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Chapter 1. Making the Most of Windows XP > A Brief History of Time, Re: MS Wind...

1.2. A Brief History of Time, Re: MS Windows

As time progresses, the lineage of Windows becomes less linear. Windows XP, despite its name, is not the direct successor to Windows Me, nor is Windows 2000 the direct successor to Windows 98 and Windows 95. Instead, Windows XP is the latest installment to the historically less-consumer-oriented Windows NT line of operating systems, developed in parallel to the Windows 9x/Me line.

So why the distinction between these two product lines? The first release of Windows NT, arbitrarily assigned the 3.1 version number, was released in the middle of 1993. At the time, Microsoft's marketing department asserted that NT was an acronym for New Technology, which was actually quite an accurate description. The NT kernel, or underlying code upon which the interface (Explorer) runs, was completely new and did not rely on DOS,[1] despite the fact that it shared the same shell (interface) as Windows 3.1. This resulted (theoretically) in a more stable environment, much better security, and the ability to be easily ported to work on other processors (such as Compaq's Alpha chip).

[1] DOS, or "Disk Operating System," was the first operating system available for the IBM PC (released in 1981). The first versions of Microsoft Windows (Versions 1.x-3.x) were simply applications that ran on top of DOS. Windows 9x and Me are no different, although Microsoft went to great lengths to hide the dependence on DOS. Historical trivia: Microsoft purchased the code for DOS 1.0 for $50,000 and used it as the basis for their operating systems for more than twenty years.


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