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It's time to seriously think about this. Windows XP is almost 15 years old, and is the last operating system to run pretty much any 9x software.

Sure it uses the NT kernel, but it's so old that it doesn't really matter (like 2000)

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    Windows XP was "was released to manufacturing on August 24, 2001, and generally released for retail sale on October 25, 2001." That makes it over 15, and almost 16 years old. Feb 22, 2017 at 3:51
  • "Sure it uses the NT kernel, but it's so old that it doesn't really matter (like 2000)." That statement is not correct. There are very few changes at the kernel level between Windows XP and Windows 10. Obviously there are some, but they can be listed in a reasonably-sized list, and they are not fundamental architectural differences. Windows NT's kernel is still Windows NT's kernel, even nearly 25 years later. The vast majority of what you would read in Helen Custer's original Inside Windows NT (covering the original version, NT 3.1) is still going to apply today. Feb 28, 2017 at 8:25

7 Answers 7

15

It's still got 5+% of the desktop market share. Regardless of how old it is, I think that pretty well disqualifies it.

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    Agreeed, XP is still current technology.
    – Chenmunka Mod
    Feb 16, 2017 at 10:56
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    While I agree that XP is current (or somewhat current), I don't think the percentage of market share should affect the choice at all. For example, can you tell me what the percentage of market share is for Amiga OS? While I'm sure it's in the subatomic fraction of 1 %, it still has "market share". So, what percentage points do we say is relevant to this discussion? Which is why I think market share shouldn't be a factor.
    – cbmeeks
    Feb 16, 2017 at 13:25
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    I agree that market share shouldn't be a direct primary criterion. However, I'm not sure it should be entirely ignored. I would suggest, as a first cut at trying to define proper criteria, that it be considered along with other criteria such as manufacturer support and third-party support. For example, if there is no support from the manufacturer, there is no new software being published, and the "active installed base"/market share is below (arbitrarily) 3% and has been for (arbitrarily) five years, then it's "retrocomputable". Feb 16, 2017 at 13:46
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    (Obviously, those numbers are open to discussion, even aside from whether the basic criteria are appropriate.) Feb 16, 2017 at 13:46
  • I think that's what we need to have defined. But what do you mean by no new software being published? Do you mean from the manufacturer? Mean, no new XP compatible software from Microsoft? Because many new Windows apps will still run under XP.
    – cbmeeks
    Feb 16, 2017 at 14:51
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    Instead of criteria such as x% market share, which violates the zero-one-infinity rule, or "no new software being published," why not leave it up to each individual to decide whether they think a Q&A site named "Retrocomputing StackExchange" will give them the answer they're looking for? Feb 16, 2017 at 20:10
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    There are plenty of zero-one-infinity violations in, for example, law. One is that patents last 20 years; any patent-expired platform is more likely to be considered "retro". Feb 17, 2017 at 5:34
  • @Damian Whether a computer's patents have expired would certainly be a zero-one-infinity-conformant criterion. Feb 17, 2017 at 18:53
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    @cbmeeks - by "no new software being published", I mean either that nobody is still publishing new software (as opposed to re-released) explicitly advertised as being XP-compatible (whether or not it actually runs on XP), or that any new software is known to be not compatible with XP. Feb 21, 2017 at 14:34
  • I wonder, though, about the actual purpose of the question. What if it is considered retrocomputing? What changes for the asker? If I had the privilege, the question would have attracted an "unclear what you're asking" close-vote. Feb 21, 2017 at 21:00
  • XP market share is more complicated than that. From the same linked Wikipedia page: "Web analysis shows significant variation in different parts of the world. For example, in North America usage of Windows XP has dropped to 2.06%, but in Africa it is still at 11.02%[62] and Asia at 6.63%[63] (even higher in China, but down to down to 18.21%, tied with Win10 at second[64]) while going down, and has been overtaken by Windows 10." Feb 22, 2017 at 3:48
  • Maybe not so much "market share" as a raw number, but how much it's still deployed in business and industry as a main tool, not considering embedded devices or control systems. I've seen several XP machines locally, KY USA, and can only guess at Asian deployments. I suspect that XP will hang around much longer than other systems have. Just seems like lots of people don't want to let it die.
    – user4511
    Feb 22, 2017 at 4:20
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I would say not yet. Mainly because XP marks the edge of its technology type which is still common with that of Windows 7. Games and applications which run fine on XP will still work correctly on 7-10 in most cases. That is not the case for WinME and its predecessors. This is especially true if they do any type of direct hardware access which precludes XP or NT's HAL.

I would hazard that XP would need to be in End of Life status for at least 6 years before anything could be considered retro.

Edit: Another thing which allowed Pre-XP OS's to reach "Retro" status earlier is the fact that there isn't a whole bunch of information on the Web currently for those operating systems. Where as XP and its newer iterations have existed in the time when the Web was prolific. As a result there are still numerous websites with current information reflecting current Hardware and current software.

