A look from Windows 1.0 all the way to Windows 10. 30 years of Windows.
This is where it all started for Windows. The original Windows 1.0 was released in November 1985 and was Microsoft’s first true attempt at a graphical user interface in 16-bit. Development was spearheaded by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and ran on top of Microsoft Disk Operating System, which relied on command-line input. Windows 1.0 was notable because it relied heavily on use of a mouse before the mouse was a common computer input device. To help users become familiar with this odd input system, Microsoft included a game, Reversi (visible in the screenshot) that relied on mouse control, not the keyboard, to get people used to moving the mouse around and clicking onscreen elements.
Two years after the release of Windows 1.0, Microsoft’s Windows 2.0 replaced it in December 1987. The big innovation for Windows 2.0 was that windows could overlap each other, and it also introduced the ability to minimize or maximize windows instead of “iconizing” or “zooming”. The control panel, where various system settings and configuration options were collected together in one place, was introduced in Windows 2.0 and survives to this day. Microsoft Word and Excel also made their first appearances running on Windows 2.0.
The first Windows that required a hard drive launched in 1990. Windows 3.0 was the first version to see more widespread success and be considered a challenger to Apple’s Macintosh and the Commodore Amiga graphical user interfaces, coming installed on computers from PC-compatible manufacturers including Zenith Data Systems. Windows 3.0 introduced the ability to run MS-DOS programs in windows, which brought multitasking to legacy programs, and supported 256 colors bringing a more modern, colorful look to the interface. Most important, it introduced the card-moving time killer, Solitaire.
Windows 1 and 2 both had notable release updates, but Windows 3.1 (released in 1992) is notable because it introduced TrueType fonts making Windows a viable publishing platform for the first time. Minesweeper also made its first appearance. Windows 3.1 required 1MB of RAM to run and allowed supported MS-DOS programs to be controlled with a mouse for the first time. Windows 3.1 was also the first Windows to be distributed on a CD-ROM, although once installed on a hard drive it only took up 10 to 15MB (a CD can typically store up to 700MB).
As the name implies, Windows 95 arrived in August 1995 and with it brought the first ever Start button and Start menu. It also introduced the concept of “plug and play” – connect a peripheral and the operating system finds the appropriate drivers for it and makes it work. Windows 95 also introduced a 32-bit environment, the task bar and focused on multitasking. Internet Explorer also made its debut on Windows 95, but was not installed by default requiring the Windows 95 Plus! pack. Later revisions of Windows 95 included Internet Explorer by default.
Released in June 1998, Windows 98 built on Windows 95 and brought with it Internet Explorer 4, Outlook Express, Windows Address Book, Microsoft Chat and NetShow Player. Windows 98 introduced the back and forward navigation buttons and the address bar in Windows Explorer, among other things. One of the biggest changes was the introduction of the Windows Driver Model for computer components and accessories; one driver to support all future versions of Windows. USB support was much improved in Windows 98 and led to its widespread adoption, including USB hubs and USB mice.
Windows ME (Millennium Edition)
Released in September 2000, it was the consumer-aimed operating system twined with Windows 2000 aimed at the enterprise market. It introduced some important concepts to consumers, including more automated system recovery tools. Internet Explorer 5.5, Windows Media Player 7 and Windows Movie Maker all made their appearance for the first time. Autocomplete also appeared in Windows Explorer, but the operating system was notorious for being buggy, failing to install properly and being generally poor.
The enterprise twin of ME, Windows 2000 was released in February 2000 and was based on Microsoft’s business-orientated system Windows NT and later became the basis for Windows XP. Microsoft’s automatic updating played an important role in Windows 2000 and became the first Windows to support hibernation.
Windows XP was released in October 2001. The Start menu and task bar got a visual overhaul, bringing the familiar green Start button, blue task bar and vista wallpaper. ClearType, which was designed to make text easier to read on LCD screens, was introduced, as were built-in CD burning, autoplay from CDs and other media, plus various automated update and recovery tools. Windows XP was the longest running Microsoft operating system, seeing three major updates and support up until April 2014. Its biggest problem was security: though it had a firewall built in, it was turned off by default. Windows XP’s huge popularity turned out to be a gold mine for hackers and criminals, who exploited its flaws.
Windows Vista was released in January of 2007. Vista updated the look and feel of Windows with more focus on transparent elements, search and security. It was buggy and it burdened the user with hundreds of requests for app permissions under “User Account Control”. However, PC gamers saw a boost from Vista’s inclusion of Microsoft’s DirectX 10 technology. Windows Media Player 11 and Internet Explorer 7 debuted, along with Windows Defender an anti-spyware program. Vista also included speech recognition, Windows DVD Maker and Photo Gallery, as well as being the first Windows to be distributed on DVD.
Windows 7 was first released in October 2009. It was intended to fix all the problems and criticism faced by Vista. It was faster, more stable, and easier to use. Handwriting recognition debuted in 7, as did the ability to “snap” windows to the tops or sides of the screen, allowing faster more automatic window resizing. Other new features were added to the operating system, including libraries, the new file sharing system HomeGroup, and support for multitouch input. Windows 7 also shipped with updated versions of several stock applications, including Internet Explorer 8, Windows Media Player, and Windows Media Center.
Windows 8 was released in late 2012. Windows 8 introduced major changes to the operating system’s platform and user interface to improve its user experience on tablets, where Windows was now competing with mobile operating systems, including Android and iOS. Windows 8 added support for USB 3.0, Advanced Format hard drives, near field communications, and cloud computing. Additional security features were introduced, such as built-in antivirus software.
Windows 10 was first released in July of 2015. The Windows user interface was revised to handle transitions between a mouse-oriented interface and a touchscreen-optimized interface based on available input devices. The first release of Windows 10 also introduces a virtual desktop system, a window and desktop management feature called Task View, the Microsoft Edge web browser, support for fingerprint and face recognition login, new security features for enterprise environments, and DirectX 12 and WDDM 2.0 to improve the operating system’s graphics capabilities for games.