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So back in early 2017, Is XP considered retrocomputing yet was asked. I was of the opinion then that it wasn't. I think it now qualifies by a criterion not mentioned in that previous question.

While you can still register a new copy XP with Microsoft (which really surprised me), updates are no longer possible and the state of being unable to backport hardware drivers for new devices are what I'd say makes it now meet a retro status.

DLLs are all 64-bit with no 32-bit compatibility. While 64-bit XP technically existed it was such a small pool of systems, they really were not as stable.

I completely missed that this came up 2 years ago since I wasn't part of that discussion.

What are other people's thoughts?

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    @wizzwizz4 I shortened the title by about 30% I hope that helps. Trimming down is usually a good thing. Oct 23, 2022 at 16:45
  • Let’s change the question for a moment: what kind of question about Windows XP do you actually want to ask? Nov 1, 2022 at 15:11
  • Also, wrt ‘DLLs are all 64-bit with no 32-bit compatibility’ — what DLLs? Nov 2, 2022 at 15:05

6 Answers 6

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I'm not sure it matters if XP itself is retro. Due to Microsoft's good track record of backwards compatibility, most questions about Windows XP will also be relevant to modern versions of Windows. There may be a small number of questions about XP that are on topic, and can be dealt with case by case.

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Nope.

For one, it still has about half a percent desktop share (60+% in Armenia). While this may sound small, it's still a huge number of everyday users — not to mention all the appliances, kiosks and other control systems running XP.

Next, I would think your own argument from 2017 about the common technology base is still holds. Likewise the one about plenty of information still available.

Last, I do not feel that 6 or 8 years after EOL is in any way an argument for something being retro. As OmarL already pointed out, all it does is making it (look) old (*1).

Then again, while I don't like to see RC.SE as a support site for people continuing to use old technology, but rather for all who active research, revitalize and recreate old technology, I can see that certain questions may be welcome. And no, I can't tell exactly how to distinguish them, but using the three areas above as guidelines might be a start.

Bottom line: No, XP in general is still and maybe for a long time, not an unquestioned topic for RC.SE — but there may be well founded exceptions.


*1 - While sharing his attitude for Wintel in general, I do see interesting aspects of XP (and other parts of the PC landscape) and wouldn't want to have it excluded just because of my personal disdain.

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  • I'm not sure "in use" outside of consumer products is a good metric. There are a ton of ATMs in active service that still use an OS/2 derivative, for example, but I don't think anyone would use that as evidence that OS/2 doesn't qualify as a "retro" OS.
    – mnem
    Oct 24, 2022 at 15:14
  • @mnem The difference for OS/2 might be rather that there is no follow up, while XP development was continues into today's Windows (whatever number and release). Same way as DOS is retro, despite many appliances still using a DOS base. The point here is that it's not a simple black and white decision - XP isn't really retro, but there are aspects that would make a question quite fit.
    – Raffzahn
    Oct 24, 2022 at 15:55
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    "is no followup" is also a questionable assertion. While it's obviously for legacy niche purposes there is a current OS/2 commercially purchasable (licensed) descendent still in active development in the form of ArcaOS, with the latest release only 10 months old (December 2021).
    – mnem
    Oct 24, 2022 at 17:31
  • @mnem I guess you're aware of the quantitative difference between Win10/11 and ArcaOS - as mentioned, there are as well lots of active DOS application. But lets skip fruitless banter: Are you in to find a way to handle fringe cases like this or just happy to argue for the sake of an argument?
    – Raffzahn
    Oct 24, 2022 at 17:51
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    On the contrary I haven't a firm opinion on weather WinXP questions are a good fit for here or not. Rather, just pointing out that you bringing up that particular point hurts your argument, not helps to make it.
    – mnem
    Oct 24, 2022 at 19:34
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    Is this the right perspective? Isn't it more important whether many people use it in a retrocomputing context than whether few people use it as a daily driver? If enough people use it in that context (for example only for running contemporary games) it may qualify.
    – nitro2k01
    Oct 27, 2022 at 10:16
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My opinion is no; XP is not retro, it's just old.

This is a community of people with an interest in certain technology. So whether or not you can still buy the technology is moot; hence why the Z80 in on-topic here.

Windows XP is not an interesting technology. It's "just another wintel thing", which happens to be out of date.

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Maybe.

On a similar topic about Windows 2000, my position was that 2000 was retro, XP was a maybe, and Vista was a "no".

Part of what makes something retro is people forgetting about it. I'd pretty-much forgotten that Windows 2000 was even a thing, and when I saw the topic back then my reaction was "Oh, yeah, the business counterpart to ME."

Windows XP is old enough by now that some people who used to use it regularly might have forgotten about it, but there are others who'll still be plenty familiar with it. I'm in the latter camp, due to using it in a virtual machine for using an old scanner that still works with its XP drivers, but doesn't have any for newer versions of Windows and has everything come out pink under Linux. Considering it originally came with drivers for Win98, I suppose I should consider myself lucky Canon made drivers for XP at all.

As far as I'm concerned, Windows XP is not quite there yet, but I'm not invested enough in whether it lies in the category or not to argue if you do call it retro.

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I would rather be worried about something else than mere ageism.

Systems from the 1980s and earlier that we tend to consider definitely ‘retro’ are not merely old and obsolete. They are also very deeply publicly understood, down to assembly or even hardware level; not by random laymen obviously, but there is a body of publicly available knowledge that captures this intimate understanding, readily accessible to anyone who wants it and knows where to look, often for free. Of course, much of this is owed to the relative openness and simplicity of computing in earlier times: the number of possible configurations was relatively low, designs were often publicly documented (with manuals sometimes including source code, description of individual hardware registers, and even circuit schematics), and whatever wasn’t documented was easily reverse-engineered. It probably also helps that nobody is there to enforce NDAs from that time period.

