Microsoft Windows 95, the operating system that’s set the standard for just about everything Microsoft has done since, turned 20 years old on Monday.
When Windows 95 first came out, it was hailed as a tremendous leap forward for personal computing. People were so hyped for Windows 95, they threw release parties and barbecues, while people lined up around the block to be the first to get the new operating system.
It’s a big departure from the recent Windows 10 launch, which was mostly done via digital download to one group of users at a time.
To help celebrate the Windows 95 anniversary, Microsoft is giving out downloads of the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” from the Windows Store until midnight tonight. “Start Me Up” was, of course, the theme song for the Windows 95 launch commercials.
This was also because the Start Menu was a key part of the Windows 95 sales pitch: Windows 3.1, its immediate predecessor, was so difficult to use that even a rocket scientist couldn’t figure out how to launch a word processor. The Start Menu, obvious in hindsight, gave a clear path for users to do whatever they want to do on the system.
Windows 95 was also the first operating system to realise that there was this thing called “the internet” that would eventually become pretty big. The first version of the Internet Explorer shipped with the Plus! pack for Windows 95.
It came at the peak of some very heady days for Microsoft itself, with stock option-bearing employees watching the markets carefully to make sure that they, too, could join the ranks of the Microsoft Millionaires.
For one last dose of nostalgia, check out this compilation of Windows 95 launch footage (including an appearance by Jay Leno):
Of course, if you’re looking for a double-dose of nostalgia, you can check out this Windows 95 instructional video starring “Friends” stars Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston.
And for those employees who helped build Windows 95, Microsoft is sponsoring a huge anniversary celebration this year in Seattle.