Don’t be surprised if I say that 9 out of 10 computers run some version of the Windows operating system, today. However, no one could have predicted this outcome when the whole journey started with MS-DOS and a vision to have every computer on a desktop. Below, you will find a chronology of events that take you through highlights from the first 25 years of Windows, more preferably – A History of Windows.
In 1975, Gates and Allen formed a partnership called Microsoft. Like most start-ups, Microsoft began small but had a huge vision—a computer on every desktop and in every home. During the next years, Microsoft began to change the ways we work.
In June 1980, Gates and Allen hired Gates’ former Harvard classmate Steve Ballmer to help run the company.
IBM approached Microsoft about a project code-named “Chess.” In response, Microsoft focused on a new operating system—the software that manages, or runs, the computer hardware and also serves to bridge the gap between the computer hardware and programs, such as a word processor. It’s the foundation on which computer programs can run. They named their new operating system “MS-DOS.”
When the IBM PC is running MS-DOS shipped in 1981, it introduced a whole new language to the general public.
Microsoft worked on the first version of a new operating system. Interface Manager was the code name and was considered as the final name, but Windows prevailed because it best described the boxes or computing “windows” that were fundamental to the new system. Windows was announced in 1983, but it took a while to develop. Skeptics called it “vaporware.”
On November 20, 1985, two years after the initial announcement, Microsoft shipped Windows 1.0.
History of Windows
Windows 1.0 required a minimum of 256 kilobytes (KB), two double-sided floppy disk drives, and a graphics adapter card. A hard disk and 512 KB memory was recommended for running multiple programs or when using DOS 3.0 or higher. It was originally developed by Microsoft for IBM-compatible personal computers. Although the first version of OS from Microsoft, MS-DOS was a little-used or preferred alternative to Apple’s Macintosh. Despite witnessing little success, Microsoft continued to offer support for MS-DOS till the development of Windows XP.
Q: Ever wondered, what MS-DOS stood for?
Microsoft Disk Operating System
Windows 1.0 – 2.0 (1985-1992)
Instead of typing MS-DOS commands, Windows 1.0 allowed users to point and click to access the windows.
In 1987 Microsoft released Windows 2.0, which was designed for the Intel 286 processor. This version added desktop icons, keyboard shortcuts, and improved graphics support.
Q: Why was Windows OS named so?
Microsoft Windows 1.0 was named so since the computing boxes, or Windows design represented a fundamental aspect of the operating system.
Windows 3.0 – 3.1 (1990–1994)
Microsoft released Windows 3.0 in May 1900 offering better icons, performance and advanced graphics with 16 colors designed for Intel 386 processors. Its popularity grew by manifolds following the release of SDK that helped software developers focus more on writing and less on writing device drivers. With Windows 3.0 Microsoft completely rewrote the application development environment. The OS included Program Manager, File Manager, Print Manager and games, remember Solitare, a complete time-waster??
Q: What does SDK stand for?
SDK refers to a set of tools that allows for the creation of applications for certain software.
Windows 95 (August 1995)
A major release of the Microsoft Windows operating system that caused Apple’s Market share to decline or shrink was Windows 95. Windows 95 as the name suggests was released in 1995 represented a significant advance over its precursor, Windows 3.1. By the way, this was also the time when the first version of Microsoft’s proprietary browser – Internet Explorer 1 was rolled out in August 1995 to catch up the Internet wave.
Windows 98 (June 1998)
Described as an operating system that “Works Better & Plays Better, ‘Windows 98’ offered support for a number of new technologies, including FAT32, AGP, MMX, USB, DVD, and ACPI. Also, it was the first OS to include a tool called Windows Update. The tool alerted the customers when software updates became available for their computers.
Q: Which was the last version based on MS-DOS application?
Windows 98 indeed, was the last version based on MS?DOS.
Windows ME – Millennium Edition (September 2000)
The Windows Millennium Edition, referred as “Windows Me” was an update to the Windows 98 core that included some features of the Windows 2000 operating system. The version had the “boot in DOS” option removed but included other enhancements like Windows Media player and Movie Maker for basic video editing.
Q: System Restore, a feature that rolled your PC software configuration back to a date or time before a problem occurred first appeared in which version of Windows?
Windows ME – Millennium Edition
Windows NT 3.1 – 4.0 (1993-1996)
A version of the Windows OS with 32-bit support for preemptive multitasking. Two versions of Windows NT:
- Windows NT Server – Designed to act as a server in networks
- Windows NT – Workstation for stand-alone or client workstations
Windows 2000 (February 2000)
W2K (abbreviated form) was an operating system for business desktop and laptop systems to run software applications, connect to Internet and intranet sites, and access files, printers, and network resources. Windows 2000 4 versions released by Microsoft
- Professional (for business desktop and laptop systems)
- Server (both a Web server and an office server)
- Advanced Server (for line-of-business applications)
- Datacenter Server (for high-traffic computer networks)
Windows XP (October 2001)
This version of the OS was built on Windows 2000 Kernel and was introduced in 2001 along with a redesigned look and feel. It was made available to the public in 2 versions
- Windows XP Home
- Windows XP Professional
Microsoft focused on mobility for both editions, including plug and play features for connecting to wireless networks was introduced in this version of Windows, and it proved to one of Microsoft’s best-selling products. Its use started declining with more Windows 7 deployments.
Windows Vista (November 2006)
A marketing flop! People expected too much from its WOW factor. Windows Vista released in November 2006 was widely criticized for performance related issues.
Windows 7 (October 2009)
Windows 7 made its official debut on October 22, 2009. The OS included enhancements in the form of fast start-up time, Aero Snap, Aero Shake, support for virtual hard disks, a new and improved Windows Media Center, and better security features.
Bill Gates’ vision of future computing was Touch and voice replacing mouse and keyboard. We already have the touch with Windows 8, a completely redesigned OS built from the ground up.
The OS replaces the more traditional Microsoft Windows OS look and feels with a new “Modern Interface” consisting of flat tiles that first debuted in the Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system.
Windows 8.1 changed a few things for the better which were found wanting in Windows 8.
Notable changes included a visible Start button, improved Start screen, Internet Explorer 11, tighter OneDrive integration, Bing-powered unified search box, the ability to land on the desktop on login instead of the Start screen.
Windows 10 has been described as the ‘last operating system’ from Microsoft. It is now a series of releases that receives half-yearly feature updates. They are referred to as Windows 10 v1501, Windows 10 1803 and so on..
The OS introduced Edge a new browser meant to replace Internet Explorer. It supports Universal Apps which Universal apps can be designed to run across multiple Microsoft product families like PCs, tablets, smartphones, embedded systems, Xbox One, Surface Hub and Mixed Reality. It has been well received – but its Automatic Windows Update system is one area that is disliked by some.
Windows 11, released in 2021, has all the features, power, and security of Windows 10. The primary difference appears to be a redesigned desktop and the Settings menu. But apart from this, there are several other new features under the hood.
Now read next: History of Microsoft Office Software.