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Microsoft Windows: A trip down memory lane

Today marks 30 years since the very first version of the Windows OS, and 20 years since the release of Windows 95 for consumers. A timeline of how the OS has evolved over the years

When Windows 95 was launched on this day in 1995, things really changed in the world of computing. The software sold 7 million copies in the first five weeks, a big number considering that was a time not everyone had a computer at home or office. But Windows 95 was just the beginning of a long journey for Microsoft’s Windows operating system. We take a look at how the OS developed over the years, delighting and annoying users in equal measure.

1985: The journey begins

While Windows 95 was the very first OS that consumers and businesses could buy off the shelf, Windows had been around for almost 10 years at that point—Windows 1.01 (1985), Windows 2.0 (1987), Windows 3.0 (1990), Windows 3.1 (1992) and Windows NT 3.1 (1993) were versions preceding it.

1995: Windows 95 —The first big ticket

Windows 95 was the first Windows to have a Start menu, taskbar, and minimize, maximize, and close buttons on each window, everything that we have almost taken for granted now. It also introduced support for Internet connectivity and dial-up networking (remember the days when the telephone wire had to be connected to the PC to access the Internet?).

1998: Windows 98 — A success story

Windows 98 (1998) became a very popular operating system. The Internet Explorer was seen for the first time, and there was added support for USB devices and optical disc drives.

2000: That millennium year

With Windows 2000 and Windows Millennium Edition (ME), both launched in the year 2000, Microsoft attempted to distinguish businesses and home computers. While Windows 2000’s stability in workstation environments was well received, the Windows ME was an extremely poor piece of software, riddled with bugs and constantly annoyed users with error messages. It was consigned to the recycle bin very quickly.

2001: XP — X factor

This is pretty much what set the trend of “one good OS -> one bad OS" from the Microsoft stables. After the success of Windows 98 and the debacle of Windows ME, the company badly needed a stable OS to regain its composure. Windows XP (2001) turned out to be that gem, and so much so, it still runs on computers around the world. The interface was completely redone with attractive colours and graphics and better security because more people were connecting to high speed Internet.

2007: Vista — Looks aren’t everything

Windows Vista (2007) had a flashy transparent interface called Aero, the icons were redone, the start menu looked beautiful and we were introduced to something known as desktop widgets. But beneath all this beauty, it was extremely unstable, crashed randomly leading to a lot of cursing from all corners of the world.

2009: 7 — How it is done

Launched in 2009, Windows 7 was the perfect opposite of Vista. There were no stability issues and it ran perfectly on even the not-so-powerful computers. As of July 2015, Windows 7 still has a 60.75% market share. (Click here to see Net Market Share).

2012 and 2014: 8 and 8.1 — two worlds never meant to be one

Then there was Windows 8 (2012) and Windows 8.1 (2014). The biggest problem was that the familiar Start menu was removed, which confused users. Also, Microsoft assumed that all users would prefer a smartphone-esque interface on their computers. In the end, it became a jarring transition between the touchscreen optimized interface and the traditional desktop. And heavens forbid if your laptop didn’t have a touchscreen.

2015: Windows 10 — perfect 10

As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Windows 95, we must say that the alternating cycle of good-bad-good OS continues. Windows 10 launched in July. Within 24 hours of the new OS being available as a free download for existing Windows users, more than 14 million PCs were already running Windows 10 (read more). The signs are positive.

Microsoft is offering free downloads of the song Start Me Up by The Rolling Stones, just for today. This is the song that accompanied the Windows 95 commercial back in the day. (Read more)

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