The PC operating system Windows 95, released on August 24 of that year, was the product that cemented Microsoft’s dominance of the computing market in the home and the office.
Microsoft’s affordable package was installable on the widest range of computing products and arrived with an easy-to-use interface that ushered in a new era of computing for the whole family. In a way, it helped to make computing cool for the first time.
It gave us The Start Menu, multimedia skills, Internet Explorer and much, much more. Here are 22 things you may not know about one of Microsoft’s most iconic product on its birthday…
Windows 95 was a huge leap forward in terms of the user interface. Microsoft’s OS had previously lagged behind the look and feel of Apple Macintosh software.
All hail the arrival of the Start Button! The UI tool, which allowed users to easily browse programs, documents, games and settings, underpinned the Windows interface for 17 years before being dumped by the unpopular Windows 8. It’s back by popular demand in Windows 10.
Windows 95 was the first version of the software to be dated by its name. It replaced Windows 3 and its various updates.
It was the first brand new version of the operating system to be launched in five years. Windows 3.0 first launched in 1990, but had received multiple iterative updates.
While the operating system improved the interface greatly, it was still somewhat reliant on Microsoft’s old MS-DOS software that had been around since the mid-'80s.
To push its merits as a multimedia powerhouse, Microsoft shipped Windows 95 with two music videos: Weezer’s Spike Jonze-directed, Happy Days-inspired, Buddy Holly promo and Eddie Brickell’s Good Times.
Windows 95 was predominantly distributed on CD-ROM, but for those with older machines it could still be installed using a floppy disk (13 of them, to be precise).
The six-second sound that played on start-up, known as The Microsoft Sound, was composed by Brian Eno.
Eno later revealed the jingle was made on a rival machine. “I've never used a PC in my life; I don't like them.”
Speaking of the Windows 95 Start Me Up ad, it also spawned this classic parody song written by Bob Rivers.
Windows 95 was an instant hit among consumers, largely thanks to its attractive sub-$100 price point and compatibility with a large range of machines.
There was also this promo video featuring the Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up. Yep, computing and computer nerds were finally cool.
Although the classic web browser Internet Explorer also arrived in August 1995, it wasn’t released as part of Windows 95. It was available as an ‘Internet Jump Start’ kit called Microsoft Plus!.
The Desktop as we know it arrived in Windows 95. You know, that place where you dump all those program shortcuts, random photos and documents? Previously the homescreen had been reserved for housing open applications.
The system requirements for the software called for a minimum of 4MB of memory and 50-55MB of hard-drive space. Twenty years on, Windows 10 requires at least 1BG RAM and 16GB of hard drive space.
The OS incorporated plug-and-play (PnP) technologies for the first time, allowing Windows to recognise a new device as soon as it was plugged in. Before Windows 95, users had to inform the computer the new device had been plugged in.
While it seems like a minor change, Windows 95 was the first version to allow for longer file names. The OS allowed for 225 characters in a single file name.
While long queues for tech products have become commonplace in the iPhone era, they were much less common when folks lined up at retail outlets for the midnight launch of Windows 95.
To celebrate the launch of Windows 95, Microsoft put a full-sized Ferris wheel on the front lawn of its Redmond campus.
In the run up to launch, Microsoft send out weekly CDs to Windows 95 beta testers - and 50,000 people took part in the tests. This is a model Microsoft brought back with Windows 10. Today, of course, these updates are available via digital downloads.
Within a year of its release, Microsoft had sold 40 million copies of Windows 95.
In one of the most corny publicity stunts in tech history, promoters in Poland hired a submarine to show reporters “what life would be like without Windows”.
Microsoft would halt support of Windows 95 in December 2001 as Windows 98 took over.
Image credit: Wikipedia