On this day in history Microsoft Windows 1.0 was released

Did you know that Microsoft Windows 1.0 was a successful failure? Here’s why.

Can you believe it’s been 32 years since the first release of Microsoft Windows?

Microsoft released Windows 1.0 on 20 November 1985, and since then the Windows operating system is one of the most popular in the world. The latest data showed that 1.2 billion people are active Microsoft Windows software users, with Windows 10 running on over 270 million devices as of 2016.

Windows 1.0 operating system in a nutshell

The inspiration for Windows 1.0 came about when Bill Gates saw a demonstration at COMDEX 1982 (a popular computer expo which ran until the early 2000’s) of VisiCorp’s Visi On, which was a graphical user interface software suite designed specifically for IBM PC compatibles.

It ran as a graphical, 16-bit multi-tasking shell over the top of an existing MS-DOS installation. Windows 1.0 work in cohesion with MS-DOS software so that graphics programs designed for Windows would also work with the existing software. For a mere $99, it included programs such as Calculator, Calendar, Clipboard, Clock, Notepad, Reversi, Cardfile, Terminal, Write and the much-loved Paint.

A successful failure

Windows 1.0 wasn’t the instant success one would naturally imagine. Despite its early presentations and contributions from both hardware and software developers, Windows 1.0 was received poorly by critics. Performance issues on certain hardware, lack of resources for the user and too much emphasis on mouse input, especially at a time when mouse usage was not common at the time, were the big contributors to 1.0’s failure.

Microsoft Windows facts that will astound you

  • Bill Gates originally wanted to call Windows OS “Interface Manager”. The name “Windows” prevailed as it best defined the boxes (or computing windows) that were essential to the operating system
  • Windows 95 was an instant success, selling 40 million copies in its first year. Windows 8 was even bigger and sold 100 million licences in half the time
  • If you were wise enough to purchase one share of Microsoft stock for $21 at its 1986 IPO, it would now be worth $14,990. It works out to be an impressive 71,283% increase over 30 years
  • Love it or hate it, you can thank revered producer and Brian Eno for creating the famous Microsoft Windows startup sound
  • Windows 95 had a close relationship with music, with “Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones and it become the official theme song for the operating system
  • To help new users acquaint themselves with their new computer, Microsoft released Bob, a custom version of Microsoft Windows. The concept was to make their computer look like a “house” with “rooms”. It was considered disturbing, so was axed swiftly.

80’s advertising at its finest

Microsoft’s advertising for the Windows 1.0 release went on to become a pop-culture hit, simply due to its absurdity. In this ad, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, channels his inner infomercial pitchman: “That’s right! It’s $99. It’s an incredible value, but it’s true! It’s Windows from Microsoft!”

Surprisingly, this kind of manic energy lent itself well to growing a business in the 80’s. See the video for yourself:

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Image Source: By Microsoft. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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