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by Russ Bellew · phone 954 873-4695

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My PC History 1 > My PC History 2 > Zilog Z80 > My PC History 3 > My PC History 4 > My PC History 5 > My Faves >  
MS-DOS matures. Windows 1.0 debuts.
 
MS-DOS quickly bumps up against the PC's 640 kilobyte limit and several solutions appear.
 
   
 Early Toshiba laptops

First up was a 3.5 inch floppy based Toshiba 1100+ laptop, followed by a 1200 laptop. They had full a 16-bit wide databus with an 8086 CPU.
 
I used an obscure file compression utility called Squish, published by a Brooklyn-based team called Sundog Software. With Squish, I could pre-compress data and program files and use a TSR (Terminate and Stay Resident) program to dynamically decompress and compress files as they were used. It worked great.
 
By using Squish, I could fit Follow-Up and its data and Borland's Sidekick on a pair of 720 MB 3.5 inch floppy disks. At last, I had my portable customer tracking system.
 
Their non-backlit CGA resolution LCDs were barely usable in anything but the best light. Still, I was happy. 
 
 
Windows 1.0 and GEM arrive

The press in the mid-80s was filled with "windowing environments", and "graphical interface".
 
My first look at Windows (early 1986) didn't impress me: it was on an early PC AT with CGA graphics.  It didn't multi-task, but switched between programs. All but the foreground program were suspended. At the time (1986) for me, it was merely a curiosity.
 
 
I liked Digital Research's GEM better. It felt faster and used less memory than Windows 1.0.
 
  
The first serious applications that I saw for both Windows and GEM were desktop publishers: Ventura Publisher for GEM and Pagemaker for Windows. Both were impressive. This was mid-1986, I think.
 
During one publishing demo I saw my first Hewlett-Packard laser printer. I forget the price, but it was beyond my budget. My trusty Spinwriter wouldn't be retired for a few more years.
 
 
 
 
My first 80286 and 80386 PCs

Though I played with early releases of both Windows and GEM, they had so many restrictions that they weren't practical for business use.
 
I built a 10 MHz 80286 AT clone on a Japanese motherboard.  I soon saw that the 80386's protected mode promised more than the 80286 could offer. It used an EGA video adapter.
 
I built my first 16 MHz 80386 computer by using an Intel motherboard with proprietary memory expansion cards. I used a pair of Intel 2 megabyte full-size memory cards, which cost me close to $2000 (yikes!) for the pair.
 
Anyone who wanted to push the limits of MS-DOS quickly became familiar with extended memory and expanded memory and the differences between them. They unlocked vast reserves of memory beyond the IBM PC's 640 kilobyte limit. This concern with memory management persisted until Windows 95 and OS/2 arrived.
 
MS-DOS introduced rudimentary memory management with, I think, version 4.0.
 
The first Windows version that I seriously tried to use was Windows 386. It included a good memory manager and could do true multi-tasking.
 
I became fond of Quarterdeck System's Desqview, a text-based windowing multi-tasker that ran atop MS-DOS. It was fast. It took a little work to tune, but with it I could have a word processor, spreadsheet, and database all running simultaneously.
 
Desqview's memory manager, Qemm with Manifest, was awesome. It seemed to find every last byte of unused memory and put it to use.
 
During this time there were lots of memory managers available: Qemm, 386 To The Max, etc. The 80386 had allowed access to memory above one megabyte when not in Real Mode, and users were hungry to use that memory.