15 Years Later: Remembering Windows 95

15 Years Later: Remembering Windows 95

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15 years ago today, Microsoft launched Windows 95. In 1995 I was 11 years old and in the 5th grade. At that time, I never thought that today I’d be working at Microsoft – let alone helping to tell the story of Windows. So this is a really fun and personal topic for me to recall my memories of Windows 95 – today has been a neat day.

Windows 95 was the first operating system that I ever beta tested. My dad, who worked for a technology company at the time, brought home an unbranded package of disks labeled “Chicago” from Microsoft (“Chicago” was the codename for Windows 95) a few months prior. When he brought these disks home, I desperately wanted to see “the new Windows”. My dad tried to explain to me what beta software was. I didn’t care – I wanted to see the new Windows! Eventually he caved in to my excitement and decided to install the “new” version of Windows on our family’s (translation: my dad’s) HP Vectra PC. Windows 95 introduced the Start Menu in Windows for the first time and presented a different way of using Windows over previous versions. I had grown used to Windows 3.11 at the time. I was literally stunned with excitement when I saw all the “new” Windows. My dad and I share a common interest in Windows and the PC and this was what I consider the biggest defining moment in a bond with my dad that would continue to grow as I also grew older and with each new Windows release. I also still remember seeing the Windows 95 “Start Me Up” commercials on TV and all the news segments about the people lining up to pick up their copy in stores!

Snap to (pun intended) Windows 7 today. Looking back at the launch of Windows 7 and actually being part of it myself, it is clear to me that much of the excitement seen back with Windows 95 is still alive today with Windows 7. I’ve said this numerous times before here: Windows 7 is the fastest selling version of Windows to date, and it’s also the fastest selling OS in history. And aside from people buying it, people seem to love it – our customer satisfaction is at an all-time high.

In combination with all the great PCs our OEM partners are coming out with, and of course the awesomeness that is Windows 7 – there has never been a better time to “be a PC”.

18 Comments
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  • Debbie
    3 Posts

    Great post! I, myself love Microsoft and Windows. They have come so far and just getting better all the time. I love my computer and really enjoy it. Good work Microsost!

  • As I was only about 1 years old, I don't really remember all the hype. But in recent years, I have been looking back at older Windows OS's and even installing them. I've been looking for Windows 95 for about a year, and at a local thrift shop, I found it. Oh Joy! I't was a TechEval Copy, with Windows 95 Upgrade and Office 95 Upgrade. Pretty cool. I installed it on a Virtual PC, and the memories of Windows 9x came flooding back. Miss ya 9x!

  • @Greg Edwards --

    You are not the oldest geezer to chime in on this blog. I was 37 when Windows 95 came out, so I had quite a lot of previous (frustrating) computer experience at the time.

    To All --

    I came from DOS 3 directly into Windows 95. The computer I got was second-hand, and it had been "customized" a lot, but the difference between the text-driven DOS and the icon-driven Windows was like night and day! I could finally get some real work done, without getting lost in a sea of menus and macros. And using the Mouse instead of arrow keys and keyed-in Commands was also a welcomed relief. I cannot see anyone doing better or more efficient work with any OS which requires even infrequent reversion to a Command Mode (like desktop Linux).  

    But what a long way we have all come from Windows 95 to Windows 7! The speed and smoothness of my new Toshiba Satellite with 64-bit Window 7 feels almost magical, and the Aero Glass effects, while not necessary, sure do make the whole user experience more pleasant and easier on my eyes. Even streaming videos, which were a severe challenge under Windows XP, are looking better and better.  (My core i5 processor and dedicated NVidia graphics help a lot with video, but the Windows 7 64-bit OS is in no small part also responsible for the improvements.)

    Yes, folks, there has never been a better time to be a PC!

  • JMan90
    17 Posts

    It's funny all these people only five when they first used Windows 95. You must have a bunch of 19-20 year olds reading your blogs. My family got a Dell XPS with Windows 95 on it sometime in 1997. I was around 7 (no pun intended) at the time, so I'm another 5-year old when Win 95 came out. I remember those Illegal Operations. Dang, I did that a lot!! I recently bought Command and Conquer Red Alert. I can only run it on that 95 pc. Quite nostalgic.

