Friday, 14 March 2014

Bye Bye XP!

As a 90's kid who got exposed to technology a little before his counterparts, XP was possibly the best thing to have happened to me. A sulky Windows 98, sporting a murky look, running an archaic FAT file system and throwing up sporadic surprises every now and then, was all I got prior to XP. Operating system was a rather technical term then, spanning the entire range of Windows 9x and Linux variants that were at disposal of a PC user. You didn't have an OS that could tantamount to and represent the very race on its own. XP did that. XP became ubiquitous, XP became a cult, XP became a phenomenon and XP became the legend in the world of operating systems.

Prior to XP, the world used computing in a frugal sense. Not much attention was paid to the accessibility and aesthetics of a GUI and moreover, an OS was just considered a faithful means to instructing the PC. Not much was expected out of it. The Windows platform had already assumed leadership position, but everyone cursed Microsoft for their maladroit programming team in being shoddy in coming with security patches and updates and being unable to resolve the archetypal Windows issues. Moreover, 98 and 98 SE were both marred with incompatibility issues, memory fault issues and their interface was as sordid as it could get. One never really blamed Microsoft for all of that because with 64 MB SDR RAMs and a few GBs on the HDD to house the OS, you couldn't have done a lot. But XP taught the world how to dream, and how to aspire for more.

October 2001, XP's first public release was made available and people were apprehensive about the applicability of an OS that seemingly appeared a little too ahead of its time. You didn't know where your CPU clocked at a paltry 500 Mhz could support the multitasking claimed by XP in their release. You didn't know if the OS would run well enough to allow all 9x and NT applications to be ported to the new platform. People didn't know for sue if the 4 year old NTFS file system was finally ready to be adopted. But the moment people installed XP on their systems, they embraced their future.

It was a sheer pleasure seeing your copy of XP effacing the clumsy 98 and the 32 minute installation in itself promised a myriad of things. You didn't need a lot of those but the possibility of being able to see clear lines and a subtle user interface finally, was beatific. XP, it seemed was the panacea to all your tantrums, When you ran XP, irrespective of whether you ran in dual mode, and that too on a configuration that sucked even on 98, it surprisingly worked like a charm. XP took only as much was absolutely necessary to page itself. Being apprehensive about built for 9x games like Recoil and Rash, even they ran very well. XP was infact the first platform to see all things working in tandem on your PC. Multimedia, programming and gaming, all could run simultaneously with no BSODs. And although the latter were still there, XP pared them to quite an extent. XP was here to stay.

People still stuck to 95 and 98 largely with some still sticking to 3.x and NT 4.1 but XP was going to see a lot of people upgrading or trying XP on the existing platforms. Once I shorted my 128 MB ram stick and was able to run XP even on a whopping 64 MB with no trouble at all. It all seemed so utopic. You also had a renewed safe mode and startup CUI that was actually capable of allowing people to take control of the console and take charge of the boot component when in trouble. Slowly but steadily, all application vendors, all offices, all personal users started adopting XP. XP became the most prevalent platform and this precisely happened when the second computing boom took off. XP also came up with IE 6, probably the best IE could come up with and the last version of IE worth browsing on. XP was a hit.

XP had its own problems of course. Microsoft had to release a slew of updates every now and then. XP, courtesy of becoming the most tried and tested platform, was also the one subject to the maximum amount of intrusions and security attacks. Windows became a breeding ground of malware, spyware and viruses of all sorts. On the other hand, Windows servers all across LANs became a routine target of DOSs and the nascent DDOS attacks. Microsoft had a tough time dealing with all these problems but the service packs launched at timely intervals took good care of it. In fact for the first time, Microsoft really bothered to provide such post deployment support for an OS. Probably this was the beginning of the era of dynamism. The OS could no longer be a static code running on a remote terminal. The OS had to remain connected to the FTP support patch servers across the globe. Moreover, Microsoft did well to take care of the 56K dial up guys like me by coming up with service packs and hotfix cabinet files you could run like just another application. Finally, you had an OS that fought for itself, It did not leave itself to the mercy of an Antivirus all the time. XP  took charge of its existence in fact.

XP saw millions of installations across the globe. News systems were now specifically designed for XP and not for Me or 2000 anymore. XP became the de facto in PCs. In fact post roll out of the fallacious and unedifying vista in 2006, people including Microsoft themselves, considered sticking to XP. As the PC phenomenon took over the way we worked, XP became a universal system running across the globe, connecting systems. I've seen XP instances running for years with a little bit of reparation of course with tune ups but XP largely remained infallible given its predecessors. We got better progeny in the form of Windows 7 and 8, but people like me remained a stickler for XP, running XP till as late as 2013. In fact I still run XP on my olden desktop, which ostensibly is not capable of running any other version that came afterwards.

XP, in short, became the largest thing that ever happened to the world of computers, barring the Internet of course. An OS, that broke the shackles of being a conventional OS, it became the most ardent way or running your system. Till date, no other OS seems to have seen the kind of application support that was available for XP. XP became the default mode for drivers across all processor platforms, XP ran as well on 32 bit as it did on 64, XP gave seamless component integration for all programming platforms, XP provided splendid graphical support. But alas, we bid adieu to all things one day and so would be the case with XP. 20th April 2014 would mark the last day when support would be made available for XP. Nearly 13 years post its release and a plethora of security patches and updates later, it's time we said bye to the most celebrated and the most venerated OS, ever. XP was an OS that came at the right place and the right time. It may very well be the best and the last stupendous thing Microsoft ever did.