Windows 95

Aug 31, 2009

Windows 95 was released on the 24th of August, 1995, and it was so advertised that even consumers without a home computer bought copies of the program. Code-named Chicago, Windows 95 was thought to be very user-friendly, being a consumer-oriented graphical user interface-based operating system. In included an integrated TCP/IP stack, dial-up networking and long filename support. It was also the first version of Windows that did not require MS-DOS to be installed beforehand.

Featuring significant improvements over its predecessor, Windows 3.1, which were most visible in the GUI design, whose basic format and structure are still used in later version such as Vista, the Windows 95 was intended to integrate Microsoft's formerly separate MS-DOS and Windows products, but included instead an enhanced version of DOS, often referred to as MS-DOS 7.0. The developers also made changes regarding the underlying workings, including support for 255 character mixed case long filenames and preemptively multitasked protected mode 32 bit applications. Unlike its predecessors which used only optional "operating environments", which required MS-DOS as an operating system that was only available separately. Windows 95 was a consolidated operating system, which meant a significant market change.

Speaking of markets, Windows 95 was an unqualified success, and in no more than a year since its release it became the most successful operating system ever produced. It also had the effect of driving other major players in the DOS-compatible operating system out of business, something which would later be used in court against Microsoft.
Windows 95 originally shipped without Internet Explorer, because at its release date only IE 1.0 was available just as a part of the Plus! Add-on pack for Windows 95, which was a separate product that did not reach as many consumers as the OS itself. At the time Windows 95 was released, the web was being browsed mainly with a variety of early web browsers such as Netscape. Windows 95 OEM Service release 1 was the first release of Windows to include Internet Explorer, under the code name O'Hare, with the operating system, including version 2.0.

Windows 95 advertised the introduction of the Start button and taskbar to Microsoft's GUI, both of which have remained features of all subsequent versions of Windows. Windows 95 went out with a bang. Everyone knew about it. Microsoft even pulled out a commercial featuring the Rolling Stones song "Start me up" (a reference to the Start button). There was also a rumor that Microsoft paid Rolling Stones up to $14 million for the use of the song, but Microsoft officials stated that this was only a strategy build up by the Stones to increase their market value and that they only paid a fraction of the amount. Nonetheless, Microsoft also paid for a 30 minute promotional video, labeled a "cyber sitcom", featuring Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry to show off the features of Windows 95. The advertising campaign was worth $3 million dollars, and it featured tons of people waiting in line outside stores to get a copy. In UK, PC World, the largest computer chain, received a large number of oversized Windows 95 computer boxes, posters and sale material, and many branches opened at mid night to sell the first copies of the product but the customers were far fewer in number than otherwise suggested in the publicity. Also, in UK Microsoft paid for 1,5 million copies of The Times newspaper to be hand out for free on the day of the release. In New York City, the Empire State Building was lit to match the colors of the Windows logo.

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