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Windows turns 35: visual history



The computer revolution began its life 35 years ago this week. Microsoft released its first version of Windows on November 20, 1985, to inherit MS-DOS. This was a huge stage that paved the way for the modern versions of Windows we use today. Although Windows 10 does not look like Windows 1.0, it still has many of its original basics such as scrollbars, drop-down menus, icons, dialogs, and applications such as Notepad and MS paint.

Windows 1.0 also prepared the scene for the mouse. If you used MS-DOS, you can only enter commands, but with Windows 1.0, you hover over and move windows around by pointing and clicking. Along with the original Macintosh, the mouse completely changed the way users interacted with computers. At the time, many complained that Windows 1

.0 focused too much on mouse interaction instead of keyboard commands. Microsoft’s first version of Windows may not have been well received, but it ushered in a battle between Apple, IBM, and Microsoft to provide calculations for the masses.

Bill Gates (Carol Halebian)

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates with a copy of Windows.
Carol Halebia

As early as 1985, Windows 1.0 required two floppy disks, 256 kilobytes of memory, and a graphics card. If you want to run multiple programs, then you need a computer with a hard drive and 512 kilobytes of memory. With modern machines, you couldn’t do anything with just 256 kilobytes of memory, but these basic specifications were just the beginning. While Apple was at the forefront of mouse-driven GUIs at the time, it remained focused on the combination of hardware and software. Microsoft had already created its low-cost PC DOS operating system for IBM personal computers and was firmly positioned as a software company.

With Windows 1.0, Microsoft has taken the important step of focusing on applications and core software. IBM adhered to the basics of computer architecture for several years, but Microsoft made it easier for competitors and software developers to build applications, ensuring that Windows was relatively open and easy to reconfigure and set up. Computer manufacturers were flocking to Windows, and the operating system was gaining support from major software companies. This approach to providing software to hardware partners to sell their own machines has created a huge platform for Microsoft. This is a platform that allows you to upgrade across any version of Windows, as shown in a classic YouTube video.

Windows has been dominating PCs for 35 years now, and no Mac vs. PC campaigns are close to changing that, but they’re certainly fun. Microsoft continued to change Windows and create new applications for it on various devices, in business and now with the transition to the cloud. Only now, with the popularity of modern smartphones and tablets, Windows is facing its most difficult challenge to date. Microsoft can still survive its mobile storm, but it will only do so by rebuilding its roots as a true software company. In 2055, we are unlikely to celebrate another 35 years of Windows in the same way, so let’s look back at how Microsoft’s operating system has changed since its humble beginnings.

Where it all started: Windows 1.0 introduced a graphical interface, mouse support, and important applications. Bill Gates led the development of the operating system after years of working on Mac software. Windows 1.0 comes as Microsoft’s first graphical operating system with a 16-bit shell on top of MS-DOS.

Visual history of Windows

Windows 1.0 (1985)

Windows 2.0 continued 16-bit computing with VGA graphics and earlier versions of Word and Excel. Allows applications to sit on top of each other, and desktop icons make Windows feel easier to use during the release of 2.0 in December 1987. Microsoft continued to release Windows 2.1 six months later, and it was the first version of Windows to require a hard disk drive.

Visual history of Windows

Windows 2.0 (1987)

Windows 3.0 continued the GUI legacy on MS-DOS, but included a better user interface with new program and file managers. Minesweeper, puzzle game full of hidden mines, also arrived with the Windows 3.1 update.

Visual history of Windows

Windows 3.0 (1990)

Windows NT 3.5 was the second version of NT and really marked Microsoft’s push for business computing with important security and file sharing features. It also included support for TCP / IP, the network communication protocol we all use to access the Internet today.

Visual history of Windows

Windows NT 3.5 (1994)

Windows 95 was the place where the modern era of Windows began. This was one of the most significant Windows updates. Microsoft switched to a 32-bit architecture and introduced the Start menu. A new era of applications has emerged and Internet Explorer has arrived with an update to Windows 95.

Visual history of Windows

Windows 95 (1995)

Windows 98 builds on the success of Windows 95 by improving hardware support and performance. Microsoft also focused on the network at launch and included applications and features such as Active Desktop, Outlook Express, Frontpage Express, Microsoft Chat and NetMeeting.

Visual history of Windows

Windows 98 (1998)

Windows ME focused on multimedia and home users, but was unstable and buggy. Windows Movie Maker first appeared in ME, along with enhanced versions of Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer.

Visual history of Windows

Windows ME (2000)U

Windows 2000 is designed for client and server computers in business. Based on Windows NT, it is designed to be protected with new file protection, DLL cache and hardware plug and play.

Visual history of Windows

Windows 2000 (2000)

Windows XP really combines Microsoft’s home and business efforts. Windows XP is designed for client and server computers in business. Based on Windows NT, it is designed to be protected with new file protection, DLL cache and hardware plug and play.

Visual history of Windows

Windows XP (2001)

Windows Vista was as badly received as I was. While Vista introduced a new Aero user interface and improved security features, Microsoft took about six years to develop Windows Vista and only worked well on new hardware. User account control has been heavily criticized, and Windows Vista remains part of the poor edition cycle of Windows.

Visual history of Windows

Windows Vista (2007)

Windows 7 arrived in 2009 to clean up the mess of Vista. Microsoft has done well with performance, while changing and improving the user interface and making user account control less tedious. Windows 7 is now one of the most popular versions of Windows.

Visual history of Windows

Windows 7 (2009)

Windows 8 was a drastic redesign of the familiar Windows interface. Microsoft removed the Start menu and replaced it with a full-screen home screen. The new Metro-style applications were created to replace obsolete desktop applications, and Microsoft is really focusing on touch screens and tablets. It was too drastic for most desktop users, and Microsoft had to rethink the future of Windows.

Visual history of Windows

Windows 8 (2012)

Back to start: Windows 10 returns to the familiar Start menu and introduces some new features such as Cortana, Microsoft Edge, and Xbox One for streaming to computers. It has been more carefully designed for hybrid laptops and tablets, and Microsoft has switched to Windows as a service model to keep it regularly updated in the future.

Visual history of Windows

Windows 10 (2015)

Windows 10 hasn’t changed drastically in the last five years. Microsoft is changing different parts of the operating system to improve it. More system settings have been moved from the traditional control panel to the new settings app and the Start menu has a less blocky look now. We are still waiting to see what Windows 10X (originally designed for dual-screen devices) will bring, but Microsoft is also improving the system icons for Windows 10. 2021 can bring even more visual refresh to Windows 10.

Windows 10 (2020)

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015 to mark the 30th anniversary of Windows. It has been updated and reissued for 35 years Windows.


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