It was a big deal for me, and I still consider Win 3 as *the* most significant Windows' release, and I wonder what other Slashdotters think, looking back on Win 3?
Honestly, the Steaming Heap of IInnovative Technology that was Windows 3 is what led me to Linux and UNIX and much of the rest of my career.
Right when nearing the end of Uni a free UNIX came along in the form of Linux ... because I had witnessed first hand what a steaming pile of crap was Windows 3, and then eventually Windows 3.11 (which sucked somewhat less, but not enough), I knew I wanted UNIX experience. It led to my first jobs.
I will be marked troll by people who weren't there, but Windows 3 was such a steaming pile of shit compared to what Linux (and at some point FreeBSD) could do on the exact same hardware, it's almost impossible to describe.
In 1993 no fewer than 3 other science nerds, to whom I said "hey, if you like Windows, far be it for me to judge ... but if you're asking for my Slackware disks and some install help, no problem -- I'll wipe out your new computer". They all switched to Linux because it was far more usable than Windows was on the same hardware. Even if Linux did occasionally crash, it was more robust than Windows. Because they could actually do several things at once.
On the same hardware, Linux destroyed Windows 3/3.11.
Windows 3 is significant in that it forced me to realize Windows wasn't anywhere NEAR being able to do what I'd learned in operating systems class ... I wrote an instance of pre-emptive multi-tasking before Microsoft made a commercial instance of it.
That doesn't mean that I could write a better OS than Microsoft, but it means when Linux was doing pre-emptive multitasking with proper virtual memory ... Microsoft was doing time-slicing ... it was a hell of a better operating system than Microsoft had written.
It just didn't have Word. It did, however, have LaTex ... yet another bit of awesome for a university student.
So, Kudos to Windows 3 for being such an out-dated pile of crap technology by the time it was released that it wasn't even fully utilizing a 386's inbuilt hardware features for multitasking, and wouldn't until Windows '95 ... which made possible (and preferable) for the widespread popularity of Linux.
If it hadn't sucked, we might not even know who Linus even is.