Skip Links

Why this Linux user is now using Windows 3.1

An explanation for an admittedly ridiculous switch to Windows 3.1.

By Bryan Lunduke on Mon, 01/28/13 - 10:49am.

Before we begin, let me just say that what you are about to read is, for lack of a better word, ridiculous. I know it is ridiculous. It is almost boundless in its ridiculousness. But I am going to write these words anyway.

This is the story of how a Linux user...switched to Windows 3.1. At least in part.

You read that right. Windows 3.1. Yes. That Windows 3.1. The 16-bit one that came out in 1992...over 20 years ago. Many of you will replay, "WHY?!?! Are you INSANE?!?!" And that would be a perfectly valid and warranted reply, punctuation and all.

To answer that, allow me to back up for a moment.

Some months back I wrote a two-part series of articles that started off as a musing along the lines of "Why do we need to upgrade our technology so often?" That morphed into "Bryan tries to live in DOS. Full time." Those articles were quite silly, but, in the end, I found that properly utilizing DOS, within an emulated environment, provided some unique and interesting benefits.

RELATED: A Linux user switches to DOS

A Linux user switches to DOS, Part Two

Most notably, I found that a DOS emulation tool (DOSBox), when used in combination with a service such as Dropbox, allowed me to have a consistent environment across all of my devices - including my Android tablet and phone - with the same files and applications used everywhere. Handy. Nerdy, and handy.

Then, about two weeks back, I was using my Android tablet and looking for a good graphics editor. I wanted something with layers and good text drawing tools. There were some options, but nothing that compared to The Gimp, Inkscape, or Photoshop for the Desktop. Man, wouldn’t it be great to have a full version of one of those running on my Nexus 7?

That’s when it hit me. We already have that.

Photoshop used to run on Windows 3.1. And Windows 3.1 runs great under both DOSBox and QEMU, both of which are Open Source emulators available for Android and every other platform under the sun.

So I promptly set to work digging up an old copy of Photoshop. The last version released for Windows 3.1 was back in 1996. And finding a working copy proved to be...challenging. Luckily, the good folks at Adobe dug around in their vaults and managed to get me up and running.

And, after a bit of tweaking, I ended up with an astoundingly functional copy of Photoshop that I can now run on absolutely every device I own. And the entire environment (fonts, working files and all) are automatically backed up to the cloud and synced between systems.

But what other applications (and, potentially, games) does this give me access to? How far can I take this? I was like a kid in a candy store. Only, in this case, the "candy" is "16 bit, old-as-hell, Windows 3.1 software."

Next week I’ll go over, in detail, how to set everything up and what else you can do with a system like this.