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Remembering OS/2

A couple of weeks ago a friend gave me a box that I had not seen in a long, long time. It’s a complete install set for IBM’s OS/2 v3, a.k.a “Warp” I could barely believe my eyes. Never have I seen a product delivered on so many floppies! There are 21 diskettes for the OS and some drivers, then another 14 diskettes for the “Bonus Pack’ which included some basic productivity software, internet access, etc.

Back in the early 90’s I was serious fan of this software, and for good reason. On a humble 486 PC running at 66 MHz it could do some major multi-tasking. It could run in 8MB of RAM, just barely, or do useful work in 16 MB. It could do some truly astounding things in 32 MB or more.

There was a time when I was working from my home office near Toronto writing and editing for a magazine in Maryland. I could be online reading e-mail, sending and receiving faxes in the background, working on the text of a couple of articles and doing page layout in Quark Xpress 4 running in Windows 3.11, under OS/2…all at the same time on a really humble PC.

I remember thinking at the time that it just doesn’t get any better than this. In many ways Windows didn’t really catch up for about ten years.

IBM finally closed its last chapter on OS/2 in 2006. There had been a few European financial institutions still using the OS in some ATMs. The very last of the faithful. Although I see that a version of the OS lives on (kinda) in ECommStation.

One aspect of my OS/2 experience stays with me every day even now. Any real OS/2 fan sought out native apps in order to get the most out of the OS and hardware. The best email client was PMMail/2. In PMMail was ported to Windows, and then updated in 2000 to create PMMail2000….which I use daily for personal email accounts. It’s a really good POP e-mail client.

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