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Speedrunning Windows 95 (hackaday.com)
241 points by zdw 43 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 89 comments

Anecdote: back in the early 2000s, I regularly installed Windows XP on the machines of school friends and family members and got pretty fast at it. After a few months, I realized that I had memorized the original Windows XP "default" CD key (the one starting with FCKGW...) by accident. I haven't done an installation of XP in 15 years, yet you could wake me up in the middle of the night and I could tell you this damn key.

There was a thread a few days ago where someone mentioned their password was the key to "a very popular software" and someone in the replies guessed it:


Hah, I had no idea that others have this problem too. There must be something to this sequence that makes it very easy to memorize.

Spaced repetition makes any sequence easy to remember. Which is essentially what being the local “could you install xp”-guy was for this specific key.

Not only that, strings are easier to memorize when broken into discrete chunks, which is why it isn't too hard to accidentally memorize a credit card number, and one of the reasons phone numbers are formatted as they are (the other being classifying based on location).

Maybe the person who selected it was not fond of the president?

The FCKGW key was written down on one of the documents recovered from Osama bin Laden's compound:


I just had a similar thing happening a year or two ago. My mom sent me some old backup CDs that she found while cleaning out her basement. I was very happy to find my first attempt at making a game with graphics on one of the discs. The game was written in Visual Basic so I downloaded a copy of the IDE and luckily the installer ran under Wine. When I got to the license screen, some forgotten but apparently not decayed part of my brain clicked into gear and to my surprise I just typed the 12 digit code from memory on the first try, 20 years after I last installed it.

Here's the (not so amazing) result. Consider it a "Show HN"? https://vimeo.com/220071855

Reminds me of Game & Watch.

Exactly, I had one - still have it actually, it's working too :)

FCKGW-RHQQ2-YXRKT-2B7Q8-8TG6W. I am not sure if its correct.

edit: yes it is. Checked the link in other thread.

The last two quintuples are switched, otherwise it is correct. The "RKT-8TG6W" is my favorite part, because it makes for a nice rhyme (at least in German, where "W" is a single syllable"):


American checking in on the pronunciation:

"Arr kay tay, acht tay, gay zex vey"?

I read your "arr" as in English "are".

I am not a native German speaker, but the dialect I learned and my German relatives speak says "r" more like the English word "air".

You're way off. Only monophthongs.

/ɛʁ kaː tʰeː axt tʰeː geː zɛks veː/

This was me, but with the OG Starcraft: Brood War CD Key. I think I still remember the key, but I'm not sure and I don't have the CD to verify.

I still know my Starcraft CD key to this day as well.

Bonus: The same key also works for Half-Life. They used the same algorithm.

I loved quake iii and similar properties that only checked the last digit, 3 or c

You can use classic starcraft / brood war keys as vouchers on battle.net if you want to verify and make sure you'll always have a digital copy available :)

The game has been free to play for years now, so you might need an old disc image to get at the checksum algorithm :).

One of the original starcraft games accepts 11111-...-11113 (I don't remember how many places, but all 1's and then a 3 or 4).

Guess how I figured that one out.

Brood War didn't come with a CD-key, only the original StarCraft disc did =)

Yeah it was one of the disks, I always installed them in tandem.

Scott? Is that you?

Story of my life too, including the 15 years part! Every once in few years, when I feel like my memory skills are fading, I recite the damn key, pat myself in the back and go back to sleep.

There are a lot of numbers from my past that are still committed to my memory too, even though I haven't used them in years. Old telephone numbers, bank account numbers, long-distance calling card numbers (back when a long-distance phone call was a thing you actually paid for). It's weird.

I immediately recognized that key :)

My friend had similar 'super power's but.. with Diablo 2 CD key ;)

There's another speedrun category: time to bluescreen https://mobile.twitter.com/Foone/status/1103384684812255233

This joke also reminds me of the "Banned%" Club Penguin speedrun. It was short-lived but people came up with various tricks to speed up the email verification subsequent banning process.



Bought a Dell XPS. After opening the box and starting it, Windows 10 crashed on the second click in the install process!

I got pretty good at this type of thing at one of my earliest jobs was as a network admin's assistant at a training place that was similar to today's webdev bootcamps, but for stuff like Oracle, VB, and Java.

Before every class began, I would go through the entire classroom of 15-20 workstations and do a clean install of WinNT4 and whatever software packages were necessary for the class.

Imaging was possible with software like Ghost, but it was still pretty clunky, and NT4 required extra work after imaging, so we just did it manually. Typically, by the time I was done a step with the last workstation, the first one was ready for me to click the next Next button.

Thanks for the memories!

Windows NT and newer supported unattended installs of both the OS and other software you wanted installed automatically. Not as fast as imaging, but equivalent of a manual install, just without any manual work.

That’s how we handled 100s of machines with an IT dept of just 3-4 techies at the uni I worked for.

And we loathed people who came with non-standard HW our custom boot disks didn’t handle (remember that even being a thing?).

Things have certainly changed and IMO mostly for the better.

