Home windows 98 For Spaceships? Not Fairly!


One of many information gadgets that generated probably the most chatter amongst Hackaday editors this week was that ESA’s Mars Specific mission is receiving a software program replace. And so they’re updating the working system to…Home windows 98.

Microsoft’s late-90s client desktop working system wouldn’t have been the primary to come back to thoughts as applicable for a spacecraft, however ESA had been fast to remind us that it was the event toolchain, not the craft itself, that depended upon it. It’s nonetheless fairly a shock to seek out Home windows 98 being dusted off for such an surprising objective, and it’s led us to contemplate these now-almost-forgotten working programs as soon as extra, and to query the place else it would nonetheless be discovered.

Win, or Lose?

A Windows 98 CD
This CD stood on the shoulders of 16-bit giants. Mark Morgan, CC BY 2.0.

For these of you who by no means used an earlier Home windows model, maybe it’s time for a brief and sketchy historical past lesson. The unique IBM PCs and clones shipped with DOS, PC-DOS or MS-DOS, Microsoft’s 16-bit single tasking working system with a command line interface.

By the late Nineteen Eighties that they had developed the primary few variations of Home windows, a 16-bit GUI that sat over and additional prolonged DOS with an additional set of APIs. To run these early Home windows variations you had first besides into DOS, after which kind win on the command line to begin Home windows.

In the meantime within the early Nineties they produced the primary in a separate line of working programs to be known as Home windows New Expertise, or NT. These had been native 32-bit working programs that contained the total set of Home windows APIs together with 32-bit help natively, and had been designed to compete with lower-end UNIX machines on the enterprise degree. Alongside this the DOS-based Home windows variations gained a set of 32-bit API extensions and ultimately advanced into the extra fashionable GUI of Home windows 95, 98, after which ME. It was nonetheless potential besides Home windows 98 right into a DOS immediate and sort win to begin the desktop, however by this level the underlying expertise had been stretched to the restrict and the end result was typically buggy and unreliable. Within the early 2000s they had been discontinued, and the following Home windows NT model dubbed Home windows XP was additionally aimed on the client market.

Peering Into The Thoughts Of A Nineties Scientist

XKCD 2347, a huge pile of infrastructure depending on one small software project.
Is that single undertaking actually a crusty outdated beige-box Pentium working some ASP? XKCD 2347(CC BY-NC 2.5).

So we return to Mars Specific. By the point the craft was being designed it’s honest to say that Home windows NT and its successors had been a steady product, extra steady by far than the patron working programs. Did the fruits of a desktop working system ultimately make it to house as a result of whoever managed a researcher’s IT price range skimped a bit on the software program and PC buying? We could by no means know, however on condition that it appears to have delivered the products, maybe it wasn’t such a nasty selection in any case.

All of this brings us to the query of the place else there may be a duplicate of WIndows 98 lurking. Positive, a few of you’ll have retro gaming PCs and little doubt there might be tales of aged family nonetheless utilizing it, to not point out that some items of Nineties take a look at tools ran it. Even the McLaren F1 supercar famously might solely be serviced with a specific mannequin of Nineties Compaq laptop computer. However these aren’t precisely mission vital. As a substitute we wish you to inform us about Home windows 98 within the wild the place it’s a shock, and even the place it positively shouldn’t be. Is an almost quarter century outdated OS that’s been out of help since 2006 propping up an unwieldy tower of providers someplace? We’re actually undecided whether or not we need to know or not.

Header: Javi1977,CC0, and Federico Beccari, CC0.


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