Windows NT, December 1991

Welcome back to my lair! This time I bring you the earliest build of Windows NT to be available. From all the way back in December 1991 - two years before it was released. This build of NT is so ancient that it doesn't have a properly working installer (it installs via batch file), and it doesn't use an executable format that's compatible with any other version of Windows. Similar to the fifth Development Release of Windows, from 1984 (available at the Endangered Software Archive).

These four screenshots are of the booting process for this ancient version of Windows NT

The first Windows NT login screen! The username 'MYUSERNAME' is a preset name that comes with the OS, the computer name being 'MYCOMPUTERNAME.' You can only have one username on an installation, and passwords aren't read. Unlike newer systems, which implement a registry, this system keeps the user account and computer information in a file called '\nt\ntusers.cfg' which is a basic plaintext config file.

The Windows NT Program Manager. What do you notice? Correct, the colour scheme is somewhere between early versions of OS/2 (1.x) and Windows 3.0. Also, the username isn't displayed at the top. Wierd? Not really. At this point, the system was still pretty much OS/2 with a Windows frontend, the big difference being that there wasn't an API abstraction layer, it was implemented natively. The PE (Win32 executable) format is also different, so you can't run software from this version (or built for it) on a newer version.

Help! What help? It's not implemented yet.

The command prompt, and winver.exe. At this point it was to be called 'Windows NT 3.2,' which seems to be a bit of a marketing ploy; since 3.2's bigger than 3.1, and Windows 3.1 was still in development at the time, maybe they were to be marketed alongside one another, with NT 3.2 being the 'newer, more shiny' version whose codebase was to supercede the old Windows 1, 2, and 3 line? Sound familiar?

Command Prompt again, what looks different? It's OS/2's cmd.exe! I told you: NT hadn't long since ceased to be the all-new NT-OS/2 at the time.

Solitaire, because we've all played it.

Version... VERSION? If they've not implemented the version number properly, how can they have implemented anything? Well that's all you know; Windows NT was self-hosting: each version was used to build its own successor. This was partly to ensure it worked properly ("eating your own dog-food"), and partly for face. Before this, Microsoft used DOS and XENIX boxes to build their software, including operating systems. Noticed something else? It's not saying it's Windows NT, it's just calling itself Windows, and reporting that it is running in 'NT Mode.' This supports the idea that the Windows GUI is just a sub- system that runs atop a non-Windows core. Hmmm... Wind, anyone?

A couple of demo applications, to show off the shiny new capabilities of Windows NT.

The 'Demo' program group, containing the programs I've just mentioned.

As I always do: a message in notepad! With the obligatory "Hello, world!" program.

Windows Paintbrush.

A command prompt, and I'm creating a new file. What can this be?

A little bit of code.

Said code, typed out on the console. I always review my code again before building it. This early version of Windows NT even comes with a compiler and development kit... well, actually, I have a feeling that Windows came with the kit as a testing environment for what you developed, not as a beta test or anything like that. That's like you going to the shop and buying a copy of Visual Studio 2010 and getting a copy of Windows XP free.

Argh! So much typing! This is why I love UNIX-like systems with gcc, pcc, or whatever... I can get away building my new program with 'cc filename' or 'make' - here, because the path is rubbish and the compiler doesn't know where its own libraries are. So when you build a program, you've got to tell the linker in minute detail where all the libraries are. Oh, and it appears my little hello program worked. Yay.

Ending Windows NT. There's no shutdown option here, so...

... it seems like you'd do what you did back in the early Research UNIX days: log off, pray it's flushed your filesystems, and cut the power.

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