    On to Windows 7, Microsoft sure did screw us with Windows Vista, but you made up and more with Windows 7.

  • Wasiim
    2 Posts

    was around 5 when i first used Windows 95. even tho it wasnt the first OS i tried. the first one i started with was 3.1. that was a great difference in terms of everything..

  • Thank you for your continued support! You and your have provided many years of fruitful communications. As a Charter memember of MSN I have enjoyed many hours of testig and have felt a great reward for participating in the Beta offerings,

    Again Thank you,

    Alanadale

  • I was one of those people standing in line at midnight at CompUSA to get my copy and a great deal on RAM... ($195.95 for a 4MB stick!)  Needless to say I stayed up all night that night and installed the RAM and then Win95!  It revolutionized both the PC world and my life. I am now a Computer Science instructor at the Community College level, MCT, MCP, A+, Net+, etc.

    I have no doubt that MS has learned their lessons with such flops as Windows M.E. and Vista, hopefully we never see another bad OS from them!  I had a student come to me the other day, now this student is a "Linux fanboy", but  he was so excited as he announced "I love Windows 7!"...  Our school is a member of the MSDN Academic Alliance and he had just downloaded and installed his free student copy.  If that isnt a testimonial, I dont know what is, as linux users usually hate everything about MS.

    I agree with what others here have said, true Win95 wasnt revolutionary on the pre-emptive multitasking, or 32 bit OS side, but I loved plug and play. In the early days PNP didnt always work, so many of us referred to it as 'plug and pray".  However, for anyone who had been upgrading modems at the time... PNP was a godsend.  No more figuring out what IRQ's, DMA's, and COM's were available... just remove all the jumpers from the card and plug it in an available ISA slot and it worked!  <--- most of the time!  

    Thanks Microsoft for one helluva ride over the last 15 years!

  • My God, you people make me feel old. I was a 21-year-old college student when Windows 95 was released, but I definitely remember feeling like a kid on Christmas morning when I got my copy. I'd only been working with computers for about a year at that time, but I'd already decided that I wanted to pursue a career that involved technology. I had already become a pretty proficient DOS/Win 3.1 user, and I had closely followed the development of the revolutionary new version of Windows that was supposed to make our lives easier. On release day, I bought Win 95, Plus!, and Word on CD-ROM (I think that was the first legal copy of Word I ever owned). I even got that damned VHS tape with Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry.

    Running it for the first time, I was sold on the usability improvements that Windows 95 provided. It may not have been earth-shattering to those who were more familiar with other platforms, but I immediately knew that it was going to be a big deal to the average technology consumer. Being a student who wrote a lot of papers at the time, I was impressed with long filenames and document-centric file management. The Start menu made it much easier for me to organize and find my programs. I loved that (with a little help from Plus!) I could finally customize just about every aspect of the UI. And what's this thing called Internet Explorer? Hmmm, might have to give it a whirl at some point...

    So here I am 15 years and about a dozen versions of Windows older. I've sold computers, developed databases and applications, designed websites, taught others to use technology, and now I build e-learning. Most of it thanks to Windows. Thanks for sharing your memories, Brandon. I'm glad to know that folks at Microsoft are just as excited about Windows as I am. You keep on innovating, and we'll keep on consuming.

  • I think i don't know any thing about Microsoft or even What is a computer? when Windows 95 was born.  I'm very excited about Microsoft products. WOW..... Very happy BDay to Windows 95. Hats off to Microsoft for Windows Success..!

  • barts2108
    65 Posts

    @Tommyinoz

    Best comment ever !!  

