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garlopf t1_ja2q28d wrote

It stopped being a problem when Microsoft introduced plug and play in windows 95. This was a hardware standard and software stack that would identify each hardware device automatically, then load the necessary drivers and assign the IRQ and DMA numbers automatically.

In the beginning few devices supported the standard and so the auto detection was kind of hard and also very flakey. We all have vivid memories of how this would fail with blue screen of death and systems hanging. It even got the nick name "plug and pray". But as time went on hardware support improved, and so did the software, and now we take it for granted that hardware detection "just works".


GalFisk t1_ja2s3kp wrote

So your new games could be programmed to speak to the windows audio subsystem, which would speak to the sound card using drivers made by the sound card manufacturer, and these systems would keep track of the IRQs and DMAs and everything. Before that, the DOS games had to know how to speak directly to every sound card they wanted to support. There were a few standards, and not that many sound cards overall, but PnP eventually enabled a very wide range of devices that all mostly just worked.


JetScootr t1_ja2x7gr wrote

>mostly just worked


GalFisk t1_ja2y1bs wrote

Yeah, I lived through the early "plug and pray" days.

And for some damn reason, printers seem to still be stuck in that age. My most upvoted post on ELI5 yet was me expounding upon the sorry state of the printing subsystem in Windows.


JetScootr t1_ja2yclp wrote

Odd, when you consider other (ie, mainframe) OSes had no problems with printers. Printer tech was already marching forward even before the PC revolution started because of the massive use mainframes made of printers.


Rampage_Rick t1_ja4m1wn wrote

Remember when USB started rolling out around the time of Win95 OSR2.1?


GalFisk t1_ja4rtxc wrote

Ha ha, I'd rather not.

I remember at my first job, the network stack of Win95 rev A would sometimes crap itself, permanently. We had to reinstall Windows on a few computers.

USB printing is still a mess. Windows still defaults to the ancient LPT1 port when it doesn't know what to do, and the USB "port" for printing is a hack.

And don't get me started on network "WSD" ports.

And everything is totally opaque, so when something goes wrong, you can't inspect, troubleshoot or fix the actual issue. Remove, reinstall, pray...


Dysan27 t1_ja70v3b wrote

>There were a few standards

There were, but the only ones that I remember were "Soundblaster" "Soundblaster 16" and "Soundblaster 32" that were only standards because those cards were very popular so most games would support them. So competitors made their cards compatible with that interface.


GalFisk t1_ja79a55 wrote

I recall also often being able to choose between Ad Lib, Gravis Ultrasound, Roland MT-32, Tandy, and sometimes PC Speaker.


frustrated_staff t1_ja2vg85 wrote

Just to clarify: not only did MS make the OS handle a bunch of the stuff, but hardware manufacturers also settled on a (semi) standard method of communication