Ah, today is the 15th anniversary of Windows 95. With my roots in being an official IT geek, I actually have to relive that moment again. I was not the one standing in line all through the night. The reason was simple, I lived in the Netherlands back then and I did not wake up early for anything, no matter how much I wanted it. It was in the same time of my life I vowed never to run to catch the public transportation and never show any emotion in being really interested in something. Except in games actually.
My best friend and I were massively into games, which by 1995 were already well on the evolutionary ladder. And it was in the time we both had switched to PC’s. And Windows 95, well, it promised to be the OS for games and multimedia. True, the ‘Buddy Holly’ video from Weezer delivered on the CD-version of the OS was in a crappy stamp-sized window, including massively wonderful sound (I believe it was already 16-bit then).
Anyway, it was in Amsterdam that we decided to buy our copy of Windows, on the 24th, in a tiny little computer software store called ComputerCollectief; actually the one real place to go in the area for a huge amount of games and software.
Back then, I remember putting both our computers in my room and start the ‘easy installation’ that Bill had promised us. Well, it took eventually about 6 hours to get a first version running. Ah, and that compared to the easy 1-hour installation full-up-and-running Windows 7. But, we’ve got it working, and it worked nice. Keep in mind that this 6-hour installation was without any internet connections, activations or security software. Even without any games. This was also because when we bought both our copies of Windows 95, we thought to be smart and buy the MS Flight Simulator 5.1 with it too… that should run nicely on Win95. Well, that was a nice surprise; it did not. So, immediately we learned how to use the command-prompt and the DOS layer of Win95 and after our beautiful installation we were up and running in DOS again. Sigh.
Anyway, thinking back, no matter how you might think about Windows, win95 was a real breakthrough for a PC OS. Well, for any OS actually because although window-user interfaces were used much earlier since Xerox introduced them on their copy machines; Windows 95 started to use a minimal user interface, since then copied in Mac OSX, Linux and many *nix distributions. To be honest, I actually think that the only real new OS design since win95 has to be iOS.
While Windows 95 was nice for the users, programmers had an issue with programming through the layer of windows to reach the hardware. This was never an issue in DOS, because you could simply through binary code get to your hardware and make it work. But now Windows had taken over, and there was now an OS running on all this hardware. Windows took care of this by providing the programmers a single interface to talk to Windows, which then could redirect the commands to the right hardware. The problem was, this slowed things down, and hardware manufacturers were not able to create new functions and technical possibilities because they needed to be accessed by the Windows-shell first. So, soon after Windows 95 appeared, there was DirectX, giving programmers and programs the ability to talk to the hardware directly.
Actually, DirectX has done a lot for the growth of the multimedia world. Because DirectX, just like Windows 95 now set up standards in what should be possible for new hardware. And that still is the case. Buy a top-end video-card or sound-card, it will tell you exactly what DirectX it is ready for, or is compatible with. It actually makes it a bit easier to shop for hardware though, although a lot of people are not aware of this (yet?).
But, 15 years ago it was that Internet Explorer 1.0 was introduced too with Windows 95. In the good old days of hardly any viruses or malware coming in. That you could turn on your computer without spam filters and security updates.
And, let’s not forget, that also means that today is the 15th birthday of the Blue Screen of Death.