VOICE Home Page: http://www.os2voice.org
|By Michal Necasek © January 2002|
Installing IBM OS/2 1.0 on this baby was quite easy (once I overcame several
initial obstacles that were entirely my fault) and OS/2 runs well on this system.
The performance is naturally not exactly blistering - specifically the harddrive
is no speed demon - but it shows that preemptive multitasking with memory protection
was quite feasible on an AT class system. And OS/2 still boots in under 20 seconds
on this ancient machine which is better than I could wish for with eCS on my PIII
I can also confirm that the "penalty box" nickname for the DOS session
in OS/2 1.x was completely deserved as it was by far the easiest way to bring down
the system - but due to lack of native OS/2 programs it was unfortunately a necessary
evil. To the defense of OS/2 designers and programmers I must say that the instability
was not caused by bugs (or at least not only by bugs), it was simply a consequence
of the 286 architecture.
But let's fast forward from 1987-1988 to the second half of 1994.
OS/2 Warp was also IBM's most serious and best attempt at gaining dominance on
the desktop, or at least significant marketshare. I've heard that at one point OS/2
Warp may have commanded as much as 10% of the desktop market, but it is extremely
difficult if not impossible to get reliable figures - if indeed anyone has them
in the first place, which I doubt. This attempt for grabbing greater marketshare
was moderately successful and many people were attracted to Warp. I was among them
too and OS/2 Warp was the first version of OS/2 that I installed on my machine in
1995 (then a Pentium 90, originally with 8MB and quickly upgraded to 16 and later
32MB RAM) and I have fond memories of that era.
Similarly to OS/2 2.1, there were two versions of OS/2 Warp available: basic
Warp without Win-OS/2 called "Red Spine" because of the appearance of
the box (labeled "Enhances your existing DOS and Windows"). This version
was prevalent because most people already owned Windows 3.1, whether they wanted
to or not. And of course Red Spine was cheaper too. The other version was Warp with
Win-OS/2 called "Blue Spine" (the box said "Includes DOS and Windows
application support"). Both these versions were available on floppies or CD-ROMs.
By this time the floppy versions were fairly rare, especially because it was possible
to create floppies from the CDs so it could make sense to buy the CD version even
for people who couldn't directly install from CD (or not yet).
In mid-1995 the Warp family got two new members with the introduction of Warp
Connect (again in Red and Blue Spine versions), extending the choice to whopping
four possible versions, not counting different distribution media.
OS/2 Warp had several things going for it (in no particular order):
Cleaner and nicer than OS/2 2.11 with one brand new feature - the LaunchPad at
the bottom of the Desktop. The LaunchPad was a neat feature and demonstrated the
power of the WPS with full drag-and-drop support.
Installing OS/2 Warp on my home machine (a PIII-600 with 256MB RAM and a 32MB
Matrox G400) was straightforward after I created updated boot floppies with the
latest IDE and floppy drivers. Installing from CD didn't even take long. Once the
basic OS was set up I just installed drivers for the Matrox graphics card and was
Later I upgraded the installation to OS/2 Warp Connect with Win-OS/2 (Blue Spine).
The "superhighway" stuff was actually contained on the second CD, the
BonusPak disk. Next to FaxWorks, VideoIn or IBM Works there was IBM Internet Connection
for OS/2. It was aimed purely at dial-up users and contained an IBM dialer plus
"Dial Other Internet Providers" (DOIP) dialer, at that time only supporting
SLIP and not the newer and later prevalent PPP.
Basic Internet client software was also supplied - FTP, Telnet, e-mail, news,
WWW (very rudimentary at that time). Plus support for some protocols that are extinct
nowadays, such as Gopher.
The IBM Internet Connection was a very scaled down version of IBM's TCP/IP kit
which had been available since OS/2 1.3 days.
This merging of several previously standalone products made things a little confusing,
especially for newcomers. For basic networking support there was MPTS (Multi-Protocol
Transport Services) which was required by all the other products. The IBM LAN Requester
has not changed much since OS/2 1.x days, still supporting the familiar NET command.
IBM Peer was a very scaled down version of the LAN Server without most administration
tools. I have only very briefly and very long ago used the NetWare Requester and
LAN Distance so I won't comment on those. Perhaps the most interesting of the pack
was the TCP/IP support. Again it was a somewhat scaled-down version of IBM's TCP/IP
kit without NFS support, X server and similar relatively esoteric software. What
it did include however was full support for TCP/IP transport protocols and a number
of client applications: FTP, Telnet, Gopher, e-mail, news (NNTP) and WWW - much
like the IBM Internet Connection in plain OS/2 Warp.
This is what Warp Connect looked like after installation (with IBM Peer and TCP/IP
You can clearly see that there are many more folders than in plain Warp and there
could be even more if I installed all options. For those who already forgot what
WebExplorer looked like, here's a reminder:
You can see that even old WebExplorer 1.01 can still render some of the web's
most important pages<g>.
There is one very technical reason for this - image manipulation programs need
high resolution - especially high color resolution - and I was unable to get drivers
for my Matrox G400 working on OS/2 2.11 or earlier and none of these programs looks
particularly good on 16 colors. But the Matrox drivers work fine on OS/2 Warp.
The first app I'll take a look at is the oldest and perhaps most famous: ColorWorks
from SPG, proudly called by its authors "The Artist's Ultimate Power Program".
