Geekend: Microsoft Patches Bug Old Enough To Vote - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // IT Strategy
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11/14/2014
09:06 AM
David Wagner
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Geekend: Microsoft Patches Bug Old Enough To Vote

Microsoft discovered and patched a bug from a previous century.

1995 was a good year for me. I met my future wife that year. It was also a pretty good year for Microsoft. It released Windows 95, which was a major leap over Windows 3.1. Despite Microsoft's good year and its more than a decade of dominance to follow, an interesting thing happened. Microsoft introduced a vulnerability into Windows 95 that remained undetected until recently. Every version of Windows has had it since.

That's pretty phenomenal when you think about it. A software bug lasted 19 years without anyone finding it. That makes it old enough to vote. There are people now in college who were born after this bug was introduced.

When this code was written, some of the programmers were probably wearing Joey Buttafuoco pants. When this bug was introduced, people associated Batman with Michael Keaton. Someone could have exploited this vulnerability while watching an episode of X-Files while eating the world's first Stuffed Crust pizza from Pizza Hut and washing it down with the very first blue M&Ms (personally, I like the Peanut Butter ones). I mean, this bug is old.

[Continue the nostalgia: Read 8 Classic Video Games Begging For Tablet Versions.]

So it got me to thinking: What was happening in technology and our lives in 1995?

This is what we considered new technology in 1995:

I never used AOL, but I remember getting its free disks in the mail. Remember the mail? Remember disks?

Bryant Gumbel couldn't even get his head around it at all. Of course, this was not the first or last time a journalist embarrassed himself while speaking or writing about technology. I do it every week.

At this point, I had been on the Internet for years. I think I sent my first email some time in the 80s. I'm sure this is true of many of you as well. What else was going on in technology?

1995 was a great year in gaming. Star Wars: Dark Forces, the first modern first-person shooter, was the first game I played on Windows 95. Mortal Kombat 3 was out in the arcades. (Remember arcades? They were doomed by the home video game consoles coming out from Nintendo and Sony.) Warcraft 2 also debuted in 1995, spawning one of the biggest gaming worlds ever. The entire time you played World of Warcraft in the 00s you did it on a computer with a vulnerability introduced a decade earlier.

Here's another major technological milestone from 1995: the debut of the world's first feature-length movie made entirely by computer, Toy Story, which launched Pixar into the stratosphere and changed animation forever.

Think about it: Every Pixar movie ever made was created on computers running this Windows 95 bug. And it was just patched.

In 1995, you were probably coding to the sweet sounds of R&B and hip hop from groups like TLC and Boys II Men.

We know one person who was definitely listening to hip hop that year. InformationWeek's own Susan Nunziata was news editor at Billboard Magazine. This is her at the 1995 Billboard Music Awards with the artist who happened to have the number one song of 1995.

Yes, that is a young Susan Nunziata with Coolio. If you do nothing else with this article, please leave a comment about Susan and Coolio. We cannot let this opportunity pass. Susan Nunziata once lived in a Gangsta's Paradise.

You can't wrap up a discussion of 1995 without mentioning TV, but there is no quintessential TV moment that sums up the mid 90s.

So this gem of reverse engineering that I found will have to do. If this Game of Thrones scene shot as if in 1995 doesn't make you nostalgic, I don't know what will.

So, what were you doing in 1995? If you were still in school, what technology inspired you to become an IT professional? If you were already working, what were some of your projects? What do you miss about the 90s? Comment below. And please tell us what you think about Susan and Coolio.

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David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
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impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Author
11/14/2014 | 12:25:10 PM
Let sleeping bugs lie...

 

Dave sadly I wasn't doing anything as cool as meeting Coolio in 1995—Susan I love the fashion statement as well!

Seriously though it shows that bugs can exist and still coexist with functioning viable software. The process of prioritizing bugs for fix is part experience and part magic because you never know when one of those low priority bugs will interact with a third party release and wreak havoc on your software.There are also very latent bugs that require lots of time and resources to fix and really yield little or no benefit so they are better left until the fix is required by other implications.

Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Ninja
11/14/2014 | 12:57:36 PM
Party like it's...1995
I was still in school in 1995. I remember AOL and its gated Interweb. I should have been taking computer science classes in 1995 but I wasn't. Instead, I was taking a business computer class that wasn't challenging at all. 

