The chances are pretty good that you’re reading this on a Windows-based computer. Rough estimates suggest there are around billion personal computers on the planet, and Windows accounts for around ninety percent of those systems. Even if you are using a Linux or Mac OS based system, you’ll have felt the impact of Microsoft’s market-leading operating system.
A quarter of a century ago as I write this, if you were using a computer, the odds are quite high that you weren’t running a version of Windows, even though that was when Windows 1.0 was brand spanking new and on the software seller’s shelves after a couple of years of development. The cutting edge system you’d need to run it required MS-DOS 2.0, two double-sided disk drives, 256K of memory and a graphics adaptor. If there’s a lift where you work, it’s probably over the minimum specification to run Windows 1.0 now.
By what you’d expect from an operating system Windows 1.0 wasn’t much to get excited about, and the DOS (Disk Operating System) it ran on was arguably a bit more interesting than what Microsoft referred to as an “operating environment” than an operating system.
At the time, IBM-compatible PCs were solid business tools, but at the smaller business end of things plenty of users got by on systems as simple as the Commodore 64 and its 8-bit ilk. Microsoft couldn’t even make particularly good advertisements if this pitch for Windows 1.0 (featuring current Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer doing his best dodgy car-salesman impersonation) is anything to go by: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rl5a9qUX_D4
It wasn’t until the third release of Windows, and its network capable upgrade, Windows 3.11, that Windows really picked up steam and became a truly competitive operating system. Microsoft continued with DOS-based Windows operating systems through Windows 95, 98, 98SE and the particularly poor Windows Millennium Edition before switching over for Windows XP to the codebase used for its more business-centric Windows NT lines. While Windows XP has its problems, it’s a note of its success that nearly a decade after its release, there’s still plenty of systems running Windows XP quite happily. It’s quite likely that its successor, the much derided Windows Vista, won’t be seen much in a decade, although the much more stable Windows 7 just might have that chance.