But now, it's the end of the line: On Dec 31, 2002, Microsoft will withdraw support for these seminal products. On that date, those operating systems (along with NT3.5x and all standalone versions of MS-DOS) will reach what Microsoft calls EOL, or end of life. (See "Windows Desktop Product Life-Cycle Policies" and "Microsoft's Product Support Life Cycle")
On balance, I think history will regard these operating systems the way we now look back on Model T and A automobiles: Not for their flaws or for the social and environmental problems they caused, but for the enormous good they occasioned in broadening the horizons of tens of millions of people; of creating whole new industries and ways of life; and in empowering ordinary people in extraordinary ways.
It's safe to say that no operating system has ever had a run like Windows 3x/9x has. And I bet we'll never see anything like it again. Windows 3.0 and Windows 95: Hail, and farewell.
What's your take? Is Fred overstating the importance of these operating systems? How might history have played out if Microsoft hadn't released Windows 3? Or, if Apple had allowed inexpensive Mac clones to be produced? Without an installed base of hundreds of millions of cheap PCs, would Linux have taken off as it has? What would the computing world look like today without Windows? Join in the discussion!