It’s formally the end of an era - even though Windows 3.11 (aka Windows for Workgroups) hasn’t been sold for PCs for some considerable time, Microsoft has still been licensing it to embedded device manufacturers right up until the present day. However, now they’re finally pulling the plug.
I’m actually impressed they kept it up this long! Most serious enterprise software vendors will support product lines for 10 years at a stretch, but it’s been 15 years since WFW was released - that’s pretty impressive.
So why do I care? Well, in a way WFW is ‘special’ to me because it marked the start of an era when I was genuinely glad to use Windows. I’d used Windows 3.0 and 3.1 at home before then, and they were ok for the odd bit of word processing but most of the time I was pottering about in DOS because that was where all the action was (I remember one of my friends at the time going on about how much he liked Slackware instead, but foolishly I ignored him). However at work, a PC with WFW on it replaced my green-screen terminal which only had access to a proprietary mainframe and a proprietary Unix system (SCO System V if I remember rightly - ugh). So I welcomed WFW with open arms 😀Over the 90’s I spent a lot of time deploying & developing on various Windows systems, and generally enjoying it. I enjoyed playing with all the new stuff coming from Microsoft in fact, because they were changing the way things were done, for the better compared to what I’d used before. Looking back it seems such an innocent time 😀
It didn’t last though. In the early noughties, I perceived MS becoming more and more self-obssessed, inward looking, and dedicated to their vested interests as a primary motivation, and decided I was seeing a very similar pattern to what had made the old proprietary systems so limiting a decade before - an incumbent protecting their monopoly, more than innovating for the better. The feeling that I was part of something exciting, interesting and positive ebbed away, and my cynicism reached record levels. You might call it an IT worker’s mid-life crisis 😀It’s hard to put an exact time on it, but I think 2001/2 was the tipping point where I went from ‘relatively happy Windows developer’ to ‘ready for a new way of doing things’. Open source entered my world at about the same time.
So, for me WFW brings back nostalgic memories of a time when, even though it might not have been fantastic, Windows was something I would choose to use over alternatives, and the future looked bright - Windows was going places and changing life and work for the better. How times have changed. Or maybe it’s in fact me who has changed?