The first version of ColorWorks was released in 1995 and was later followed by versions
1+ and 2. It wasn't exactly cheap (the box sports a $329.99 price tag) but probably
not more expensive than other similar programs.
For the most part ColorWorks was similar to other image manipulation apps but
it had at least two unusual and probably unique features: DIMIC and SMP Smart Threading.
DIMIC stood for Dynamic In-Memory Image Compression and it referred to a technique
ColorWorks could use to store the images compressed in RAM at the expense of processing
speed. This allowed ColorWorks users to edit much larger images than they'd normally
be able to. SMP Smart Threading was nothing other than multithreading support. ColorWorks
could split its work into several threads that would run concurrently. While this
had no real effect on single processor machines, it could significantly speed up
processing on SMP machines (at that time running OS/2 2.11 SMP):
While SPG promised linear increases in performance up to 64 CPUs which is technically
impossible (due to memory bandwidth bottlenecks), it is very likely that on 2-4
way SMP machines the performance increase was quite impressive.
At any rate ColorWorks was a capable program, as evidenced by one of the sample
images supplied with it:
It had all you'd expect from such a program - drawing functions, color manipulation,
filters, all the works.
The other graphics program was TrueSpectra Photo>Graphics. It is hard to say
what kind of program it actually was - it was an interesting hybrid between a bitmap
and vector oriented drawing program. Photo>Graphics works in a unique way: its
output is a bitmap but it is not stored as a bitmap, rather as a collection of objects
(which can be bitmaps), text and effects - more akin to a vector oriented
app. This has two important benefits:
With Photo>Graphics it was easy to change the text and images or alter the
result in any way you wanted. The output was turned into a single bitmap only when
you printed it or saved it to disk.
But there was one other internal IBM project that had great bearing on the future
of OS/2: OS/2 for PowerPC. It was a somewhat nebulous project which kept changing
directions during its lifetime. It is hard to tell what was at the beginning of
this project, if there indeed was any clearly definable beginning at all. At some
point in early 1990's IBM decided that it would be wonderful to have this cool Workplace
OS. It was to be a microkernel-based, object oriented uber-OS running on a RISC
platform (a very ominous collection of buzzwords). It was to be able to run several
operating systems at the same time. Nobody can agree anymore on which OSes exactly
those were but it is certain that they included OS/2, Windows NT, MacOS and Solaris.
Why anyone would want to run all these OSes on a single machine at the same time
is something IBM never adequately explained and probably didn't even think about
hard enough. Obviously "because we can" was not a correct answer.
Anyway IBM kept changing the goalposts and the project ended up as OS/2 for PowerPC,
officially called in the final stages OS/2 Warp Connect, PowerPC Edition. IBM was
hyping this product quite heavily between 1993 and 1995. There were many articles
written about it, there were even beta versions of the PowerPC SDK available on
the DevCon CDs (yes, I have one). IBM used a cross compiler from MetaWare to build
programs on Intel OS/2 and then transfer them to PowerPC machines. There were porting
workshops going on and companies like Stardock or Sundial Systems ported their products
to OS/2 for PowerPC, which supposedly wasn't even very hard (OS/2 2.0 was designed
with portability in mind after all).
As the release date for OS/2 Warp Connect, PowerPC Edition neared, the hype subsided.
And when OS/2 for PowerPC was supposed to be released, IBM was suddenly quiet. The
product was released and several lucky individuals even own the software
(not me, unfortunately). But it was not easily available and only customers with
special relationship with IBM could actually buy it. All that remains of OS/2 for
PowerPC now is one redbook entitled "OS/2 Warp (Power PC Edition) - A
First Look" published by IBM International Technical Support Organization in
December 1995. It is document number SG24-4630-00 for those interested, it might
still be available. It is definitely interesting reading.
There are multiple reasons for the failure of the OS/2 for PowerPC project. Some
were external to IBM, others were purely internal:
There is one very important lesson to be learned from this debacle: don't believe
industry pundits. They can't see into the future even though they like to pretend
that the opposite is true. From late 1980's until mid-1990's their line was "CISC
is dead, RISC is the future". Well, they were right, but there was one fatal
flaw in their reasoning. These pundits predicted that Intel x86-compatible CPUs
as the most typical CISC processors were "out" and would be replaced by
a new RISC based architecture, such as the PowerPC (or Alpha or MIPS or whatever).
Only the engineers at Intel and other x86 compatible CPU makers (AMD, Cyrix et al)
weren't entirely stupid. What they did was build CPUs with a RISC core and a x86-compatible
front end. Thus they achieved what the pundits didn't expect: RISC performance while
retaining 100% backwards compatibility with CISC. And so OS/2 for PowerPC was doomed
even if it wasn't plagued by all the other problems.
I might revisit the OS/2 history topic with an article on beta versions of OS/2
(ranging from OS/2 1.0 beta from summer 1987, first Presentation Manager preview
from March 1988 to Warp II beta from summer 1994). Before that I would however love
to get my hands on a MS OS/2 2.0 beta from 1989 or 1990 (yes, they were that old)
so if you know where to get one of those, please let me know!
All my OS/2 history articles published in the VOICE newsletter to date are available
at my personal web
pages. For the most part they have been simply "reprinted" but there
is some additional information that I learned after the articles had been published
plus there is a page covering some IBM and Microsoft server software of the OS/2
I can be reached at <MichalN@prodigy.net> and will welcome any comments, suggestions, corrections or new information.
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