CREEPINGNET'S WORLD
THE CREEPING NETWORK O/S GUIDE

This is meant as a BASIC guide to retro-computing O/Ses for x86 IBM Compatible computers (8088-Pentium 4). It's meant to acquaint the younger and less experienced among us with what operating systems existed for our chosen platform and what they were used for. What's the best for retro-gaming? What's the best for actually using your vintage PC as a daily driver! It even mentions modern compatible O/S such as FreeDOS or using an Ubuntu i486 distribution (once I tinker with that). This is in no way a "how to use" guide or a "how to install "guide" - just a list with some important information and a little trivia on what these operating systems were used for.

TYPES OF O/S FOR VINAGE x86 IBM COMPATIBLES


The IBM Compatible PC has classically been based on DOS, and Windows operating systems. Microsoft had a HUGE investment in this platform, and the shared work between IBM and Microsoft in the beginning are a big reason the IBM Compatible is still a thing 40 years later - yes, I'm even counting your modern PC, as an IBM Compatible. If it's got Legacy Boot - it'll run DOS, and most DOS apps from 1981-present (yes, indie developers STILL make new DOS programs in the 2020's) - therefore, unless you are on your phone, an Apple, or a tablet, you are most likely looking at the descendant of the IBM PC. Your current Dell Latitude or HP Envoy - it's a PC Clone. How about that!

However, if you are intending to use anything "Vintage" you will need an apropriate operating system for it - such as DOS or Windows (though not the only choices), to run anything. You will also need to make sure it has proper driver support for your system, and can handle your CPU and how much memory you have. And there are more variants than just DOS and Windows....so let's look at ALL of the "Variants" of O/S you can get for a PC....- real quick....

  • CP/M - The Ancestors of the IBM PC were the original Hobbyist computers of the 1970's that ran on Intel 8080 or Intel 8008 CPU. These machines were mostly home-built by computer enthusiasts - and these machines ran CP/M, an operating system created by Digital Research. CP/M is a command line (type commands rather than point and click) driven O/S, and if you fire one up on an old PC or emulator, it will be very familiar to people who use DOS - as the first "DOS" was actually created by Tim Patterson at Seattle Computer Products for a prototype minicomputer they were making - and Microsoft bluffed IBM and then purchased the code from Tim and created PC-DOS, later known as MS-DOS, with it.
  • DOS - Tim Patterson's clone of CP/M for the SCP Micro he was debugging in the late 70's was the origin of DOS. Microsoft wanted to get in on the action on IBM's much anticpated and up and coming IBM PC 5150, so they bluffed IBM That they had an O/S already ready to go, and then purchased the code from Tim at SCP for $15,000. The code was then mildly altered and tuned for the IBM PC by Microsoft and licenced to IBM as PC-DOS, and later offered to the public, and licenced to other clone makers, as MS-DOS. However, there's more players in the "DOS" Game - hehe - than just Microsoft, Digital Research, who created CP/M mentioned above, also had their own version of DOS called DR-DOS, and even todya there's an open source clone of DOS known as "FreeDOS" that I'm a huge advocate for.
  • DOS-BASED WINDOWS - Microsoft Windows started at the 1982 fall Comdex (a computer convention from the 80's/90's) when Bill Gates and Steve Jobs both visited the Xerox booth and got to see Xerox's SPARC Workstation at work. The SPARC had a Graphical User Inferface (GUI), so both Apple and Microsoft had ideas for their own GUI based on that idea. Apple's was of course a key part of the Macintosh they released just a couple years later - while Microsoft came up with a prototype by 1983, but had a gestation period of about 3 years until Windows 1.01 came out in 1985. Windows failed to catch on until the early 1990's though when the 386, 486, and early Pentium computers of that time finally had enough "horsepower" to run such a operating environment comfortably enough. DOS Based Windows died out in the early 2000's as Microsoft started to focus on only the "New Technology" NT-based systems (XP on up).
  • OS/2 - In 1986, Microsoft and IBM started working together again on a new 16-bit, later 32-bit MultiTasking GUI based Operating System intended for the "Future of computing". This project came to be known as Operating System/2 or OS/2 for short. Sometime around 1989-1990, Microsoft and IBM had their falling out, with Microsoft taking their part of the code to create Windows NT, and IBM Continuing to release OS/2 as a product until the late 1990's. OS/2 continued to live on in ATM's and other x86 based dedicated technologies well through the 2000's due to it's security and stability. Sadly, it never really caught on.
  • NT Based Windows - NT Based Windows is the current technology in use. Windows NT started off as Microsoft's "Enterprise/Business" line - with Windows NT 3.1 in 1993, which looked exactly like Windows 3.1, except there was no DOS underneath holding it up, Windows IS the O/S in this case, and not just a GUI layer slapped on top of DOS. The NT Line currently is continuing with Windows 11.
  • *NIX - UNIX is a operating system created by AT&T, and the O.G. of *Nix variants. It was originally intended for mainframes and minicomputers used by large scale businesses for large scale operations such as controlling telephone systems, keeping paitient records at a hospital (and sending them to other hospitals), or keeping book keeping data for a large corporation. Unix was licenced, and fanned out to other companies, such as Microsoft XENIX released for the 286 based IBM PC AT 286 in 1984 as an option, but most notable, is a Free, Open-Source *nix variant created by a one Linus Torvaldes known as "Linux" - which first arrived by 1989, and is not one of the most popular non-Microsoft non-Apple operating systems in the entire world, and is the O/S the internet was built upon. Other *nix variants include SCO Unix, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and Serenety. Linux is actually the newest "modern" Operating System you can use for a vintage IBM Compatible, as i486 and i386 optimized variants still exist and some are even curated for old hardware.
  • ODDBALLS - Some other OSes have been made for PC, most small-time passion projects. These will go in their own categories. There's a lot out there if you just google it.

