A trip down memory lane: 30 years since Windows was announced

On November 10, 1983, it all started… not with a big bang, but a whisper that defined the industry in the years to come.

Yes, thirty years ago, Bill Gates announced ‘Interface Manager’ at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. The next-generation operating system would provide a graphical user interface (GUI) and a multitasking environment for IBM computers. Windows might have been released under the original name of Interface Manager if marketing whiz, Rowland Hanson had not convinced Bill Gates that Windows was the far better name!

Microsoft - November 10, 1983

The press kit for the November 10, 1983 event

DOS operating system garnered positive response in the industry, Bill Gates knew that a GUI for IBM computers would be very successful. Apple's Lisa computer came with a stunning graphical user interface, which was followed by Macintosh later. Microsoft promised that the new product would be on the shelf by April 1984, but the delay had skeptics calling it 'vaporware'.

Windows 1.0 was finally shipped on November 20, 1985, two years after the initial announcement. It came with drop-down menus, scroll bars, icons, and dialog boxes. You could switch among several programs without having to quit and restart each one. Windows 1.0 shipped with several programs, including MS‑DOS file management, Paint, Windows Writer, Notepad, Calculator, and a calendar, card file, and clock. There was even a game—Reversi!

Windows 1.0

Here’s an actual Windows 1.0 commercial featuring their newly acquired sales guy, Steve Ballmer. Like Windows, he too went a long way.

I wonder if the name ‘Interface Manager’ would’ve stuck. Microsoft is often ridiculed for their heavy, enterprise-like branding (they’ve corrected that in recent times with Xbox, Zune, Bing, Surface, et al), but an Interface Manager PC would’ve been a different level. I’m sure you would be required to wear a business suit to login! And what if that would've spread across the product lines... Interface Manager Phone, maybe?

The first Windows version that I used was Windows 3.1, and this post is typed on a Surface with Windows 8.1. When was your first tryst with Windows?

