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November 18, 2005

20 Years Of Windows

A look back at the highs and lows of the most popular, vilified, and controversial OS in the world.

Courtesy of

"  The Making Of Windows 1.0

"  20 Years Of Windows Releases

"  Windows Timeline

"  The Future Of Windows


November 20, 2005, marks the twentieth anniversary of Microsoft's release of Windows 1.0, one of the most important events in PC history. Even the staunchest Mac or OS/2 devotees must acknowledge that Windows has had a profound impact on the world of computing (although their blood pressure may rise dangerously at the thought).

In 1985 the PC market was just barely out of its infancy. Apple, IBM, and Radio Shack dominated the market. It took a visionary technophile to predict how bold, bright, and world-changing the personal computer would become. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were up to the job -- visionaries, technogeeks, and fierce competitors. How else to explain the antagonistic fervor with which their companies pursued the development of mouse-driven operating systems that would transcend the command line and make PC users out of hundreds of millions of un-geeky, ordinary people?

It also explains the dogged determination Microsoft showed in releasing subsequent versions of Windows. It would take three versions and over six years for Windows to become more than a quirky software tool and morph into a full-fledged, if not indispensable, operating system.

Above and beyond the controversy surrounding the debut of Microsoft's upstart OS, the most interesting aspect of Windows' story is how Microsoft managed to transform an inspired but inferior OS into the dominant software platform of the last quarter-century.

Share Your Windows Story
Got a great Windows tale from yesterday or days of yore? and tell us all about it. We'll print the best stories.

Since 1985, we've lived through more than 15 major releases of the operating system we love, love to hate, or just plain hate -- often simultaneously. This retrospective begins with an exploration of the controversy and decision-making process leading up to the release of Windows 1.0.

Next, we'll explore, celebrate, and mourn the highs and lows of subsequent Windows versions over the last 20 years, complete with a of gone-but-not-forgotten releases. We'll take a look at the Windows timeline in the context of computing and world events, followed by a quick look at the future of Windows.

Then it's your turn: What has been your favorite version of Windows over the years, and why? and let us know.

Twenty years of Windows. It's still hard to believe.

Blogging About Windows

Take a look at what the editors of the Pipelines, InformationWeek, and InternetWeek are saying about Windows, yesterday, today, and tomorrow:

"There are few bits and bytes getting passed around today that don't pass through a Windows-based system somewhere along the way. And I suspect that might not change over the next 20 years."

Two Decades Later, We Still Do Windows
-- Mitch Irsfeld, Messaging Pipeline

"Happy anniversary, Windows. As challenging as my own
relationship has been at times with you, in the long run, you've
done more good than I would like to admit."

-- Amy Larsen DeCarlo,
Systems Management Pipeline

"If Windows expects to survive another 20 years, much less
to thrive and to stay relevant, its guardians must learn to find
their way in a business world where that old, familiar-looking road is
likely to lead them straight off a cliff."

-- Matt McKenzie, Linux Pipeline

"By September 1986, Windows had been in release for almost a year,
and it was still a laboratory curiosity."

-- David DeJean, Desktop Pipeline

"Honestly, in a server world populated with big iron running proprietary systems, Microsoft was the last company anyone thought would
create the dominant server platform of 2005."

-- Don St. John, Server Pipeline

"Despite its past glory, the operating system's dominance
is threatened in an Internet-connected world, and Gates & Co.
will have to innovate to keep Windows relevant."

-- Antone Gonsalves, InternetWeek

"So far, the Live initiative is a big ol' bucket of vaporware, combined with technology, products and service that were already available or announced quite some time ago, and are just being repackaged."

-- Mitch Wagner, InformationWeek

"Windows and Office may be 20-year-old software dinosaurs, but they also give Microsoft a huge footprint, with something like 600 million Windows PCs worldwide. Think of those PCs as 600 million pairs of open arms just waiting to catch whatever Microsoft throws their way."

-- John Foley, InformationWeek

For ongoing Windows-related blogging, check out the from InformationWeek.

Go to Part 1: The Making Of Windows 1.0

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