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A Short History of Microsoft Windows

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Microsoft Windows is, without question, the most dominant operating system in the world. It has had an enormous influence in shaping the history of computer technology since its earliest days. Bill Gates and Paul Allen started Microsoft back in 1975, and the company had humble beginnings (as most tech startups do). But it wasn’t long before they changed the world. In many ways, the history of Windows is the history of modern computing; in fact, it’s likely that most people on the planet have been introduced to computing through one Windows product or another. Here’s a short history of Windows, from the beginning to the present day.

Windows 1, 2, & 3: The Beginning

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In 1981, Microsoft teamed up with IBM to launch the landmark MS-DOS, which quickly became popular as a business tool and introduced the world for the first time to a Microsoft operating system. In 1985, Windows 1.0 was released, with the watershed innovation of small program boxes (windows) that could be opened simultaneously. Windows 1 also introduced such recognizable staples as Notepad, Calculator, Calendar, icons, and drop-down menus.

Windows 2.0 arrived in 1987 with better graphics, performance, and shortcuts. It also included the earliest form of Control Panel.

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The next year Microsoft officially became the largest software company in the world, and when Windows 3.0 & 3.1 were released in 1990 and 1992, they sold an unprecedented 10 million copies.

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Windows 95, 98, & XP: The Dawn of the Internet

This generation of Windows saw the inestimably important dawn of the internet, which has shaped the foundations of modern communication and information transmission. Windows 95 sold 7 million copies in just over a month, and added the Start Button along with capacities for fax, email, dial-up Internet, and plug and play.

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Three years later, Windows 98 saw the additions of USB and DVD technology, and was the first time Microsoft tried to fully integrate the internet into the operating system, including the Active Desktop that could be regularly updated with information from the internet. Whilst generally regarded as a failure, it was notable for causing the internet to become a “normal” part of many people’s day-to-day computer use.

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Then, in 2001, Windows XP (released in 25 languages) arrived on the scene with a sleeker interface, the best security yet, enhanced movie and media capabilities, and wireless networking support. XP has proved to be the most popular and long lasting Windows product yet, selling 400 million copies by 2006. In January 2007, 6 years after its release, XP had a whopping 76.1% of the market. Even as on August 2012, 11 years after its release, it still had a 24.8% share of the market.

Vista, 7, and Windows 8: The New Face of Microsoft

2006 saw the release of Windows Vista, with enhanced security, significant media upgrades, a more intuitive design, and better search functions. It wasn’t as popular as Microsoft had hoped, suffering from speed issues and an almost paranoid insistance on double checking with you before doing anything on it whatsoever, which proved frustrating for many users. Still, it provided the technological blueprint for what was to come. Three years later, Vista was followed by the enormously popular and much-loved Windows 7, which featured easier-than-ever wireless networking, live streaming capacities, faster booting, and multi-touch. It has proved enormously popular; in 6 months it sold 100 million copies, making it Microsoft’s fasting-selling operating system. As of January 2012, it had sold 525 million copies.

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But Microsoft’s biggest transformation ever arrived this year. Windows 8 completely revolutionizes the famous OS, and brings it into the era of smartphones and tablet PCs. With a new Windows Store, a radically innovative Metro user interface, a live-updating tile mosaic instead of icons, and the elimination of the start button, Windows 8 is a dramatic step forward for Microsoft.

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Today, Windows is the most widely used operating system in the world. With the advent of Windows 8, it will now be entering the mobile OS market in a big way, competing with the likes of iOS and Android. The tech world evolves with incredible speed, and it seems that devices and operating systems become obsolete almost as soon as they make it into the hands of consumers. With that in mind, we can be sure it won’t be long before Windows 9 arrives, and the history of Microsoft takes another leap forward.

About the author


Vikram is a Digital Media Strategy Consultant who helps small business owners grow their
business. He is passionate about blogging, digital marketing, and emerging technologies.


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