Microsoft Windows turns 30 today, 30… That sure came around fast. It was released on November 20th 1985.
I don’t remember Windows 1.0 all those years ago, I was busy with my Commodore 64 and my friends Amstrad 464. I had yet to encounter the world of PCs. When I did finally get to use a PC, it was running the GEM OS, I’m sure many of you out there remember that with joy, or not as the case may be.
Much like Windows 1.0, Windows 2.0 passed me by. I never got a chance to look at it. Windows 3.0 was the game changer. Suddenly (if you had the required hardware), you could have multiple programs open on a computer, switch between them, copy and paste and eventually, Microsoft Office arrived on the platform. It should be noted though that Windows, at this stage, wasn’t a true OS, it ran on top of DOS and you could quit out of Windows back to the DOS prompt.
Windows 3.11 came out a couple of years later and suddenly networking your office was relatively easy. Things were looking good (although Mac users still claimed everything Windows did was just a copy of their OS!).
Windows 95 came out in, yes you guessed it, in 1995. August 24th to be exact. Unlike previous versions of Windows, it didn’t require you to have DOS installed. It was an OS in its own right (albeit with DOS firmly embedded in there). If Windows 3.0 was the game changer, Windows 95 rocketed in to the publics perception.
There were TV adverts, link ups with the Rolling Stones, campaigns in the press. Microsoft were going for the public market in a big way. Windows 95 introduced us to the Start Button and Menu system which, 20 years later, are still with us (after a little holiday in Windows 8). Obviously there have been changes over the years, but the look and feel of Windows today still has a lot in common with Windows 95. Oh and how could I forget, Windows 95 introduced us to Internet Explorer, long before most people here in Ireland were aware of the Internet!
After Windows 95 came Windows 98, released June 25th 1998. Windows 98 added support for USB devices and multiple monitors (that was a big deal back in my engineering days). It also came with Internet Explorer 4.0 which included the Active Desktop feature.
Active Desktop allowed users add HTML content to their desktop, such as a news page from a website. Think of it like a widget on your smart phone, except it had a tendency to crash, a lot!
So far so good… Windows had got bigger, better and stronger over the 13 years since its original release, but all that was to change. Trouble was on the horizon.
That trouble went by the name of Windows Millennium Edition or Windows ME. How can I put this nicely, let me think… I know, it was terrible! It was slow, unstable, badly supported by hardware manufacturers. It was and is to this day, the worst version of Windows, ever! How bad was it? It made Vista look good.
Microsoft ME was the last version of Windows to be DOS based. Over the years, I’ve come across various versions of Windows still active in the field, but never have I stumbled across a PC running Windows ME, I wonder why.
What next, well next on the horizon was Windows 2000, based on Microsofts Windows NT technology. Cosmetically, Microsoft didn’t change much. It looked like the previous Windows 9X releases. However under the hood, a lot had changed. No longer was Windows based on the old DOS / Windows 9X platform, it was now based on the more robust and reliable Windows NT platform. Windows 2000 was solid, rock solid and I liked it a lot.
Whilst Windows 2000 wasn’t aimed at the home market, it was the precursor to Windows XP and we all know how much the world liked XP!
Windows XP launched on October 25th 2001. It was, and probably still is, the worlds favourite version of Windows. 14 years after its launch, you will still find it on PCs, both at home and in business. Some software houses are still releasing software for Windows XP to this day!
XP is and was a solid release (albeit with a security hole or two), but lets face reality, it’s 14 years old and if you are still using it, you really should be looking at retiring Windows XP and moving to a new PC.
You’ll remember that I didn’t have anything good to say about Windows ME, well Windows Vista falls into a similar bracket.
Windows Vista was released on November 30th 2006 and was all bells and whistles. Sure it looked good, but it was slow and hungry for resources. I’ll be honest, I disliked it intensely. As soon as I could get my hands on an early beta of Windows 7, Vista was history. I’ll waste no more time talking about Vista apart from saying if your laptop or PC is still running Vista, you never saw your computer running at its best.
Thankfully Windows 7 came along in July 2009. I’d been testing it for a year or more on my laptop and loved it. Like Windows 2000 many years before, it was solid and reliable and did what you wanted it to do. It booted quickly and, if you upgraded from Vista, gave your PC a whole new lease of life. It was and still is a very good OS.
Windows 8… What can I say… Released in October 2012, the world was in the throes of a touch this, pinch that, zoom in, zoom out craze. The world had gone tablet mad! Microsoft, fearing they might lose ground in the marketplace, released a touch friendly version of Windows called Windows 8.
Now, it’s not that Windows 8 was a bad product, it wasn’t. It’s just that Microsoft changed the look and feel too much. People liked the Start Button. They liked their desktop. They knew where to find their programs. They liked it so much that a developers starting releasing their own applications that brought the classic look and feel of Windows 7 to Windows 8!
The Windows 8 and 8.1 interface worked fine on a tablet computer where you could interact with your fingers, but on a laptop or desktop, it was and still is, cumbersome.
On a positive note, Windows 8, was the first version of Windows to come with built in security software (Windows Defender) by default. It only took them 30 years…
Finally, we arrive to Windows 10. Windows 10 was released earlier this year, July 29th 2015, to be exact. Windows 10, for me at least, is like Windows 2000 and Windows 7. It feels solid, reliable, fast and not resource hungry. It does what I need it to do. It still retains elements of the classic look and feel that go back 20 years to Windows 95, but has taken what was good from Windows 8 and created a beautiful union of the two.
It’s a modern, touch friendly, mouse friendly OS that gives the user what they want and need.
And that’s it, 30 years of Microsoft Windows. So I guess all that remains for me to wish you a very happy birthday and here’s to the next 30 years!
PS. I know I left out Windows NT 3, 3.51 and 4, but they were mainly intended for Workstations and Servers.