134 Comments
  • I am old!
    My computer use began with Windows 3.1, though. On my first use, I had someone tell me to type WIN for Windows, and I did and then kept on waiting for something to happen. After a few minutes he said, "did you hit the ENTER key after typing that command?". And I was like, what's an enter key?
  • Yeah, I started with a Commodore 64, and moved onto an Amiga... but I used to install MS-DOS for other people when I was 11 or 12, being the "Computer Wiz". Later on I was installing Win3.1 and "Win3.11 for Workgroups". The first IBM-Compatible PC (as it was called then) I actually owned was a Windows 95 box. I don't remember having problems with the Enter key haha! :) But we already had computer classes, even in the mid-80's... I think they were with a BBC Micro, and before that we'd messed around with one of those weird Logo Turtle robots.
  • I went from not knowing what an Enter key was to Programing in Pascal, C and Basic within a year (1994). But, after making a huge financial and company/carrier loss due to political reasons in 2000, I quit everything and pursued what my actual qualification was... Mechanical Engineering. Everything changed since then.
  • Microsoft has been around 30 years.  Ups and Downs, they are still standing high. Apple has been bankrupt, almost gone.  If it wasn't for Microsoft, they'd be extinct - kind of wish they didn't bail them out. Apple's been #1 since 2007, and that's only 6 years, and people think Steve Jobs is Jesus Christ. Microsoft has been #1 for 30 years, and we are coming back faster than ever to take away Apple's market share.   Apple won't know what will hit them.  The age of iPad/iPhone is starting to show signs of decline.  Thank god the 6-7 dark years of technology is about to come to an end.
  • I'm usually the last person to defend Apple, but I definitely don't regret them surviving and thriving. I'll probably never own an iPhone or iPad but you'd have to be a real hater to say they represent '6-7 dark years of technology'. Do you really think MS would have brought the level of innovation to market that they have done recently if they hadn't been pushed?
  • Lets face it, if it wasn't for the iPhone, there wouldn't be windows phone or surface the way we see and use it today.
  • Competition's always good for innovation.
  • I used Windows 3.1 on my Packard Bell computer. 
  • I am still using Windows 2.0... Has somebody brought out a new version?
  • Played with the TRS-80 in the Radio Shack store. Then my aunt & uncle gave me a Commodore VIC-20. I was 13 yrs.old.
  • And we should expect that Windows to grow more as the years pass. Kudos to Bill and Steve. Dat voice of Steve. It's like he's still to reach puberty.
  • Windows 95! Now which version was that?
  • The one after 3.1.
  • There was a 3.11 :)
  • After 3.11
  • According to Windows 7's ad, it's technically Windows 4. Windows 1.0, Windows 2.0, Windows 3.1/3.11, Windows 4 (95,98,Me,2000). Windows 5 is XP. Windows 6 is Vista. But that's only what the ad says ;)
  • 2000 is a different core than 95/98/ME. 2000 was the precursor to XP. Was 2000 really given a 4.x designation?
  • No, Windows 2000 was Windows 5.0 and XP was 5.1.
  • Whassup, Justin? I skipped 1-2 and kept DOS.  Was still in college during the first couple of windows versions.  When I hit the working world almost everyone was still on DOS (I forget which version).  Then our management team and the fortunate few started converting.  Eventually it trickled down to us peons as win 3.10.  When I got my first home pc it was on win 3.11.  Supposedly the difference was more "networking" capability.  WTF do I need networking for?  LOL, I wanted to delete the extra programs to recover more disk space!  good times. PS back then I had more of a 'hate' relationship with MS than love.  I really was into lotus 123 and workperfect.  why in the world would I want to shift to excel and word?
  • Started too with Windows 95. Came all the way with 98, ME, 2000 to XP, Vista, 7 and now 8. And I'm just 15 years old :DD
  • How!? Did you used Windows 95 When you were inside tour mom!?
  • He could have used older computers. I still have some computers running Win98 for my older games.
  • Yea I had some old computers with W95 and W98 when I was like 5-6years old :D Then just kept going with ME and 2000, they were all old and none was new, my first new computer was and still is my Asus N53J, which started with W7 and is now W8 ;)
  • I started with NT at school but for home I had 3.1 as well. I have owned every copy of windows from 3.1 to 8.1. I remember the dreadful ME which was indeed a low point for Microsoft and also the return to Glory with XP. Thirty years of windows wow amazing being there to watch technology and software evolve.
  • Windows 3.1 was my first :) and currently on 7 (desktop) and 8.1 (notebook)
  • Interface Manager for Workgroups. Who's inspired?
  • My first PC was a gateway running windows 95 I am a 90's kid so I never got to learn anything but basic functions and games. I remember it like yesterday abes odyssey. :)
  • "A whisker" ?
  • Whisper?
  • Yeah, I think that's what they meant
  • Since I'm 16 my first experience was with the magnificent xp
  • 15 and a half, my first experience was with Windows 98 pretty much since I was born.
  • But then I discovered emulators you figure out the rest
  • Im 25 and i think my first experience was Windows 95....tear  :'( 
  • I'm 21.. I remember having an old dos computer for a while, don't remember which one, then used 3.1 briefly before upgrading to 95, then 98 for a while before skipping to XP, vista briefly, then 7, 8 and now 8.1!
    Love Microsoft!
  • Anyone who calls Microsoft a failure is failing to acknowledge history. Those who don't see the parallels of history repeating are delusional. The only variable this time is Google. How long will people accept the so-called gift of "free" before they realize how much free costs?
  • Who is calling ms a failure ?
  • Microsoft is doing the same thing as Google with Bing.
  • How so?
  • Bing does have ads, yes, but they aren't targetted ads (meaning your info isn't sold so as to make money from ad companies). While several years ago, I did think of Google as a clean, pristine company that truly embodied the "Do no evil" motto, in more recent years, that view is starting to change. Don't get me wrong, every single tech company out there is seeking personal gain and wealth, but Google is honestly ow starting to strike me as somewhat evil...
