Windows 95 emulated in JavaScript

The 90s was a great decade. It introduced us to The X-Files, the Internet, polygon-based first-person shooters, and the dedicated GPU. The 90s also saw the dramatic transformation of Microsoft’s Windows platform, taking the DOS-heavy operating system and painting it with a slick interface and a new Start Menu. Enter Windows 95, the beginning of a beautiful relationship between computer and human.

Those who wish to relive the Windows 95 experience without having to install any software can do so by merely opening a browser. 19-year-old Andrea Faulds of Scotland managed to get the 20-year-old operating system running in JavaScript using Emscripten, which is an emulator that compiles C and C++ code into JavaScript that can execute at near-native speeds.

“I installed Windows 95 in DOSBox using this guide from a virtualised CD, then packaged up the disk image, along with an AUTOEXEC.BAT file and a custom dosbox.conf using Em-DOSBox,” Faulds writes. “Really, all the hard work was done by the Emscripten, DOSBox and Em-DOSBox people. And, of course, the browser vendors and other people who have worked tirelessly to make the modern web platform what it is today. In the process of making this, I never once had to touch the DOSBox source code!”

Faulds notes that Windows 95 is running on an emulated CPU. And because DOSBox isn’t running natively on your machine, it won’t run quite as fast as if it were installed locally on your hard drive. Faulds also warns that because the operating system is running entirely in memory, nothing can be saved, so don’t get crazy and hope to have an ancient, secondary operating system on your hands.

One thing Fauls points out is that this Windows 95 project is for educational purposes only. Windows 95 is still protected by copyright law, so those who choose to load Windows 95 into RAM are doing so at their own risk. If Fauls receives a cease and desist letter, the site will be shut down immediately.

Until then, you can check out Windows 95 in a browser right here. The disk image is 47MB gzipped and 131MB uncompressed, so it may take a short time to download and execute. Fauls suggests that interested users load up Windows 95 in Firefox, given that Mozilla’s browser supports asm.js. We tried loading it up in the latest Google Chrome release and didn’t have any problems.

Despite the caveats, what Fauls has done is simply awesome. After the platform loads and you’re required to set the date, users can stroll down memory lane and take Windows 95 for a spin. You can open My Computer and check out the “C” Drive (which is 125MB of allocated memory), play Solitaire, tool around in the Control Panel, and enter the MS-DOS prompt. However, Internet Explorer crashes, which is a known bug.

If you’re curious about Microsoft’s retired platform, this is a good way to check out what we endured in the mid-90s. Again, this experiment isn’t sanctioned by Microsoft, so it could get nuked at any time. It certainly brings back some great memories and doesn’t require that you install a thing!

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