Today, everything is online. Music, movies, games, and software are just a download away, but physical media was king in decades past. Some powerful and complex software tools came with so much packaging and physical media that they could weigh more than the computer used to run them. Such was the case with Microsoft’s C/C++ compiler, which Microsoft Archivist Amy Stevenson has called out as the company’s heaviest software product ever.
Microsoft released the C/C++ compiler in 1992, making it Microsoft’s first-ever native C++ development tool for MS-DOS, Windows, and OS/2 applications. Previously, Microsoft relied on C++ “preprocessor” compilers that took C++ code and converted it to C before a compiler created the executable program. This was a big deal at the time, and Microsoft did not skimp on the packaging.
According to Stevenson, the two-foot box weighed more than 40 pounds. Most of the bulk came in the form of thick reference books and “quick” start guides. Keep in mind that this was in the early days of the internet. You couldn’t just call up a web page with documentation at a moment’s notice. Even if there was an online resource, it would not have been easy to access.
It’s not #AskAnArchivist day yet but we asked our Microsoft Archivist, Amy Stevenson, a few #OneDevQuestions anyway.@Microsoft has shipped some software products that were big hits but we asked Amy:
👉 What was the largest piece of software we ever shipped? pic.twitter.com/I6ll7QxUZg
— Windows Dev Docs (@WindowsDocs) August 19, 2022
The actual software was contained on 20 3.5-inch floppy disks. They would have contributed around half a pound to the total package. So, we’re talking mostly books in the enormous box, but can you imagine installing software from that many individual disks? We did it, and we thought it was pretty amazing at the time that each one could hold more than a megabyte of data.
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