Windows 1.0

Aug 31, 2009

The first version of Microsoft Windows, 1.0, was considered brute, slow and down right ugly. This stumbled start was worsened by a threat made by Apple Computers to call to Court Microsoft for an alleged infringement of copyrights. In September 1985, Apple lawyers made an official warning to Bill Gates that Windows 1.0 infringed on Apple copyrights and patents, and that Microsoft stoled Apple's trade secrets. This was based on the fact that Windows had similar drop-down menus, tiled windows and mouse support.

As a response, Bill Gates and his head counsel Bill Neukom, made an offer to license features of Apple's operating system. Apple agreed and a contract was drawn up. The catch was that Microsoft wrote the licensing agreement in a way that included the use of Apple features in Microsoft Windows version 1.0, as well as all future versions of Microsoft software programs. As it later turned out, this clever move was as fortuitous as the one to buy QDOS from Seattle Computer Products and to convince IBM to let Microsoft keep the licensing rights to MS-DOS.

The first versions of Windows were thought to be just plain user interfaces, since they just ran on top of MS-DOS and used it for file system services. But even version 1.0 of Windows involved many typical system functions, such as a personal executable file format and it's own device drivers for applications, like timer, graphics, printer, mouse, keyboard and sound. Apart from MS-DOS basic features, Windows enabled users to perform multiple graphical applications simultaneously, through cooperative multitasking.

More over, Windows implied an elaborate, segment-based, software virtual memory scheme, which allowed it to perform applications larger than the available memory, this meant that code segments and resources were swapped in and thrown away when the processor ran out of memory, and data segments moved in the memory when a given application had ended control over the processor, typically waiting for user input. Such features were familiar to the group of 16-bit Windows versions, like Windows 1.0 (1985), Windows 2.0 (1987) and its close resemblance, Windows 286. The 16-bit quality refers to, in computer architecture, to 16-bit integers (full numbers, like 1,4, 56.. etc), memory addresses, or other data units that are at most 16 bits (2 octets) wide.

Windows 1.0 stayed on the market until January 1987, when a Windows-compatible program called Aldus PageMaker 1.0 was released. PageMaker was the first desktop publishing program for the PC. Later that year, Microsoft created and released a Windows compatible spreadsheet called Excel. Other popular and useful softwares like Microsoft Word and Corel Draw helped to promote Windows, but Microsoft realized that they still had a long way to go until Windows was going to be finished.

Next articles in this series:

1. The beginnings
2. First steps in operating systems
3. Windows 1.0
4. Windows 2.0
5. Windows 3.0
6. Windows 95
7. Windows 98
8. Windows Me
9. Windows 2000
10. Windows XP
11. Windows Vista
12. Windows 7
13. Windows 8