As we move towards the modern era of computing, achieving this level of understanding becomes harder and harder. In the noughties, hardware manufacturers didn’t give you schematics and register listings, they gave you an opaque binary driver for operating systems they bothered to support, and if you happened to be running BeOS, tough luck. And operating systems became too large to feasibly analyse in their entirety and understand at a level that you might with Commodore 64 KERNAL.

I think it makes much sense to consider achieving this kind of deep understanding of a system to be a major aspect of retrocomputing, especially when it’s viewed as one of the facets of the DIY culture at large. After all, if your system is obsolete and therefore you can’t count on getting support from the manufacturer, you will need to service the system yourself. And to do that, you need to be able to understand how it works, not merely apply black-box solutions obtained from somewhere else.

Windows 9x can probably be counted among ‘pseudo-open’ systems thanks to extensive reverse engineering work by a number of people, but including even Windows 2000 here is considerably more dubious (unless you count leaked source code as ‘public knowledge’…). And I fear Windows XP slips away from that category even further. (This is something I also tried to allude to when answering whether KaiOS should be accepted as on-topic.)

So rather than trying to ascertain whether XP ‘has retro nature’ in itself, which is going to be mostly subjective, I’d rather ask what kind of questions about Windows XP we would be getting and whether we want them here. What I’d expect is that we’d see questions that approach the OS at a much more shallow, consumer level (much like How to make an audio CDROM for a(n emulated) Playstation?, which directs people to string together black box tools without understanding them), or that we’d get questions that are practically unanswerable without pretty laborious original research. I’m not sure I’d like either much, though the latter would at least seem more fun.

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  • I don't agree. There are historical systems for which available public info is extremely limited–to give an extreme example, the NSA's 1970s-1990s era "Folklore OS"–the very high-level details are public, but all the finer ones are classified. Yet I don't think that paucity of public info makes them non-"retro". And questions about them are still on-topic, especially if they are answerable from what public info we do have. (And even if they aren't, you never know what is going to turn up some day.) What really counts, besides age, is being motivated by curiosity rather than commercial need Jun 23, 2023 at 11:45
  • I see your point. On the other hand, some may say this site is primarily about the use of old computing systems, and only incidentally about computing history (and perhaps not even all of computing history). Jun 23, 2023 at 15:46
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It's just Windows, an operating system that is still in active development.

The fact that its vendor has an aversion to simple version numbers doesn't change that it's just an earlier release of a current OS.

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    Yours is a dissenting opinion. I don't think this is a good reason not to allow XP. In 400 years time, if Microsoft's still around and still releasing Windows NT versions, would Windows Pink Ocelot for Ambient's existence make XP off-topic – and if Microsoft isn't, is that good reason to allow it?
    – wizzwizz4 Mod
    Oct 24, 2022 at 17:45
  • @wizzwizz4 Sorry, but that is simply not a good argument. Beside that Microsoft has changed the base of Windows already twice (3 -> 95 -> NT) so I rather think NT will not be around in 400 years from now. Not even 20. But until then, it is not on topic per se but needs a good case to make it. More important, the link and it's implication are not really helpful. It points to a discussion trying to find a simple blyck and white which wasn't possible back then nor is it today - also, fundamentalist argumentation does not fit a living environment.
    – Raffzahn
    Oct 24, 2022 at 20:02
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    @Raffzahn I'm not saying another-dave is wrong; I'm just saying that this answer contradicts how these four people view the site's scope. COBOL is still in active development, yet plenty of COBOL questions are on-topic. XP, apparently, is still off-topic. The sale or support of "new versions" by the manufacturer seems to have little bearing on whether we consider something on-topic, and I personally don't think it should have much of an impact.
    – wizzwizz4 Mod
    Oct 25, 2022 at 0:05
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    @wizzwizz4 - I count only 3 answers to your previous question in meta (and your question does not seem to take a position). And for whatever it's worth, 2 of those 3 answerers haven't been seen in years. Are decisions made once and for all, or can the aggregate view of the membership change?
    – dave
    Oct 25, 2022 at 0:15
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    @wizzwizz4 it's 4 out of how many active users? I would think that a fundamentalist view like US Originalists is not helpful for a living site. IMHO we are in a constant way of refining the way we see things. Or do you say RC.SE was conceived perfect - and all defined? Your example about COBOL is in fact a good support to my position. Glancing over that list showed that all Qs are tied to some historic fact involving COBOL - which perfectly fits, don't you agree? I couldn't find any about COBOL 2002 and it's OOP features. XP might be similar - although not as easy to define.
    – Raffzahn
    Oct 25, 2022 at 0:47
  • @Raffzahn Couldn't have said it better myself. I was merely pointing out the past discussion and my personal opinion. Next time I'll use separate comments, so I don't look like I'm trying to impose a doctrine.
    – wizzwizz4 Mod
    Oct 25, 2022 at 11:09
  • @another-dave Yes, the view can change. I don't see evidence that it has – e.g., Raffzahn's "XP is off-topic" answer has three upvotes, and this one only has one; questions that are (afaik) only considered on-topic because of this reasoning haven't had close-votes on them; and so on – but it would be absolutely fine if it did.
    – wizzwizz4 Mod
    Oct 25, 2022 at 11:11

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