Microsoft Windows turns 30 – a look into the past

They say time goes by quickly and indeed for some of us, we never realize how long we have been using computers and our dear, Microsoft Windows OS. The world's most popular desktop operating system has turned 30. Exactly 30 years ago, Microsoft Corporation released its first GUI for MS DOS, called Windows 1.0. It happened on November 20, 1985.


Windows turned 30 bannerWindows 1.0 was very significant, as it ignited a new era of personal computing. Over the decades, Windows evolved into one of the greatest desktop operating systems of all time. During these years, the user interface and appearance of Windows has changed several times. But basic elements since the early versions like windows, scroll bars, icons and apps like Paint and Notepad are still present in all modern Windows versions.

Windows 1.0 was a nice try to simplify the iteraction with a PC for the average user. Instead of typing MS DOS commands, you could use a mouse with a graphical user interface. You didn't have to learn and remember commands, keyboard shortcuts and many other things to perform an action thanks to new visual controls on-screen. But it was with the groundbreaking release of Windows 3.0 that the world really took notice of Windows. Finally, the release of Windows 95 was a watershed moment in the history of desktop computing. Further legendary milestone releases like Windows XP permanently cemented Windows in the hearts and minds of its fans.

The first version released in 1985 was very lightweight compared to modern heavyweight "monsters" like Windows 10. All it needed was 256 KB of memory, a graphics card (even with monochrome output) and two diskettes. For those who wanted to run several apps simultaneously, a hard disk drive of 512 KB disk space was an additional requirement. These requirements were the start of a revolution in PC hardware and software. For those of you who do not know, Windows 1.0 did not even support overlapping windows!

You can meet Steve Ballmer with Windows 1.0 in this promo video:

Windows quickly went on to dominate the PC landscape. Today, Windows is still the most popular operating system for PCs in the world although PCs themselves are far less popular than smartphones and other Android or iOS-powered devices. Alternative operating systems like Linux or Apple's Mac OS X are not used so widely, so Windows still enjoys a monopoly on the operating system market. Many believe that Windows XP was the peak of the platform in terms of quality of the user experience, while some others see Windows 7 as the ultimate refinement of the desktop user experience, after which Microsoft started focusing on mobile.

Let's take a look back at the past and see the important releases of Windows which happened over the course of the years:

Windows 1.0

Windows 1.1

Windows 2.0

Windows 2.0Windows 3.0

Windows 3.0Windows for Workgroups 3.11

Windows 3.11

Windows NT 3.1

Windows NT 3.1Windows NT 3.5

Windows NT 3.5Windows 95

Windows 95Windows NT 4.0

Windows NT 4Windows 98/Windows 98 Second Edition

Windows 98Windows Me

Windows MEWindows 2000Windows 2000

Windows XP

Windows XPWindows Vista

Windows VistaWindows 7

Windows 7Windows 8

Windows 8Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1Windows 10

Windows 10The first Windows version I used was Windows for Workgroups 3.11. I used it on an Intel 80386 PC and later on an AMD 486 PC. My favorite Windows release is Windows 2000 as it was the most balanced, stable and usable operating system, suitable for the tasks I do at the PC. What about you? What is your first Windows version and what is the favorite one?

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Author: Sergey Tkachenko

Sergey Tkachenko is a software developer who started Winaero back in 2011. On this blog, Sergey is writing about everything connected to Microsoft, Windows and popular software. Follow him on Telegram, Twitter, and YouTube.

4 thoughts on “Microsoft Windows turns 30 – a look into the past”

  1. Beginning on Windows 3, the killer reason established developers adopted the platform was memory management. For the first time an Excel.exe app > 1MB could be load and run effortlessly. In the case of PageMaker (*the* killer app for Mac), which was a GUI app, users didn’t even had to have Windows installed, because the install diskettes had a Windows embedded.

  2. for me personal, the Windows Vista was the most beautiful, but the time has has run over, no AHCI, no new DirectX…and slowww startup….

  3. My first windows was 3.0 but I have used 2. I really liked 98SE. Never played with 2000. For me though XP or 7 are the best.

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