Page last updated at 00:49 GMT, Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The end of an era - Windows 3.x

By Mark Ward
Technology correspondent, BBC News

Windows 3 splash screen, Microsoft
Windows 3.x established the look of the operating system.

An application has expectedly quit.

Windows 3.x has come to the closing moments of its long life.

On 1 November Microsoft stopped issuing licences for the software that made its debut in May 1990 in the US.

The various versions of Windows 3.x (including 3.11) released in the early 1990s, were the first of Microsoft's graphical user interfaces to win huge worldwide success.

They helped Microsoft establish itself and set the trend for how it makes its revenues, and what drives the company until the present day.

High flyer

For many computer users 3.x was the first Windows-based operating system they used, and the software established the iconography of Microsoft's flagship product.

As it was updated the software started to make PCs a serious rival to Apple machines, as it could take advantage of much improved graphics, had a broader colour palette, and could use multimedia extras such as sound cards and CD Rom drives.

Microsoft maintained support for Windows 3.x until the end of 2001, and it has lived on as an embedded operating system until 1 November 2008.

Virgin Atlantic jet, Virgin
Windows 3.x has found a role onboard some long-haul jet aircraft.

As an embedded system, it was used to power such things as cash tills in large stores and ticketing systems.

One of its more glamorous uses as an embedded operating system is to power the in-flight entertainment system