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A Farewell to Memphis

Windows 98 will soon be no more

With news that Microsoft is withdrawing all support from next month, Firefox 2.0 will not run, and that it accounts for under two percent of Web accesses, we regret to inform the world that the life of Windows 98 is drawing peacefully to its close.

Born under the code-name Memphis on 25 June 1998 to Bill Gates and Windows 95, '98 had a problematic childhood. Even before its official launch it had proved rebellious, famously embarrassing its father live on stage in front of the world's TV by a well-timed Blue Screen Of Death.

It also annoyed its many millions of adoptive parents by refusing to wear anything but the rather antisocial Active Desktop, an act of wilful, pointless defiance. This was widely believed to be part of Microsoft's doomed insistence that Internet Explorer was really an integral part of the operating system and not, as everyone else knew, just another application. Whatever the reason, it made '98's early years sad, bloated and confused.

Things looked up in 1999, when the young operating system reinvented itself and struck out anew as Windows 98 Second Edition, or SE. Gone was the sullen overhang of IE4, hello Internet access sharing and DVD support. For a while, the world was its oyster.

Misery was to follow, though, when the software tried for a third comeback in 2000 under the name of Windows ME. By now past its best, its attempts to match the reliability and performance of the upstart Windows 2000 merely resulted in cruel incompatibilities. It was to be the last member of the family able to trace its roots back to the medieval times of brutality, terror and MS-DOS.

Its last years have been undignified. Querulous, forgetful and frequently suffering from rampant infections, its few remaining installations have distressed all who encounter them. Even though its life support has been extended by the family — fearful that with Vista still not here, '98 hold-outs may run away from home and marry a penguin — the time is right for it to shuffle off this mortal disk.

Goodbye, Windows 98. And good riddance.