  • Yeah, I really feel that their parts have been switched.. Microsoft is my choice for entertainment and work/school.
  • Windows ME was my first Windows lol
  • Win95 when I was 7 in '97. Never had the pleasure of 3.1 :(
  • Me? Windows 2. Ah, it was rather rubbish though. Never really dumped dos until Windows 3.11 for workgroups.
  • If you haven't loaded your PC with DOS then Windows from floppies you haven't lived!
  • +1
  • Still have my original DOS 6 floppies in the original packaging
  • WELL DAMN!! STEVE BALLMER AINT EVER HAD HAIR! 
  • Wow. The old used car sales pitch. That was a little disturbing to watch. My first real computer was a Toshiba laptop, monochrome display, running windows 3.1 on top of dos 6. Back when WordPerfect was better than MS Word, and Quattro Pro was from a separate company.
  • Happy birthday windows
  • Windows 3.1. Those were different times back then....
  • My first try windows 95 oh yeah
  • 3.1 at school (but not really sure) then 95 at home with my dear 486 intel processor =) 
  • Windows 3.0.
  • Psssh I had a Commodore 64❕ Then had a Radio Shack Tandy with Windows 3.1
  • Wow, some of you kids are really young, I'm jealous... and old, like, pre-windows old... :/
  • Like writing batch files for dos old.
  • I still write batch files!
  • It's the exact same day i was born!!! :D..............give or take two years and 5ish months :|
  • DOS 3.0 with Windows 2.0 running on top... Yup, old.
  • When I started there was DOS and an app called PCTools. Which was awesome. 286/16 video card with I meg of ram and an MFM hard drive. All 30 meg of it in a big steel case. Let's not forget the VGA monitor. I'm talking specs right there.
  • Or maybe it was DOS 4.x... Memory isn't as good as it used to be...
  • I remember a time when an Intel Pentium II @ 500MHz computer with 64 Mb of RAM and few gigs of HDD was paired with Windows 98 and that used to sell at close to double the price of my today's HP core i5 @ 2.500MHz coupled with 4 gigs RAM and 500 Gb HDD :p
  • Man, my apple iiGS was 2.5mhz. I somehow think you meant 2,500 (comma not period) ;)
  • iPhone? Android? nahh.. all you need is Interface Manager Phone! *FLIP TABLE*
  • My first was Windows 95. Still remember when playing game using IE. That time was dial up internet connection. Oh LOL. That was freaking awesome !
  • oh man... that sound while the modem is dialing.. miss those squeeky little sound. Feels like I'm waiting for permission to enter Tron's world
  • Windows XP.
  • now im using win 8 and my first pc was running on on win7 sorry pretty late, bcos im a student
  • Windows XP was my first version:)
  • 3.1 on a home built 486DX2 50 with 4MB Ram and a 400MB HDD. Couldn't figure out why it wouldn't boot after me and my brother built it so we called my Uncle and he asked if we installed DOS.  We said doesn't it just come with that?  After that we purchased DOS 6.22 and Win 3.1 and were up and running with our first real PC.  Before that we were playing on a Tandy 1000. Oh the memories :)
  • My very first experience was with my parents' Windows 95 computer, when I was about 4 years old...I feel like I might as well still be that young compared to some of the folks around here. XD
  • Windows 2000 popped the cherry for me lol i was in school. My first computer ran xp tho. I has so much fun hacking and playing around with it.. It made me choose a career in computing. Now imma windows phone guy....thanks to zune.. Love ya microsoft
  • Windows 3.1 on a 486SX.
  • Windows 3.1, on a 386SX16, if I recall correctly. I had been using computers of various kinds before then, but they had all only used DOS. I didn't really see the point of Windows at first, who would want to use more than ONE program at a time anyway?
  • With Windows 8, it is so great to be able to snap Netflix to one side of the screen while typing up a document on the other side. Windows has come a long way.
  • actually, thats going backwards quite a bit. only having 2 programs split on a screen is lame.   the desktop with multiple floating windows is much better for most people.   ughh.
  • But it's only on larger displays that trying to use more than two desktop apps side-by-side is even usable. Otherwise, just too small to do anything with more than two. And Microsoft realized that and so now in 8.1, larger displays can show more than two apps at a time. I personally prefer multitasking in 8.1, it keeps it clear and to the point (no more having to keep dragging multiple windows to get the sizes just right, only have to drag one bar down the middle). It's easy and simple to do, and it looks clean also. What's not to love? I suppose you lose some sense of control, but I personally feel the trade off is worth it, because most of the work is done for you.
  • Windows 1.0 !! (and dos before that) lotus 123 with wysiwyg addin. First pc was an 8086 with a maths co-processor (made by Wang!) Boy did I think the 286 was fast after that. :-)
  • I first saw Win 3.0 but I used Amiga then. My first Win machine was Win98.
  • HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK THIS ADVANCED OPERATING ENVIRONMENT IS WORTH? WAIT JUST ONE MINUTE BEFORE YOU ANSWER, WATCH AS WINDOWS INNOVATES LOTUS 123 WITH MIAMI VICE.
    NOW YOU CAN TAKE THIS FERRARI AND PASTE IT RIGHT INTO WINDOWS WRITE. NOW HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK MICROSOFT WINDOWS IS WORTH?? DON'T ANSWER. WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE WINDOWS WRITE AND WINDOWS PAINT AND YOU'LL LISTEN TO WHAT ELSE YOU GOT AT NO EXTRA CHARGE. THE MS-DOS EXECUTIVE, AN APPOINTMENT CALENDAR, A CARDFILE, A NOTEPAD, A CLOCK, A CONTROL PANEL, A TERMINAL PRINTSBOARD RAM DRIVER, AND, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? REVERSI!   THAT'S RIGHT, ALL THESE FEATURES AND REVERSI ALL FOR JUST.......HOW MUCH DID YOU GUESS? 500? A 1000? EVEN MORE?! NO, IT'S JUST 99 DOLLARS!!!!! THAT'S RIGHT! IT'S 99 DOLLARS, IT'S AN INCREDIBLE VALUE BUT IT'S TRUE!!! IT'S WINDOWS FROM MICROSOFT!! ORDER TODAY!! P.O. BOX 286 DOS, EXCEPT IN NEBRASKA.....
  • Great work, haha.
  • Windows 3.1 is my first experience using Windows. Before that, I just use DOS on my first 386 CPU :)
     
