The first appearance of Windows NT

As mentioned in the great book Showstopper!, the first public demonstration of Windows NT was at the 1991 Fall Comdex.

And apparently it must have been quite a show.. In retrospect, but for stuff written down at the time there isn’t a heck of a lot to go on. I do find snip its like this after the fact:

“At the COMDEX show, Microsoft gives the first public demonstration of Windows NT. [909.232]”

But how about a good review? How about someone to kick the tires? I guess it was just too far fetched? Anyways I did find this ONE writeup in Infoworld:

Windows NT looks real at Comdex.


And it is just gushing about SMP support. But if you think about it, SMP support around 1991 was almost non existent. It either fell into people who took UNIX and tried to make it more SMP friendly (ie giant spinlocks) or people who offloaded specific tasks to different CPU’s (Novell Netware). NT was like Mach in that it was going to be something totally different written for SMP hardware in mind, and presenting a personality much like an old trusty OS, be it POSIX, Win32 or the NTVDM running other stuff. The other thing the article mentions is that 300 of these developer discs were made.

So with some luck, someone actually sent me an installed copy of this historic version of Windows, so let’s take a look shall we?

The only thing I really can compare this to is the later December 1991 release, but here goes.


So first here we are booting up. Not surprisingly, like all version of Windows NT we start with a blue screen. And here we know it’s the official “32-Bit Development Kit October 1991.” version. I wonder if they even sold/gave these out at Comdex to some selected people… But I’d imagine they didn’t.

And here we are at the login screen. Just like the December 1991 version there is no passwords, and you can even login as SYSTEM. The background & color scheme was set in the image, I bet changing them is trivial.

Here we are at the desktop. It feels more like Windows 3.0 then 3.1, it may very well be mixed in with the beta Windows 3.1 program manager for all I know.

Here is the command prompt. It looks very OS/2 like with the square brackets around the prompt. Just like December.

So I figured, let’s search through ntoskrnl.exe for any trace of OS/2…

And here it is!

Buried in the binary is the true name of Windows NT, NT OS/2. Not that it matters. Also notice all the NT api calls. It looks like these early kernels weren’t to scared to share their interface names..

Now this is a big deal, look at all the multitasking! In 1991 getting this kind of tasking out of Windows 3.0 was an impossibility! I’ve got 6 copies of WinBez open, along with Winshap bounding around minimized. I’ve got a command prompt open, and I compile some code, and it keeps on going.

But really pictures don’t speak words for it, here is it in action!


I know it’s small, it’s blogspot’s formatting, but you can always view the direct video on youtube here. And you too can watch me compile & kill a troll. Very exciting!

I’ll have to write up later how I did this….

This entry was posted in qemu, Windows NT 3.1 by neozeed. Bookmark the permalink.

About neozeed

What is there to tell? I've loved UNIX like things since I was first exposed to QNX in highschool (we had the Unisys ICONS!), and spent the better time of my teenage years trying to get my own UNIX... I should have bought Coherent in retrospect.. Anyways latched onto Linux in 1992, and then got some old BSD admin books and have been hooked on the VAX BSD & other big/ancient things since...!

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