Coding Horror

programming and human factors

Revenge of Codename: Snowball

What would the world be like if Windows 95 and Windows NT has been cancelled? You'd be surfing the web right now in Windows for Workgroups 3.11:

Windows for Workgroups 3.11 browsing Google

I absolutely love the fact that we get a javascript error on the Google homepage. Not unreasonable, considering WFW 3.11 was well on its way to total obsolescence before Google even made it out of a Stanford dorm room in 1998.

I never browsed the intarweb through any version of Windows 3.x. Most people are surprised to find that there was a Windows 3.x version of circa-1999 Internet Explorer 5. By the time the web caught on in late '95, most of the early adopters I knew had already transitioned to Windows 95. I distinctly remember using the first version of IE under Windows 95-- the one that didn't understand the <table> tag or animated gifs!

As for the title of this post, according to the canonical list of Microsoft code names, Snowball was the internal Microsoft codename for the WFW 3.11 project. If you want to rock your own WFW 3.11 virtual machine, you can download the OS from peteweb. And don't forget DOS 6.22 like I did! Set it up following the great instructions from Virtual PC guy:

There's a huge collection of old 16-bit Windows software on the 10 year anniversary of Windows 3.1 page. It's a sketchy looking website, but if you follow the yahoo briefcase download instructions closely, the software is all still present and downloadable.

You may find WinImage helpful here for creating floppy disk images from collections of files. Virtual PC only understands non-compressed (.IMA) floppy images, so be sure you avoid the default compressed (.IMZ) floppy images.

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Overflow and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: