virtual machine

Insignia SoftWindows 95

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PC compatibility was a big thing for UNIX workstation manufacturers in the 80s and 90s. It started with x86/DOS emulators for text-only applications and later evolved in products like SoftWindows 95. This is a full x86 emulator with pre-installed and pre-configured Windows 95 in it and Insignia ported the emulator for non-PC platforms including IRIX, Solaris, HP-UX, MacOS, NeXT and other systems.

I have to say that installing the emulator on SGI IRIX is way easier than I expected. Just insert the installation CD, run the IRIX Software Manager, confirm the installation and that’s it. The first start of the emulator installs the Windows 95 by copying all the files on the virtual hard disk and deploying device drivers. It took maybe three minutes and didn’t require any user interaction.

Windows is preconfigured to see all UNIX folders as network drives, network is configured so you can immediately go on-line with Internet Explorer 3.0 or access SMB file shares. Mouse emulation works the same way as with modern virtualization software so you can seamlessly move the cursor between Windows 95 and IRIX windows. It also changes the Windows 95 screen resolution immediately after resizing the emulator window.

On the other side, games are not playable on my 400-MHz MIPS R12000. There are strange lags every few seconds (although between them, fps is similar to early Pentium systems). Office software runs ok and the only major limitation is in supporting up to 8-bit display modes (no more than 256 colors).