OS/2 4.0 the final frontier

When OS/2 4.0 came out, something was different.  First it was 1996.  The Windows 95 tidal wave had happened.  Users everywhere were moving to Windows 95.  Office 95 was also a big deal, a real 32bit version of Office that was sold on retail shelves, unlike Office for NT.

And if that onslaught wasn’t enough, a month earlier Windows NT 4.0 had hit the shelves.  And as I had mentioned it was so popular and so desired, where I worked people were going out and purchasing it themselves, and replacing their corporate sanctioned OS (Windows 3.11 or Windows 95) as the productivity of not crashing or the conflicts of old/bad drivers etc etc.

At this point to say OS/2 4.0 had significant competition is an understatement.  Not to mention how Microsoft leveraged it’s OEM channels to force bundling & instillation of Windows/Office, even on IBM hardware.

When I got OS/2 1.3 it was at a HAM Fest, as nobody sold it retail.  OS/2 2.1 for Windows, and OS/2 Warp were all sold through retail channels.  When OS/2 4.0 had finally gone retail none of the local retailers in the Ft Lauderdale, Miami area were going to even stock it.  Instead me & a friend had to drive all the way up to some small retailer out around Boynton Beach.  Needless to say this release wasn’t going to be a big one.

While the hype around Merlin, had been quite intense, when it had come time to deliver it seemed at this point IBM was only going to push this out because of all the time & effort that went into it.  But the PowerPC version was basically dead, and it seemed with them the hope of OS/2 had gone with them.

Also at this point there were no plans to build a Win32 subsystem into OS/2.  This meant that you couldn’t run Office 95.  And of course when Office 97 came out, there was no way you would be running that on OS/2 either.  Oh sure there was this half hearted framework, Open32, 800 some popular Win32 calls adapted to OS/2, but it was only source compatible, there was no way it’d run stuff on OS/2 (while others have taken up the torch via Odin).

Ok, enough with the back story!  Let’s upgrade!

Hello old friend, it’s time to go to the end….

The installer had now swelled up to 3 disks.  I’m not sure if 4.0 was even available on floppy disks.  I know the version I had was on CD.

I’ve got to admit it, this boot logo looks the best.  Although in my opinion they should have dropped the Warp thing, at this point 4.0 was it’s own thing, and even in this logo they are using warp like a deformation, not warp speed.  Could it have been that hard to slap some Star Trek people on this?

In this day in age, there would have been a ‘Jean Luc Piccard’ limited edition.  But I guess IBM wouldn’t want to offend the STAR WARS fans or something.

Well this is a change, a welcome screen touting new and exciting features!

And it pretty much looks and feels like Warp 3’s colored installer, which we all know really goes all the way back to OS/2 1.1 .  Especially when it comes to this:

Yep let’s NOT format the disk.  Although in retrospect I think I really did only half read this once, and I just saw the “convert to a different file system” part and said oh yeah let’s do this HPFS thing! … Too bad I missed the “erases all files”… Maybe a blink tag would have been appropriate there… Oh well it’s been a long long time since then.

Now with OS/2 prepped, it’s time to go into the GUI boot…!


Oddly enough the Sound Blaster was not preserved from Warp.  And at least in a virtual machine I do have the ability to test, and quickly go redo this, so I know the “Sound Blaster 16 PnP” works best in Virtual PC 2007.  And as you can see it picks up the S3 video, and it remembered my printer!  But it still asks me to go thru a list of printer & video drivers, I guess it’s to make sure they are correct.  I just hope this doesn’t leave me with 3 printers…

And as a sign of the times.. My 500MB disk is looking pretty small with all these features.

And look, networking!

It does support DHCP, and it found the DC21x4 network card in Virtual PC.  So far it looks pretty good!

Let’s let the installer do it’s thing!

Also you may notice that OS/2 4.0 looks nothing like the prior versions.  Gone is the old 5 color flag thing, and in with the ‘warp bounce’ thing.

I’m sure all of this is helpful to someone.  But it’s not me.  I just assumed it knows what it’s doing.

A quick reboot and um.. it’s doing something.  I guess someone had a placeholder in there…

Then another reboot and…

There is this weird animation of a computer and a LAN going down the drain or something..

Then we get this welcome screen.  Closing out of this, I get to the desktop!

Which is… different.  It sure looks like *NOTHING* desktop wise was preserved.

