Microsoft released Windows 1.0 on November 20, 1985. Beginning as an environment running on MS-DOS, Windows has become the most popular desktop operating system in the world. Let’s go back in time and see what the original Windows 1.0 looked like.
When the GUI gets new attention
In the early 80’s, Technology Press regarded mouse-based graphical user interfaces (GUIs) and multitasking as modern. This was similar to the current fashion for augmented reality and neural networks.
At that time, the entire industry was aware of Xerox’s work on PARC’s Alto computers in the 1970s. A commercial version of that technology, the Xerox Star, shipped in 1981.
As the CPU speed and memory capacity of personal computers have improved, GUIs can now be executed on low-cost machines, dramatically improving usability. In 1983, Apple released the $ 10,000 mouse-based Apple Lisa computer. Meanwhile, cheaper IBM PC-based GUIs (such as theVisi-On) have begun to emerge.
Windows 1.01 desktop with tiled application windows (could not overlap).
Due to the general trend towards GUIs in the industry, Microsoft began working on the experimental predecessor of Windows as early as 1981. However, the project officially started a few years later in 1983, and Windows was announced to the press.
It took another two years and a new project manager (Tandy Trower) to create a ready-to-ship product. Windows 1.01 was launched in 1985, but when it finally shipped, it was barely a wave in the industry. However, its first version laid the foundation for Microsoft’s future.
Using Windows 1.0
To use Windows 1.0 at the time, I bought a boxed copy of the software. Then I installed it on my hard disk in my PC or ran it from two floppy disks. Windows 1.0 was not a stand-alone operating system. Rather, it was a graphical application environment running on MS-DOS.
Windows 1.0 supported CGA, Hercules, or EGA graphics. You can also use many of the mice on the market at the time, including Microsoft. However, I didn’t need a mouse. You can take full control of Windows with keyboard commands, as you can do today.
If you want to start Windows after booting, just type “win” at the MS-DOS prompt.
Windows 1.01 splash screen (note Microsoft’s vintage logo).
Windows 1.01 was the first public release version of Windows. Compared to later versions, Windows 1.01 represents a fairly primitive graphical environment. It included a simple program launcher and file manager called MS-DOS Executive. This is a minimal list of filenames and no icon is displayed.
MS-DOS Executive on Windows 1.01.
Click the EXE file in MS-DOS Executive to open the program as an application window. You can maximize or minimize each using the zoom or icon features.
When minimized, the application was represented by an icon on a simple taskbar that spreads out at the bottom of the screen. At any time, you can double-click the icon on the taskbar to reopen the window.
Notepad and taskbar for Windows 1.01.
Windows 1.0 also included some basic applications such as calendar, clock, clipboard, card files, terminal, notepad, writing, and painting. Notepad was functionally reasonably spartan, and Paint only supported monochrome graphics.
The software also ran MS-DOS programs in windows, but few single-tasking DOS applications worked well in this new multitasking environment.
Unlike later versions of Windows (and Macintosh OS), Windows 1.0 did not support duplicate windows. Instead, the windows can only be viewed side-by-side on the screen, and their contents are automatically resized to fit the available space.
According to many Windows history websites, Microsoft made this decision to avoid similarities with Mac OS. However, according to Trower, it could have been a favorite of previous project managers and didn’t have time to change it before shipping.
It’s primitive by today’s standards, but Windows 1.0 was still an impressive start given the low-powered PCs that could run it at the time. It laid the foundation for future expansion of the concept. In addition, some of its innovations later announced successful new Windows features, including the taskbar introduced in Windows 95.
Related: Windows 95 turns 25: When Windows becomes mainstream
Reversi: The first Windows game
Windows 1.0 includes the first commercially available Windows game: Reversi. This strategy board game was programmed by Chris Petersat Microsoft as an experimental exercise. However, it was subsequently included in the Windows 1.0 release as part of a set of embedded applications.
Reversi is based on Othello and has four levels. Unfortunately, that too is cruelly difficult. It didn’t get as many fans as the classics of later Windows games like Solitaire and Minesweeper. Nonetheless, Reversi was shipped with Windows up to version 3.0 in 1990.
Related: 30 years of “Minesweeper” (Sudoku and explosion)
Few commercial games have seen the release of Windows 1.0. In fact, all we know is Balance of Power, a geopolitical strategy game created by legendary designer Chris Crawford. If you don’t count internal games developed by Microsoft like puzzles and chess, this could make Balance of Power the official second Windows game.
The only known commercial Windows 1.0 game: Balance of Power.
Over the next few years, developers have released several shareware games for Windows, but the total number can be counted with both hands. It’s possible that Windows didn’t see another retail game release until 1991 (Battle Chessfor Windows3.0).
Reception and legacy
Windows 1.0 received a lukewarm reaction from the media when it was released. Since it was first announced in 1983, most people thought it was two years behind. In addition, other window systems for PC and Macintosh OS have outperformed it in style and functionality.
In 1985, the PC mouse was also an expensive accessory. Given the lack of applications available on Windows, there was no killer app to encourage adoption at that time. Even Microsoft’s Word and Excel programs haven’t shipped with Windows for another year.
Before that happens, you need to lower costs and increase baseline PC system capabilities.
Boxed retail copy of Windows 1.0.Microsoft
Still, Windows 1.0 was a big first step towards a huge new product line, even if Microsoft wasn’t aware of it at the time. Since then, I’ve seen at least 12 major versions of Windows from Windows 2.0 to Windows 10. And it doesn’t even count derivatives like Windows XP Tablet Edition or Windows Phone.
Windows is still a big business for Microsoft, and it all started with Windows 1.01 35 years ago. Believe it or not, Microsoft continued to support Windows 1.0 Standard Edition until December 31, 2001. It’s been 16 years since its release, and it’s the longest-supported version of Windows to date.
Related: Windows 3.0 is 30 years old: this is a special reason
How to run Windows 1.0 in browser
It’s worth noting that the Windows 1.0 PCjs simulation looks crouching on modern screens. This is to display a 640 x 350 EGA window with square pixels. At that time, it was extended to a 4: 3 screen ratio, much like a traditional CRT monitor. All of the above Windows 1.0 images have been tuned to match the method originally displayed on vintage hardware.
Try running Paint or playing someReversi while using Windows Simulation. You will see how far we have come.
Happy birthday, windows!
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