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Ever wonder what the operating systems of the past were like? Find out now, online, without the need to install anything. You can try Windows 1.0, Mac System 7, Amiga OS and DOS – along with a few games – without leaving your browser.

Welcome to the world of online emulators.

The history of computers A Visual History of Computers A Visual History of Computers Let's briefly take a look at the last 60 years of computing advancements, and appreciate the tools we have today that enhances our lives. Read More is fascinating, but reading will only get you so far. If you really want to know what, say, Windows was like in 1985, you don’t need to find a computer from that age. A variety of enthusiasts have used existing emulators to offer classic systems on the Web. Here’s where to find them.

Windows 1.0

Before Windows gained a stranglehold on the OS market, it was an upstart with a graphical user interface. What did their OS look like? Let’s let Steve Ballmer pitch it, shall we?

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The year is 1985; Windows 1.0 is out. Want to see if it lives up to that ad’s hype? Of course you do. Play with Windows 1.0 at jsmachines.net, right now.

browser-emulator-windows-1

Highlights include a black and white version of paint, shown above, and – of course – Reversi.

Would you prefer to see Windows 3.0? That’s the system most people are familiar with, and there’s an emulator for that, too.

Mac OS System 7

Apple’s been making computers a long time, and it’s interesting to see how much of their early design carries over to Macs today. If you’re curious about this you should check out an older version of the operating system. James Friend offers an online MacOS System 7 emulator.

browser-emulator-mac-shufflepuck

You can browse the operating system itself, or try out some freeware included with the system. Highlights include Shufflepuck, an astronomy program called Orion, and an early version of Microsoft Word for Mac.

Amiga 500

The best selling computer in Europe during the late 80s wasn’t a Mac or a PC – it was the Amiga. Modern fanboys talk as though Windows and Mac have always been in direct competition, but Amiga was also a major player.

Wondering what that OS was like, or want to experience it again? This online Amiga 500 emulator lets you try a system from around 1991.

browser-emulator-amiga

Included are a bunch of demos originally meant to show what the Amiga can do, presumably in a store. You can hear early text to speech, or watch a computer animated video. It’s wonderfully weird, so give it a shot.

PC DOS 5

Do you remember DOS? Of course you do. Windows users can pull up the Command Prompt to bring back memories, but if you want more you should check out this online IBM PC emulator.

browser-emulator-dos

It’s noteworthy for including demo versions of Wolfenstein 3D, Civilization and Monkey Island.

browser-emulator-wolf3d

Non-emulated tours

Want a more recent nostalgia trip? Head to VirtualDesktop.org. This site doesn’t offer emulators, but you might not even be able to tell. You’ll see interactive screenshot tours of Windows and Mac systems. Everything works as you’d expect: click start, see the menu.

virtual-desktop-windows

It’s a great way to quickly recall how older versions on MacOS and Windows looked – and felt.

Hover!

This doesn’t entirely belong in this article, but I can’t resist. Any kid who, for some reason, decided to explore the Windows 95 installation CD got a happy surprise: Hover!

You may have heard that Microsoft relaunched Hover as a web game – it’s a new version with a darker look, but it’s possible to unlock the original game on this site as well. Just type “bambi” before doing anything. You’ll see the original Hover, complete with a Windows 95 style desktop.

hover-online-retro

My favorite part is the self-deprecating “Tweet wizard”.

hover-online-tweet

Well played, Microsoft. I don’t love everything you do Microsoft, You’re Embarrassing Yourself. Please Stop. [Opinion] Microsoft, You’re Embarrassing Yourself. Please Stop. [Opinion] Microsoft: we need to talk. Yes, it’s about those Scroogle ads. No, I don’t think they’re funny, and no: I don’t think Google is worried about them. Read More , but credit where credit is due. This is awesome.

Even More Online Emulation

Want even more trips to the past? We’ve outlined 4 websites to play NES games for free 4 Websites To Play NES Games For Free & Through The Browser 4 Websites To Play NES Games For Free & Through The Browser Just recently, I put out an article outlining some of my favorite RPGs for the SNES and showed MUO readers how they can experience those games through a web interface. Not everyone has the time... Read More that are built on similar technology, and fun to check out if you’re feeling nostalgic.