CP/M VARIANTS


DIGITAL RESEARCH CP/M 86
RELEASED:1981
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:Offer a CP/M compatible operating system for the IBM PC
CURRENT PURPOSE:Historical and Curiosity, not much software/driver support
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):PC/XT, basically 8088 and 8086 based systems
CP/M was Digital Research's O/S developed for 8008 and 8080 based 8-bit microcomputers and hobbyist computers in the 1970's. It's actually DOS's ancestor, as QDOS/PC-DOS/MS-DOS was based, initially, as a quick and dirty clone of CP/M. I don't know to terribly much about it, but I have used it a little in an Altair emulator for PC years ago and found it quite intuitive for me as a long-standing DOS user. It was also offered in the CP/M-86 variant for the original IBM PC in 1981, but the higher cost of CP/M-86 lead to it being overshadowed by the hundreds of dollarscheaper, Microsoft Licensed, IBM branded PC-DOS 1.01.

DOS VARIANTS


IBM PC-DOS 1.x
RELEASED:1981
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:Microsoft's first O/S for the IBM PC, to get a piece of the pie
CURRENT PURPOSE:Historical Significance, Period Correct Exhibit, or Curiosity
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):The original IBM Personal Computer 5150
MS-DOS's 1st versions are more useful for "period correctness" than actual usage for the most part. They don't support hard drives, only a limited number of floppy types are supported (160K SSSD, 360KDSDD - both 5.25" Formats), Edlin is the plaintext file editor, there is no built-in easy use shell, and there may be some bugs to contend with. It's not a very common choice.

