Boot up the Windows and Mac OSes of the past in your Web browser

A significant hat tip to Ars Technica for filling our Sunday afternoon with operating system nostalgia. The site has pulled together a collection of seven Windows and Mac OS emulators that can be run with nothing more than your Web browser and a yearning for times gone by.

If you’ve spent many a year fiddling around with computers, then this is a mesmerising trip down memory lane revisiting some of the familiar software long since consigned to the trash can of history.

Follow the links in the Ars Technica list and you can play around with Windows 1.0, Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and Windows XP (an operating system that’s still in widespread use today). On the Apple side, you can try out Mac OS System 7 (on a virtual Mac Plus), Mac OS 8.6 and OS X 10.2.

Not only is it fun to play around with the online emulators, some of the technical details behind their creation are interesting too. Coder Michael Vincent has recreated Windows 3.1 using JavaScript, XHTML and PHP. “The goal of this site is not to create an entirely complete mirror image of Windows 3.1,” he writes, “but rather keep the spirit and omit features when they are not justified by an effort to usability ratio. Where features do exist, every effort is made to present them in exactly the manner that they existed in Windows 3.1.”

Some of these emulators offer more functionality than others — none of them are fully fledged OSes running in your browser — but that said, they still provide plenty of entertainment for computing historians.

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