Classic Mac OS and Windows 95, 98, and NT Compared

“Although systems prior to Mac OS 8 can indeed do more than one thing at a time, OS 8 is also a better form of multitasking, a.k.a. Win95!”

Windows 95 doesn’t do multitasking, just multithreading. Windows NT is the only Microsoft variation that handles multitasking like Mac OS 8. Windows 95 handles multitasking in the kernel and threads out to programs, but they have to specifically be written for multithreading, while Macintosh programs are by default multithreading and multitasking under Mac OS 8.1.

Windows 95 compares to System 7.1 pretty solidly in the way it handles itself, and Windows 98 seems more like an improved 7.1 that acts like System 7.5 without the core kernel support. Windows NT runs on it’s own kernel, just like 7.5 and higher, but didn’t really have a multitasking competitor in the Mac OS department – until 8.1.

Here’s a more detailed comparison.

Windows 95

  • no real hardware plug and play options
  • can run multiple programs simultaneously
  • can background program threads, but backgrounding is controlled in the OS, not the program
  • there isn’t a priority chart
  • programs must be written to support the multithreading in Windows 95, as it was a new feature when 95 was released
Windows 95

Windows 95

Windows 98

  • partial hardware plug and play options, but not stable yet with limited drivers – most are running in Windows 95 driver support modes at this time
  • can run multiple programs simultaneously and can background program threads, but unless programs are rewritten to take advantage of the priority chart, runs just like Windows 95
  • programs have the ability to work with each other while running (unlike Windows 95)
  • previously written Windows 3.1 and older software that runs in DOS mode or 3.1 mode is forced into multitasking due to the created environment
Windows 98

Windows 98

Windows NT

  • hardware plug and play options
  • most hardware has Windows NT driver support
  • runs multiple programs simultaneously and can run background threads which do not have to be programmed into the application, and are optionally controlled either through the application or with Windows NT
  • programs have always had interaction on top of the NT kernel
  • software emulation of the Windows 95/DOS environment is built into NT but still multithreaded environments

Mac System 7.0-7.1

  • no hardware plug and play options supported in software
  • runs multiple programs in separate environments with limited backgrounding support – priority for backgrounding is determined by the friendliness of the foreground application
  • older programs do not have to be rewritten to take advantage of threading, they are automatically threaded by the OS.

Mac OS 7.5-7.6.1

  • hardware plug and play options, most hardware requires Mac OS drivers
  • runs multiple programs simultaneously and can run background threads which do not have to be programmed into the application, and are optionally controlled either through the application or with defaults in Mac OS itself
  • programs have interaction with each other through the Mac OS kernel
  • integration of hardware services (networking, SCSI) comparable with the NT abilities
Mac System 7.5.3

Mac System 7.5

Mac OS 8.0-8.1

  • hardware plug and play options, most hardware requires Mac OS drivers
  • runs multiple programs simultaneously on top of the kernel, and can run background threads from multiple programs which do not have to be programmed into the application, and are managed entirely by Mac OS with an automatically adjusted priority chart determined by application need and load
  • programs have interaction with each other through the Mac OS kernel, and instead of integration with network services, these services are available to programs just as if they were programs as well, running on top of the Mac OS kernel. This gives programs and services better interaction without needing to go through the kernel, allowing them to self manage resources and memory by accessing the kernel heap directly. This may be more confusing, but the kernel is passive in program operations rather than active – programs and services report changes to the kernel, instead of the kernel dictating environment changes.
Folders in Mac OS 8.1

Mac OS 8.1

That’s enough said – I’m hoping those with knowledge will be free with their criticisms. I there are questions, I’ll happily explain my views. If there are criticisms, I’d very much appreciate them, so I can smooth out some of the rough edges in what I’m trying to get across. I always like finding a better way to state something.

Scott L. Barber <serker@earthling.net>
Pres/CEO, SERKER Worldwide, Inc.
Providing Hardware/Networking/Telecomm for 13 years

Scott L. Barber first posted this to Quadlist, the listserv for users of 68040-based Macs. It is reprinted with his permission.

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