Monday, 10 April 2017

How OS/2 kickstarted the UK e-commerce industry

Its 25 years since the release of OS/2 2.0 by IBM and this blog post about a previously thought lost beta build of OS/2 2.0 being rediscovered caused me to remember when i ran the operating system. This was back in the early 1990s when i was at university doing a software engineering degree. Most people were happy with Windows 3.1 and DOS, with a 32-bit version of Windows on the horizon. But i wanted something more, i wanted something now.

My PC back then was a rather lowly Unisys 386SX-33 with just 4MB of RAM. I had an external CD-ROM and was thinking of running OS/2. For graduating my parents bought me a copy of OS/2 3.0 Warp in 1995 and a 4MB RAM upgrade. Thus i installed Warp on my Unisys and it ... worked great actually. Perfectly usable, not lightening fast but worked great for what i needed. I even wrote my first webpages on it, viewing them in Web Explorer.

A few months later in 1995 i started my first job at TW2, a very early UK web design agency. The big plan was to create one of the UK's first (maybe the first - Amazon was only a couple of months old at the time after all) e-commerce website. I needed a web server on my work PC to develop the site... well Apache and Perl ran on OS/2 so i installed that on the PC and build a demonstrator website for this new and back then fairly unknown concept of selling things on the internet.

My prototype website was then demonstrated in late 1995 to the heads of the UK arms of software companies like Adobe and Microsoft to get buy in to the project in London. The demonstration wowed the crowd as a web store was searched and items were added to a basket! All running on work PC running OS/2 (though the actual live site when built in 1996 ran on Irix).

So OS/2 Warp helped start British e-commerce, and thats nice.