Slack, Now On Windows 3.1

Slack is either an online collaboration tool, or a religion, depending on who you talk to. Naturally, it’s accessible across all manner of modern platforms, from Windows and MacOS to smartphones. However, some prefer to go further back. At a recent company hackathon, [Yeo Kheng Meng] decided to create a Slack client for Windows 3.1.

This is how you learned to program before the Internet.

Programming for an older OS, in this case, Windows For Workgroups 3.11, requires setting up a viable development environment. Visual C++ 1.52 was pressed into service in this case, being the last version capable of targeting Windows 3.11. The development environment is run on a Windows 2000 virtual machine running on a Mac laptop. This was chosen for its ability to run 16-bit apps, and its Samba compatibility with both Windows 3.11 and Windows 10 and modern Macs.

There were several challenges to face along the way. Old school Windows simply isn’t capable of dealing with HTTPS, necessitating a proxy to handle the exchange of packets with Slack servers. Additionally, memory management was a hassle due to the limits of the 16-bit architecture. Thankfully, an old programming manual from the era was of great help in this regard.

At the end of the hackathon, a usable Slack client was up and running, complete with garish colors from the early Windows era. There’s a few key features missing, such as the ability to resolve user IDs, but overall, the concept works. We’ve seen [Yeo]’s work with this vintage OS before too. Video after the break.

20 thoughts on “Slack, Now On Windows 3.1

      1. Nobody said Yeo works for Slack, but the line “At a recent company Hackathon” could be confusing. Sure, the first line of the linked article clears it up, but it’s an easy mistake to make.

  1. Memory management in this version of Windows was editing one file to allow the OS to address extended memory. Looking that up in a book gave me a reputation at the time as someone who knew what he was doing and bought me a lot of unsupervised time in the workplace… “Uh, I’m fixing a memory problem! Yeah, that’s the ticket!”

      1. There was/is dozens of protocols and clients. ICQ, Powwow, LOLchat, AIM, MSN, seems like a new one launches yearly, what have we had more recently, teamspeak, xmpp, discord, telegram, whatsapp.. then all the “pro” ones from lotus, IBM etc. I can barely be bothered keeping track.

    1. Hi I’m the author of the app. Here are the reasons why the HTTPS stuff was not solved.

      I spent many months worth of weekday nights and weekends to clean up the hackathon code, solve bugs and write the unit test. So I felt it was time to stop and document things.

      In terms of technical challenges, the 64K segmented memory model is unusual and the effort to get modern SSL libraries to work might not be that straightforward. The C89 language support might pose considerable difficulties. The tiny stack and local heap of 16-bit Win 3.1 apps will definitely up the challenge factor.

      Given enough time, I’m sure TLS features can be added to this Win 3.1 app. But the time required will probably exceed the development of the main app functionality itself.

      This is the best I can do with my abilities in a reasonable amount of time.

    1. A pimp who was about to be killed asked John Terrence Kelly a similar question in Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse.
      The answer? “Practice.”
      Fun is its own excuse.
      Take your pick.

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