(Man, it’s been awhile since the last post, hasn’t it?…. whoops)
To recap, end of ’94 I got my first PC, thanks to magazines and collection CDs the small amount of games my budget could afford did still result in a nice list. Experimentation also included installing a Windows 3.11 driver that made the PC Speaker into a (very basic) “sound card” of sorts (though it did not sound all that good and during audio output, the system was not usable).
In August of ’95, Microsoft released their next step forward, Windows 95. At the time, I could not afford updating (and as there weren’t any exclusives that required the OS at first, I wasn’t missing out on much anyway). But – as fate would have it – after some time I stumbled upon a PC magazine that shipped with a time-limited (3 months as far as I remember) demo of Windows 95 on a CD, fully functional besides that time limit. The thing about that though… if you set the time back in the BIOS, it reset the timer, so as long as you didn’t care about your system date being correct… you could just keep using the demo indefinitely (and as the computer had no modem, there was nowhere the system could check if the date was correct, either).
My computer still only had 4 MB RAM, so the OS was a bit slow at times, but it worked fine overall. A while later I had saved enough money to upgrade it to 12 MB, which improved the experience a lot. Another addition around that time was a sound card (from Creative Labs, not sure what the exact model was, but it did the job) and some speakers (kind of a necessary combo with the card).
One area where the introduction of Windows 95 brought along major changes, was games (big surprise, right?). Previously on Windows 3.x, with games it was very apparent that the system was not really designed for them (I did enjoy quite a few of them despite that, of course). Native Windows games where rather limited in terms of colour and resolution and the GUI had the look-and-feel of the OS with most games (though obviously as there was more of an OS running in the background than just DOS, system resources where considerably more limited).
Together with Windows 95, Microsoft also developed DirectX as a better framework for games to run on. Over time, this (and more readily available system resources due to faster processors, more RAM, etc.) resulted in more games being developed natively for Windows, despite DOS still being available (as Windows in the 9x era was still only set on top of the main DOS base, albeit much more advanced than Win 3.x).
Some of the early games had DOS and Windows versions, so you could run them without having upgraded to Windows 95. But more and more, Windows-exclusive games took over. At first I mainly experienced that through game demos, given my still limited budget, but now and then I could afford a full game. One of the first in this category was Diablo in 1996, which had another quirk to it: The minimum requirement for it was a Pentium processor! So in theory, I would have had to upgrade the computer to be able to experience the game, one would think, right? Well… not quite. Thanks to the demo of the game, I found out that while the installer would warn me that my computer does not meet the minimum requirements, it still played the game fine, though decidedly slower than intended, as I would later find out. Nowadays one would expect a game to just run choppy with a low framerate and be pretty much unplayable when you are below even the minimum requirements. Diablo at the time, just lowered the overall game speed, so everything was just slower, but still fluid.
It was becoming clear though, that the hardware in my PC would not have enough power to keep up with development for long any more. But on that… next time.