Looking through the Windows

As Microsoft launches Windows 8, touted by some as the most radical overhaul the operating system has ever had, we look back at how Windows has changed since the first iteration in the early 1980s.

Graph showing Microsoft's growing success

1975: How it all started

Bill Gates and Paul Allen

In 1975 Windows was just a twinkle in Bill Gate’s eye. Micro-soft (as it was originally called) was set up when the first personal computer was a build-it-yourself kit for hobbyists. Gates and co-founder Paul Allen realised that such a machine needed software to allow it to perform useful computing tasks. They worked 24-hour days to create their first computer language, called Microsoft BASIC. That year the firm made just over $16,000.

1985: Windows 1.0

Windows 1.0

Originally named the Interface Manager, Windows 1.0 was based on Microsoft's MS-DOS operating system that relied on typing in commands. Features included icons, scroll bars, a calendar and a game called Reversi. Adverts described it as 'a leap into the future' though it was not an instant success.

1995: Windows 95

Windows 95

Launched to the sound of the Rolling Stones' 'Start me up', this was Windows' first big success, selling seven million copies in the first five weeks. It introduced the Start button, taskbar and minimize and maximise features and was the first version that did not require MS-DOS to be installed.

2000: Windows 2000

Windows 2000

Seen as a major upgrade for business, Windows 2000 also ended up on many home computers. To help solve the security problems that had dogged Windows, users were able to get automatic software updates over the internet. It offered support for a variety of new plug and play hardware and wireless products, including USB and infrared devices. It offered improved internet compatibility and support for mobile computing.

2006: Vista

Bill Gates and Vista

Most of Microsoft’s operating system attracted criticism, but Vista had more than its fair share. Despite the five-year gap between Windows XP and Vista, many thought that the upgrades were insufficient and that it was outperformed by XP. Others criticised the inclusion of new digital rights management technologies, which restricted access to digital media and the number of authorisation prompts for the User Account Control.

2012: Windows 8

Windows 8

Some are touting Windows 8 as the most radical overhaul of the operating system to date. Anyone with a Windows phone will recognise the interface but it will be a mystery to many. The aim of it is to unify the world of the desktop computer with that of mobiles and tablets. One of the biggest changes will be the lack of the Windows start button and menu, an iconic part of the Windows system since 1995.

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