You seem to be expressing a combination of conflicting goals. You want "full use of your hardware" but you're looking for an application from the ancient age of computing.
You seem to have enough money to pay for a computer and internet access, and I'll wager you have a cell phone. Yet you think $9.95 a month for state of the art software and immediate delivery of all ongoing updates is unacceptable. Paying an ongoing fee for software updates is older than Photoshop, it's just been less common with PC software. It used to be called "buying maintenance". And if you have bought the new versions of Photoshop as they have been released you've paid no less than the current special deal.
But in direct answer to your question, even Photoshop 6.0 from the last millenium was aware of multiple CPU cores. That said, versions older than about Photoshop CS4 take special care and knowledge to run on a modern operating system. How up on configuring Windows are you? Do you know the implications of MIcrosoft's UAC?
You might want to think twice before wasting your time on an ancient version of Photoshop. A current license for Photoshop Elements might be a good choice, and it's not break-the-bank expensive.
Thanks for the info. I hadn't even considered Elements. I don't know much about it so will have to look into it.
To clarify, I do not think my goals are conflicting. I am looking for the oldest version that can make full use of my hardware. In short, speed is important to me, not new features. Some of the newer features are certainly useful, but I could live without them.
Similarly, for browsing photos I use ACDSee version 3.1 (released in the year 2000). It's the fastest version to date and newer versions just had features I consider pointless that slowed it down. I do not know of a faster, smaller, better Windows photo viewer than this 14-year-old software. Had ACDSee been a "subscription service" then I would be stuck with their lousy newer versions and I would have no way of using the old version (since they no longer sell it and it is rarely resold).
As for my opposition to CC, for me it's not the cost, it's the principle. Even if Photoshop CC was only $1 per year I would never subscribe to it because I simply do not believe in subscribing to use a product. If I buy something I want to know I own it forever. The only things I subscribe to are ongoing services like utilities and Internet access, but never to use a product. I don't want Photoshop as a "service", I want it as a product.
As for cellphones, I have never owned one (don't really understand the appeal of them) but as far as I am aware people buy their cellphone outright. No one has ever paid a subscription just to own a cellphone, they only subscribe to the ongoing phone service that runs on it. (Also, if you are looking for a cellphone that is fast, small, light, has a long batterly life, a small screen, and is gimmick-free, then you would be wise to buy one from around 10 years ago since these days cellphones are distinctly inferior, having been crammed full of gimmicks in order to promote new models. I have noticed that the hardware in basic cellphones 10 years ago was far better than those today, which run much slower and take longer to boot.)
On a personal level, I think it is a little harsh and dismissive of you to criticise someone for preferring a method of payment for Photoshop that has been in place for 20 years. Adobe all of a sudden changes their payment policy, and everyone who was happy with the old policy for 20 years is now, in your opinion, suddenly "wrong" to prefer the old policy.
You can get GIMP for free. Have never used it but trying it would tell you how it fits your needs.
Renting sotfware, or car, or furniture rankles many. But they never consider the monthly loan and replacement costs as a form of "rent". If you bought CS6 at $700 that would pay for 5.8 years of having the latest version always available. While you may indeed be content with older processes, most want to upgrade in 3-4 years, or when they buy a new and faster computer.
Thanks to both of you.
I had actually seriously looked into GIMP already but concluded that it is not up to that standard of excellence I have become accustomed to from Adobe products over the last 20 years. GIMP "does" a lot of stuff Photoshop does, but based on everything I've read it doesn't seem like a professional product for design professionals. It seems more like it is made for amateurs. (Though I haven't tried it. Maybe I should give it a go.)
Now I just had a very quick look at Elements and INSTANTLY ruled it out. I found a huge list of features that aren't in Elements and I only needed to read the top one: "No CMYK"! That is all I need to know about Elements. You can't use it for graphic design, which is my line of work. None of my work would open in it. (Funny, I always thought Elements was primarily intended for students who can't afford the full software... obviously not graphic design students!)
Based on what Noel said, I guess I am looking at Photoshop CS4 as the earliest I can go, as I want a product that runs properly and natively with Windows 7 rather than being forced.
I can help advise you on specifics if you really want to go down the road of running much earlier Photoshop software. I have had all versions back to 6.0 on Windows 7, and now I have them on Windows 8.1. I guess you're looking to get a "used" copy. You should know that you will have to activate anything that's Photoshop CS2 or newer, and that's impossible with Photoshop CS now. Activation will involve your system getting permission from Adobe's servers to run, so you'll need a legitimate license.
I don't mean to prod, but you're kind of kidding yourself if you think you "own" anything other than a legal agreement to use Adobe software, even older "perpetually licensed" versions. Recall what I said just above about activation? Photoshop CS is no longer viable at all because Adobe doesn't facilitate its activation.
But beyond Adobe's activation servers, we've all been lucky that Microsoft has made their OS capable of running things that go all the way back to the dark ages. Don't expect that to continue! Microsoft likes Apple's model nowadays. That said, nothing's forcing you to upgrade your OS just yet. In fact, it's a rather smart idea to stick with Windows 7 right now.
One other thing I can say, regarding the future: Specific given computer hardware, built the way they have been for the last decade or so, may not run much longer than 5 to 7 years, 10 on the extreme. The disks will likely die long before that. Modern computer hardware is made with plastics and materials that fail in time - altogether too little time! That's not a necessity, but a grim practical reality, because it hasn't always been like that. I'm typing this on a literally 30 year old DEC keyboard. Maybe it wasn't as "green" to make or something at the time, but think of all the newer keyboards I haven't needed nor bought since.
Multicore/Multithreading/Multiprocessor support was introduced in Photoshop 3.0, released in 1994.
Thanks for that info. I was going to say Ps version 4, but maybe that was the first version that I ran on a multi-core CPU w/ the MMX module. I'd have been close, but not close enough.
This gets the Strange Thread of the Week award, by a country mile.