1993: This was the year that was

by Alan Zisman (c) 1993. First published in Our Computer Player, December 17, 1993

1993 was the year when Microsoft, the mega-company that so many
love to hate, came a couple of steps closer to their stated target
of Windows Everywhere, despite the best efforts of opposition from
the likes of IBM, Apple, and Novell, and despite their own fumbling.

The year started off with a flurry of software activity that filled
one of the big holes that was keeping every PC user from spending
every waking moments in the warm confines of Windows... databases.

Previously, while there were Windows database programs, they hadn'
t really caught on with the mass-market. Suddenly, within a matter
of weeks, we got the long-awaited Borland Paradox for Windows, as
well as (count'em) two releases from Microsoft... Access for ease
of use, and Fox-Pro for the power users. We're still waiting for
Borland to get DBase-Win out the door, however.

While Windows caught up with DOS databases, it didn't quite catch
up with Macintosh graphics and publishing power, but came much
closer this year. With Quark Xpress and Adobe PhotoShop now
available, much of the Mac high-end stuff can be done on a PC.
Many Mac mavens are waiting to see what kinds of hardware tricks
Apple can pull off with next year's PowerPC harware... otherwise,
look for Windows and the Mac to pull even closer in the next year.

Little seemed to happening on the DOS software scene... Word
Perfect and Microsoft both finally upgraded their 1988-era DOS
word processors, but while Word Perfect 6 was full of high-end
features, it requires high-end hardware to make use of them, in
which case users might as well go all the way to Windows.
Microsoft DOS Word 6 will run on a stock XT or older AT, but is a
less exciting upgrade. And both manufacturers include licenses for
users of their DOS number 6 versions to use their Windows products
for free. Sign of the times?

But while little new software appeared for DOS hold-outs, it
seemed like every standard Windows product came out with a new
version. In spreadsheets, each of the big 3 released an upgrade...
in general focussing on making these products easier to use. Lotus
123 release 4 finally made this company a contender again (and
note that release 4 is only available as a Windows product...
their DOS line saw only modest upgrades). Borland, struggling to
keep cash flowing while waiting to get DBase-Win released,
upgraded Quattro Pro to version 5, and dropped the price to a
record low... it's $49.95 US list is 1/10th that of Lotus 123, for
a similar, power-packed feature set. Microsoft's Windows and Mac
releases, Excel 5, were later off the mark, but should have
appeared by the time you read this article, finally joining 123
and Q-Pro with 3-dimensional spreadsheets.

While Mac bestsellers have been moving to Windows ever since Aldus
PageMaker crossed the great divide in 1987, this year we also got
to see an innovative program from the NeXT platform moving over,
with Lotus Improv spreadsheet... lots of innovation, but perhaps
too different for vast commercial success. In fact, as Steve Jobs
got out of the hardware business entirely, he released the first
version of the NeXT environment for PCs... pricey and power-hungry, but with a lot
of potential, especially for high-end graphics and publishing

The Windows upgrade cycle included word processors, as well, with
the autumn release of Word Perfect 6.0 and Microsoft Word 6.0,
this time in their Windows incarnations. While I haven't seen the
Microsoft product yet, the Word Perfect program, while requiring
huge amounts of hard disk space (32 meg!) makes this program a 1st
rate Windows word processor, and not just an upgrade for people
moving from DOS WP 5.1. The third major Windows word processor,
Lotus AmiPro, is promising to up the ante once again, early in the
new year.

Another sign that "Windows Everywhere" was the software slogan of
the year was the emergence of Apple's Claris division as a Windows
publisher. They've begun a strategy of releasing their well-
regarded Macintosh software into the Windows market, first with
FileMaker Pro, and then with the innovative ClarisWorks, which has
pushed Microsoft Works out of that Mac profit-center. Apple is
even starting to push its hardware add-ons (laser printers,
scanners, even speakers) as Windows capable, but  hardware's
another article.

While applications software in 1993 was a case of 'Windows
triumphant', many PC users found 1993 a year of "wait for next

The year started out with Microsoft releasing MS DOS 6... a release
that I thought should have been called MS DOS 5.5, MS DOS 5 with
add on utilities. While this became a runaway best-seller,
nagging complaints, mostly centered on the DblSpace hard drive
compression program, brought about a DOS 6.2 upgrade by year's
end. IBM demonstrated their split from Microsoft by releasing IBM
DOS 6.1, while Novell worked on getting THEIR version (having
bought Digital Research last year), Novell DOS 7, out the door. It
remains to be seen if the competition will make major inroads into
Microsoft's near-monopoly here.

Still, many people would just as soon get away from DOS, with its
640k ram, 11 letter filename limitations. 1993 saw more attention
to the 32-bit alternatives, but no clear winner.

IBM cleaned up last year's OS/2 ver 2, releasing ver 2.1...
finally being able to run Windows 3.1 programs, and with a wider
range of driver support. Sales have been steady, and OS/2
proponents often sound like true believers, but few native
applications exist, and OS/2 still doesn't support the wide range
of hardware one might desire. As long as OS/2 remains another way
to run Windows applications, most users will probably stick with

Still, Microsoft also didn't live up to many users' hopes. Windows
NT finally hit the vendors shelves this summer. Microsoft had been
downplaying its usefulness to 'average' users for a while, but
many people had held on to their dreams. Instead, they found NT to
be just what Microsoft had claimed... a heavy-duty package, loaded
down with security and networking functions, and not a realistic
alternative for the rest of us.

The dream has moved to Microsoft's promise of Windows 4.0 (code
named 'Chicago'), sometime next year. We'll keep you posted.

NeXT-Step for Intel also makes too high requirements for most of
us, including an over $1000 price tag. And the current version
doesn't have the promised ability to run DOS/Windows software. It'
s got a lot of potential, but not just yet.

Finally, there were rumours of Apple/Novell releasing a Macintosh
operating system for Intel, promises of various Unix versions (
again, often featuring Novell), workstation Sun's proposal of an
open Windows standard, WABI... rumours and promises of life beyond
DOS's limitations.

Should make next year pretty interesting.

Search WWW Search www.zisman.ca

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan