Few things in technology ever reach the level of icon status in the cultural zeitgeist. As a rule, the ever-changing nature of the industry means that many innovations and advancements get lost in the blur.
For Microsoft Windows, it’s a different story. In its 30 year history, it has transcended its base function as a user interface to become a part of the larger cultural framework. While people tend to focus on the backlash surrounding new releases, there’s still no doubt as to the wider impact Windows continues to have.
How could something as simple as a user interface define a generation and dominate nearly every office, in every industry around the world? Some of the answer lies in the past. Join us and feel the nostalgia as we reflect on 30 years of operating software innovation:
- 1985: Windows 1.0
Noticeably lacking in the box design is the iconic 4-squared window logo. Initially referred to as “Interface Manager”, Microsoft eventually landed on Windows for the official name because the individual window frames were fundamental to the system. Instead of just looking at lines of commands in DOS, users are presented with dialog boxes, drop-down menus, and scrollbars. And good old Windows Paint? Also included at the very beginning. Perfect for being “productive” in meetings.
- 1987: Windows 2.0
Desktop icons and expanded memory are introduced. Optimized for the Intel 286 processor, 2.0 features overlapping windows, better overall performance, and introduces keyboard shortcuts and the control panel.
- 1988: Microsoft becomes the largest PC software company based on sales.
More and more office workers are incorporating Windows into their daily workflow processes.
- 1990-1994: Windows 3.0 and 3.1
The inclusion of virtual memory allows for a better graphic experience. This is the timeframe when Windows starts to look like the Windows we all know and remember. With full support for the Intel 386 platform, everything runs faster. Program Manager, File Manager, and Print Manager enter the picture. Another huge step for 3.0 is the creation of the Windows software development kit (SDK), shifting the focus of software developers from writing drivers to writing programs. For the average office worker, they have even more ways to be “productive” with the introduction of Minesweeper, Solitaire, and Hearts.
- 1995-1998: Windows 95, the Coming of Age
This is when the internet starts to become more mainstream. Windows 95 sells a record of 7 million copies in its first week, thanks to a highly publicized launch campaign, the biggest Microsoft has ever done. At this point, Windows is already running 80% of the world’s PCs. Windows 95 includes internet support with dial-up capabilities and plug-and-play functionality, making it easier than ever for the average person to install and run. The Start Menu also makes its first appearance here. To keep up with the internet age, Internet Explorer is also introduced in the summer of ‘95.
- 2001-2005: Windows XP
Usability and user-experience become the focus, with a complete overhaul of the look and feel, it is focused on the end user with integrated support and more intuitive menus. Direct updates for security are introduced to help combat the myriad of viruses appearing on the now extremely popular internet. Stability and speed are also increased.
- 2006: Windows Vista
Security and data protection are improved with the inclusion of BitLocker Drive Encryption. Windows Media Player is also enhanced as people are starting to use their PCs for digital media. A redesigned Start Menu also makes its first appearance.
- 2009: Windows 7
Optimized for the wireless age of the 2000s when laptops start outselling bulky desktops. Evaluated by over 8 million beta testers before launch, it includes other ways to interact with the interface with the introduction of Snap, Peek, and Shake. Windows Touch debuts with 7.
- 2012: Windows 8
The UI is completely turned on its head with the introduction of tiles that bring programs and apps to the front and center. Optimized for the mobile platform, the Start Menu is removed, causing an uproar among die hard Windows fans. In Windows 8, the file system is also streamlined and a new taskbar is introduced.
- 2015: Windows 10
The Start Menu is back, and a new way to deliver Microsoft services is introduced.