For ’90s kids and even early ‘2000s kids, walking into a school computer lab and using Windows 98 was not uncommon. Launched in June of 1998, this Windows model was seen as the most advanced computer model at the time, exceeding other companies such as Apple. Throughout this year, many YouTube users have uploaded videos of themselves booting up their Windows 98 for a blast of nostalgia. However, let us take a look at this computer 12 years later; do its features still hold up well today?
First, let us discuss the form factor of the system. Since Windows was far more primitive in the 1990s than in the 2010s and 2020, the shape and piece of the hardware was quite hefty and putting the system together was an arduous task. The computer itself needed to be hooked to both the monitor and the speakers. This is because, before Windows 7, sound could only be delivered through external speakers rather than directly from the monitor. With multiple wires amongst the keyboard, speakers, computer, and monitor, putting this dinosaur together could be quite disorienting and the heavy computer parts and numerous ports on the device do not help. Therefore, form factor alone is a reason we are pleased that technology has advanced.
After Windows 98 has finally been pieced together, let us discuss the computer itself. According to technician Michael O Smathers, “the ideal operating temperature of a computer’s environment ranges from 50 degrees Fahrenheit to 82 degrees Fahrenheit”. If the temperature is too overheated, the computer could deteriorate quite quickly and all of the parts will shut down. With Windows 98, however, its temperature can range up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit! Sure, the screaming fans that could heard inside the computer attempt to cool the system down, but it is simply not enough. Therefore, for Windows 98 to function efficiency, you will need to don a sweater and go into a room with cool air conditioning. Sure, you may feel cold, especially during Winter, but at least your computer will run more reliably.
Other problems with the computer itself include that it is very fragile and even the slightest mishandling can cause damage to the spindle drive. If the spindle drive begins to break, the user will hear it creaking while the system is turned on. As a result of the creaking spindle drive, the sound emitted from the speakers will become more distorted and its texture will be quite rough. In addition, the RAM of Windows 98 is very weak. While most Windows system today can carry at least 32 GB of data, according to user zorb58, “The typical RAM storage for a Windows 98 desktop computer with Intel Premium III Processor is about 96 MB”. 96 MB of data is enough to hold perhaps ten word documents at most. Therefore, if using Windows 98 to write college papers, previous documents would need to be deleted from memory. Overall, both the handling and RAM storage of the computer itself are very poor compared to newer models and we are content knowing that Microsoft has improved.
In the age of 2020 where safety and privacy has become more prevalent than ever, let us discuss the security of Windows 98. Back in the 1990s, systems such as Spyware and Norton Security were inexistent and clearing the system’s cache was not an easy task. This enables hackers to easily break into the user’s cache and retrieve packets upon packets of personal information. The only security Windows 98 provided was a password when logging into the computer and, even so, there was no limit on the number of attempts a user can log in, making brute force attacks quite common. It was not until Windows XP launched in 2001 that users can create multiple accounts on their system to increase security. While hackers and cybercriminals were less common throughout the 1990s, Windows 98 would not last today with the overabundance of cyberattacks and threats to our personal information.
Not only was the interface of Internet Explorer more user friendly, but the general interface as well. The use of a taskbar at the bottom of the monitor provided quick access to Internet Explorer and various files saved on the computer. Also, the “Start” menu was much easier to navigate than previous models such as Windows 95 due to the hierarchy of programs set inside the computer. Both the taskbar and the Start menu prove useful today. In fact, little has changed with the taskbar feature besides the inclusion of more icons and programs. Today, however, the Start menu has a “Search” features which allows users to find apps and programs even quicker. Still, these features could not have been considered if Windows 98 did not set the groundwork for everything. And who could forget playing Flight Simulator, Minesweeper, and other classic games that came with the system?! Good times…
To answer the question: “Is Windows 98 really obsolete?” the answer would be “Yes, it is definitely obsolete”. As wonderful and as important as Windows 98 was at the time, it would be proven unsuccessful and useless if launched in today’s society. However, the features and benefits of Windows 98 throughout the 1990s were incredible and will never be forgotten. It was truly an amazing Windows system but, just like how Windows 10 will become obsolete quicker than expected, not all systems can be reliable forever. As reviewer Joseph Williamson provides, “If you’re not going to be online, just playing old school games, registration for [Windows 98] is not needed”.