    I just started working my first job, and I also remember the 640k barrier (who again told us that 640k would be enough for everyone - forever ??) .. Oh gosh how I miss the messages with the bold 0D and 0E fatal errors (*not*)

  • 7flavor
    352 Posts

    Ah Windows 95! I remember I was 12 and I got a new PC with OEM Service Release 1 (the .950a version). I had previously used Windows 3.1 and Windows for Workgroups 3.1 at my school's lab so I instantly fell in love with the huge usability leap Windows 95 offered over 3.1. The new shell (and Explorer) IMHO is the best component the Windows team has ever designed over the years (it got even better with IE4/98 and then with 2000 and XP). Windows 95 was a very very significant improvement over 3.1 (I wonder how MS packed in SO many new features - Plug and Play, preemptive multitasking, right clicking!!!, long filenames and most apps going 32-bit). Windows 95 introduced fundamentals which established the core concepts of Windows computing). I remember TCP/IP was not installed by default even in WIndows 95!!! Later, major improvements followed with FAT32, DirectX, UltraDMA and USB!). The Microsoft Home range of software was more exciting than ever at the time.

    Personally, I have not been very happy with the "improvements" the Windows team made to Windows Explorer and shell (see en.wikipedia.org/.../List_of_features_removed_in_Windows_Vista and en.wikipedia.org/.../List_of_features_removed_in_Windows_7) and I hope to see some classic shell features brought back in Windows 8 so it would appeal to both, users of classic UI and users of modern Aero UI.

  • I was born 15 days after Windows 95 and, who would've guessed, am into computers. Good post.

  • MrAlex
    18 Posts

    First PC was rocking Windows 95 - although it was in 1999 :P. Dell Dimensions XPS D300.

  • Tommyinoz
    46 Posts

    As an Amiga user in the 80's and early 90's, I remember thinking that it was about bloody time MS developed a 32bit preemptive multitasking system, 10 years after Commodore did it.  Windows 3.11/ PC  was complete and utter crap and I still have nightmares editing config.sys, autoexec.bat files trying to get TSR programs to load without breaking the 640kb barrier.  Windows 95 fixed most of the problems we had with DOS/Win3.11 and I therefore welcomed it as it made my job a lot easier.  But it has to be said, that Win95 was not a revolution, it was just a revolution in the Windows world.  I already had a 32bit preemptive multitasking GUI based system with multimedia capabilities in 1985. It was called the Amiga.  There was also OS/2 around at the time which was regarded as a better OS than Windows.  The Windows story is a bit like the VHS / Betamax story of how we all ended up with Windows today.

  • Rewire
    10 Posts

    This has got me thinking back to my experience with Windows 95.   I had used 3.1 often on other people's computers but the only computer we had in our house was a Mac that my mother had purchased from a friend.  I was 12 when Windows 95 launched and shortly after it was decided that I needed my own machine.  I got an Acer Aspire with a 90MHz pentium.  I was amazed at how much better it was and on that first day of using it, an unhealthy lust for technology and software was forged inside of me.  I remember bragging about how great it was compared to her "computer" and I also remember how glad I was to be free of that "EEEP" noise.  I fondly remember the "Weezer - Buddy Holly" video that came with the cd.  Good times have been had since those days and I'll be proud when 15 years from now I can look back at Windows 7 with the great memories I create daily.

  • JohnCz
    204 Posts

    Prior to Windows 95, I remember relying on products like Lantastic to setup small networks.  Windows 95 changed all of that and set the stage for multi-tier apps.  

    It will be interesting to see how Windows changes over the next few years to continue to win over consumers, span devices and enable new class of consumer/business applications that differentiate it from the rest.  If I had to wager, I would place my bets that Vision/Object Recognition will become important to Windows in 3 years time.  Not just facial recognition, gestures but have a greater understanding of the world around us.  I think something substantial like that will be needed to keep the me-to OSs at bay and set the stage for consumer robotics.  No matter what, the digital revolution continues to change the world.

  • I was 6 when 95 was released, but I still used it.  It was one of my favorite releases, with 98 being my second favorite and 7 being my favorite.  For such an iconic starting point in tech history, Win95 does seem to be forgotten a lot.  Glad to see that people still remember the great leap that 95 presented to  the public.

  • Albert
    94 Posts

    They sure seem like times that would have been very exciting to be a Microsoft enthusiast; too bad I was only 5 when Windows 95 launched :(