And I’m sure you know of a few online emulators we’ve missed. What old fashioned OS are you reliving? Provide links below.

  1. SortingHat
    March 30, 2016 at 8:26 am

    How come Basilisk II OR Sheep shaver don't work on Windows 64 bit? I got as far as intilization your disk following the setup guide using the two things on the volume but none of the file show up after launching the OS to actually install it.

  2. daniyal141
    February 10, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Wow. That was pretty nice. It's good to explore the ruins of things you really like.

    • Justin Pot
      February 10, 2016 at 7:46 pm

      Glad you enjoyed the tour!

    • SortingHat
      March 30, 2016 at 8:28 am

      Except it's not really *ruined* just no new things are made for it anymore. Ruined means nothing works on it or works very poorly at best.

  3. A41202813GMAIL ..
    February 9, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Typo In The Article Text, **IBM** Is Written **IMB**.

    Cheers.

  4. Ken
    April 10, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    Windows 8 sure looks like that Amiga 500 screen shot to me.

    • SortingHat
      March 30, 2016 at 8:27 am

      Perhaps they were playing with one and some hot head made a joke which the manager took seriously and imitated it.

  5. lockwoodv
    March 25, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    I remember Easy Office! It ran from a 720k floppy disk on my IBM compatible Tandy 1000. The poor man's Lotus 123 of the time.

  6. goon
    March 21, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    good because it’s new

  7. rich
    March 20, 2014 at 4:33 am

    Then try this. On chat tonight one participant reported he still does his US federal income tax, and state tax, on an Adam - 8 bits, 64K memory. Why not? Back in the day it was the backroom machine for the H&R Block tax preparation agency. Moore's Law even applies in classic computers; now folks have got them driving current printers, running SSD hard discs based on CF cards, and other neat tricks.

    The software did the job then and can still be set up to do the job now. But it's simple enough for a knowledgeable user to tamper with and adjust to suit, like being simpler and easier to work with.

    Just because Ford brings out a new model of your car doesn't mean the old one stops working. You might not even agree the new one works as well as the old (XP forever!)

    The Amiga is a good, powerful, very user-friendly computer, with a spreadsheet program my wife found highly adaptable to just exactly what she wanted to do the way she wanted to do it. So she set it up to do just that and has every incentive not to change.

    In fact, she needs two other spreadsheets for two other purposes, so she uses a quirky independent one from a long-discontinued suite called Easy Office, in the XP Virtual Machine on her Win7 Dell, and Kingsoft's free Office competitor for the other. Because they work.

    Why should it be a big deal to look for the tool that does the job you need the way you need it done - and refuse to waste time and money messing around with something not as good because it's new? That's nuts. Sane people choose the answers that work best.

  8. rich
    March 19, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    Of course. What's the big deal?

    • Justin P
      March 19, 2014 at 9:15 pm

      It's possibly the coolest thing I've ever heard, is all. :)

  9. rich
    March 19, 2014 at 1:46 am

    My wife has the commercial (Colanto) Amiga emulator running in the XP virtual machine in her Win7Pro laptop. It lets her play with her favourite Amiga graphics programs without firing up her Amiga 3000, which she uses for the spreadsheet on which she keeps the household accounts.

    She also has the emulator for the Adam, the 8-bit computer built up from the popular Colecovision video game. In fact we plan to attend the 27th annual Coleco Adam users' convention in Cleveland (Adamcon 27) in mid-July. Information can be found at adamcon.org which is specific to the Adam community, though the gamers (who are still writing and issuing very collectible new games) also often hang out at atariage.org.

    There is also a large Commodore community that has emulators for the PET, C64, and C128 as well as various Amigas. Start your search at tpug.org.

    • Justin P
      March 19, 2014 at 2:22 pm

      She still uses still use an Amiga 3000 to keep the household accounts?

  10. David Lee
    March 17, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    This is so awesome! I am going to integrate this into my elementary computer class! Operating System Unit

    • Justin P
      March 17, 2014 at 11:36 pm

      That's cool to hear! Let us know what the kids think, okay?

