Windows 3

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Windows 3 box.

Windows 3 is an operating environment developed and published by Microsoft on 1990-05-22. It is the third release of Windows, and the last major release before it became a true operating system rather than a program running inside of MS-DOS. There were several versions, each introduced new features.


My family's first computer was a Packard Bell 386 SX running Windows 3.0 With Multimedia Extensions and I spent a lot of time playing around with the program. Looking back on it now, it's surprising how little there is to do with it.

Despite the growing popularity of Windows for office and home computers, the OS had very little in the way of gaming support, which was my primary interest in computers at the time. So, like most gamers of the day, I would quit Windows and get into DOS to play my games.

Shortly before getting my first Windows 95 computer, I had upgraded to Windows 3.11 For Workgroups, though, as a non-networked user, I didn't use very many of the new features.


Released Version Notes
1990-05-22 3.0 The original official release.
1990-??-?? 3.0 Test Drive A demo version. EGA and VGA variants exist.
1990-12-?? 3.00a Lots of bug fixes, and better memory handling.
1991-10-?? 3.0 With Multimedia Extensions Adds sound card and CD-ROM support.
1991-??-?? 3.0 With Multimedia Extensions (PC-9801) Japanese-only release for the NEC PC-9801.
1992-04-06 3.1 Improved UI, 32-bit disk access, TrueType fonts, Registry, Command prompt.
1992-??-?? 3.1 Modular Windows Special version for Tandy Video Information System.
1992-10-?? 3.1 For Workgroups Built-in networking.
1993-08-11 3.11 For Workgroups Many bug fixes, built-in networking.
1993-11-08 3.11 Just the bug fixes, no networking.

Different versions also had special installers for various languages including: Arabic, Catalan, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (American), English (UK), Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Portuguese (Brazilian), Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, and Turkish.


The following is Windows 3 software that is important to me.


See all Windows 3 Applications.


See all Windows 3 Games.

Programming Languages




  • The colorful high-resolution icon-driven graphical user interface is far more ascetically pleasing to look at than a command-line.
  • Many of the long archaic DOS commands have a fairly simple drag-and-drop or menu-driven interface.
  • The display had a lot of customization including colors, font-sizes, wallpaper, and patterns.


  • Gaming was awful in Windows 3 because it had poor support for graphics and sound, and poor control over input and memory.
  • Icons and program groups do not have right-click menus. So, if you want to make a copy of an icon or delete it, you have to use the file menu or keyboard.
  • The original release had very little driver support for external hardware like audio devices, Ethernet, or SVGA.
  • The OS doesn't yet take advantage of dynamic memory which prevents running multiple large programs at once.
  • Although it appears to be multi-tasking, it's really just shifting control from one program to another in sequence for a short period of time.
  • Windows doesn't handle 256 colors as expected. Even if you had an SVGA card and configured Windows to display in 256 color mode, it would still use its default 16 color scheme, although, programs could run in 256 colors. In order to get the OS to display in 256 colors, you needed an SVGA card with 16-bit color, and had to configure Windows to run at 16-bit color. Very few people had this at the time, so Windows was almost always seen in 4-bit color.
  • Most of the programs developed for Windows were targeted for a 640x480 display at 16 colors, so, even after you upgraded to better hardware, a lot of your programs still looked like crap.


  • Because external programs were allowed to alter the memory of Windows, general protection fault crashes were extremely common.



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