MS-DOS/IBM PC-DOS 2.x
RELEASED:1983
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:Improved version of PC-DOS/MS-DOS aimed at the IBM PC XT
CURRENT PURPOSE:Historical Significance, Period Correct Exhibit, or Curiosity
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):The original IBM Personal Computer 5150, IBM PC XT 5160, IBM PC Jr., Tandy 1000 & 1000A, Compaq Portable and Portable Plus

MS-DOS/IBM PC-DOS 3.x
RELEASED:1985
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:One of the flagship versions of DOS, added HDD Support
CURRENT PURPOSE:Historical Significance, Period Correct Exhibit, or Curiosity
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):The original IBM Personal Computer 5150, IBM PC XT 5160, IBM PC AT 5170, Various 8088/8086/286/ PC XT & AT Clones, and special versions for Tandy 1000s and other OEM PC's that might be not fully standard

MS-DOS/IBM PC-DOS 4.0
RELEASED:1987
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:A major redo to DOS to make it easier to use and take advantage of newer hardware
CURRENT PURPOSE:Historical Significance, Period Correct Exhibit, or Curiosity
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):IBM PC/XT/AT and Compatibles + older 386 Systems (ALR, Compaq, PC's limited, Gateway 2000, IBM PS/2)

MS-DOS 5.00
RELEASED:1991
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:Update to DOS that made many improvements over the tumultuous version 4.0
CURRENT PURPOSE:A good DOS Verson for 8088-386 hardware, also period correct
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):8088-386, 486 also works great with this as well
MS-DOS 5.00 is one of the flagship versions of MS-DOS. MS-DOS 5.00 took everything wrong with 4.0 and corrected it, and took everything RIGHT with 4.0, and improved upon it. 5.00 does lack the ability to have multi-boot-configuration menus, but it does come with DOSShell, a text mode interface to make using DOS easier for less-technical people, as well as DOS Edit, and QBASIC with Gorllas.bas as the pack-in game. It also supports hard drives up to 2.1GB, with up to 4 partitions, all four major Floppy types, and in general, was one of the "smash hit" versions of MS-DOS along with 3.x and 6.22.

MS-DOS 6.xx
RELEASED:1992, 1993, 1994
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:The final actual widespread releases of DOS before Windows 95 came out, and one of the best!
CURRENT PURPOSE:Retro-DOS Gaming and usage of DOS as a primary O/S today if you prefer Compatibility to Advancement
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):80386, 80486, Pentium 60-75MHz

MS-DOS 7.00
RELEASED:1995
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:Was a part of Windows 95, but was separated by hackers/modders for use standalone in an unofficial distribution, released in the 2010's by Microsoft as "open source"
CURRENT PURPOSE:Retro-DOS Gaming and usage of DOS as a primary O/S today if you want to stay with the original source, and favor compatibility over further advancement of DOS
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):80386, 80486, Pentium 60-75MHz

IBM PC-DOS 2000
RELEASED:2000
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:The final actual widespread releases of DOS before Windows 95 came out, and one of the best!
CURRENT PURPOSE:Retro-DOS Gaming and usage of DOS as a primary O/S today if you prefer Compatibility to Advancement
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):80386, 80486, Pentium 60-75MHz

FreeDOS
RELEASED:1995, 2001, 2007, 2021
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:A way to continue using DOS as a primary O/S post-95 with full legitimacy and zero legal ramifications
CURRENT PURPOSE:Used a lot for retro-gaming, Embedded Apps, and other modern-day DOS activities, DOS ain't dead, just free!
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):Pretty much all of them, I've even run this on Core 2 systems with decent results
FreeDOS was started in 1994 asn open-source MS-DOS clone aimed at people who did not want to move to Windows as their primary operating system. It has taken it over a decade or two to finally catch on but currently is an excellent open source operating system that tends to give legacy machines, even the oldes XT or AT, a much more modern-like user-experience with built-in support for networking and internet, and on-disc "packages" for everything from file archivers to brand new, open source, DOS Games and game engines. Currently this is my personal favorite O/S on this page

DOS-BASED WINDOWS VARIANTS


Microsoft Windows 1.x
RELEASED:1985
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:The first GUI to run on top of DOS from Microsoft
CURRENT PURPOSE:Historical Significance and Period Correctness, though hardly anyone used it
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):Original IBM PC's, XT's, and AT Class stuff, 286s are probably the best though
The first Windows Release is really quite a useless graphical environment for DOS and does not have a lot of software that's supported by it or that works in it that cannot be used in later, more capable versions of Windows. You can't even overlap windows (just tile them) and the initial color scheme is ugly as heck. Much of this is because most IBM Compatible users at the time saw no point in spending $100 for a graphical environment with poor software support and poor driver support to do the same things they were already doing in MS-DOS, and some power users saw this as a "toy" or a pathway to user stupidity due to not having to remember command line commands (that are also pretty easy).

