Windows “version 8” is upon us. Bringing changes to the old, the safe, the familiar. Some say the changes are for the best. Others dread them, swear to keep the Seven (or XP) for a long time to come. Some even say they will never abandon XP as long as there’s hardware to support it. That is how changing things affect us.
However, things that seem new and daunting will undoubtedly after a period 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 something you can live without ?
Some 20 years ago when Windows had reached the age of 3, people had not yet gotten used to the expressions “Double-click” or “Right-click”, “Drag and Drop”, “Minimize”, “Maximize”. Common users also were quite skeptical to this new fancy gadget called a “Mouse”. Very few people could imagine using this “contraption” for work and even fewer seeing it as a time-saving device. Can you imagine life without it today? Maybe you have to – the introduction of smart-phones, tablets and the upcoming Windows 8 – might force you to re-imagine life – without it… back to square one as it were.
Windows – PRE-history
In 1976, two friends (which set out to revolutionize the computer industry) had already introduced their new invention; the APPLE-1. Back then if you wanted to get a Personal Computer you would have to buy all the parts and assemble it on your own. The two Steve’s (Wozniak and Jobs) – changed that and sold their Apple Computer with fully assembled circuit boards (with over 60 integrated circuits). You would still need to assemble the box, power supply, power switch, keyboard, and monitor, but it saved the user a whole lot of work and frustration.
About two years later, two highly enthusiastic friends, Bill and Paul (Gates and Allen) founded Micro-Soft (today known as Microsoft). In 1980 they signed a contract with IBM to deliver the operating system for their line of Personal Computers. Microsoft bought the distribution rights to an OS named 86-DOS. Added a few features (like the FAT-filesystem) and renamed it MS-DOS. At the time there were many different OS’s on the market, most of which were very similar to the other. My first encounter with the PC ran an OS called TOS (Tandberg Operating System) which only a few today would remember.
IBM named it PC-DOS and it quickly became a popular and widespread system. Luckily for Gates & Co; IBM forgot to deny them the rights to co-develop MS-DOS which they licensed to competing PC vendors. Microsoft had begun their rise. When IBM in 1985 wanted Microsoft to help develop a new operating system, the OS/2 (workname NT / OS 2) Microsoft agreed. While back in their “lab” secretly developing their new battleship, that would grow to conquer the world.
Windows 1.0: changing computers for ever…
Windows 1 was merely a GUI for MS-DOS, adding a graphical interface. Navigation still depended on keyboard input, though it also offered some support for that weird “Mouse-Toy”. Computerworld Magazine, commented back in 1983 that “There is no way, that corporate users will find this contraption more comfortable than the keyboard. […] it feels more like a gimmick“. Windows 1, was not the first of its kind but it introduced several improvements, among others were multi-tasking. The ability to run several programs at once, was considered a true achievement back then. All that was missing was programs that you could use in Windows.
The inspiration for Windows, is said to have come from Apples “Lisa”, introduced in 1983. But Apple was not the first one. In the early 70’ies, Xerox had introduced a GUI through their subsidiary Xerox PARC. One of the co-developers from Xerox (Scott McGregor) was later employed by Gates and Allen. Xerox did never get much success with their own creations, but several ideas survived and you are definitively taking them for granted today, such as: Laser printers, Workstations, Ethernet, Postscript, WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) and the modern GUI which was later adopted by Apple, Unix and Microsoft to mention but a few.
High on their success, Microsoft quickly introduced several tools for their new OS. Programs like MS Works, and OFFICE, MS SQL Server was just a few of the programs which have survived until this day.
I remember back in 1987 when I was first introduced to Windows. This was version 2.0; released on (what felt like) a ton of floppy discs. It took forever to install, and several attempts of re-installation to get it working. There was no Plug-and-play back then. Getting the right graphics driver was a matter of Try and Fail. Windows 2 offered several new improvements such as overlapping windows, Minimize and Maximize. Again – things you would take for granted today. To me – back then, Windows was just another cool thing to have.
It wasn’t until 1990 that we would see a useful OS; when Microsoft released version 3.0 containing programs such as Notepad, Paintbrush and Solitaire! Windows was no longer mainly keyboard controlled, and even the most stubborn user had to embrace “the toy”, the Mouse. Other “new inventions” was Double-Click and Right-Click. You may laugh, but back then that was no joke. The OS took a whopping 10 to 15 MB of hard-drive storage – which on a 40MB drive was quite a lot – imagine how it felt moving it over to an 80MB drive. I had all the space I would ever need… yeah, right! Windows 3 was also the first OS to ship on CD-ROM, making installation and handling a lot easier.
Colors – lots of them
The first PC my father ever brought home, had a whopping 4 colors! Cyan, Magenta, Black, and White. Come to think of it that’s only 3 colors, never mind. Before that, computers entering our home was monochromatic either white, yellow(!) or green. At the time of version 3, most OS’s supported 16 colors – so imagine how good everything looked in 256 ! Today we’re not even satisfied with the normal 16,7 Million Colors at our disposal (256 x 256 x 256).
Memory and multimedia
With Version 3, Microsoft also introduced Virtual Memory and by the time they released version 3.1 Windows also had native support for multimedia such as a Sound-Card and a CD-ROM. I still remember how excited I felt when I was able to play music on my computer. And not just those annoying MIDI sounds, beep, beeeeep, be-beep.
“Let the courts decide”
Did you think that Apple; suing its former and existing partners as well as competitors for copyright infringement is something of this century? Well you’re wrong, dead wrong. In 1989 Apple sued Microsoft for copying their OS “Lisa”. Apple claimed that Microsoft had stolen features such as overlapping and drag-able windows. After 4 years – Apple lost. The ruling said that “Apple could not expect to patent a wide concept such as a GUI”. A different outcome than the patents claim for their Slide-To-Open “technology” on iPhone – but that’s a totally different story. Microsoft could keep their windows features and by 1993 Windows had become the largest, most selling OS in the world.