The Hunt For A Rare Version Of IBM’s OS/2

Slovenian OS/2 Warp 4 was a popular OS choice in that European country back in the day, but could the Slovenian Computer Museum lay their hands on a copy? In that question lies a bit of detective work and some luck.

There’s an old gag, about how this is finally the year of the Linux desktop. But oddly back in the ’90s it almost seemed possible, because alongside Microsoft Windows there were a host of other players that just might have become challengers. Foremost among them was IBM’s OS/2, a desktop PC operating system that could very much give Windows a run for its money. It could even run 16-bit Windows applications thanks to the code-sharing deal between the two companies dating back to the DOS days. Big Blue were so anxious to take their OS into new markets that they localized it into languages which Microsoft hadn’t touched, of which Slovenian was one.

But a couple of decades later, could a copy of this rare operating system version be found? While it may still lurk on a dusty shelf in an IT office somewhere it’s proved elusive, and online sources have dried up. The quest for it makes interesting reading for anyone with an interest in that period of retrocomputing, and finally ended up at the Slovenian company which had performed the localisation. This resulted in a copy of the OS, but not of the media, box, or paperwork. It yielded the fascinating discovery that IBM had localized the Windows 3.1-derived components as well as their own code, something that Microsoft had never done.

So do you have a boxed Slovenian OS/2 Warp 4 on a dusty shelf? Someone at the Slovenian Computer History Museum might like to see it. Meanwhile it’s a surprise to find that OS/2 is still supported.

40 thoughts on “The Hunt For A Rare Version Of IBM’s OS/2

  1. It’s weird where you can find copies of this stuff. I got a copy of OS/2 Warp fully boxed from a gas compression station in Canada (It was used to run Factorylink at one point, along with a DOS variant). I’d always recommend seeing if anyone has them in a cupboard of an older facility.

    1. I threw it away finally few years ago. OS2 Warp was used from 1995-1999 for a network of email servers in the Balkans (before dial up Internet became widely available). It was a very stable and cheap system that could easily handle dial ins via several phone lines for mail dl/ul, exchange mail with other servers, and “international hubs”. I also remember Xpoint as a preferred email software for end users for looong after the heavy Outlook came out.

  2. This kind of thing always gives me a glimmer of hope for the reappearance of Ultima 8: Part 2. It was allegedly almost ‘gold’ before it was cancelled, to the point that printed boxes for the release have been discovered. I’ve heard that EA / Origin have allowed deep dives by interested historians, but no trace has been found. Ultima 8 was not the most beloved of the series, but it would be interesting from an ‘archaeology’ perspective.

  3. I believe my copy os OS/2 went to the landfill years ago. Along with a copy of Coherent and other old OS manuals and disks. Why keep around ‘clutter’ you’ll never be able (or want) to run? I’ve not regretted that decision… And I really liked OS/2 at the time.

    1. Im guessing a standard english edition of it. But really if people are going to trash old software like that you should at least check and see if disk images of it are up at and if not image the disks and upload the images before you trash them.

    2. Well, OS/2 is/was a robust system. It was so advanced that Amiga users honored it and mailbox operators often used it to run multiple copies of a BBS software (a task previously performed by DesqView etc).

      In Germany of the 90s, OS/2 was advertised as a “Migrationsplattform” (migration platform). Unfortunately, Vobis (a major PC seller of the time) did sell it with undepowered PCs, too. Memory was too little (as low as 4 MB); with 16 MB, it would have absolutely flown. Unfortunately, most ex-users remember it as a slugger system due to the memory constraints.

      OS/2 is/was the only OS I know of which made full use of the x86 ring scheme.
      Warp 4 notably fixed the keyboard message queue, which could have had blocked the whole OS. Warp 4 even had voice recognition (!) built-in. In the mid-90s!

      Nowadays, OS/2 can run ported *nix programs and simple Win32 programs (via ODIN project). It has even been modernized to support USB, UEFI boot etc. Just look up eComstation and ArcaOS.

      Last but not least, here’s an important video about OS/2 history (when it was developed by Team OS/2 at IBM).

  4. IBM recently announced OS/360 is no long supported.

    Spare parts for 360/xx issue?

    “Machine, assembly and systems programming for the IBM 360”,1969. Mainframe mentality. :(

    “implementing BASICS: How Basics work.” 1982 Distributed hardware computing using interactive Language Systems. :)

    “Embedded controller Forth for the 8051 family.”, 1990. Spent lots of taxpayer $s. :)++

    c/c++ 911? :(–?

  5. This is too funny. I had a copy and tossed it out a week ago when I was purging the garage. I had downloaded it back in the day when Warez was big. Thought it was typical warp 4 but looked Russian.

    1. That’s the big stink though no? When MS convinced IBM to support and pay MS to include a windows compatibility mode for OS/2 it created a contractual backdoor that allowed MS to fund NT development while being paid by IBM in the name of OS/2. By the time IBM realized what was going on it was too late, MS had pushed all the OS/2 code to NT on IBM’s dime (which was allowed per the contract), meanwhile MS was lagging on OS/2 releases. There’s also a reason the old Linux OS/2 HPFS filesystem driver could also mount an NTFS filesystem… OS/2’s HPFS and and NT’s NTFS are the same filesystem. IBM was asleep at the wheel on this one and was put out of the desktop OS market permanently with this mistake. They tried to make the best of it by using the scraps of OS/2 as a “no MS license” in-house OS for ATM’s and industrial controllers. OS/2 was a neat idea but was permanently set behind by MS to make way for NT.

  6. In the 90s i developed systems on factory link. Of course on os2. There’s still a box in my library with os2 warp complete with CDs and boot diskettes. Some years ago i downloaded them from an abandoned software repository, because original disks were dead, in order of running it in a virtual machine. I also have a CD that came on a magazine with a reduced version of os2. I also developed systems at that time using real flex on qnx 2.2 and 4.

  7. I still have OS/2 running on my P70 (Luggable). As an OS/2 specialist for IBM it was Microsoft’s lack of cooperation on providing details of the .ini file parameters that really hurt IBM. There were many .ini parameters that were never documented by Microsoft that gave us a headache in trying to support it as a Systems Engineer at the time. I’m sure I have copies (US English) in a box along with the 21 diskettes it took to install it.

  8. Hi Guys.

    If you want to preserve old versions of OS/2, I found out that part preservation is to digitize it first.

    Make images of the Disks and Cd-ROM. Take pictures of the boxes on each side , scan the manuals, write done the Part Numbers. If you don’t have time to do it all, just do what you can.

    After that upload it to to be preserved. The Archive already have some OS/2 version there.


  9. Not Slovenian, but I do have an original boxed and shrink-wrapped version of OS/2. Shake the box, and you can hear the 3.5″ diskettes moving around! At some point I’ll either sell it on eBay (retirement nest egg?) or donate to some computer museum.

  10. I saw it being used is the network ops center at EDS at Stockley Park in the late 90’s
    I always used to have in my email signature from 2005….

    Was OS/2 half the operating system it could have been.

    If that needs explaining, you are not worthy 😉

  11. Hello, this is Marko from the Slovenian Computer Museum.
    First of all, I’m very happy to see the response to our article – thanks to all that contributed some of your memories here in the comments.

    At the Slovenian Computer Museum we’re really after the Slovenian localization of OS/2 Warp 4 and any related IBM products – I believe English versions of OS/2 have been otherwise well preserved. Should you find any relevant info, you can always reach out to us directly.

    Thank you all for helping keep the software heritage for the future.

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