Microsoft Windows 2.x
RELEASED:1986
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:Update to Windows 1.x, intended to improve memory management and multitasking
CURRENT PURPOSE:Historical Significance and PEriod Correctness, though not widely used yet at that point
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):8088's, 286's, and early 386's
Windows 2.x has a confusing mix of editions similar to WIndows XP, you have the numbered versions (2.0, 2.01, 2.03), then you have a pair of special releases called "Windows/286" and "Windows/386" obviously designed to run on 286 or 386 era hardware respectively. Other than historical significance, or doing a period-correct reproduction of a machine's original factory operating environment, there's really no reason to use Windows 2.x today other than historical or period correctness.

Microsoft Windows 3.0
RELEASED:1989
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:Massive update to Windows, brought us the PRogram Manager interface and 3-D look
CURRENT PURPOSE:Historical and PEriod Correct, a handful of circa 1989 machines had this offered as an option
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):80386 or 80486 have the best performance but software pool is awful and Multimedia is limited and rare
Windows 3.0 was really the start for the "Windows 3.x" series with the "Windows 3.1x" being the most popular. While this version was quite well liked, it also was still not quite distributed enough to be worth your time, especially since the much better 3.1x series comes afterward which has full support for gaming, internet, and had heaps of applications written for it - plus the capability to run some Windows NT/9x apps via the Win32s 32-bit Extender add-on package. Windows 3.0 had to even have a special kit for sound support. SOmething most sound cards came with for 3.1 out of the box.

Microsoft Windows 3.1x
RELEASED:1992
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:Updated Windows 3.x into what we are most familiar with, improved OLE and Memory MAnagement
CURRENT PURPOSE:Retro Gaming, Retro-Internet Use, USage of Vintage Applications
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):386 and 486, some Pentiums ran this (very well I might add)
Windows 3.1x is probably your best series if you are primarily into Win16 gaming or reliving Pre-95. It runs pretty much everything 1/2/3 did, and better. It has better memory management, and the "For Workgroups "versions will connect to your home LAN or Broadband Internet quite easily using the TCPIP32B add-on. Also it works with Win32s giving you partial support for Windows 95 and some Windows NT applications. Windows for Workgroups 3.11 is the most popular and best choice of the 4 availible as it has the network functionality (mostly) built in, and has the most support of the lot.

Microsoft Windows 95
RELEASED:1995
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:This was their "DOS Killer" version of WIndows, despite having lots of "DOS" left in it
CURRENT PURPOSE:HIstorical Significance (HUGE), Retro Gaming, Vintage Software, Specialized Applications
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):Late era 486 (DX2+) or Early Pentium, up through Pentium II
Windows 95 was a cultural milestone for the PC. It set the golden standard for the interface and many pathways we still use to this day in the WIndows interface to get things done. The earliest versions of Windows 95 were rather lightweight considering as they did not have Microsoft Internet Explorer 3 or 4 integrated into the Shell of WIndows, which was a MAJOR performance hit in the days when computers ran a little above or below 100MHz and had 16MB of RAM at best in most cases. That said, most vintage Win9x and Win16 games, as well as DOS Games, will run properly through this environment. However, just like most versions of Windows, you are subject to legacy security holes, so it's not really suggested to keep any Windows 9x variation connected to the web for long as they can be a GLARING security hole due to issues with Server Message Block (SMB) 1.0 networking, various holes in the security system of early WIndows networking, and various other issues. On the upside, this is as close as you are going to get to a lightweight, fully functional Windows on an x86 PC from the 486-PII era.

