Remembering Windows XP

LLOS

For some, Windows XP just won't die. Windows XP is often likened to the Grumman LLV (Long Life Vehicle; hence the "Long Life Operating System" nickname) of operating systems. I used Windows XP in elementary school, at work as a POS machine, as well as writing articles during an internship at the local newspaper office.

The History

Windows XP was introduced in 2001, formally with Bill Gates announcing the new operating system upgrade in New York City. Windows XP was much more modern looking, and user-friendly, than compared with Windows 95, 98, and eventually Millennium Edition. Windows XP was much more stable than Millennium Edition.

Windows XP brought NT (New Technology) to the home. Prior, Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000 were professional versions of Windows which utilized NT. However, from Windows XP outward, NT was used in every later release of a Windows upgrade. For example, Windows 10 is based upon Windows NT. Back in the early days of Windows NT, Windows NT lacked many features found on standard counterparts. For example, Windows NT 4.0 lacked plug-and-play capabilities, automatic driver loading, and USB support (although Windows 95 did not officially support USB, and Windows 98 has limited USB support.) Windows NT typically came in two flavors - NT Workstation, and NT Server. The uses for both flavors are included in the name.

Computer LabWindows XP gave me a look at what modern computers could do. My first computer was a Gateway 2000, which ran Windows 3.1. It was slow, and it was either based on the 386 or the 486 processor. It dated from 1993, and I'd imagine contained a 386 processor without any floating-point unit (or math coprocessor) based on what it was used to do. My elementary school used Windows XP, in addition to some machines scattered haphazardly that either ran Windows 98 or Windows 95. The machines running Windows XP included Microsoft Office 2003, and the older machines ran Microsoft Office 1997. I can remember enjoying going to the computer lab to use the Windows XP-equipped machines, over the older machines running Windows 98.

Server 2003As for the machine setup, the hardware was typical "Noblis" computers, which are basically a later version of the "white-box clone." The monitor was an Acer LCD display, which was the first LCD display I saw, and I was amazed at the picture quality and how thin it was. To round out the hardware, there was an HP LaserJet in the computer lab where these computers were located. The time was before the XP machines took a corner in each classroom, as by the end of my third grade year there was at least two computers in the corner of each classroom for student use, although we piled into the computer lab for assignments. These computers, despite being made well in the Vista era, had still ran Windows XP, and the computers in the classrooms used Microsoft Office 2007. The main server for the building ran Windows 2003 Server. (Left picture: The computer lab at the Elementary school I attended, where I first experienced Windows XP and post-Win95 Windows. They eventually replaced the original Noblis computers with Dell Optiplex models, although I found similar Noblis computers at the American Royal Museum in Kansas City; Right Picture: The CRT monitor, a Sceptre Dragon Eye monitor, which displays the video output from the Windows 2003 Server, which was in place when I attended school there.)

NoblisI can remember everything about Windows XP. I remember the 3D Pinball game, I remember the login and logoff sound. I remember Internet Explorer, and the blue and green design. I definitely remember "Bliss", the wallpaper that is associated with Windows XP. I remember Microsoft Office 2003, and typing my first Microsoft Word document, and printing it off in gigantic, 72-point Times New Roman font. (I can also remember getting yelled at for printing in such a large font size. The teacher was not pleased.) I can also vividly remember performing the first PowerPoint project that I was assigned, which was to create a PowerPoint about the Liberty Bell.

At this point in my life, my exposure to computers was small. The Windows 3.1 Gateway 2000 was the only computer I had prior, and Windows 3.1 was about 14 years or so out of date by the time this story takes place. My parents never owned a computer, and my parents never operated a microcomputer. The closest was when my mother worked for the DoR, where she input data into a computer (assumedly an IBM mainframe, I see IBM System/370, as it was late 1970s.)(Left picture: two Noblis computers identical to the computers I first experienced Windows XP on in my elementary school. These computers ran a display at the American Royal Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.)

Today

When I started my internship at the Boonville Daily News, I hogged the editor's computer, primarily the week he was gone on vacation. This gave me a view into Macs, a world I had a limited view into prior. However, all good things end, and he returned from his vacation. This left me handwriting my articles, or typing them into the AspireOne.

BDN ThinkCentre SpecsBDN ThinkCentreSo the office manager brought in this monstrous black box. It turned out to be an IBM ThinkCentre, and it turned out to run Windows XP. It also turned out to be a space hog as you could fit probably five of the original 2005 MacMinis which soon replaced it inside the ThinkCentre case, and the computer was extremely slow and loud. The hard drive sounded (and probably was) on its last legs. (I can remember saying that it was so loud that it sounded as if someone had placed an airport across the street.) It had sat out in the cold storage part of the building for who knows how long. It took around 15 minutes to boot into Windows XP, and another 10 to load Notepad. I didn't even try going online with the thing. I eventually (thankfully) found the cord for the original 2005 MacMini which sat on my desk, unusable due to the missing power cord. Bye bye, IBM!

The next year, I received a HP Pavilion computer, nearly identical to the one that my parents bought for me when I was in the first grade. However, the one we had ran Windows Vista (one of the first computers to come pre-loaded with Vista, as it predated the actual Vista launch date. I received it Christmas 2006.) This Pavilion ran Windows XP, and I securely wiped the hard drive to remove personal information (there was none - it must've been used as a simple gaming machine and digital picture frame) and installed Windows XP. Now I could finally relive those memories at my own pace. Playing the Windows XP Login sound over and over?

Sadly, IBM wasn't gone for long. I got hired at a local restaurant, and the point of sale machines were actually IBM ThinkCentres - identical to the one that took up half my desk back at the Boonville Daily News. (Probably the same model.) However, these ThinkCentres ran Windows XP much faster, probably because the limited junk installed on it. One ThinkCentre finally died after twelve years of continuous use. It was replaced with a refurbished IBM ThinkCentre. I find it odd that they put their faith in the ThinkCentre. They are sturdy machines, but IBM also had machines which were specifically designed for point-of-sale use. These machines were replaced with Par EverServe POS machines, which were made specifically for use in a POS environment, and ran a proprietary operating system based on Linux.

So I can relive 3D Pinball, watch the "3D Pipes" screensaver, and listen the login and logoff sound. Before purchasing the T420, the XPavilion was the only Windows-based machine in the house that worked (the AspireOne didn't like Windows 10 very well), I played MIDI files from time to time using it. While the Windows Media Player's MIDI sequencer isn't the greatest (not nearly as good as the Yamaha or SoundBlaster options), it is better than GarageBand. Typically, GarageBand would freeze my entire MacMini up just to play a simple MIDI file. No thanks. (The Mint Machine was, and still is used for actually playing MIDI files, as Timidity++ and the FreePats sound fonts creates amazing sounds for some MIDI files. However, some MIDI files sound odd and some are missing channels, which isn't good at all.)


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Last updated 05/08/2017 ; T420 (originally created 7/9/2016)