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    Thanks for pointing out the "common technology base" with recent Windows versions - I think that is the fact that mostly disqualifies XP
    – tofro
    Feb 20, 2017 at 14:30
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Here's one way to look at it.

Windows 2.0 was released in 1987. That means 2.0 was about 14 years old win XP came out, and it almost certainly would have been considered "retro" at the time.

Windows XP is now over 15 years old.

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    Yes, but the Windows 2.0 market share was much lower when Windows XP came out than Windows XP is now.
    – JAL
    Feb 17, 2017 at 19:50
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    When Windows XP came out, Windows 2.0 was a curiosity that would occasionally show up on abandonware sites. Today, you're not going to find XP on abandonware sites, you're going to find it on mainstream warez sites.
    – Mark
    Feb 17, 2017 at 20:16
  • Windows XP shares much code with early versions of Windows NT (I'd hazard a guess that significant chunks are shared between XP and NT 4.0, and less with NT 3.x). Windows NT was originally slated to become OS/2 3.0 (NT 3.x and 4.0 could run OS/2 applications), but everything about that changed with the IBM/Microsoft split of 1989-1990. Windows 2.0 is part of the lineage that led up to Windows 3.x, Windows 9x and ended with the release of Windows ME; NT's lineage in this regard started at NT 3.1 and went through NT 4.0, Windows 2000, Windows XP and on with the versions of Windows we use today.
    – user
    Feb 26, 2017 at 18:24
  • @Mark You're going to find GBC titles on mainstream warez sites as well, but GBC is certainly retro.
    – forest
    Mar 24, 2018 at 21:39
  • Also, back with 2.0 Windows was an emerging product. Like with everything new, there will be many improvements and even substantial changes in fast succession. By the time XP came cycles had considerably slowed down - some would argue that new major versions since XP were rather marketing driven then based on substantial technological advancements.
    – Raffzahn
    Apr 27, 2022 at 8:10
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Win XP still receives updates till 2019 (one only has to change a registry setting).

Can such software be considered retrocomputiong? I doubt...

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    Could you explain more? That's interesting
    – Cullub
    Mar 22, 2017 at 14:26
  • @cullub google.com/…
    – Anixx
    Mar 22, 2017 at 15:00
  • There's an argument that it's now (5 years later) an unsupported OS, and therefore eligible. Apr 21, 2022 at 6:01
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Windows XP as a whole? Certainly not yet. But 16-bit subsystems of Windows are strongly connected to the topic, and retrocomputing.SX should encourage questions about running 16-bit software on Windows (XP included). Therefore “doing under XP” may not be considered a definite off-topic and respective tag should be created (supplied with usage guidance).

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Our Help Center welcomes questions relating to

how to use or preserve computing equipment that is no longer manufactured or supported by the manufacturer.

It later clarifies

Questions about modern, currently supported computers are off-topic. This includes questions about earlier versions of a current machine or OS.

The last vendor support for this platform ended in April 2019, so it is clearly no longer currently supported. Anyone seeking to create or resurrect a Windows XP system and requiring help will need to get it from the community (i.e. Stack Exchange) rather than from the supplier.

I interpret the Help Center advice to mean that questions about Windows XP are on-topic - unless it applies to Windows more generally (when XP can be considered merely an "earlier version" of the Windows platform).

There's a bit of interpretation needed because current Windows platforms can run many (but not all) programs written for Windows XP. However, I believe we should be able to distinguish reasonably well between on-topic and off-topic based on what I quoted above.


Windows platforms aren't interesting to me, so I've added windows* to my ignored tags list. I encourage anyone else who doesn't want to see Windows questions to do the same (rather than have us deny answers to those who have Windows questions).

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My personal opinion:

  • if your question about Windows XP is primarily motivated by intellectual curiosity – especially if it is a question about history, motivations behind design decisions, the development process and beta releases, obscure legacy features, etc – it is on-topic

  • if your question about Windows XP is because you still use Windows XP in your day-to-day life (maybe you live in Armenia) and you need help with it (e.g. suddenly it won't boot) – not on-topic

Intellectual curiosity vs pragmatic or commercial need is an important dividing line, I think. But not an absolute one:

  • a question about Windows 10 is off-topic, even if it is purely motivated by intellectual curiosity rather than practical need

  • maybe someone out there is still running their business on an Apple II, in which case I think they can ask for IT help here, even though their need is practical rather than curiosity-based

Windows 10 is new enough (and still used enough) that it is off-topic, even for curiosity-motivated questions. Apple II is old enough that it is on-topic even for practically-motivated questions. Windows XP currently occupies the grey area in-between, on-topic for the curiosity-motivated, off-topic for practically-motivated. Eventually, as its use further declines, it will move out of that grey area, and be on-topic without exception – but we still aren't there yet.

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