With a net worth that’s over a trillion dollars in early 2019, Microsoft is considered one of America’s most valuable company. It’s strange to think that just forty years earlier, the business was a humble pet project of two best friends: Bill Gates and Paul Allen.
In 1975, Gates and Allen established Microsoft on a sunny day in April. Allen suggested the name Microsoft, which was short for micro-computing software.
Within five years, the company would release its first self-contained operating system, which was a simple version of Unix dubbed Xenix. This would form an important prototype for the business’ first commercially successful product, MS-DOS.
Unlike today’s interfaces, MS-DOS was a single task, non-graphical command line that allowed programmers to safely interact with a computer’s hardware. It could run on virtually any family computer, which soon solidified its dominance over other operating system programs.
However, it wasn’t until five years later that Gates released the product that would launch him into immediate financial success. In 1985, the first version of Microsoft Windows was released, which acted as a graphical interface for MS-DOS.
Microsoft Windows 1.0
The first version of Windows was unlike any other competitor’s graphical computer interface at the time. It relied on the user to use a computer mouse way before other systems adopted the technology. For the first time, everyday consumers began to rely on mouse control to become familiar with virtual onscreen elements.
Windows 2.0 and 3.0
In just two years, the first version of Windows was updated to 2.0, which allowed on-screen windows to overlap each other instead of requiring programs to be exited. The 1987 version let users control computer configurations with a virtualized Control Panel rather than requiring use of the command line, which is a feature that lives on even today.
By 1992, Windows 3.0 appeared on the scene, allowing MS-DOS specific programs to be controlled by a mouse for the very first time. It also allowed for Windows to be installed via CD-ROM.
Windows 95 and 2000
In 1995, Windows 95 marked the beginning of a new era in computing. The new version was more user friendly than ever with a Start menu button that let users choose applications from the home window.
Windows 95 was more focused on multi-tasking than ever. Users could switch to a 32-bit environment and MS-DOS slowly lost prominence.
In 1998, Windows 98 was built on top of the framework for 95, introducing new applications like Outlook Express, Address Book, Microsoft Chat, and Media Player. Windows ME and 2000 were also released around this time, becoming the first systems to support device hibernation.
In 2001, XP was finally released and is still considered one of Microsoft’s best product releases. The graphical interface was completely updated with a new green Start button, a responsive wallpaper, and shadow effects on open tasks.
XP is also one of the longest running Microsoft products ever, having received its last update in 2014. However, consumers were concerned over the lack of security features, which allowed hackers to run rampant on the platform.
Windows Vista and 7.0
Windows XP was slowly phased out with the release of Vista in 2007. Users loved the additions of an enhanced anti-spyware program, the Windows Defender, and better speech recognition.
However, Vista was plagued by untenable bugs, which prompted the rapid release of 7.0 in 2009. It was considered much more stable and easier to use.
Windows 8.0 was released in 2012. Compared to previous versions, it was much faster and supported more complex user modes. The new version came with a tiled interface for selecting programs, support for touchscreen, and better support for tablet use.
Many see Windows 10 as a necessary reversal since it reintroduced the Start menu. Similar to XP, Windows 10 features a more balanced desktop experience that’s shied away from touchscreen menus.
The new version is meant to unify Windows across tablets, desktops, and all forms of touchscreen.