MS-DOS to Windows 11
Microsoft recently released a new version of Windows on October 5th, 2021. Windows 11 is going to be another major version of the Windows operating ecosystem. With the a new version coming out, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the release of past Windows OS releases.
Where did it all start?
The first version of Windows was released in November 1985 and dubbed, Windows 1. Windows 1 was built on MS-Dos and Microsoft’s first true attempt at a graphical user interphase (GUI) using 16-bit. I’m sure there are still a few of us that used MS-DOS including early versions of Windows. Sometimes I prefer using a system that has limited GUI…but I’m not sure if W1 would lend itself to the productivity levels I require today.
The first major update…
Overlapping windows! Feedback from W1 gave way to overlapping windows in W2! Along with overlapping windows, users had access to a control panel where they could customize certain configurations. The unique aspect to this change was that all of the settings were brought together in one area. This update has survived the test of time and is still a feature of the Windows ecosystem.
A bite out of Macintosh
Before Windows 3, Microsoft’s operating system did not require a hard drive. The launch of W3 required a hard drive in 1990 and was seen throughout the industry as competition to Apple’s Macintosh. Windows 3 introduced the ability to run MS-DOS programs in Windows allowing for what we now know as multitasking. Further, the GUI increased the color scale to 256 colors, drastically helping modernize the interface.
Windows 3.1, released in 1992 made personal computers easier and more fun to use and provided users two great transformations. First, TrueType fonts made Windows a viable publishing platform for the first time in it’s history. Second, Minesweeper made its first appearance to users. W3.1 required 1MB of RAM to run and also supported MS-DOS programs to be interacted with a mouse for the first time.
Windows 95; A BIG Microsfot Launch!
The start button…finally gets introduced in Windows 95! Named for the year it came out, Windows 95 introduced the Start button and Start Menu and Microsfot pushed the new technology hard via marketing campaigns…see below:
And if that didn’t get you jacked up… here’s a couple billionaires dancing to…the thought of Windows 95.
Not only was the Start button a major transformation, the entire launch of Windows 95 was by far largest update Microsoft had ever undertaken. Forbes says that this version of Windows is still the most significant launch Microsoft has ever launched and helped change the PC more than any version of Windows before or thereafter.
A brief overview of some new features Windows 95 included:
- Start button and taskbar – the Start button and task bar are one of the few items that Microsoft has never tried to remove from it’s software….yet.
- A true operating system – up until W95, Windows had been GUIs sitting over MS-DOS. W95 was the first real operating system that did true heavy lifting within the computer. For all you gaming fanatics, W95 played a huge role in being able to play video games on a PC (DirectX)
- Access to the Internet!
- Cloud computing…kind of – Windows “Briefcase” was cloud computing before cloud computing. Autosave feature on a disk was a new idea to computing and W95 included the ability to do this via Floppy Disk…So now you could take your files from computer to computer using a floppy disk. #revolutionary (I’m kidding about being cloud computing)
- User Profiles – the first time different profiles could log in to different profiles…neat!
- Plug & Play – Windows could now detect compatible hardware and install software automatically…something that Apple did not allow. Still to this day, it is arguably easier to connect older devices to a Windows PC than it is to connect anything to an Apple device. But…who even uses cords these days?
Windows 98 – Internet Explorer
Windows 98 was not a huge shift from Windows 95, but did add a few features that users enjoyed:
- Improved window UI– Windows 98 brought more gradient colors and gave a 3D effect border around a chosen menu item
- Microsoft Internet Explorer! Windows began integrating IE (for better or worse) to its Windows systems. IE not only displayed web pages, but also helped manage the help system in Windows. in 1998, IE became the world’s most popular browser in terms of market share, eclipsing Netscape Navigator. IE owned > 90% of browser market share until the early 2000s, but would hold on to be the world’s most popular browser until being surpassed by Chrome in 2012. Over a decade of market dominance…not too shabby Internet Explorer! (Chrome is by far the world’s most popular browser still)
- Quick Launch Toolbar – A toolbar that can integrate start menu and personalized shortcuts.
- “Show Desktop” Button – Such a useful tool I still use today…minimize everything, show just the desktop!
Windows ME – Millennium Edition
Well, Microsoft didn’t always hit big with their new operating systems. Sadly, this won’t be the first time the release of an OS goes poorly for Microsoft. However, it is worth noting that Windows ME was the last version of Windows to be based on MS-DOS…so that’s good.
Windows ME was supposed to make your home computer a “multimedia entertainment center. Internet Explorer 5.5, Windows Media Player 7, Windows Movie Maker all debuted in ME. Overall, ME was buggy, didn’t install property, and is all worth forgetting aside from noting that it’s tough to release new software and have everyone love it.
