Microsoft released Windows 1.0 on November 20th, 1985… which means Windows turns 30 today. It’s probably starting to think seriously about saving for retirement, realizing it can’t stay up as late as it used to, and noticing that it’s starting to put on a bit of weight even though its dietary habits haven’t changed much.


Windows has come a long way in 30 years. The first version provided a graphical user interface that ran on top of MS-DOS and allowed you to run a series of programs in windows. While it wasn’t the first operating system to use the concept of windows for multi-tasking, it was one of the first designed for use on a wide range of personal computers.

About a decade later Windows merged with DOS so that it was no longer a user interface running on top of an OS, but a complete OS in its own right. Sure, Window 95 was kind of crash-prone at times, but by the time Windows XP Service Pack 3 was released in 2004, Microsoft had an operating system that was so stable, many people are still using it to this day, even though there have been four or five major releases since then (depending on whether you count Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 as one release or two).

Windows clearly isn’t the only game in town. While it continues to dominate the PC space, there’s increasing competition from Google’s Chrome OS and Windows computers have long competed with Mac computers in both the home and business markets — and Apple actually beat Microsoft to market with a graphical user interface for its computers, although the earliest versions of Mac OS had very limited support for multitasking.

Various GNU/Linux-based operating systems have been offering free and open alternatives for over two decades, but while Linux has proven popular in the server and embedded device markets, desktop Linux users are dwarfed by the number of Windows and Mac OS X users these days.

I think the first version of Windows I ever installed was Windows 3.1. I’d been using MS-DOS on my computers up until then and while the GUI felt buggy and crash-prone, it opened my eyes to a whole new way to interact with computers. What was your first experience with Windows?

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28 replies on “Microsoft Windows turns 30”

  1. Windows 3.0 was my first in-depth experience with Windows, though I did dabble with Windows 2 previously when it was bundled with some graphic app from years ago that I no longer remember. Windows 3.11 was my OS of choice long into the Windows 95 release cycle after hearing all the horror stories of the “steep” hardware requirements. Certainly laughable by today’s standards for sure.

    Least favorite versions? ME, Vista, and 8 in that order. ME was an abomination that should have never seen the light of day. In my view Vista suffered from poor marketing and a few UI inconsistencies that were later rectified with Windows 7. Windows 8 is what happens when schizophrenics design software.

  2. Win 3.1. loved fooling around with wav files. breaking glass wav for shutdown sound. good times. dBASE and harvard graphics were my main “apps” back then.
    win95, on a brand new IBMps/2 (with microchannel bus, or was it kung fu grip?). got a fancy hayes modem to go along with it. then came win98. suddenly my $5k ibm was a electric paperweight. no problem. buy something new to work with it ( but keep old one for “parts” ).
    some people bought canned foods for y2k crisis, i bought a new pc to handle Win Me ( or ME, cant remember ). might
    as well keep win 98 machine for “parts “.
    it was around this time i figured i was getting conned into buying new machines for each new win release.
    it was also round this time i was introduced to the windows security shortcomings, and promptly got norton. oh well, live and learn.also figured out that “trusted” microsoft was not interested in quality with release of win Me. oh well. live and learn, wont happen again.
    i think the codename was “whistler”. the launch of win xp. not going to screw me this time. i built my first pc for this ( and still have and use it today,some minor power supply issues, a motherboard or 2 replaced ), but xp still chuggin along. oddly, the “parts” from older machines had some use for my xp box. i think maybe some screws, one of the cases, a fan, and i think i salvaged a ps for a very short term fix.
    when vista launched, i thought it would be a good idea to get a laptop. you know, something the family could use. huge error in judgement. vista made me fondly remember Me. add “family” to that mix and you have a disaster. my kids called it a “epic failure of biblical perportions”. i put every known security program known to man on this ( after the 6th or however many times you can reinstall windows before you have to phone ms to get permission to reinstall it again. then reinstalled it enough times that ms knew it was me and stopped asking me questions ). i told my kids that if they continued to “click – thru” stuff on the net anymore,it would cost them $150 to fix it. they laughed, saved their money, and each of them bought a chromebook.
    with the exception of me tinkering with my xp box every now and then, and making sure no one else can touch it, my kids have not asked me to do anything to fix “slow, weird error producing, crash prone “problems with their chromebooks, EVER ( 3 yrs running ).

    It was a learning experience using windows, and for that i thank microsoft. but for all the knowledge i gained from fixing all the problem with each win os upgrade, it was my kids who taught me the most. like them, i just want something that works.
    thanks for the memories microsoft.