Microsoft Windows 98
RELEASED:1998
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:This was meant as a major update to 98, including bundling IE as a part of the rest of the interface
CURRENT PURPOSE:Historical Significance (HUGE, but Negative), Retro Gaming, Vintage Software, Special Apps
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):Very late 80486 is usable, but Pentium+ is reccommended, unless your 486 is crazy fast like mine
Windows 98 of course is the predecessor of Windows 95. It has a heavier GUI as Microsoft chose to integrate IE 4.01 into it, and thusly attempt to strongarm people into using THEIR browser. This was a big part of the big Microsoft Antitrust lawsuits of the late 1990's, and a big reason Microsoft recieved a notorious reputation for a time.The british side of these lawsuits found in favor of the people so if you are from that part of the world you might have a different experience. But for America, we had to deal with the problems. One result of this is 98 LIte which removes the IE based UI and replaces it with parts of Windows 95, for a lighter weight user experience with more speed and fluidity. The best version of 98 was Second Edition, which has a copyright date of 1999, but was really released in 2001. 98 SE with 98 LIte is a real pleasure to work with even on a newer 486.

Microsoft Windows Me (Millennium Edition)
RELEASED:2000
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:Was the final version of Windows 9x that declared "DOS is Dead" by hiding any DOS-features once obvious
CURRENT PURPOSE:Historical Significance/Period Correct, or generally used as a curiosity due to it's bad reputation
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):Pentium-Pentium III
Windows Millennium Edition is the final version of "9x" though not named Windows 9-something like the rest. What Microsoft did here was attempted to hide all the "DOS" parts of the O/S as a part of the ad campaign was "DOS is Dead". But in reality, it was just Windows 98 gussied up in fancy Windows 2000 window dressing with things like Command PRompt and DOS Edit hidden from view to make it look "modern". It also got a horrendous reputation for security and instability at the time, though much of that has gone by the wayside now because it's no longer the target of viruses, spyware, malware, adware, and so on.

OS/2 VARIANTS


NT BASED WINDOWS


Microsoft Windows NT 3.1
RELEASED:1993
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:The NT Based sister to Windows 3.11, intended for low grade Servers, High End Workstations, and Power Users
CURRENT PURPOSE:Historical Significance, Specialized needs to run NT Software on legacy hardware
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):386, 486, Pentium, Pentium Pro, Pentium II, RISC
Microsoft Windows NT 3.51
RELEASED:1995
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:The NT Based sister to Windows 95, intended for low grade Servers, High End Workstations, and Power Users
CURRENT PURPOSE:Historical Significance, Specialized needs to run NT Software on legacy hardware
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):386, 486, Pentium, Pentium Pro, Pentium II, RISC
Microsoft Windows NT 4.0
RELEASED:1997
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:The NT Based sister to Windows 98, intended for low grade Servers, High End Workstations, and Power Users
CURRENT PURPOSE:Historical Significance, Specialized needs to run NT Software on legacy hardware
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):386, 486, Pentium, Pentium Pro, Pentium II, RISC
Microsoft Windows 2000
RELEASED:1999
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:The NT Based sister to Windows Millennium Edition, intended for low grade Servers, High End Workstations, and Power Users
CURRENT PURPOSE:A choice for people who want XP Compatibility without the "eye candy" eating up valueable system resources
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):i486 DX4, Pentium 75+, PII, PIII, P4