The release of W2000 gave a way forward for Microsoft, especially after a disasterous experience with ME. Windows 2000 was originally intended only for business, but with ME crashing systems and being unusable, individuals pirated the business software to use on their personal PCs. While definitely illegal to do so, W2000 gave hope that a better system was coming for Windows users.
A golden era for Windows? One of the best Windows Operating Systems, released in October 2001, brought Microsoft’s enterprise and consumer lines of operating systems under one software package. For consumers and business people alike, this was huge. For the first time, the same computer that your enterprise company was using at work would look exactly the same as your computer at home. This made it easier for users to learn how to use the software and intricacies of their PCs.
The biggest upgrades for Windows XP were a new and updated color scheme, more practical interface, and improved application and memory management (i.e. no more crashing and buggy experiences). Windows XP’s user friendliness was a huge factor in its success. From internet browsing, using Microsoft Office products like World and PowerPoint, playing Solitaire, Windows XP was a fan favorite operating system because of it’s ease of use.
Windows XP was the longest running Windows operating system which included three major updates within XP. The operating system, released in 2001, was officially unsupported in 2014. Even when updates were no longer available for XP, enterprises continued to use XP because of it’s ease of use, so much so that it was estimated that 430 million PCs ran XP when it was discontinued.
Windows Vista was released in early 2007 and came with a new look and feel compared to XP’s GUI. The operating system was noted to be more reliable and more stable compared to previous versions of Windows. After versions of Windows that lacked security, stability, and application compatibility, Vista was a refreshing release that gave those features to Windows users. However, if you had never used Windows ME, you may have thought Vista was the worst Windows released. With increased security came increased frustration and annoyances with the new Vista. User Account Control (UAC) was developed and prompted the user to approve any type of changes to the computer. Even when installing new editions of Microsoft software, UAC appeared and made the user agree to install the newest version of Word.
For a demonstration of what this actually felt like….cool guy Mac commercials highlighted it for us:
Vista, only three years old is replaced by Windows 7 (released October 2009) and introduced Microsfot Touch – giving more options to the user for how to interact with the software for those who used a touchscreen. One of my favorite featuers that Windows actually had beaten Mac at for some time was the ability to “snap” windows to the sides of the screen, allowing for fast multitasking. Mac has since released this on their OS, but Windows rolled this out in 2009.
Possibly the worst Windows, in my opinion. The colored tiles, the weird icons…none if it played for me. Where’s the start button?! A huge change away from Windows 7 for really no reason. And then they added in all the bloatware. I almost skipped Windows 8 because it’s making me angry just to think about.
Windows launched the Windows Store in Windows 8 as one of it’s many tiled pieces of software that came included in the operating system. Specific stores, at the time, were really only on OS devices. Now, Google, Microsoft, and Apple all host their own “stores” on their Operating Systems. In 2012 this was a new feature, but is one that has stuck around on Windows devices.
Overall, the new moving tiles, a radical change from the long lineage of Windows UI, and a move away from the start button are all reasons why I did not favor Windows 8…and I don’t think I am alone in that regard.
Windows 10 was announced in 2014 and became generally available during the summer of 2015. As computers shifted from being stationary to mobile and then from single-form to multi-form (laptop -> tablet) so too did the need for an operating system that fit. Windows 10 was built with the Surface Pro family in mind. Being able to switch between a keyboard and mouse and tablet mode was a new feature that Windows 10 handled…and Windows continues to handle quite well (I am writing this in desktop mode on a Surface Pro)
Windows 10 was a huge upgrade from Windows 8. Windows 10 combined the appearance of Windows 7 and live tiles from Windows 8. An “Action Center” was also introduce, which gives quick access to certain settings and notifications, very similar to the side panel of MacOS, but had not been a quick feature for Windows users until Windows 10.
Cortana was also included for this first time in Windows 10 (and was quickly disabled on my PC).
My favorite feature of Windows 10? Hard to say, but I think the most used feature is the ability to capture a screenshot and have it live in my clipboard. When it’s time to insert the screenshot, I simply CTRL+V it in or I use the hot key Win+V to have a menu pop up to browse all of my copied items and I can paste the item I wanted. I think I have used this feature 100 times in just this blog post!
A couple quotes from a recent Windows 11 preview and introduction:
“Modern. Fresh. Clean. Beautiful.” “We put ‘Start’ at the center. We put ‘You’ at the center.” … These technology drops are getting more and more emotional as the features change slightly…
Windows is releasing Windows 11….at some point. Some individuals have received the software, but I have yet to have access to the new operating system as of 10/25/2021. I always get a bit excited for change; I like adopting and testing new technologies. I am looking forward to some of the new changes, even including the new start menu. While I like the current version of the start menu, I do think there are ways to make the menu more intuitive with the room for added features. I want Windows to learn which apps I use when I open the start menu and place those first and easier to access.
More of the features can be found in this CNET Highlights video. I use the pen a lot with my Windows Surface Pro, so I am notably excited about the Haptics for the Windows Pen.