Wasn't it just two weeks ago that I presented First Encounters of the Windows 95 Kind... albeit with a somewhat negative slant? Ah...what a difference a fortnight makes! Not that I'm eating humble pie, mind you...rather I'm demonstrating my open mindedness in response to e-fan-mail which generally commented: "Don't knock it 'til you've tried it!" Fair enough. A Windows 95-ing we will go.
I was not about to install Win95 atop my 900MB of programs and hard work so Dave, my hardware guru, supplied me with a demo system equipped with Win95 to "thrash and trash" at will. Cool.
Right from the start I think you are supposed to believe that you've "died and gone to heaven" as Win95 boots to a peaceful scene of clouds and celestial chimes. In fact, I wasn't disappointed. Within thirty minutes I was executing programs, installing hardware and multi-tasking without a hitch. Although there are still many intricacies I haven't mastered, I certainly expected a longer learning curve.
Windows 95 is extremely intuitive and interactive. You are prompted through every possible step when installing new hardware. Simply click Add New Hardware from the Control Panel and follow along. I readily located the brand and model number of the modem I was installing and easily picked the correct port from the graphical interface.
After installing the modem, however, I was unable to access the network. I simply chose Troubleshooting Network Access from the Help Index and Win95 asked me, "What's wrong?" I chose "Unable to access network". Win said, "Did you recently install new hardware?" (Gasp! How did it know?). "Yes", I replied warily. "Try this...Did that solve your problem?" "No." "Then try this....Did that solve your problem?" "No." This continued a few more times, until Win95 isolated an IRQ conflict which it coddled me through correcting. We were really bonding by now.
I spent lots of time wandering through Explorer, as it seemed familiar to me. Explorer replaces the old File Manager, but with more features and plenty of shortcuts. While longer filenames and file icons are an obvious difference, the DOS file structure of directories and nested subdirectories is still the basic format. I can't quite bring myself to use the longer filenames yet. It used to be against the law and it still doesn't seem quite right to us diehard DOSers.
Just about any shortcut you can think of...to a document, application or hardware device can be created by dragging an icon from Explorer to either your Start button, or your desktop. Shortcuts seem to be the graphical equivalent of DOS batch files and are a great convenience for frequently used programs or documents.
I did encounter occasional GPF's (General Protection Faults), when using some DOS and 16-bit software applications. Sometimes the application crashed, sometimes not. I did not, however, need to re-boot the system when GPFs were encountered. It took some adjusting to the new mouse functions and the Control buttons, but I can cope with these annoyances.
During my test run, the two strongest features of Windows 95 were pre-emptive multi-tasking and Word 7. This successor to Word 6, of the Microsoft Office Suite, is a 32-bit word processor designed to run in a 32-bit environment. The bottom line, after all, should be not how the operating system performs, but how your software performs within the operating system.
I loaded huge document files full of graphics, jumped on the Internet, started downloading files, captured screen images as graphics, pasted them into Word, searched Help, unzipped the downloaded files, copied text into Word, and printed the document ALL SIMULTANEOUSLY. Even the 16-bit applications barely hiccuped.
I must confess that this "test system" was a Pentium 90 with 16MB of RAM, but I've worked on similar systems running Windows 3.1, and even with such beefy hardware, they would never be able to accomplish such seamless multi-tasking.
So...should you get Windows 95 on a new system? Absolutely, especially if you will be
using 32-bit applications designed to run in the new 32-bit operating system. Will I upgrade to
Win95 on my existing system. Not likely. I'm sticking with safety since there are still too many
reported compatibility problems with DOS and 16- bit applications. Such irony. I really liked the
new kid on the block...we just can't play for a while.
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