I was recently amazed to find out that Windows 95 is still used in an industrial automation setting. The company uses the NetBEUI[0] protocol and Windows 95 is apparently the only version to support it.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NetBIOS_Frames_protocol

In the last job I had, Win 95/98 was on a computer used to send programs to a 20-ton piece of metal working equipment. Of course, you had to drop into DOS to use the necessary software. Transfer rate was around 900 baud. The computer that actually ran the machine consisted of a white monochrome monitor and a desk-sized cabinet full of control boards. The cabinet had an air conditioner attached to it and had trouble running on hot days.

Trivia about this machine: on the corner of one control board there was a single, green indicator LED with a broken lead. It was bent over so the broken part would still contact the solder joint and light up. If at any point it stopped making contact with the circuit, the entire machine locked up or threw random error codes until you wiggled it back into place.

"We'll fix it later"

The silver lining to jobs like that is after a year or two, you're the single, solitary person in the world that can keep the machine running as expected. Performance reviews become a breeze after that.

"We've been looking at your performance these last few months, and it seems you've stopped taking on new responsibilities..."

"The machine is running."

"Yes but..."

"I have other offers."

"Never mind, carry on. Here's your raise."

Oh, it's great when it works out like that, but this place wasn't worth staying with long term. I should clarify; I was a grease monkey/operator, not tech support. You would never break 15usd/hr even as a foreman.

The slogan was literally "Run it till it dies". The machine next to me was even older, and had a crash/down time of 1-2 hours every 9 hour day. Not kidding. The floor offices still used terminal computers in 2014-ish. The one in my depart finally crapped out (screen flicker due to the flyback cracking a solder joint). Easy fix, I didn't say anything hoping they'd buy a damn desktop like a normal company. Nope, they special ordered a new/refurb terminal for god knows how much money (I think it was a televideo 9xx or something).

I could go on, but you get the idea.

At a college I worked at a few years ago in one of the larger lecture class rooms. There was a Windows3.1 PC mounted in the podium/lecture counter. It was used primarily for controlling the levels of lights, dropping down the screen and projector, and a few other menial tasks. I don't believe it was wired into the network and don't believe it was ever replaced.

It could easily be replaced by an electron app running a QEMU in JavaScript emulating an virtual machine running Windows 3.11 on an Rasperry PI terminal connected to a cloud server located at the edge for maximum performance paid for by real-time Bitcoin micropayments.

Your link says otherwise. XP can do it too. Might just be a software thing

Unfortunately the links that would describe how to do it are no longer available.

The files are on the XP CD (with install instructions). This can be installed in the settings menu where you also find IPv4, IPv6 ... are located.

Other software (Vmware or Virtualbox etc.) also install drivers in the same location, although automated of course.

I had an assembly line for setting up Windows 95 with the 21 floppy disks (and later Windows 98 with 38) at a school lab. Start one, when it asks for disk 2 move on to the next PC, and the next thing you know, you have a clean install on every PC in the "lab."

If you have 21 disks and 21 machines, how much slower is this install method than if you had 21^2 disks for 21 machines?

Assuming all disks read in equal time and it takes no time to move the disks.

Ha! Very neat. Wish I’d thought of that trick back in the day.

OT: can someone explain this anime/waifu thing to me, in particular why does someone record a video like this one with careful window placement so that we can see the anime? I feel like I'm missing something.

In some cases (can't speak about this specific case) it's a matter of being recognizable. Many platforms (YouTube, twitch, ..) have limited capabilities for the creator to be recognisable. With such a branding at the second video you know "it's the anime guy"

creator here; That was my desktop background at the time, recorded the video with obs at 720p because I wanted to get anything watchable on youtube (480p suxx if I wanted to include a timer, also it would look way worse).

BTW, she's not my `waifu`, I just like her as a character.

Football fans wear football team shirts to advertise their affiliation. I expect this is the equivalent for fans of Japanese cartoons.

Just a playful way to mess with people. At work, I see a guy that wears a D-Va shirt every other day. He is a big guy, and the whole D-Va thing is printed full-screen on his shirt. It makes quite a funny sight.

4chan people are notorious for pulling that kind of shit. I wouldn't be surprised if the person that makes that video is from /g/.

If you don't find it funny, then you don't find it funny, like how you don't get some movies or memes that people like. I do.

To show off their waifu of course!

Visual appeal. The anime waifu is more eye catching than a plain background.

I just want to know what window manager that it.

XFCE4 w/ Mofit (misspelled in the package) theme. I'll move back to a tiling WM one day..

Probably fvwm.

For those wondering what the part at 00:48 is, it is this patch which allows Win95 to run on fast CPUs:


There's various timing loops for calibrating delays, which were written at a time when CPUs were much slower. Win98(SE?) didn't have this problem.

Someone had a thread on Twitter trying to crash it ASAP and the key was the run dialogue box with "con\con" ... This even crashes the JavaScript Windows 95 emulators.

