How-To

Internet Archive Lets You Try Out Old Versions of Windows and Mac in a Web Browser

Want to kick it old school with MacOS 6 or Windows 3.1? Now you can with these emulators.

Many years ago in an interview, Steve Jobs said (I’m paraphrasing here), the rapid pace of innovation in technology makes it impossible to go back in time and see what something was like. Steve said you won’t know what an Apple II is like because there won’t be one available for you to try. Then the Internet happened and along came Internet Archive to prove the late founder of Apple wrong. Internet Archive has been around for decades, keeping an archive of websites with content in their original state over the years. If you want to see what Google, Microsoft or Yahoo websites were like in the 90s, it’s the best way to do it.

Now, you can do the same for Apple and Windows operating systems.

Test Drive Vintage Mac and Windows Operating Systems

The site now hosts a collection of emulators for vintage operating systems from the 80s and 90s. Not only can you see what an Apple Macintosh computer from 1984 looked like, you can also use it. Yep, you can interact with the ancient Finder, run old apps like Mac Paint or Microsoft’s precursor to Word and Excel called Multiplan. You can also play classic games like Frogger and Lode Runner.

Last week we took a trip down memory lane for Windows 3.1. Screenshots included in the article were from a Virtualbox VM I had set up. I’m sure not everyone wants to maintain space eating archives of useless vintage operating systems. But, for the nostalgic few who just want to re-experience their youth or remember the struggle, this is a great way to do it using some bandwidth.

While the site has gotten a lot of attention for its Mac emulators, there are Windows emulators too. So, you can try early versions of Microsoft’s early DOS-based versions of Windows. It’s a great way to see how far we have come from floppy-based systems limited to 8-bit memory address space, 512 Kb of disk space and 128 Kb of RAM. Think about that for a minute. Today, I am using a super fast computer with a dual core 64 bit CPU, 8 GB of RAM and 160 GB of storage. For me, it’s quite interesting; when I developed an interest in old software, I had to depend on old computer books with screenshots, now, it’s just a URL away to try. Check it out and tell us what you think.


4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. SD  

    I alwyas use https://archive.org/web/ to check the website contents and snapshot, but don’t know we can operate the old version computer OS on it. Thanks for your artcicle.

    • Yep, it seems like fairly new addition. Removes the complexity of having to download emulators like Sheepshaver and Mini Mac V and use old world ROMs just to for the sake of nostalgia. Also speaks to how powerful the Internet has become.

  2. Robert Hall  

    I’m using Win 7 pro, and I have to use VM and DOSBox to run a Symantec wp/db app called Q/A, and ACT 6.x. When Q/A was developed in the mid ’80s, it was – of course – revolutionary. While the db side disappeared rather quickly under the weight of dBase and rBase, the wp app hung around in large part because of the wysiwyg functionality. Plus, the macros were very cool. In terms of basic straight word processing, there is still no equal, imho. MS Word may be a great business wp pkg, and we used it in my company for more complex wp presentations, as president I never personally used it for letter writing, simple charts and non-graphic graphs (so to speak). When I sold the company in 2008 and retired, I had hundreds of files created by Q/A, and many, many forms developed using macro-based procedures. We also used ACT 6.x (owned at the time by Symantec, too) to manage our client base, and I morphed it into a personal financial management tool after retirement. For as long as I could, I lived on XP, which ran both those apps just fine. Win 7.x (and, I assume, 8 and 10) won’t run them for crap. To shorten this comment, I can’t tell from your post whether I could solve my problem (VM and DOSbox can be particularly problematic at times) with online emulation. I’ve been hearing “move on” a lot in the last 10 years, but have little inclination to revise and remodel the processes that work for my private life financial needs. Can you comment? Thanks.

  3. Jd  

    My friend has a Dell Tower that was just collecting dust (she does everything on her tablet now). So one day she set it up for her mom to play Solitaire on (that’s ALL it is used for; her mom is 93 and really doesn’t care about computers anyway). Last year during a summer monsoon storm, the pc took a spike and screwed up the Windows XP operating system. She didn’t have the original install disk, support for XP had elapsed, and the system wouldn’t handle a Windows upgrade. Hearing about this, I dug around in one of my stash boxes and came up with a set of Windows 3.11 disks (7 1.44 disks). I got rid of the remnants of XP, split the 750gig hard drive, and put Linux Mint on one side, and Win3.11 on the other. After setting it up so the machine boots up in Windows, her mom can go back to playing her Solitaire all she wants, and if needed, we can switch over to Linux for other things. (and the neatest thing of all is we haven’t had a single registry problem since 🙂

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