Windows At 30: Microsoft's OS Keeps Evolving - InformationWeek

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3/2/2015
04:28 PM
Kelly Sheridan
Kelly Sheridan
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Windows At 30: Microsoft's OS Keeps Evolving

Microsoft Windows is finishing up its third decade of change. Here's a look at how the operating system has evolved along with new technologies and consumer preferences.
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(Image: Simon via Pixabay)

(Image: Simon via Pixabay)

Just about 30 years since the first launch of the Microsoft Windows operating system, it's strange to think that there was a time when people didn't know what a computer mouse was, or when office workers didn't use, well, Office in their daily lives. Microsoft's Windows operating system has undergone nine major upgrades, and countless smaller ones, since it was first released in November 1985. As the tech world eagerly anticipates the launch of Windows 10, let's reflect on how far the OS has come.

It has been about 40 years since Bill Gates and Paul Allen booted up the Microsoft business. Their vision -- a computer on every desk, in every home -- dwarfed the size of the company at the time, but in the ensuing years has come markedly close to reality. 

Now, millions of desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones run Windows software around the world. We've made some great strides from the days of MS-DOS commands. Now Microsoft has entered into the touchscreen space and is reportedly dabbling in digital pens. I wonder if Gates ever imagined his company would experiment in holographic technology.

[ See what's cooking at Microsoft now. Read MS Garage Brings Productivity Apps. ]

Over the years of its evolution, Microsoft Windows shaped the way we interact with PCs and mobile devices. Through Windows 1, early users learned how to control a mouse, an atypical computer input device for its time, and how to create documents in the first versions of Microsoft Word.

As technology evolved and consumer demands changed, so too did Windows. Early upgrades brought improved word processing, more advanced control over the desktop, and enhanced multimedia capabilities. Later versions became faster, more secure, and touchscreen-friendly.

Of course the system, like any product that has been around for 30 years, has undergone a series of ups and downs. Users applauded the launch of XP, shared their woes when Vista rolled out, and continue to love Windows 7. Microsoft knows it messed up with Windows 8, and we're hoping it redeems itself with Windows 10.

Here, we take a look back over the last few decades, and take a closer look at how Windows shaped the way we work today. Once you've reviewed the highlights (and lowlights) on the following pages, share your most memorable (or aggravating) experiences with Windows. Did you have a favorite iteration? Which version of the OS did you most love to hate? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
3/3/2015 | 3:06:44 PM
Re: This was funny...
It was funny. How about this:

"In order to run the upgrade, PCs had to have a processor of 386DX or higher and at least 4MB of RAM"
mmuldoon52501
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mmuldoon52501,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/3/2015 | 11:54:20 AM
Windows Fails
Microsoft kinda lost their way when Bill "retired".  ME was bad enough but Vista was crap.  Windows 7 saved us until the came out with 8.  One thing MS doesn't seem to understand is we don't want them copying Apple.  They have their fans but most people want Windows that they know how to use and all 8 did was confuse users because it wasn't what they knew how to use.  You can fix it with Start8, Classic Shell, and others but you shouldn't have to do that.  The only thing that MS could do that was worse they did: they took away the way we ALL used Office and put in the damn Ribbon. Hack! Cough! Puke!  Thank goodness Ofice 2003 still runs on my machine soI can actually do work instead of spending all my time playing "ok it used to be right here now where did they hide what I need to be production."
JohnHam1978
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JohnHam1978,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/3/2015 | 11:13:22 AM
People applauded windows xp!?
I am sorry. I don't know where you get your information but beside Windows 7, no one in the general public has ever applauded a Microsoft OS on release. Windows 95 had people furious most of that caused by compatibility issues with legacy software and hardware. Windows 98 was blamed every time there was a blue screen. Windows ME would self destruct almost like clockwork after a set number of days of uptime. Windows NT 3.51 and 4.0 were virtually unsupported in the world of drivers. Windows 2000 was a push to get people to ditch DOS programs and switch to full 32bit which again was wrought with confusion being alongside WinME and with compatibility problems still hanging around in legacy programs and hardware. Then we have Windows XP which the general public HATED because they were still in shock from the 9x/NT switch over and simply hated the new start menu! It wasn't until hardware and software vendors caught up and people got used to the colorful XP GUI a year or two later that people "loved" windows Xp. It wasn't until they realized they were going through the culture shock again and were addicted to the 8 year status quo that people expressed their "love" for XP. This was really just a love for the familiar. Anytime change happens, the general public hates it while they become accustomed to it.
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
3/3/2015 | 10:52:19 AM
Windows at 30
Thanks for the summary. I remember supporting many of these early versions for new computer users at Columbia University. DOS was a challenge. And it still forms the basis of a PC OS.

The software industry that sprung up around MSFT, even in the early days, was quite healthy. Word processing programs that are long gone but were better or different from WORD, etc. SPSS on the PC had about 10 disks to load it up.

I wonder how far MSFT would have gotten in their graphical interface if the Apple MAC had not appeared when it did.
midmachine
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midmachine,
User Rank: Strategist
3/3/2015 | 10:52:11 AM
This was funny...
"It also altered the course of human productivity with the introduction of virtual solitaire."
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