Windows Has Changed An Awful Lot In The 30 Years Since Its Unveiling

Bill Gates tablet 2000ReutersBill Gates with a Microsoft tablet in 2000.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 30 years since
Microsoft first showed off Windows to the world.

It’s changed an awful lot in that time.

Thanks to better hardware, the rise of the Internet, and competition from long-time rival (and occasional ally) Apple, Microsoft has managed to stay relevant by releasing updates that meet the needs of hundreds of millions of people all around the world.

Here are the 30 years of Windows, in pictures:

Windows 1.0 was released in November 1985, two years after Bill Gates first showed it off to the public. Essentially a graphical user interface layered on top of MS-DOS, it was immediately adopted by the companies that made MS-DOS computers.

That was nearly two years after Mac System Software came out in January 1984, with its unique folder setup and a complete lack of command line. It didn't have basic multitasking without a few workarounds.

Windows 2.0's release in December 1987 brought with it overlapping windows, advanced keyboard shortcuts, and the concepts of 'maximizing' and 'minimising' windows.

Windows 2.1 was released in May 1988. It came in two versions, each designed to run on a specific model of Intel processor.

Windows 3.0 was released in May 1990. It was the first really successful version of the operating system. 3.0 was built around a number of technical improvements including better memory management and the ability to run MS-DOS programs in their own windows.

Windows 3.1 came out in March of 1992. It made the platform far more stable and increased support for better typography and multimedia. It was also the first version to be sold on a CD-ROM.

Windows 95 was released in August 1995. It introduced many of the concepts that we associate with Windows to this day, including the Start button and the taskbar. A huge success, it quickly became the single most popular desktop operating system.

As part of its big unveiling, Microsoft had Jay Leno open the Windows 95 event and introduce Bill Gates himself.

Windows 98 came out in May 1998. At the time, the Internet was finally starting to come into its own -- which is why 98 came with tons of improvements to its networking software along with the usual performance improvements.

When Microsoft released Windows 2000 in February 2000, the company marketed it as a secure, professional desktop operating system. While blazing fast for the time, 2000 turned out to actually be a security nightmare, requiring fixes from the company nearly every month until support was dropped in 2010.

Windows ME (pronounced 'me') came out in September 2000. While 2000 was for professionals, ME was made specifically for home users. Unfortunately, it was an unstable mess that gave users trouble on a too-regular basis.

In November 2000, Bill Gates showed off a prototype 'Tablet PC' running a modified version of Windows. Unfortunately, Microsoft was a bit ahead of its time -- tablets didn't really take off for another 10 years, when Apple released the iPad.

In March 2001, Apple released Mac OS X 10.0, 'Cheetah.' It was beautiful, a complete overhaul of that Mac operating system that threw out all code from previous versions.

Windows XP came out in October 2001 to critical acclaim. For its time it was fast, stable, pretty, and easier to use. It's no wonder that XP is still used by millions of people around the world to this day.

Windows Vista was released in January 2007 to much excitement -- Microsoft fans had been waiting years to try out the fabled 'Longhorn' release. Unfortunately, it had way too many glossy visual effects and sub-par performance.

Windows 7 came out in October 2009 and fixed a lot of what was wrong with Vista. It toned down many graphical effects while better utilising the multi-core chips that have become standard today.

Microsoft released Windows Phone 7 in November of 2010. It introduced the concepts of 'Live Tiles' and hubs of content to Microsoft's mobile OS.

Windows 8's release in October 2012 brought concept of 'Live Tiles' to the desktop -- and tablet. With Windows 8, Microsoft has attempted to make an operating system that can work on a range of device form factors.

That same month, Microsoft released Windows Phone 8. While its interface looked the same, under the hood it was powered by the same kernel as Windows 8. It also finally gained the ability to use screens with resolutions of 720p and up.

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