  3. I remember when i was not spy by microsoft, google, the cia, no drones, less than 3.500 million humans in earth. Now everything is lies and shit.

  4. My first Windows was 3.1. I think I still have the disks here somewhere. I have not-so-fond memories of endlessly editing config.sys and auto executives.bat files to try to get certain programs to run. Using a computer back then actually required some amount of knowledge and tinkering. Kids these days just expect everything to run with nearly no effort at all. Now get off my lawn!

    1. 3.1 would have been a luxury when I started with computers. Times were hard. All we had were ones and zeroes. And sometimes, we didn’t even have ones.

    2. Before Windows I had a .bat file that ran after autoexec.bat, which was a shell for launching other programs. It would display on the machine which F-key you would hit to launch certain programs, and then when you exited that program it would pop back up again so you could launch another program. I think I had five programs, but other than WordPerfect and Q&A (database) I couldn’t tell you what they were. Edit: Probably one was something to access a modem.

      I started with HTPCs over ten years ago. You should have tried connecting a PC to a TV back then. First, it was practically impossible to install Windows from scratch using a TV as a monitor, because more likely than not your TV wouldn’t accept one of the resolutions it would switch to during the install process. And then to get the final setup just right the ordinary video drivers wouldn’t work–but I don’t remember the name of the program which would fine tune things. Anyway, that is now history too, but there probably are a few uses where you still need to tinker.

  5. 30 years? How about that.. it’s come such a long waaaaaaahahahhahahahaha…
    Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself. It’s still a PoS.

      1. “In hindsight, Microsoft should have tried harder.”

        If not for their monopolistic practises they’d have lost the OS crown a long time ago.
        Windows 8.x was a disaster and many, and perhaps the majority of well-off US households would have completely dumped it and gone to Mac.
        People have lost trust in Microsoft so much that MS are resorting to tricking people into Windows 10 installs. It’s thoroughly desperate.

        1. Windows 8 was hardly a disaster. Just the tech press running with a bunch of nonsense, like complaining about plastic being used in smartphones.

          Windows 10 has been far more problematic, because the issues with it are actual problems with the program, not just people not being able to figure out a rather simple GUI.

          1. I personally found it to be a disaster.
            The whole Metro thing and jumping between windowed desktop apps and full screen dumbed down apps and they make it very hard to change default apps, which then magically change back to what Microsoft wants to force on you.
            I did read the press, but I tried to give W8 a chance. No chance.
            Then add the driver issues, and the keyboard shortcut issues, and the mouse focus issues. It was a disaster.

            I sometimes IT for a couple of design/architecture offices.. and the users unanimously were against switching to Windows 8.. and by extension W10 (though I don’t think they tried 10, just 8).

            Look, if it wasn’t such a disaster then Microsoft themselves wouldn’t have dropped it like a ginger step-child. They’re now doing everything they can to distance themselves from it. Search “microsoft admit windows 8 failure”.

          2. The reason Microsoft dropped Win 8.1 (and to some extent Vista) is the same as the reason Samsung dropped plastic cases–the tech press. Having bad press is not good for a product being sold.

            As to your first paragraph, I have no idea what you’re talking about. The only issue I had with Win 8 was having it boot to the Metro screen, and then having to click to get to the desktop each time I booted. Minor annoyance.

          3. That is simply not true. Read through customer reviews of computers that come with 8.1 — a huge proportion complain bitterly about the OS. In the corporate world 8.1 was just laughed at — I work in that world: at this point at my company all but a few accountants are on macs.

          4. Some people don’t like change when it comes to computers. That some people complain is nothing new. The tech press just ran with it for Win 8. People who couldn’t figure out Windows 8 were nothing short of stupid. Do you think Microsoft didn’t do any testing on the GUI before they released it?

          5. But people didn’t complain about Windows 7. Calling people who don’t like the product “stupid” and blaming a press conspiracy is probably not a useful response to the crisis. As for user testing: I’ve posed this question to some former MS execs. They explained that in fact the user testing regime at MS has been woefully inadequate. Amazing, but true.

            Objectively Win8 was stunningly clumsy: they bolted the mobile interface to the desktop UI and called it a day. The “charms” bar was a disaster — for months people complained that there was no way to print from the PDF reader. There was, but it was in the charms bar under “devices”. Why? A menu system that gave you huge flat-colored boxes on a 27″ monitor just to start a program … I still remember when the then CTO at my company first saw it: he laughed, commented that Ballmer had to go, and walked off. A few months later Ballmer was gone.

