Happy Birthday Windows 95

Twenty years ago, Microsoft changed our world. On August 24, 1995, Windows 95 was released to the public, beginning a revolution that has helped shape the technology world for the next two decades.

Of course it was not the first version of Windows. Home computing had been around for more than a decade with 95 was launched, but none before had the same impact. As well as being a technological breakthrough, introducing features that still define Microsoft’s operating system today, Windows 95 was an unprecedented cultural phenomenon.

Bill Gates and Jay Leno at the Microsoft Windows 95 opening at Microsoft Place on Aug. 24, 1995.

For possibly the first time, a software launch became a massive global event. Enthusiasts queued around the block on Windows 95’s release day to pick up a copy, a sight now more commonly associated with the release of a new iPhone.

If Windows 95 was only about glitz we wouldn’t be remembering it so fondly today. It was also a pivotal moment, not only in the history of Microsoft, but in personal computing as well.

Introducing features such as the Start Menu, which became so popular that Microsoft was forced to reinstate it in the latest version of Windows after removing it in 2012. The taskbar also set the tone for how a computer in the internet age should work.

Microsoft’s software was a leap forward in graphic design, and worked with almost all the hardware on the market, as well as being released with perfect timing. Not only were home computers becoming rapidly more affordable, consumers were beginning to realize that there was more to PCs than spreadsheets.

Windows 95 was followed a week later by Internet Explorer, which became many people’s first web browser. Consumers also began to accept that computers could be used to find a wealth of information and communicate with long-lost friends, and for entertainment.

PC sales subsequently boomed.

Microsoft and their chief executive Bill Gates, was the face of this revolution. In 1998, it became the world’s biggest company.

Last month, just in time for Windows 95’s 20th birthday, Microsoft launched Windows 10, the first overhaul of the software in three years.

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