and that 64-bit
is the (exclusive) future, even if it does (for now) support backwards

> The last significant difference is that you can't just "exit" Windows
> 9x and go back to regular DOS again without rebooting.  In that
> sense, it's a poorly designed application.

Most "well-behaved" apps (esp. DPMI) ran both ways. Only ones that
needed real mode or VCPI or similar would have to use raw DOS.

> Basically, "owning" Windows 9x also means you "own" DOS 7.x,
> and you don't need to ever run the Windows application if you
> don't want to.  They are separate and distinct.  Overall, I think
> I agree with Karen's assessment.

I still have Win95 on 18 (overformatted, 1.6 MB, DMF?) or so floppies.
But I doubt it works with my USB floppy drive (at least not in most
OSes). But I don't care, I don't want it, I'll "just use FreeDOS."

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