Microsoft Windows 3.1 Logo

Following recent news that Windows 95 can be run in a browser without any plugins, the Internet Archive announced on Thursday that it has added hundreds of Windows 3.1 programs to its collection. Now you can relive the days of the early 1990s when consumers played games and carried out simple tasks in Microsoft’s popular-but-now-ancient-looking 16-bit Windows platform.

These programs work in a browser thanks to EM-DOSBOX, which is a forked version of DOSBOX that utilizes Emscripten to “cross-compile LLVM bitcode to JavaScript.” As we reported at the beginning of the month, 19-year-old Andrea Faulds of Scotland also used Emscripten to get Windows 95 running in a browser. Emscripten is an emulator that compiles C and C++ code into JavaScript that can execute at near-native speeds.

Unlike the Windows 95 emulation, curious Web surfers wanting to check out the Windows 3.1 programs won’t have to load and navigate the operating first. For instance, you can play Roulette by clicking here. The game and emulator metadata is downloaded, followed by the game data, and then DOSBOX is loaded in the browser. To play, you’ll have to hand mouse control over to the emulator; just hit the Escape button to release the mouse back to the operating system.

“Indeed, the colorful and unique look of Windows 3/3.1 is a 16-bit window into what programs used to be like, and depending on the graphical whims of the programmers, could look futuristic or incredibly basic,” the Internet Archive says. “For many who might remember working in that environment, the view of the screenshots of some of the hosted programs will bring back long-forgotten memories.”

Believe it or not, there are places that still use the ancient Windows platform. Back in November 2015, reports surfaced that a Paris airport’s DECOR system, which traffic controllers use to inform pilots about weather conditions during takeoff and landings, runs on Windows 3.1. The platform crashed, preventing traffic controllers from providing pilots with vital Runway Visual Range information. The crash also revealed to the media that the airport still relies on an operating system that originally launched in 1992 and hasn’t been supported by Microsoft since 2001.

So why still use it? In today’s world, Windows 3.1 demands extremely low hardware requirements. When it was released, Windows 3.1 needed a 80286 processor or better, 3MB of RAM if you wanted networking (4MB recommended), and 6.2MB of hard drive space although Microsoft recommended 14.5MB. Still, the platform is outdated and presumably dangerous to use given the lack of security updates. That said, do hackers even consider Windows 3.1 as a potential target?

Luckily for us, we can relive the Windows 3.1 experience safely within out browsers thanks to EM-DOSBOX and JavaScript. For those who want to go even deeper down memory lane, the Internet Archive also offers a DOS Collection too that includes thousands of utilities, applications, and games! However, visitors can experience the site’s entire Windows 3.x library simply by heading here. Have fun!

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