Tech cult No. 5: The Way of the Warp (OS/2)
Gathering of the tribes: Warpstock
Holy scripture: OS/2 Warp Unleashed (1995)
Sacred relic: Original OS/2 Warp CD-ROM (circa 1994)
The Antichrist: Steve Ballmer
Once they were legion. Now only a few thousand remain. And yet the devotees of OS/2 Warp are keeping the flame alive -- united by a love of its functionality, a hatred of Microsoft, and sometimes just necessity.
Tech consultant Jamie Wells says a client he works for still uses OS/2 to run its homegrown ERP and CRM systems, only instead of PCs they run it virtualized on Mac Minis.
"It gives them the appearance of being a cult, but they don't think of themselves that way," says Wells, whose company, SheerBrilliance Consulting, specializes in any operating system, as long as it doesn't come from Microsoft. "As technology has changed, integrating these apps with the outside world has become more difficult. We've had to learn more and more about OS/2 to keep them working."
OS/2 has been declared dead more times than Abe Vigoda, yet it lives on as eComStation (eCS), an operating system based on Warp v4 that was created by Serenity Systems after IBM abandoned development of OS/2 in the late 1990s. Many bank ATMs continue to be powered by OS/2, and eCS is still in active development. Some Warp-heads with too much time on their hands have even managed to run Windows 7 under eCS 2.0 [video].
Still, the Way of the Warp is a low-key group that lacks many of the trappings of a cult, such as major deities or bizarre rituals.
"Some argue that using OS/2 is a bizarre ritual in itself," says Andy Willis, vice president of Warpstock, which holds gatherings of the faithful in North America and Europe each year. "Those practicing, however, find it more bizarre to subject oneself to something coming out of Redmond."
Still, using OS/2 more than a decade after it was abandoned by its creators is a bit like operating inside a time capsule, adds Neil Waldhauer, Warpstock's secretary.
"Most OS/2 and eComStation users are rugged individualists who know the technology has moved on, and don't really care," Waldhaeur says. "OS/2 does enough for us, and does it in a style we love."
See tech cult No. 6: The Open Sourcerors