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Windows “version 8” is upon us. Bringing changes to the old and safe, the familiar. Some say the changes are for the best, others dread them, swear to keep the Seven for a long time yet (some even say they will never abandon XP as long as there’s hardware to support it). That is how changing things works. But, the awful truth is, that, what seems new and daunting will undoubtedly after a while seem like the most natural thing in the world, something you just can’t imagine life without. Do you think that the changes in “Version 8” are overwhelming ? Then try imagine being back when Windows was first introduced…  

This is Part 2 of this feature post, did you miss part 1  

Windows 95

1995 was the year we got the Start-Button. The button we all depend on and cannot live without . The release did not go as smooth as Microsoft might have thought. People were confused, not knowing how to find their programs or how to use Windows. The weird new button in the corner, named “Start” was not as intuitive as one might have expected. Microsoft’s simple solution was to introduce the bouncing “Click here to Start” animation, teaching people the new ways of Windows. Not before long Windows 95 proved an instant success, in just 4 days they sold an impressive 1 million copies.

Internet

Wicked tongues claim that Bill Gates never saw the potential of the Internet, calling it a fluke or a MayFly – here today, gone tomorrow.  In fact Mr. Gates told the opposite. Microsoft acquired an Internet browser (from a small company called Spyglass) which was released in the AddOn package called Windows 95 Plus! The package added color themes, sound schemes and their brand new Internet Explorer. The number one browser for years to come, incorporated in every version of Windows since.

Windows 98

In 1998 Microsoft introduced an upgrade to 95 with added support for the newer filesystem FAT32, Internet Explorer, better driver and USB-support. I call it an upgrade because there was little else new about it. Windows 98 proved to be a stable successor and was loved by many as the true PC OS. Thou it was still merely a shell on top of MSDOS.

Windows 2000 and ME

According to many: perhaps the best Windows ever. And for good reason. Proving to be the most stable and powerful of all Windows ever released. Windows 2000 was primarily intended for corporate use and brought many improvements to server and workstation platforms. Connecting Windows 2000 computers to a network became a whole lot easier with tools like Active Directory and Terminal Services. Microsoft also introduced DirectX which offered better support for multimedia, movies, and games. Features that made Windows 2000 a great tool for Desktop Computers as well. Because Windows 2000 was  thought to be too “high-tech” for the average home user (not in need of all the networking features) Microsoft released what was to be their biggest flop up until then: Windows ME (Millennium Edition).

Windows ME was to most people nothing more than a re-polished Windows 98 with better internet Experience. However it also introduced System Restore (which to me is an invaluable tool) which makes it possible to revert your Windows to an earlier state (in case of driver failure or other system problems). Windows ME suffered massive criticism for its lack of driver support  and being unstable. The product was discontinued rather quickly.

Windows XP – hail the king

Learning from their mistakes, Microsoft released their new OS in two versions: Home Edition and Professional Edition. This Windows introduced several new features, such as the Internet Connection Firewall. It was disabled by default due to concerns with backward compatibility, and its configuration were buried somewhere deep in the network configuration screens. The more familiar Windows Firewall was first introduced as part of Windows XP Service Pack 2. Now every network connection (wired, wireless, VPN, or even FireWire) had the firewall enabled by default, with some built-in exceptions to allow connections from the local network. XP also introduced the Activation service, demanding users to register their copy within 30 days of installation. Windows XP has since been hailed as Microsoft’s best OS ever. Even today after the release of (soon to be) 3 newer versions – people still use it or swear by it. Microsoft listen to their users and extended the support life-cycle by several years. It is rumored to be extended until 2020, though still unconfirmed.

Design

Windows received a totally new makeover, with its rounded corners, blue taskbar and green Start-Button. Personally I never liked it – and was overjoyed when I found tools allowing me to hack that awful theme  more to my liking. But there are those who praise the design – and please do. After all; Re-designing the interface was long overdue. Little to none had been done to change the looks of Windows from version 3 through 2000. A trend Microsoft seem to be continuing for a long time to come.

Windows XP Media Center Edition

Microsoft released a third version of XP called Media Center Edition,  intended for home owners wanting to create a Multimedia Center, connecting TV, Video Recording etc. A good idea, perhaps. But maybe, just maybe a bit too ahead of its time.

Windows Vista – the minor(?) flop

With Vista Microsoft tried to do something different. And different they did. Big time. To bad it didn’t win people over.

20 Million sold copies the first month – not bad. If only it had lived up to its expectations. Design-wise I loved it. Performance wise… disaster.  It was not because Microsoft didn’t try to do something new. Problem was the lack of drivers and hardware support for the new features. Features that intended to enhance user experience, improve safety and performance, made Vista sluggish at best.  Aero Glass, and Desktop Widgets made Vista look pretty, but few (if any) saw Vista as more than a new GUI (Graphical User Interface) for Windows XP.

