Monday, 24 August 2015 09:47

Windows 95 – 20 years old today

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Windows 95 released on 24 August 1995, was a big change from Windows 1.x, 2.x and 3.x – it was the end of Windows running over MS-DOS and the beginning of a complete operating system.

I still remember the excitement of this new 32-bit operating system based on NT 4.0 and installing it from 13, 3.5” floppy disks. That was relatively painless – Microsoft Office at that time had something like 20 separate floppies and often fell over during install.

It was the defining moment for Windows and its look and feel – design cues – carried right through to Windows 7 released in July 2009. These included the task bar, Start menu, and general use of multiple Windows for different tasks.

W95 was in another way a defining moment for marketing. Microsoft spent over US$300 million to launch it.

Microsoft used a commercial featuring the Rolling Stones song ‘Start Me Up’ that legitimised the use of a start button and menu. It had a cyber-sitcom with Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston a.k.a. ‘Friends’ style discussing W95 over coffee. It had huge W95 boxes delivered to computer stores as point of sale. The Empire State Building was lit up to match its colours and so on. There were queues outside computer stores to get a copy.

 

 

 

 

 

It was a defining moment for desktop computing.

  • 32-bit (previous versions were 16-bit)
  • Long file names
  • A graphical user interface that was actually ‘graphical’ and matched Apple’s Mac OS X in every way
  • UDMA hard disk support (larger hard disks)
  • USB and Fire wire support
  • AGP video card support and Multimedia extensions (MMX) for better gaming
  • No more separate MS-DOS (that was good and bad and it took Windows 98 to get that right)
  • New minimum specs – a massive 4 Megabytes of RAM and 50MB of hard disk space required
  • Integrated TCP/IP stack (part of the Plus Pack) to access the Internet
  • Internet Explorer 1.0

W95 was at the time when interest in the personal computer was awakening – the internet was something scientists used, bulletin boards and chat rooms were the then social media, and people still largely used typewriters to create documents.

Even then, it was not without its detractors and IBM accused Microsoft in court of trying to drive its OS/2 operating system out of business.

Happy 20th – interestingly Windows 10 is 20 years later again!

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw [email protected]  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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