I remember working on a Windows 95 computer. It was such a great leap from 3.1. I was impressed with the new layout and happy the machine could boot into Windows without any additional help from me. :)

1995 Susan - You were so cool!
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
11/14/2014 | 1:50:14 PM
Was the bug...
what causes you to reboot Windows everytime you want to use it? That explains everything!

Nice article Dave but highlight definitely Susan. Nice to know IT is far more exciting than hanging with rock stars. In Coolio's case, I use that term loosely. :-)

I think I actually started interacting with Windows machines in 1995. Being a IBM mainframe/midrange ERP guy and developer, I had little use for those kiddie toys. But that was about the time connecting Excel to server data was coming into vogue. And I moved to Green Bay with my job, joining Brett Favre to push the Packers to their first world title since the 60's. So why am I still a Bengals fan? Ugh.
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
11/14/2014 | 4:45:02 PM
Re: Microsoft Patches Bug Old Enough To Vote
It bears mentioning that this is especially unique not just in that we're talking about a 19-year-old bug, but that we're talking about a 19-year-old bug in Windows, probably the most used software in the world. No doubt there are plenty of bugs in software from 1995 that will never see the light of day even when the fossilized remains of their physical media are dug up in the year 2155, but windows... well, as impactnow says, there's a serious lesson in their about the nature of software bugs and vulnerabilities. A lot of times, we're talking about random chance whether these will be found or fixed. We may spent tons of time fixing something that will never be exploiting, or no time fixing something that breaks our software.

As for what I was doing in 1995... well, I suspect I have the reverse problem of a lot of people in this field. I'll end up dating myself, but not by revealing how old I am. Let's just say I was probably playing Super Mario World (which, to be honest, I think might hold up today a lot better than Gangsta's Paradise). I didn't get access to the internet or a decent computer until much later on in life. Maybe my piecemeal interaction with it during that explosive time of growth is what still keeps me in awe of it to this day. Not as much in awe as I am of that picture of Susan, of course...
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
11/15/2014 | 2:36:24 PM
Re: Microsoft Patches Bug Old Enough To Vote
The MSFT Bug is old enough to vote, but not old enough to be served alcohol! 

 

Nice to see MSFT is in it to win it. Let's not forget that it's ALL still a DOS-based system for the PCs...

 

In 1995 I think I was running CHKDSK for a user.

 

 
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
11/16/2014 | 9:21:55 PM
Re: Microsoft Patches Bug Old Enough To Vote
I feel very honored to have the opportunity to have discussion with someone who rub shoulder with famous people like Coolio, way a go Susan.  I remember someone was telling me how they could chat with people from different places, which was the internet at that time. I remember the beeper was the technology to have at that time.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
11/17/2014 | 12:28:31 AM
What a Difference A Year Makes....

When I think about this bug and the patch that took 19 years to apply,  I can only wonder why they didn't wait one more year to make it an even 20 ?    And then re-release it as a limited edition?   Good Work MS, I always knew you could do it.

As far as 1995 is concerned, don't remember much I guess it was good. : )   What I found really cool was to see that clip of Katie Couric and  Bryant Gumbel and to hear them discuss just what is this thing called the "Internet" ?      

 Man, We have come a long way and apparently so has MS.

SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
11/18/2014 | 7:35:34 AM
Old bugs never die
I know there is mention that the bug was never exploited but do we know that for sure?  

I know what I was doing at the time, I was just getting started in IT doing support for a very large company on their R&D team.  Speaking of Windows 95 my most painful memory of Windows 95 was installing the Japanese version on an IBM Thinkpad via a stack of floppies (I don't speak or read Japanese).  Luckily I got it going simply because I had installed Win 95 so many times I could guess what the setup menu was asking. 

 
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
11/20/2014 | 9:41:15 AM
Flashback
I remember trying to find my way around the college BBS and finally getting my own (used) computer so I didn't have to use the ones in the lab. I think my mom got one of the AOL emails at about that time too. Now I'm getting nostalgic, I mean remember when we had the patience to sit through a 2 minute title sequence while watching the character's mouth move and a song played over top?

That's a long time for a bug to go undetected, and let's hope it was never exploited, or people and businesses could have been compromised for the last 19 years.
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