In case anyone was wondering (as I was):

> While any of these special filenames would have worked, the most common one used to crash old Windows machines was con, a special filename that represents the physical console: the keyboard (for input) and the screen (for output). Windows correctly handled simple attempts to access the con device, but a filename included two references to the special device—for example, c:\con\con—then Windows would crash. If that file was referenced from a webpage, for example, by trying to load an image from file:///c:/con/con then the machine would crash whenever the malicious page was accessed.


Someone should enter this at one of the speedrunning conventions. I'd love to watch a stream of someone installing Win95 in front of a huge audience, complete with commentary.

"oh he forgot to uncheck <component>, that's going to cost him..."

"Over to IFuckedUrMom666, retired former Windows 95 installation champion, for some extra commentary."

"Thanks Jeff. Yeah, we'll have to see how this plays out, but I'm tentatively calling this one as maybe not a mistake. By leaving IPX support in, there's an extra 198 sectors to copy - but you save 39ms later from reduced install logging, as there's never any IPX check failures from the network infrastructure. He's been playing such a straight-up game here so far, so this is actually quite interesting - we might be seeing hints here of the bolder, gutsier play that he's going to have to bring to the table far more often to later stages. The Plus! installation round in particular is not for the faint-hearted."

"IFuckedUrMom666 - thanks. We'll be back for more analysis later."

It would be great to have a Win95 speed run on SGDQ or similar. :)

I would probably watch that. At least it would be better than most of the things on the telly.

Semi-oblig-xkcd: https://xkcd.com/284/

Can you speedrun something that is not locked to specific hardware like a console game would be? Feels like hardware is most of the "speed"

You can speedrun PC games. For video games, better hardware can speed up things like loading times (which also happens if you put an SSD in your PS4) and increase the framerate but the actual gameplay won't become faster beyond the threshold necessary to play the game smoothly.

This particular speedrun is much more tied to the hardware, but that's part of the fun for these people. It might make more sense if you compare it to something like car racing. Both the hardware and the person matter a lot to the outcome.

Speedrunners have built tools for some games (most Valve games if I'm recalling correctly) that monitor times, while excluding loading screens. Obviously this is a separate category, and both curiously exist for games with a built-in timer (GDQ ignores in-game timers, for example).

There's actually a whole scripting language for reading values from games' memory and extract events for timing and progress:


Plus if you're using VMs you can manipulate it even further. For example, "lie" to the simulated OS about file-writes, and return files already on the visualized image.

Rules would have to be carefully written.

Most games run a time-limited simulation, so better hardware will only reduce lag and load times, as well as let you dedicate more computing power toward graphics calculations. An in-game timer can be made to ignore all of these.

A lot of the time, for PC games, someone will have made a plugin that integrates into both the split and the game that removes loading screen times, turning it into an "in-game time" run

Ok we need speedrun install Gentoo 2004. Speedrun install Slackware Linux 1.0 from floppies. Speedrun install perl 5 from Configure. Speedrun update all the GNU autotools and gcc from a non-root user with a non standard prefix.

As someone using Gentoo in 2004 (what was I thinking?) I would love to see how long this takes in a VM back by a CPU from 2019 and tons of RAM. I have some memory in the back of my head of compiling Gentoo on a Sun Sparc 20 (4xCPU ... I think) with max ram (32 or 128MB?!?) - because I owned one and could (it was old HW in 2004). It took a few days from stage 1. Today if I need to compile anything I ssh to a builder server with 48 cores and 256gb of RAM as the i7 laptop is to slow. Ah, memories.

I remember doing a similar competition back in high school between area schools... except you had to put together a computer and then install windows.

Funnily enough you've just surfaced an old memory of mine, we did the same thing.

I vaguely recall having to build a 486 out of a bunch of parts, install windows and get to the desktop.

Fun times

How about if it was put together some standard box, then install any operating system and connect a browser to a website [running on the box, the website printing "hello world" to the screen - and must be open for the judges to connect to].

Plenty of scope for choosing and comparing different OS, different software, etc..

Not quite the same but once I had to install Windows 7 and NVIDIA graphics drivers without a functioning monitor.

If blind runs became more popular then maybe I could hone that skill.

this is a waste of time, i just burned a custom cd with an autorun.inf and every morning before school, after installing linux the previous day, i would pop it in so my mom could use AOL.

still, 24 years after windows 95, i gotta say this is .. hilarious. ;d

you installed linux every night and installed windows every morning?

Two important URL:s from the Windows 9x era

1) http://www.annoyances.org/

2) https://www.litepc.com/

Good times.

Hah! I love that this is a thing.

In software development I think I could watch speedruns of folks building a login service/page or any component really.

What are the rules ? Since this is a largely predictable instruction stream, you know all the branch outcomes before hand. You even know the value outcomes. You can create a close to perfect branch predictor, prefetcher, scheduler etc.

I remember that it used to take an hour or 2.. including walking away and coming back

Meanwhile, I can't manage to install 95 in a VirtualBox install :/

It seems it was made emulating an ancient processor using current processors and in fact creating a massively overclocked virtual processor + virtual disks. Very nice.

Oh, hello there.

Instructions unclear. I accidentally installed Arch instead.

I use Arch BTW

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