IBM’s OS/2 operating system is heading rapidly for the end of its standard support lifetime at Deceber 31, 2006. IBM is urging customers to transition to the WebSphere platform.
I personally never used OS/2 much, but I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who did. At the time it was introduced, it was pretty darn sophisticated. I was into the BBS scene at the time, and several SysOps I knew used OS/2 to be able to run multi-line BBSs on the same computer (or used something like the Quarterdeck’s Desqview multitasker for DOS). At that time, most BBS software for the PC was written as a DOS application, and most multi-line BBS packages assumed you’d have one physical computer for each line. There were exceptions, of course, but they were extremely expensive and usually required some additional expensive hardware to provide the necessary number of serial ports for modems.
If you used OS/2 or Desqview, then you could have two or more phone lines (up to four without getting into the expensive 16-port hardware solutions), each coming into a separate modem and serial port. You could then run a separate program for each line, perhaps your BBS software for your callers on one line and your FidoNet mailer on the other line. I was pretty active in FidoNet and UUCP back then, so I really wanted to spring for this kind of setup, but I was already spending $250+ a month on long distance phone bills for my FidoNet connections in the middle of the night (this is back in the days where $.08/minute to Kansas City instead of $.14/minute to Eugene from Southern Oregon was a huge deal). I just couldn’t afford to have my FidoNet mailer doing outound calls 24 hours a day, and if you aren’t going to batch up and send out new email and messages as they were generated on your system, there wasn’t much point in having a separate phone line for FidoNet.
This timeframe is still pretty vivid in my mind because the little computer shop I worked at specialized in networking solutions. Novell Netware 3.1x was the king of the day, but I was fairly proficient in Windows for Workgroups and the recent 3.11 upgrade. I was aware of OS/2 LAN Manager, but hadn’t had a chance to play with it. Instead, my shop received one of the first copies of Windows NT 3.1 (both Advanced Server and Workstation), and we started aggressively pushing Windows NT as our preferred networking solution. There are three things about Windows NT 3.1 that I remember to this day:
- Windows NT 3.1 was my first introduction to this TCP/IP thing; I had no clue what a subnet mask was or how it interacted with an IP address. I wouldn’t really get my chance to work on TCP/IP networks until a year or two later when I got my first dial-up Interet account (using SLIP and PPP) from a Portland-area ISP. Between my shell account (Solaris 2.x) and my discovery of O’Reilly and Associates books, I was finally able to figure out what I’d been missing.
- Our copies of Windows NT 3.1 came in a impressively huge pile of 1.2MB 5.25″ floppy disks. We had to send off a special card to Microsoft to get the slightly smaller pile of 1.44MB 3.5″ floppy disks. IIRC, CDs weren’t an option at this time. Needless to say, installations were not fun.
- We were all pleased with ourselves when everyone in the office managed to generate a blue screen error on our first day of playing with it. The owner dutifully recorded the circumstances and reproductions and sent them back into Microsoft, and we never heard anything more. (No, I don’t remember what bugs we found.)
So long, OS/2. Thanks to that brazen hussy Windows NT, I hardly knew you. Now, looking back, that seems like a good decision on my part and I wish I could claim foresight, but honesty compells me to admit that it was largely chance and circumstance that guided my path. Nevertheless, I’m pretty happy with how things have worked out in my career thus far.