          6. Oh, let’s not start this revisionist history BS all over again… First, people did complain about Windows 7, they just didn’t complain as much as they did with Vista… Second, Windows 7 was literally just a better version of Vista… It was basically SP3 version that they renamed Windows 7 to try to get past all the negative opinions on Vista…

            Third, Windows 8 had nowhere near as much trouble as Vista did… When Vista came out it had huge technical issues because it was the first major reworking of the OS since XP… They tried to make it more secure but that made it too annoying with asking permission for just about anything, and the changes required major reworking of the drivers which took years and accounted for massive bugs on release, and Vista was very bloated compared to XP…

            What Windows 8 went through was a simple complaint about the UI and having to switch between a tablet and desktop UI… The actual OS performed well, had minimal driver issues, and actually made a lot of under the hood improvements over Windows 7, including reducing the bloat and introducing new features… Some that have been standard on other OS like desktop Linux already but finally started to be standardized with Windows 8 instead of requiring 3rd party utilities…

            Never mind people seem to think XP had no problems when it took nearly 7 years to fix it from release and over 3 years before it was even considered a stable upgrade over the previous non-NT Kernel Windows releases… For years people preferred Windows 2000 over XP because of all the bugs and BSOD errors they kept getting… People only think it was great now because compared to Vista it was a much better release but Windows 8 was no worse a release than XP was…

            People just confuse their perceptions and have no patience anymore… If a OS takes as long as XP did to fix today then its automatically considered a failure now and it’s as simple as that… There’s just too many whiners with no real clue what they’re talking about…

            Really, there’s a ton of things that was always wrong with Windows and legacy support has its negatives as well as positives, with it being only a matter of time before something drastic had to be done to evolve the OS for the future or drop it entirely and start over…

            Apple did it when they switched over from their previous OS to OSX and now it’s MS turn with Windows…

          7. Oh no, my friend. The reason Microsoft dropped 8.x and Vista was certainly not because of bad press. It was simply because it was rushed to market and, quite frankly, devastatingly bad. It was an unfinished product that, in both cases, missed deadline after deadline after deadline and Microsoft ended up releasing something hoping it to be good enough, but it wasn’t better, and for most it wasn’t good enough!

            The market spoke, and MS failed. Disastrously. There’s..
            There’s, quite frankly no other way to spin this. And you may be the only person left on the planet to think W8 was any good (ok, maybe there is also that guy who got a Zune tattoo, but the internet never heard any more from him).
            If you really want to know how bad Windows 8 did, you can see that it got lost in the error margin of OS uptake:
            www theinquirer net inquirer/news/2353009/windows-2000-added-more-new-users-in-june-than-windows-8
            That was dated 1st July 2014 – ~14.3 years after the release of Windows 2000 or 2.3 years after the release of Windows 8.

            PS The boot to Metro issue wasn’t bad. Just install a START menu replacement app and things are better, except for, you know, the actual OS.

            PPS You should drop this this press pretence, the majority of users don’t give a gnat’s testes about the tech press.. and yet they’re the one’s who decided to skip buying new PCs (leading to a record drop in sales), and the backlash in the office.

  6. Windows 3.1 was my first experience with windows. I remember playing with Paintbrush for hours.

    1. Windows 7 wasn’t so bad. The UI was a bit messed up, but as an OS it was still OK.
      Everything after should die screaming.

      1. Windows 7 was MS’s best OS. They then lost their nerve when the iPad came out and the iPhone tore up the mobile market. Ballmer & co. figured they could leverage their desktop to win in mobile — and that’s when the clumsy mess that 8 was came about.

        1. If you think you like Windows 7 you need to try Windows Vista on a proper Vista-capable machine with proper drivers. The only bad things about Vista are that people tried to run it on 2001-spec hardware and vendors were slow about updating drivers and applications. It isn’t saddled with Windows 7’s “gloomy day” washed out colors, junk lists, “powned to taskbar,” filesystem “libraries,” and other cruft, and it doesn’t have Win7’s unsafe UAC settings by default.

  7. 3.0 was my first version of Windows, and I’ve used every consumer version since, except ME which was only installed on my daughter’s computer. What I remember most about 3.0, 3.1 and 3.11 is that not only were there the Windows updates, but Microsoft would also release updates to Dos too.

    Also I remember WordPerfect betting on OS/2, and being very late to the game with a Windows word processor.

  8. I think you meant to say Windows 1.0 was released in 1985, not 2015.

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