  • I started on a Commodore VIC 20, I used it in a computer class in college. I used the old modem that you set your phone into. Very slow, it was used to submit to the mainframe on campus. Then I had to go to the campus to run it. Seems like an eternity since then.
  • I remember my first windows was 95...& my pc had 32mb ram and 4gb hard drive.. Hehe Today i have 4gb ram and 2tb hard drive :)
    And windows8
  • Boy does this make me feel old...I've been with Microsoft since DOS. So I can say I've used all incarnations of Windows since its release (ok, I've deliberately skipped Windows Me and Vista). Shouldn't I have some fidelity card to give me discounts?!
    This also explains why I have so little patience for bratty Micro-sheeps :P I guess my long history with Microsoft allows me to see pass fanboyism and be way more critical.
  • God, ME was horrible.
  • I would get that old blue screen of death once a week with ME. This on a machine from Dell that cost me $1,000!
  • People say Apple Mac was responsible for "democratisation" of the PC. I always wonder how could they be credited for that. if you look around, kids from little town schools in Africa/Asia, to most kids in the first world, get their first dose of Internet through a Windows PC. Windows has played a far greater role than other OSes in bringing the power of the Internet and general tech knowledge to the masses. Yet, it's always the object of ridicule and "uncool"
     
  • Windows 3.1 as well. My first computer was an apple 2gs though, which I did love.
  • Slow news much?
  • Ssshh we're reminiscing :P
  • My first Windows: version 2.11 running on top of MS-DOS 3.11 on HP Vectra PC (80268 CPU, 1Mb RAM, 40 Mb HDD).
    Typing this on Windows 8 Atom-based tablet.
    Windows forever!