Why was Windows for Workgroups pejoratively nicknamed Windows for Warehouses?

Raymond Chen

Raymond

The first version of Windows with networking support built in was Windows for Workgroups 3.10. The intended audience for this was small businesses who wanted to network their computers together into units known as workgroups. (The term persists in Windows NT as well, referring to an unmanaged collection of computers operating in a peer-to-peer manner.)

Windows for Workgroups came with a network card, instructions for installing it, and even a screwdriver to assist with the installation. Now, there were two network cable standards at the time: BNC and 10Base-T. The network card that came with Windows for Workgroups 3.10 used BNC, which turned out to be the loser in the standards battle.

As a result, there was not a lot of interest in a network card that used an unpopular cable standard. Sales for Windows for Workgroups 3.10 were weak, which led many in the Windows division to bestow upon it the pejorative nickname of Windows for Warehouses, referring to the presumption that most copies of Windows for Workgroups 3.10 existed in the form of unsold inventory in warehouses.

Windows for Workgroups 3.11 solved this problem by omitting the network card entirely. People could choose their own network card, presumably one that used a popular cable standard. It also added significant performance improvements, including an early version of the 32-bit file system that also shipped in Windows 95. This version of Windows for Workgroups was a smashing success.

But the nickname stuck. Once you get a nickname, it’s hard to shake it off.

Raymond Chen
Raymond Chen

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16 Comments
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Jonathan Kroupa 2019-06-25 07:58:12
In the mid 90s, my friends and I would get together for LAN parties. Half of them had BNC nics, and the other half had 10Base-T. Fortunately one of my friends had a hub which supported both connectors, but as a person who initially only had BNC, I envied those 10Base-T friends, who could just easily plug into the hub and didn't have to worry about disrupting everyone else plugging in nor about bad cables and terminators. 
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Brian_EE 2019-06-25 12:53:30
The "BNC" standard is officially known as 10Base2.
Harold H
Harold H 2019-06-25 13:08:52
The BNC connector was patented in 1951.  It may not have caught on for networking, but 68 years later it is still widely used for video.
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Erik Fjeldstrom 2019-06-25 15:54:51
At least the card used Ethernet. My dad's office had invested heavily in ARCNET, which meant that when they wanted to transition over to Ethernet they couldn't even reuse the cables. My first summer job was replacing all the RG-62 coax with RG-58, which was replaced with Cat5 a few years later.
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Fleet Command 2019-06-25 23:00:16
BNC was not part of my Network+ education. So, for a long time, I thought the BNC infrastructure was some sort of fluid delivery system.
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Neil Rashbrook 2019-06-26 03:48:08
I remember a number of Ethernet cards worked around the problem by either having both BNC and 10Base-T or alternatively having an AUI port so you could switch cable standard without replacing the NIC.
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Ian Boyd 2019-06-26 11:51:11
Talking with friends about this Windows 3.10 (that only one of us saw a beta for) got us reminiscing.  I didn't know it at the time, or understood what it meant, but it's amazing to me today that Windows 3.1 was a full 32-bit, protected mode, pre-emptively multi-tasking operating system.  The down-side of course is that one of those processes was the container for desktop, shell, and all your applications. 
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Boris Zakharin 2019-06-27 09:35:15
I remember buying a new Gateway 2000 PC around 1994 which came with WFW 3.11 (without a NIC). Was it standard on all new PCs? I seem to recall there was a regular Windows 3.11 too, though I don't know if it came with the cool new toolbar in File Manager (that's the only difference between that and Windows 3.1 I recall seeing, as a home non-network user).
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David Walker 2019-06-28 14:48:47
I remember BNC!  I used some computers which were networked using BNC.  It was a pain to use, and I think the protocol was token-ring.... meaning that if the cable broke anywhere, all computers would lose the network.  Ah, the good old days.