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Windows at 20: 20 things you didn't know about Windows 1.0

windows 1Believe it or not, it's exactly 20 years since Microsoft released Windows 1.0. And, although the company is being fairly low-key in its celebrations of the event (except in Japan), I think it's worth commemorating. To celebrate the 20th, here are 20 facts about Windows 1.0:
  • Bill Gates wanted to call Windows 1.0 "Interface Manager." Marketing exec Rowland Hanson persuaded him that Windows was a better name.
  • Microsoft began work on Interface Manager in 1981, though at that point, it lacked a GUI and many of the other features that would later come to be associated with Windows.
  • Early prototypes of Interface Manager used menus at the bottom of the screen, which was consistent with the UI of Word for DOS and some other popular DOS programs.
  • Microsoft sent out a press kit featuring a squeegee and washcloth to announce the launch of Windows 1.0. The press kit was sent out in November 1983, a full two years before the program was eventually released.

  • In 1983, Microsoft pitched Windows as a potential GUI for Atari's ST computer. Atari, however, didn't want to wait for the program, and settled on Digital Research's GEM instead.
  • Despite claims that Windows was Microsoft's attempt to copy the Mac (or Lisa) OS, the real inspiration, according to some histories, was the VisiOn desktop environment, which was released in 1982. Bill Gates was reportedly so impressed by a demo of the system that he saw at Comdex that year, that he sat through it three times, and flew in other MS execs to check it out.
  • The system requirements for Windows 1.0 were 256KB of RAM, DOS 2.0 and two floppy drives.
  • After taking a look at a very early pre-release version of Windows in 1983, Byte Magazine declared it a system that would "offer remarkable openness, reconfigurability, and transportability as well as modest hardware requirements and pricing."
  • Windows 1.0 used a primitive file manager called MS-DOS Executive. A later version of this program, which is largely unchanged from the original, is available for download, and still runs under Windows XP.
  • Windows 1.0 included multitasking capabilities, but did not allow windows to overlap. 
  • Microsoft bundled a calculator, clock, calendar, notepad and a handful of other small apps (including the games Reversi a puzzle) with Windows 1.0.
  • Despite the limitations of the bundled apps, early ads for Windows boasted that the system included "an extremely useful set of applications."
  • In addition to failing to get other companies to create apps for Windows 1.0, Microsoft was slow to port its own programs to Windows. Excel and Word were available for the Mac in 1985, but didn't bow on Windows until, respectively, 1987 and 1989. So few customers had purchased Windows that Microsoft had to include a runtime version of the GUI environment with the programs so that they could be used.
  • Among the applications featured in early ads was a terminal session used to retrieve stock quotes. The stocks listed on the screen were IBM, Compaq and Apple. Microsoft wasn't included for the simple reason that it was a private company at the time; it didn't go public until 1986.
  • In 1984, PC World said that Windows "provides a simple, powerful, and inexpensive user interface that works with most popular programs. That alone is enough to guarantee consumer support to make it the de facto standard of the personal computer market." The magazine was right, of course, though its prediction took several years to come true.
  • Shortly after its release, PC Magazine gushed of Windows 1.0: "If you’ve ever complained about DOS and envied those more skillful at reaping its inherent productivity bonuses, Windows is just what you need. It makes dealing with DOS a snap and opens up all sorts of new possibilities. Once you try it, unless you’re already a DOS master, you’ll wonder how you ever got along in DOS without it."
  • Windows 1.0 was out for only about two weeks before Microsoft released version 1.01, in order to fix several bugs. This was the beginning of a long tradition of dot releases, service packs and other incremental fixes that continues to this day.
  • An early PR photo for Windows 1.0 shows Bill Gates sprawled on a desk leaning on a computer monitor. Behind him are several other computers, including an IBM PC —and a Mac.
  • From the beginning, Windows could display color, if hooked up to a color monitor with an appropriate graphics adapter, while Macs available at the time were strictly black and white affairs. This led PC Magazine to declare that "after an hour In-a-vision (the first of the native applications to be offered for Windows), even the most devoted Macintosh user will be a convert."
  • The retail price for Windows 1.0 was $100. Adjusted for inflation, that's equivalent to $177 in today's dollars — roughly the same price you'd pay today for a full retail edition of Windows XP Home.
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Tags: commercial, osupdates

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