Although I do like the status bar up top. Right away I know I’m using more then half my disk!

And there is some OS/2 answer to the start menu..

Which in the world of Windows 95/NT 4 feels. Weird.  So quickly let’s see how we stack up in terms of legacy applications.

Excel acts weird.  I don’t know if this is to blame on the new graphics drivers, or what. Granted Excel is circa 1991 but it’s worked up to this point.

Ironically, Word 1.1 for OS/2 works great.  Although it’s far obsoleted in terms of it’s document format, left behind by Word 2 for Windows, this version just keeps on rocking.  I can’t help but wonder if I had an older version of Excel that it may have worked better.

SimCity loads up and plays fine. No weird artifacts.  Even digging through the old desktop folder I find my old stuff from OS/2 1.1 and I fire up bricks.

So far so good.  Seeing I found my old applications, let’s see about games & all the desktop accessories we’ve collected since OS/2 2.0

Talk about horrible!  They are almost all GONE!  Even poor Neko didn’t make the cut!  And yet gwbasic 3.23 from OS/2 1.0 made it.  Honestly I really feel let down by IBM at this point.

Another thing that didn’t make the cut was my Win32s install.  It was completely removed. I almost wonder what would have happened if I’d installed apps in OS/2 2.0’s Windows 3.0 .. I may have to time travel to find out.

Also any attempts at running MS-DOS in a full screen freezes OS/2.  Looking at the Excel glitch I can’t help but feel it’s a video driver thing.

I know this post is very heavy in terms of pictures, and there is a lot of ground to cover in this final release of OS/2 (I’m counting 4.0 as the last one as it’s the last one I’ve ever used, and I don’t think that 4.5 was even attempted to be marketed in a retail fashion, and I really can’t justify the $$$ for ecomstation.. but maybe I’ll see if there is a demo…)

I’ll try to cover some of the new features, in the next post.

5 thoughts on “OS/2 4.0 the final frontier

  1. I do have to say that of all the OS/2 people I knew I was the only one back then to buy OS/2 4.0 … It was a much hyped release but it came far too little too late. And I have to admit, that I wound up buying a dual processor machine shortly thereafter to run Windows NT 4.0 at home.

    I think I may have run OS/2 4.0 for a month. Probably less. The ‘big’ issues were simply that there were no real native applications for OS/2, and the world was finally moving away from Win16, and even Win32s wasn’t a solution anymore. Not to mention Linux was playing catch-up in terms of Wine/DosEMU and the living hell that is X11… NT 4.0 & 95 really changed everything there.

    As for ecom … I really don’t know, other than I’m not rushing to spend the needed $150-250 on something that I’m honestly not going to use. Not to mention looking at all of this, OS/2 2.0 and 2.1 really were perfectly fine for my use… And hell my recent copy of OS/2 2.0 cost me $5. Although I think I’ve owned it at least 5x now… lol I hate losing disks, but this time I’ve emailed myself a copy of them so that I hopefully don’t lose them!!!!

    And in a way since OS/2 4.0 was the final end user sold release this is the end of that road. And it’s just so insane how badly OS/2 4.0 broke the upgrade chain. I really feel that the last release in the ‘spirit’ of OS/2 really is 3. I don’t know if anyone reviewed it came to anywhere near the same conclusion as I did for 4.0 but I really really don’t like it..!! Esp. now that I do have native applications.

    While I do have fond memories of OS/2 it’s just that. In the past memories. Even with its Netscape (if you can find it, and get it to run) it’s just terrible. I recall it crashing like crazy back then, but now it’s over the top unstable with the JavaScript heavy world we live in.

    Probably the ‘best’ feature of OS/2 4.0 is that the VirtualPC extensions will run without any trouble allowing the shared folder support. Other than that really it’s a bust. Epically if you have IBM’s full TCP/IP pack for any prior release of OS/2.

  2. when i read ‘hello old friend, it’s time to go to the end..’ i honestly almost cried.

    i had high hopes for os/2 back then, and was really really sad to see it go. although the big blue did an insanely crappy job marketing and selling it, it was a great alternative to windows (especially the non-nt line), with much better dos integration etc.

    are you planning on upgrading this vm to ecomstation perchance? : )

    • I may check it out, although after warp 4, I (and the world to most extent) lost interest in OS/2 … I didn’t like where it was going, and fundamental things felt like they were never going to improve (3d, smp .. networking that wasn’t from 1988) ..

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