UAC: Protecting users against themselves

The UAC ( User Account Control ) was created to prevent unauthorized changes or installation of software without your knowledge or consent. Problem was that instead of providing people with more security, it provided people with tons of annoying pop-ups demanding confirmation for every single task that could to some degree represent some “danger” – essentially every running Windows Process.  Instead, it became the “User ANNOYANCE Control“, resulting in people disabling the feature all together. A quick search on Google, shows about 7,9 million hits on how to do it. Others clicked “YES” no matter what the UAC asked them – thus actually decreasing the security it was supposed to bring. Things like improved Firewall, built-in DVD burning feature and SuperFetch (collecting data about programs you usually run, making them boot faster) – drowned in the User Annoyance Control pop-ups.

The result: People actually reverted back to XP. Well, those of us that could anyway: Serious gamers who had grown dependent on DirectX 10 had to keep using Vista as XP did not support it.

 

Back to Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 (coming)



About Thomas

Computer geek from the age of 7, which amounts to 30 years of computer experience. From the early days (when every computer company had their own OS) of DOS, Windows 1.0 through Seven...

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Comments

8 thoughts on “Windows – 8 steps to get it right ? [Part 2]”

  1. Sadden says:

    interesting history. I have used MS from 3.1 to XP, ignored Vista deliberately to wait until it ‘settled down’ -which was futile- and remained with XP until forced into Windows 7 by computer failure. Have looked at W8, but it does not yet impress me enough to buy it

  2. vandrei says:

    I have started to use a PC with DOS/3.11, after 2 months, my older brother installed the 95. I’ve started to use internet with Windows 98 with a Lucent V.90 softmodem. The Windows XP until today i think is this change of the way Microsoft look for the users, and now with Windows 8, without Start button, is trying to change again the visual and usability to users. Of course the most os users think the system weird, from one week with the RC i think too. But i can use the same way as older versions.

    Microsoft is still creating, testing new ways. New GUI. This is a thing that Apple don`t change. After each OS X launched, they just upgrade like Win 95 to 98.

  3. Bob Custer says:

    Wow! Dinosaurs! Me TOO. With history, when I bought my first PC, it was a Commodore 64! I thought I was cool ’cause my father-in-law only had a VIC-20. I followed suit and went through all the iterations others faced; MS-DOS, Win3, 3.1, 94, 98, ME, Vista, etc.. The weird thing I think kept me in the developer’s end of things – and still don’t believe this – my Dad. Total dinosaur went it came to computers, actually built his own application to run his inventory and distribution system for his business! He used Crystal Reports and a database he developed. ‘Til this day I still can’t how he did that.
    O.K. So weigh-in on Win 8. You’ll excuse my paranoia but, like all things INTERNET, this is all about adapting end-users to give up their personas. To seamlessly interface with every device or app that the market [you and me] uses to get to the end-user. Its probably an old story just I just recently started to think about don’t you know, but I’ve been using Firefox for 10 years, and ADBLOCK+ hides all the crap most people see. I bring this up, because I was re-configuring a friends comp, and saw the “Persona” on the desktop of their box. Unreal. They’re PERMANENTLY logged-in to over 20 sites. Who does that? WTF? For me, the internet is 4 paying my bills and ordering ‘home’ goods. Plugging in GPS’in’ out is an opportunity for invasion of your privacy to the xx degree. And go started me started on GOOGLE!!!
    Luv u guys!
    Bob

  4. Great article, but what a shame – where’s WIndows NT?????????????????

    1. Thomas says:

      Windows NT is the basis platforms for several Windows versions dating back to Windows 3 (Tho it was first named NT/OS 2 before MS broke off their relations with IBM).

      What you refer to as Windows NT would be Version 4 which was was designed for use as the general business desktop operating system, using Windows 95 GUI. And can be said to be the prequel to Windows 2000.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_NT_4.0

  5. Dead on so far. Windows 7 is better than all the previous versions, but I feel that Windows 8 will be the next Windows Vista. There seems to be a pattern developing here…

  6. Gifford says:

    I am intrigued with a recalling of the history you’ve presented but if you’re still working on “Part 3”, please have someone who’s more familiar with the rules of grammar proof it first…then have them go back and fix the version so far…that could be a full-time job for someone. My joy of reading this was all-too-frequently shattered with these gross and inexcusable errors…MS Word would have caught many of them, try it!

    1. Thomas says:

      I admit, I didn’t take my time proofing. I’ll do better next time :-)

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