Yesterday (November 20) was the 20th birthday of everyone’s favorite
operating system – Windows. Windows 1.0 shipped November 20,
1985. Looking back at Windows 1.0 now is something of a joke. The old
graphical DOS Shell that came with DOS 6.0 was more graphical than
Windows 1.0. You could run a few programs in Windows 1.0, but it
was mostly a file manager.
Windows 2.0 was only slightly better. A few programs such as Excel
actually debuted on this version of Windows. Later incarnations of 2.0
such as Windows 286 and Windows 386 began to show the direction that
Windows was starting to take.
Windows 3.0 – and especially Windows 3.1 – was where Windows finally
took off. As with most things Microsoft, the first couple of releases
weren’t the ones you wanted. You had to wait until they started getting
things closer to right, and that took, and still takes, about 3
versions. Windows 3.0 was nice to look at, but a disaster to run.
Especially if you wanted to multitask DOS programs. I used DesqView
back then and it was much better for multitasking than 3.0. Windows
3.0’s interface was better than 2.0, but still left much to be desired.
It wasn’t until Windows 3.1 that Windows really took off.
I still have a copy of Windows 2.03 running on a Tandy 1000 of mine at home. I fire it up every once in a while, mostly to play Balance Of Power.
As I’ve pointed out before, it’s kind of funny that my 7Mhz
286-accellerated Tandy 1000 running Windows 2.03 boots faster to the
desktop than my 2.8Ghz P4 Dell boots Windows XP.
Windows has survived the onslaughts of Mac, Linux, and OS/2 on the
desktop. It’s conquered Unix, OS/2, and NetWare on the network. With
Windows behind it, Microsoft Office destroyed Lotus 123, WordPerfect,
and dBase. Internet Explorer crushed Netscape in just a few years.
Will Windows remain #1 forever? It’s hard to tell. Chinks have appeared
in the Microsoft armor, but as of yet it doesn’t look like it. We’ll
see what the next 20 years hold. Noone would have guessed we are where
we are today based on Windows 1.0 20 years ago.