On November 20, 1985, Microsoft unveiled its graphical operating system.
Windows 1.0 offered a new way to navigate a PC, clicking a cursor on various boxes rather than scrolling through lines of text in order to navigate data and applications. While arguably less efficient than a command line, the graphical user interface (GUI) was more intuitive and easier for novice users to manage.
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Running Windows 1.0 required a PC running DOS 2.0 as well as two double-sided floppy disk drives, 256K of memory, and a new-fangled device known as a "graphics card." Windows worked with some DOS apps, while others would just run in full-screen mode.
Windows 1.0 was not exactly a stirring success. PC users accustomed to the command-line interface of DOS weren't yet sold on a GUI, and only about 500,000 copies were sold in the first couple of years.
It took until the early 90s for Windows to catch on, but when it did, the OS became synonymous with the PC and made Microsoft one of the most successful and powerful companies in the world for the next two decades.
So, let's look back at some of the high (and low) points from 30 years of Windows.
Windows 3.11 was credited as the first true "hit" version of Windows and the commercial success that the platform needed to be considered more than just an add-on for DOS.
It also carved out a niche for itself in the embedded market that would last for more than two decades. Windows for Workgroups was phenomenally successful as a platform for consoles, point of sale terminals, and workstations. Well into the 2000s, Windows 3.11 could be found in embedded devices. Just a few weeks ago, it was found that Orly Airport in France used Windows 3.11 to power a critical weather system, 23 years after its release and nearly 15 years after Microsoft pulled official support.
Windows XP SP2 was the version of XP that Microsoft got right. Three years after XP hit, Microsoft pushed out the second service pack and finally addressed some of the myriad of security problems that plagued XP.
Like Windows 3.11, XP SP2 has enjoyed a lifespan so long it has become troublesome. Despite Microsoft's best efforts to get people to upgrade their systems to newer versions, more than one in 10 PCs still rely on XP.
Windows 7 was another stellar release that came after a less-than-stellar predecessor. In this case, Windows 7 corrected a lot of the things that Vista got wrong, particularly security, performance, and hardware demands.
It may also be in for a lengthy run as the Windows release of choice. With Windows 8 bombing and many viewing Windows 10 with skepticism, Microsoft could once again find itself having to continue to support Windows 7 longer than it would want to.
Windows Vista was the long-awaited successor to Windows XP – perhaps that's part of why it is considered such a huge disappointment. After years of speculation and hype, Vista was roundly panned by critics and loathed by consumers.
Part of the problem was its hefty hardware requirements that, for many users, meant upgrading components or just buying an entirely new PC. Add to that performance issues and default security settings that would flood users with permission dialogues, and you get one of Microsoft's biggest flops.
Windows ME, however, was an even bigger flop than Vista. The final consumer-only version of Windows, its mere mention will draw cringes to this day. It was a buggy, sluggish mess of an operating system and is considered by many to be Microsoft's worst-ever Windows installment.
On top of being riddled with bugs, ME suffered from a rather unfortunate flaw in its system restore process that on some machines meant that when something did go seriously wrong, the OS could not be restored.
And what would any list of Microsoft failures be without ...
Microsoft Bob. The ill-fated attempt to provide an easy-to-use interface for people who had just purchased their first PC was an astoundingly huge flop that was trashed almost immediately and got discontinued after just one year.
For those lucky enough not to have used it, Bob placed the user in a "home" environment where various objects represented different applications. The aim was to make the PC less frustrating to use, but unfortunately it accomplished just the opposite.
Bob did end up having one useful application, however. An encrypted copy of Bob's data was used to fill space and discourage piracy on Windows XP install disks.
Happy 30th, Windows. ®