Windows 3 is an extension to MSDOS that provides a graphical user interface and primitive multitasking. Earlier versions of Windows existed, but were too slow and resource hungry on the computers of the time to achieve much popularity. The combination of Windows 3 and 386 computers that were able to run it satisfactorily was very popular.

Windows three came in three modes. Real Mode would run (poorly) on an 8086 CPU. Real Mode was dropped in Windows 3.1. Standard Mode used 80286 capabilities to support extended memory. Standard Mode was dropped in Windows For Workgroups 3.11. 386 Enhanced Mode used the 386 and later Protected Mode addressing.

Windows 3 allowed multiple programs to be multitasked via a system called cooperative timesharing. Although abhorant to purists, it worked pretty well in practice. Unfortunately, several key shared resources used by Windows 3 were limited to 64K by the 16 bit addressing model used. Windows 3 was prone to run out of shared resources and crash unless 3rd party extensions were used to improve resource sharing.

Windows 3 introduced common display and printer drivers that vastly simplified the task of writing applications that would run on a variety of hardware configurations. That, rather than the cute (but often excrutiatingly slow) graphical interface, was probably the principal attraction of Windows 3. Windows also had global memory management, disk caching, etc that allowed large programs to be written and to share the computer fairly harmoniously with other large programs. Most MSDOS programs could be run in "DOS" windows.

Windows For WorkGroups 3.11 extended Windows 3.1 to provide networking including support of Microsoft peer to peer and Novell client server. Unix style TCP/IP was added later.

Return To Index Copyright 1994-2002 by Donald Kenney.