It’s 25 years since Microsoft launched the first version of Windows, and what started out in November 1985 as a graphical front end for DOS has grown into the most widely used operating system. To mark Windows’ 25th, we’ve put together 25 facts about the OS to highlight some of the more memorable moments in its history.
1. The origins of Windows can be traced to September 1981 when Microsoft began working on a project entitled Interface Manager.
2. The release of Windows 1.0 in 1985 was actually two years later than planned. We’d be on Windows 8 now if they’d stuck to their schedules.
3. Microsoft supported Windows 1.0 until the final day of 2001, some 16 years later.
4. Windows 3.1, despite being first launched in 1992, found a niche role as an embedded operating system, and was still in use in 2008 by Virgin Atlantic and Qantas in some onboard entertainment systems on long-distance flights.
5. Fortune named Microsoft as the ‘Most Innovative Company Operating in the US’ in 1993 as sales of Windows started to rocket.
6. Many editions of Windows required endless floppy disks to install the system. For example, Windows 95 came on 13 disks.
7. Microsoft used Start Me Up by The Rolling Stones on adverts for the launch of Windows 95. The Stones were reportedly paid between $8m and $14m, but this is said to be a gross exaggeration.
8. Music was also part of the obligatory free stuff that Microsoft bundled in with Windows 95 – to be exact, a video of Buddy Holly by rock band Weezer to show off the system’s multimedia capabilities.
9. Microsoft also cashed in on the success of Friends in the 1990s by commissioning a promotional video, labeled a ‘cyber sitcom’, featuring Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry showing off the top 25 features of Windows 95. The firm claimed it was a “fast and funny” guide to the new operating system. It was anything but.
10. In the US, the Empire State Building was lit up to match the colours of the Windows logo for the 95 launch.
11. In the UK, Microsoft paid for 1.5 million issues of The Times to be given away with a bundled supplement about Windows 95 on the day it launched. This was twice the daily circulation of the paper at the time.
12. All this advertising clearly worked, as more than a million copies of Windows 95 were sold in the first four days after its release. How Microsoft executives must wish for a return to those days, instead of watching Apple enjoying queues of fans waiting for new products.
13. Nevertheless, Windows has a 91 per cent market share for client operating systems that use the internet, so those executives needn’t be too glum.
14. Bill Gates appeared in two adverts with American comedian Jerry Seinfeld in 2008 in which, as well as displaying what we’ll kindly refer to as questionable comic timing, he and Seinfeld made some sort of left-field comment on the way Windows had helped connect billions of people on the planet, or something like that.
15. Musician Brian Eno, of Roxy Music, composed Windows 95′s startup music. He produced 84 pieces before settling on the now famous sound.
16. There are estimated to be some 25 million Windows crashes everyday.
17. The successor to Windows XP, which eventually became Vista, was codenamed Longhorn during development stages, which is also a type of cow. You can draw your own comparisons.
18. Bill Gates is actually called William Henry Gates III and has a knighthood bestowed on him by the Queen, although more for his charity work than for Windows.
19. During the pre-release phase of Windows 98, Gates was hit by the Blue Screen of Death when showing off the new Plug and Play feature, something he managed to laugh off rather well.
20. Windows supports 34 languages including Hebrew, Latvian and Arabic.
21. Windows 8 is most likely to be released sometime around 2012, based on previous operating cycle timelines.
22. Windows XP is said to have 50 million lines of code, the figure rising with each new release.
23. It’s impossible to name a folder as ‘Con’ on Windows. Try it. On the desktop, in the hard drive, wherever you try, it will just revert back to the name ‘New Folder’.
24. Microsoft used US cities for codenames of some of the new Windows developments, such as Chicago for Windows 95 and Memphis for Windows 98.
25. And finally, while Windows has been a staple of the desktop computing environment for the past 25 years, another Microsoft attempt at providing a user interface for personal computers proved less successful, and was even placed in Time magazine’s 50 Worst Inventions.
It’s name? Microsoft Bob, a “front room” layout of the desktop environment that was essentially Clippy on steroids. It didn’t last long.