  11. Debbie
    March 17, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    As a "not real tech saavy" computer user, I absolutely hate Windows 8. I have fought this new computer from day 1. It is at the Geek shop to have Windows 7 put in. They can do whatever they want with Windows 8. (I know what I'd like to do to it.) I do not have a touch screen monitor, what was Microsoft thinking? If I had known Microsoft 8 was such a headache, I would never have bought this new computer.

    • SortingHat
      March 30, 2016 at 8:23 am

      Do you mean Windows 8 vanilla or 8.1 because a lot of changed were made on 8.1 but by then it was pretty much too late. The ship was damaged beyond repair but 8.1 added a lot of features in the box to make Windows 8 smooth and is more compatible with things then 10 which still has the god awful phone apps stuff.

      Win 8.1 has an arrow that allows you to access all your programs at once so you can organize things (yeah) WITHOUT 3rd party software involved or any sort of tinkering but MS failed to advertise that and they only ahve themselves to blame.

      Windows 8.1 is what Vista and 7 should've been. I HATE windows 7 but I only have it because Windows XP is not secure anymore and I refuse to have 10 which does nothing but make computer noise.

    • SortingHat
      March 30, 2016 at 8:24 am

      I honestly don't know why MS couldn't let you edit things in the regular Windows 8. Windows 8.1 is a *fix* but for obvious reasons they are not allowed to say as such.

  12. walyc
    March 17, 2014 at 3:48 am

    What about Norton Commander?

    • Justin P
      March 17, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      I couldn't find Norton Commander running like this, sadly, but maybe someone else here has...

    • Neil Parks
      August 22, 2014 at 4:13 pm

      There are many "commanders" available for current Windows computers. Closest in look and feel to the Norton original is Midnight Commander. It was created for console-mode Linux, but has been ported to Windows. I use it in Linux all the time.

      For Windows, my current favorites are 7-zip and Double Commander.

    • Neil Parks
      August 22, 2014 at 4:21 pm

      My first home computer was the Radio Shack Color Computer, aka "CoCo".

  13. Anonymous
    March 17, 2014 at 2:02 am

    Each of the systems listed here https://archive.org/details/consolelivingroom have working emulators and games available, as well as links to histories, manuals, etc.

    https://archive.org/details/businesscase does the same for historic non-games, providing emulation of word processors, spreadsheets, and other business and productivity software.

    http://jsmess.textfiles.com has many more systems in various conditions.

    • Justin P
      March 17, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      This. Is. Amazing.

  14. A G B
    March 16, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    You Do Not Need Any Emulator To Play WOLFENSTEIN 3D.

    ARCHIVE.ORG Has Lots Of Games That Can Be Played Without Any Emulator.

    WOLF Is Just One Of Them - 3 Free Downloads There.

    Enjoy.

    • Justin P
      March 16, 2014 at 9:00 pm

      Do you have a link to any of these?

    • A G B
      March 17, 2014 at 4:04 am

      ARCHIVE.ORG > Software > Classic PC Games > Letter W.

      Sorry, The List Is Greatly Reduced, Now.

      I Still Have The 3 Files I Download 4 Months Ago - The Initial Release Of W3D.

      ARCHIVE.ORG Is Not A Pirate Site, And I Do Not Believe The Links Were Retired On Copyright Grounds, Because The Initial Release Of W3D Was Free - The Sequels Were Commercial, Though.

      Sorry.

    • A G B
      March 26, 2014 at 2:57 pm

      @Justin P

      ARCHIVE.ORG Had Some Sort Of Glitch When I Replied.

      The Downloads Are There Again.

      Enjoy.

  15. madeuseof
    March 16, 2014 at 5:28 am

    If the guy in this video weren't such a snarky dbag, it might be a little more tolerable.

    • Justin P
      March 16, 2014 at 8:59 pm

      I shall attempt to be less of a snarky dbag in future videos. I'm learning as I go and really appreciate the feedback.

  16. Janus O
    March 15, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Check this Windows 3.1 online emulator:
    http://www.michaelv.org/

    • Justin P
      March 16, 2014 at 8:59 pm

      It's cool, but I'm not sure if it's an emulator. I think it's just a really faithful re-creation.

