Windows NT turns 20

Yesterday was the 20th birthday of Microsoft’s landmark operating system Windows NT. Funny to think of an operating system whose name NT stood for New Technology has made it to twenty.

And there’s still lots of life left in NT. If you are reading this on a Windows computer, you are using NT. The NT operating system is still at the core of Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8 phone.

People are more likely to remember the launch of Windows 95 with the commercials featuring the Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up but the launch of NT was more important.

Microsoft_Windows_NT_logo_and_watermark_(Pre-XP)_svgMicrosoft started work on NT in 1988 hiring Dave Cutler of Vax/DEC fame to lead the team. The NT architecture was based on Vax (anyone remember Vax?) and introduced kernel mode, NTFS file system and everyone’s favourite HAL , the hardware abstraction layer that always made me think of Hal from 2001 a Space Odyssey.

Microsoft launched NT into the business world as direct competition to Novell’s stranglehold on corporate networks. Anyone remember Novell? It didn’t take long for Microsoft to replace Novell on corporate networks. With NT 4, Microsoft had a killer workstation and server combination. When I got into IT in 1998, companies were ditching Novell and Windows 95 en masse for Windows NT 4 server and workstation.

I loved NT 4. So stable compared to Windows 95 and 98. Everything could be configured from the GUI (graphical user interface) as well as the command line. The famous control-alt-delete log on. On the bad side, not great for drivers, the service packs from hell, and the security defaulting to permit which gave hackers so much fun.

Will Microsoft ever leave NT behind and create an operating system from scratch? Unlikely given the current crew running Microsoft.

So Happy Birthday NT! You have many returns of the day ahead of you.