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Originally encoded on August 21st, 2015 and published the same day
The Hardcore Era!
The goal of Hardcore Windows 95 was simple in words: bridge Windows 95 into the modern world of computing and cover some of its obscure capabilities. Many of these required real hardware in order to be demonstrated to full effect, but I was falling way behind on recording hardware. All I had was a widescreen MiniDV camcorder and a cheap PC to TV adapter connected to a Canopus ADVC-110. I carried on knowing I would have to struggle with clear illustration in bad quality recordings.
One of the key points to hammer on in Hardcore Windows 95 was immersiveness. I really didn't like doing voice commentary at the time of making this video, so I tried to cut the middle man that was myself out from the line between the viewer and the computer of interest. I routed a clip-on microphone from a cable inside the computer through an expansion slot to a microphone port on my main computer to record computer ambience to give an impression as if one was sitting right next to the desktop being used. This wasn't the first time I tried this, as I previously used a similar technique in what would've been "Windows 95 486 Networking" all the way back in July 2014. Being stuck under the belief that I absolutely must show every grindingly slow part of everything building up to where I want to go left me with too long of a video for me to want to do anything with it.
At first, Hardcore Windows 95 sort of imitated the format of a little video called The True Power of Windows ME, a sarcastic demonstration of Windows ME on a 486 with turbo mode turned off. What a great way to cash in on the Windows ME hate train... you really think Windows 98 Second Edition was much better? A lot of the hate directed towards ME is WAY overblown, seriously. It seems readily apparent none of these users have tried the GOLD release of Windows 98... fucking hell, if there's something that perfectly fits the stereotype of Windows 9x being so crash-happy, it's that damn thing.
Okay, but... THE CABLE???
Before I figured out how to stock up on many of a reliable network card that could fit into any environment, some materials that really came in handy were cables used for directly transferring data between computers. As slow as RS-232 and LPT set to ECP are, they have some neat functions that USB simply can't replicate in the exact same way. A null modem, especially, lets you exchange messages between computers, have one end act as a separate terminal for a Linux box, feed a constant stream of data, and even fight someone head to head in a Doom map!
Of course, null modems are a lot slower than LapLink parallel cables. That's not to say serial transmission is worse than parallel (if anything, the former proved to be more reliable, which is why SATA and PCI Express dominate modern computers in place of IDE and classic PCI). For those who don't know, serial transmission basically means one bit gets sent out at a time, whereas parallel has multiple bits being synchronously transferred at once, usually 8 or 16. Back when asynchronous transmission wasn't quite a refined art, the speed advantage was obvious.
Much like INTERLNK/INTERSRV found in MS-DOS, Windows 95 includes a tool that can be used to connect two machines together using said capabilities of null modems and LapLink parallel cables. This time around, it is an optional component which needs to be marked for installation by the user. The Direct Cable Connection component works with the same Microsoft Networking client Windows 95 uses for connecting to file and print shares, so all you have to do is make one machine act as a host and have a "guest" connect to it. Then, the client can access all the same shared resources on the other machine as if it was connected to a LAN or over dial-up.
File sharing over infrared is pretty simple as well. While Infrared Transfer needs to be installed separately in the gold release of Windows 95, it comes standard with OEM Service Release 2. Previously I was directing anyone who wanted the infrared update to a WayBack archive, but now that I have this site, I can just point you to my own mirror of it. Get the updates for 95 Gold now!
Back in 2015, I probably would've suggested starting off with serial or parallel cables for amateur retro networking, but in the six years since this was made, I've taken great strides to make Windows 95 much more approachable for plenty more users, thanks to Windows 95D Lite including support for a lot more PCI/PCMCIA network cards.
While the docking station (a Toshiba Network Port Replicator II) shown in this segment is not directly related to the subject at hand, it does offer a very significant level of convenience when it comes to connecting and disconnecting cables, quite so much that it allowed me to jump straight from an LPT connection to an infrared connection without any real hiccups.
Docking stations can relieve you of a lot of the troubles associated with connecting and disconnecting cables, as you don't have to worry about doing it over and over again every time you want to take your laptop out in the field or put it back at its rightful office desk. Good thing, too, as most cables have PVC plastic which contains some lead that you might not want on your hands. For sure, you shouldn't touch your eyes or mouth right after handling such cables; wash your hands first!
Some docking stations even provide a number of additional benefits that aren't available in the laptop itself. This one has its own 3Com 3C905C network card integrated alongside the other ports, eliminating the need for a PCMCIA network card. It even comes with a PXE boot ROM that'll let me quickly install any version of Windows I want over LAN, although that was still far out of reach at this point. Other even cooler docking stations may have real PCI/ISA slots, desktop-size perhipherals like a CD-ROM drive, and higher quality speakers. Given how easily optical drives die off, a docking station that lets me use desktop parts would really come in handy!
Windows 95 automatically adjusts itself accordingly whenever you dock or undock a laptop. Not only that, when your laptop is docked, a new Start menu button is added that allows you to prepare it for undocking whenever necessary. Redocking the laptop is a matter of first suspending it, inserting the unit into the dock, and then waking it back up.
Docking can be really useful in combination with a direct serial/parallel connection to a neighboring system. You can take whatever you need from a computer with a lot more stuff on it and put it on your laptop and do some Windows 95 stuff on the go... as long as the laptop's battery still holds a charge. Most haven't due to age and negligence, but miraculously, two of my Toshiba laptops still do even now. For most laptops, it is possible to replace the battery inside the case, but that requires soldering and I have yet to figure out how to pull that off without causing thermal runaway.
While the hard annotation format introduced in Hardcore Windows has become popular enough that I've seen a few other channels use it themselves, it actually doesn't exist at this point, save for one block of text. This video largely relied on zooming into various key points to do all the explaining they possibly could for me. That would change soon enough.