  17. Ronny Vranken
    March 15, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    i just wanted to say that i like simulators, was usefull in the time i worked at a helpdesk and there was no remote desktop to help me

    check :

    http://va.zensupport.co.uk/
    http://www.mobilexweb.com/emulators
    https://www.manymo.com/emulators/86/connect
    http://networkoverload.com/
    http://www.chasms.com/
    http://screenshots.modemhelp.net/

  18. Anthony
    March 15, 2014 at 2:30 am

    As a long time MacOS user (I remember the years before OSX) what is shown is not System 7, but System 1 - 6.

  19. Lyle Lengyel
    March 15, 2014 at 1:32 am

    I remember HOVER!!!
    If I recall, on the Windows 98 cd there was another game demo, one where a futuristic spaceship thing was flown through a dark and stormy night, complete with portals and the like. I've really been wondering what game this was...

    • Kelsey T
      March 16, 2014 at 12:34 am

      You may be thinking of "Deadly Tide", a Microsoft game staged under the ocean. Google t and check. In it you piloted a sub that looked like a Battlestar Galactica Cylon Raider spaceship 8)
      I've still got it on CD, and it will NOT play on Vista or Windows 7 without EXTREME modding lol.

  20. Srivatsan V
    March 14, 2014 at 9:58 pm

    There was something amazing seeing that Microsoft logo animation at the boot of Windows 1.01.

  21. Kevin M
    March 14, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    As a pre DOS user I have been around and seen the evolution from the beginning. What a crazy evolution it has been too. Just think, what we think is cool today will be laughed at in less than 10 years and perhaps even sooner...;)

    • Tom S
      March 15, 2014 at 12:47 am

      "Just think, what we think is cool today will be laughed at in less than 10 years and perhaps even sooner…;)"
      Or looked on fondly with nostalgia

    • Justin P
      March 15, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      "This is Windows 8, and I have to say: it's the best thing Microsoft's ever done..."

    • Robert Julian Braxton
      April 7, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      I especially liked Forth - on TRS-80 Model III (also I had two TRS-80 Model I - first with cassette tape program Save and Load for which I bought a case of very short tapes (5 minutes?). Forth was a disk operating system and application like word processing where one could look at the code and learn how. Reminds me of 2005 vintage One Laptop Per Child (from MIT) and its coding in Python. Also, have Altair 1975 with Kansas City BASIC.

  22. Porkus Dinkus
    March 14, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    How about GS-OS 6.04 from the old apple II GS? Shuffle puck rocked on that back in the day.

  23. Ben S
    March 14, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    I don't know exactly why, but this is so cool to me. Seeing how far computer has come in just 20-30 years is astounding, and being able to interact with history like this is sweet. I remember having Windows 98 on our first computer - that's as far back as my memory goes. I'll have to try some old versions of Mac OS out - thanks for sharing all of these!

    • D
      March 14, 2014 at 5:13 pm

      If you are interested in experiencing what I consider one of the more prominent efforts by Apple, search for and install the Macintosh System 7.5 (I believe emulators exist for it, though I cannot recall if they are available for Windows).

      System 7.5 was a leap in OS design unparalleled by Apple itself to this day.

    • D
      March 14, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      The inspiration for Apple in designing System 7.5, of course, was one of the last iterations of the Amiga OS (even if they never admit to such). An emulator IS available for that OS (and runs on Windows).

    • D
      March 14, 2014 at 5:23 pm

      I still use Windoze, but W7 is the last version I am willing to tolerate. I also use Android.

      However, I will be switching to crunchbang linux (for desktop), and freeBSD for workstations later this year, keeping a W7 workstation available for the rare app which does not have an equivalent on the other platforms.

    • Tom S
      March 15, 2014 at 12:46 am

      Linux Mint is for me

    • Mick
      April 10, 2014 at 6:41 pm

      Er I was there at the start and yes Windows 1 was basic but the precurser was called GEM and about all it had was a Rotodex type card file. However the most significant thing that came out of Windows was the standardisation of programe interface with the user. Before it was necessary to learn the individual command keys of each package used. Each being totaly individual. So Wordstar, Supercalc and DBase each had their own quirky command structure.

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