On this day in 1983, Microsoft’s Bill Gates first unveiled the Windows operating system for PCs. It wasn’t actually until 1985, however, until the first version was officially released to manufacturing—that’s 29 years ago. The screenshot above is what the graphical interface of Windows 1.01 looked like. Colorful, flat, lots of white space. It kind of sounds like how you’d describe some popular mobile interfaces today.
When it was presented at a swanky New York event, the first version of Windows required two floppy disk drives and 192KB of RAM. That sounds downright ancient compared to the specs we see in phones and tablets. Windows 1.0 offered dropdown menus, tiled windows, mouse support, device-independent graphics, and the ability to run multiple applications at the same time. That’s essentially the same approach of today’s desktop and mobile operating systems.
Gates actually promised the very first version of Windows would be out by early 1984, but setbacks delayed the launch until more than a year later. By this time Apple had already released Lisa, with other competition coming from VisiOn and IBM’s TopView, the latter of which was announced in 1984.
Once Windows 1.0 was made available, it was met with mixed reviews, with one New York Times article in particular bashing the sluggish performance of Windows on a system with 512KB of RAM. The reviewer at the time compared Windows’s performance to “pouring molasses in the Arctic.” Today you can upgrade to 32GB of RAM and higher in desktop computers, showing the extreme progress of technology over the years
I didn’t personally experience Windows until Windows 98, which is one of Microsoft’s most famous releases, and eventually our home machine was upgraded to Windows XP. The software has come a long way since it was first introduced more than 30 years ago. Microsoft is now coming on version 10 of its famous OS, which is looking to right all the wrongs of Windows 8. We actually got our hands on a Technical Preview a few weeks back, and so far things are looking pretty good.
For a more detailed account of Windows 1.0, you can find information here, and behold an exuberant Steve Ballmer in the video below as he tries to sell Windows 1.0 to an unsuspecting public. If you’re a real sadist, you can check out a Windows 1.0 demo here.