Microsoft Windows XP
RELEASED:2001
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:Basically Windows 2000 updated and tweaked to consolidate Windows into one, singlular product line based on NT, instead of home/basic-business users being tied to the older, "DOS Based" Windows versions (3.1x/9x/Me), while the Servers, Bigger Workstations, and Power Users opted for NT based solutions (NT/2000)
CURRENT PURPOSE:A popular choice for early 2000's "Gamer rigs" and "Tweener" systems
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):Intel Pentium II, III, IV,and AMD Duron/Athlon
Windows XP, much like 95, 98 SE, and 3.11 before it, gained a reputation over the course of the 2000's as being one of the most robust, solid, and reliable versions of Microsoft Windows ever created. While, like any O/S, it had it's share of problems, it really was the first to be so solid that people continued using it past EOL (End of Life) - so much so it also was the first version of Windows Microsoft had to provide extended support for - allowing it to remain in active duty as late as 2017 or even 2020 in some edge cases - that's almost 20 years of shelf life. The only O/S to have such long standing use was Windows 3.1x, and Windows 3.1x only got an extended lifetime because it was running on EMBEDDED devices (ie i286/386/486 based industrial equipmet such as Injection Molding machines, Laser Cutters, lathes, computerized metal stampers, PBX Controllers, Healthcare monitoring equipment, and the like) - as mentioned for Windows 3.1, where the 486 continued to be manufactured until 2007 for such purposes.

Microsoft Windows Vista
RELEASED:2005
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:Codenamed "Longhorn", it was originally intended to be a full rewrite to the Windows codebase, but ended up just being another version of Windows NT aimed at the consumer and business workstation market(s)
CURRENT PURPOSE:Historical Significance as one of Microsoft's great failures
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):Pentium 4, Pentium-D, Core 2 Duo/Quad, though best left in the past in lieu of XP or 7 TBcH
Windows Vista was touted as "Windows Longhorn" in 2003 as a complete rewrite of windows NT to remove a lot of "legacy features" that were holding Windows back from being a fully stable and secure modern operating system. Early beta releases - which were posted in ISO format online for free so Microsoft would reward something like $10,000 to anyone who could break Vista's security - ran excellent on even a beefy Pentium III system, but the actual release seemed to be recieved as a second-coming of Windows Millennium Edition (Me) and thusly it now becomes the butt of jokes and scapegoat for Windows-related-issues to this day.

Microsoft Windows 7
RELEASED:2007
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:Improve on Windows Vista, resulting in one of the best versions of WIndows of All Time
CURRENT PURPOSE:It's starting it's journey into the PC history books as something we will be trying to activate forever
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):Pentium D, Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad, Core i3-i7 1/2/3/4/5/6 Generation
Windows 7 was one of Microsoft's TRULY good operating systems. It was slow to boot for some, yeah, but it was stable, fairly secure considering, and was a solid, reliable workhorse like XP turned into even during it's twilight years, so much so Microsoft had to keep accomodating support for late switchers in business environments. One of the finest examples of "if it aint' broke don't fix it" as well as another fine example of why building something great goes against late stage capitalism.

Microsoft Windows 8
RELEASED:2013
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:To latch onto the 2nd wave trend of portable convertible laptop/tablets, and regain PC marketshare
CURRENT PURPOSE:Historical, Maybe if you have a touch or tablet PC this might be interesting, but there's better options
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):anything touch/tablet circa 2013-2017
Windows 8.x was released to both save and capitalize on how the PC Market was faltering at the time in the wake of Smartphones and Tablets with touch screens. THis lead to innovative yet polarizing ideas with a new "UI" called "Metro", later renamed "NEw Style UI". They were working closely with hardware developers too - a whole pile of new touch/tablet ideas, like some kind of 1990's Dauphin/Versa revival, except less as interesting, came back around to touch/pen/tablet computing again, and thefefore, once again, WIndows was tailored to suit, except this time, unlike "Windows for Pen Computing" circa 93', they foisted these features upon the whole product line, which I feel alienated some consumers, especially those (like myself) who did not have a touch-screen tablet computer at home and had no need to actually buy one. The "Charms" on the right side of the screen, and the lack of a STart button in 8.0 + plus a full screen gaggle of special "spplications" that don't work like regular Windows applications/programs with similar program behavior was a major misstep that lead to 10. Another problem with this is in Corporate Environments - pre-installed applications such as Facebook or CAndy Crush Saga filling the screens of end-users computers eveyr time they clicked Start or the Charms meant two BAD things in corporate environments: firstly, lost productivity because your users are being tempted by applications preinstalled by Microsoft aimed at a home-based user-base, and secondly, it made the desktop look VERY unprofessional. Whereas with Windows 7 you had the spartan yet professional blue desktop background with gray accents, now you had a "plastic candy freak show" covering your screen every time you opened the new style UI to use Notepad or some new "app" intended for business tucked neatly between Solitaire Collection, CAndy Crush, Facebook, and Instagram - because we all know you're going to pick up your Dell OptiPlex and it's 2 monitors at work and take a "Water Cooler Selfie" with your colleagues.

