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.

The OS/2 Operating System Didn’t Die… It Went Underground

One problem with building things using state-of-the-art techniques is that sometimes those that look like they will be “the next big thing” turn out to be dead ends. Next thing you know, that hot new part or piece of software is hard to get or unmaintained. This is especially true if you are building something with a long life span. A case in point is the New York City subway system. Back in the 1990s the transit authority decided to adopt IBM’s new OS/2 operating system. Why not? It was robust and we used to always say “no one ever got fired for buying IBM.”

There was one problem. OS/2 was completely eclipsed by other operating systems, notably Windows and — mostly — has sunk from the public view. [Andrew Egan’s] post covers just how the conversion to a card-based system pushed OS/2 underground all over the Big Apple, and it is an interesting read.

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Retrocomputing For The Forgotten

The world runs on marketing hype. Remember the public relations swirl around the Segway? Before it rolled out we were led to believe it was going to be remembered as fire, the wheel, and Segway. Didn’t really happen. Microsoft and IBM had done something similar with OS/2, which you may not even remember as the once heir-apparent to MS-DOS. OS/2 was to be the operating system that would cure all the problems with MS-DOS just as IBM’s new Microchannel Architecture would cure all the problems surrounding the ISA bus (primarily that they couldn’t stop people from cloning it). What happened? OS/2 died a slow agonizing death after the Microsoft/IBM divorce. But for whatever reason [Ryan C. Gordon] decided to write a Linux emulation layer for OS/2 call 2ine (twine).

We like retrocomputing projects even if they aren’t very practical, and this one qualifies. The best analog for 2ine is it is Wine for OS/2, which probably has something to do with the choice of name. You might be ready to click away since you probably don’t have any OS/2 programs you want to run, but wait! The good news is that the post has a lot of technical detail about how Linux and OS/2 programs load and execute. For that reason alone, the post is well worth a read.

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