80s History – 11/20/1985 Microsoft Releases Windows 1.0

Microsoft released Windows 1.0 on November 20, 1985. This was the very first version of the now world-famous Microsoft Windows product line. Windows 1.0 ran as a graphically oriented and 16-bit multi-tasking shell working alongside MS-DOS. The operating system was able to provide a software environment that could run graphical computer programs designed for Windows computers.

How It Started

The development of Windows 1.0 was a brainchild of Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, after he saw a demo of a similar program suite called Visi On at COMDEX. Gates’ company presented Windows 1.0 to the public in late 1983. Running the software required using two floppy disk drives and a hardware system equipped with at least 192 KB of RAM.

Windows 1.0 was frequently touted as the front-end counterpart of the MS-DOS operating system. This description was also used for subsequent versions of the operating system. The OS is an MS-DOS program and has the ability to direct MS-DOS functions. Applications are called by running.exe files, very similar to MS-DOS programs. One difference, though, is that the executable files in Windows came with their own NE. Only Windows could run this file format.

Growth

Microsoft claimed the software should act as a device driver for MS-DOS 2.0. The software was different from Visi On and Apple Computer’s operating system Lisa because it supported cooperative multitasking using tiled windows. Also, unlike Visi On, the developers of Windows 1.0 didn’t have any use for Unix to create IBM PC programs. Microsoft aimed to encourage other software firms to program applications for Windows by not requiring the developers to use a Microsoft user interface in their programs. Because of this, Microsoft was able to garner support from large computer companies like Zenith, DEC and Compaq.



Criticisms

Ever though Windows 1.0 received positive comments during the early days, as well as strong support from several software and hardware companies, the critics weren’t so kind in their opinion of the operating system. They claimed the OS didn’t meet expectations.

One notable criticism was that Windows 1.0 required so much use of the computer mouse, a device that wasn’t widely used back then. Critics also claimed the software didn’t offer enough resources for beginners. Also noted were performance issues especially in the case of hardware systems that didn’t meet the required specifications.

The War of the Windows

In the early days of the history of Windows, its founder Gates saw the operating system as the future of Microsoft. Gates stated during InfoWorld in 1984 that the goals and resources of the company were fully invested in Windows. He also claimed that the only software programs that will have a competitive advantage in the long haul are those that work with Windows.

Because IBM was not present during the pivotal announcements of Microsoft, the press created a divide between IBM and Microsoft. In 1984, the media hyped up the “war of the windows”, referring to a business battle between IBM, Windows, and Digital Research.

But in spite of widespread criticism, Windows 1.0 turned out to be a vital milestone for the company. Now it’s part of computer history. In December 31, 2001, Microsoft officially declared Windows 1.0 as obsolete and unsupported by the software giant.

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