Microsoft Windows 10
RELEASED:2015
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:To address all the misgivings users had about Windows 8.x (no start menu, horrible "Metro UI")
CURRENT PURPOSE:A Daily Driver Operating System for the Masses
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):Current Generation Hardware
Windows 10 was released in 2015 as a much anticipated "return to normal" for many users as the last two versions were very polarizing as they were an attempt for WIndows to latch onto the new tablet/portable/convertible trend (that is not that new TBH, my 1995 NEC Versa M/75 has a touch screen that can be flipped like a Tablet, and came with Windows (3.1) for Pen Computing possibly as the original O/S). As far as backwards compatibility, the lack of a widespread 32-bit variant means that backwards compatibility with vintage/retro software will require either finagling with Compatibility Modes that either may or may not work (ie Windows 9x/NT/XP - using XP most likely), using emulators (DOSBox, VirtualBox, ScummVM, Exult...etc)...but for anything 2000 and up I do find it runs it pretty well, actually quite decently, though your graphics might be messed up by modern HD video cards and monitors stretching out 4:3 aespect ratio games that don't have drivers or updates to full HD.

Microsoft Windows 11
RELEASED:Release Pending
ORIGINAL PURPOSE:Update the WIndows UI and hopefully look toward the future
CURRENT PURPOSE:Only time will tell...
BEST HARDWARE ERA(S):Core i-series hardware
Windows 11 was recently leaked and it appears it's likely going to be one of those versions that is quite polarizing because of their choice to move to a more "Apple" or "LInux" like dock and change of UI, and integration of Linux features into Windows. How stable will it be, where will it find itself in history, lord only knows, just like 8-10.

*NIX VARIANTS


The world of *nix, both retro and modern, is far more convoluted and difficult, and widespread, as well as less-as-plagued with "obsolescence" like DOS or Windows happens to be. It started with AT&T/SCO Unix back in the 70's, mostly run on large scale mainframes. Microsoft had their own variant called XENIX for the IBM PC AT in 1984 (which never took off much). IBM Had a series of RISC workstations known as RS6000 in the 90's and 2000's that ran AIX. But the best known of all, is LINUX

Linux is an open-source Unix-alike operating system, originally developed the late 80's/early 1990's by Linus Toravaldes, and continues to be improved upon today. However, Linux is not just one singular O/S, but rather, a group of variants known as "Distributions". These distributions have their own "sub distributions" based on the codebase of a major distribution - usually Slackware, Debian, RedHat, or Ubuntu, with some cross-pollination here and there. Distributions can range from tiny distributions for older machines such as these here such as "DSL Linux (Damn Small Linux)" or "Tiny Linux", all the way to full blown, robust, modern Windows 10-like things like Ubuntu, Linux Mint (based on Ubuntu), Pinguy - and all points in between. The lowest you can (usually) go with Linux is a i386 class (80386) machine, though most modern codebases are now based on i486 at least, if not i586 (Pentium) class, and a lot have droppd that and moved on to i686, IA64, or AMD64 (the current industry standard). There are also a very tiny amount of variants modified/tweaked/recompiled to work with 286 or even 8086 CPU, but these are rare and their usability is questionable at best. The upside of Linux, in general, is it is a fully 32-bit, true multitasking O/S, even in it's stripped-down command-line driven form as you most likely would use it on these older machines.

ODDBALL OPERATING SYSTEMS