Evolution of Windows Os

Ravindu Senal Fernando
6 min readJul 15, 2020

Windows Operating System was launched in 1985 by Microsoft and since it has been the most user friendly operating system. It created a certain type of revolution in desktop computers allowing an average user access the PC without any complexities. The first Windows Os launched in 1985 was windows 1.0. Later many versions were released such as Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and latest version being windows 10.

Windows 1

Windows 1 was released in 1985. Microsoft’s first true attempt at a graphical user interface in 16-bit. It allowed users to visually navigate a virtual desktop, opening graphical “windows” displaying the contents of electronic folders and files with the click of a mouse button, rather than typing commands and directory paths at a text prompt. It was notable because the mouse was not a common input device.

Microsoft included a game called Reversi that relied on mouse control, to get users familiar with mouse. Windows 1.0 also included features familiar to us today including: Calculator, Paint, Notepad etc.

Windows 2

Windows 2 was released in in 1987. The main features introduced in windows 2 was that windows could overlap each other, and it also introduced the ability to minimise or maximise windows.

Introduced control panel, where various systems settings and configuration options were collected together in one place and desktop icons, which even exits in modern versions of windows.

It supported VGA graphics and for the first time keyboard shortcuts could be used.

Windows 3.0

The first windows that required a hard drive and installation required floppy disks. The main features introduced were file manager, Program manager and Print manager.

Improved graphics and performance, Introduced games like Solitaire, Hearts and Minesweeper with it.

The first version where developers outside Microsoft could create programs for the OS.

Windows 95

Introduced many features such as the desktop, the minimise, maximize and close buttons, the taskbar, start button and start menu. It also introduced the concept of “plug and play” –connect a peripheral and operating system finds the appropriate drivers for it makes it work.

Windows 95 also introduced a 32-bit environment, the task bar and focused on multitasking. Had built-in internet support, dial-up networking.

Internet Explorer was included in later versions of windows 95.

Windows 98

Windows 98 built on Windows 95 and brought with it Internet Explorer 4, Outlook Express, Windows Address Book, Microsoft Chat and NetShow Player, which was replaced by Windows Media Player 6.2 in Windows 98 Second Edition.

It introduced the Quick Launch bar for launching programs without going via the Start menu, the back and forward navigation buttons and the address bar in Windows Explorer and image thumbnails.

USB support was much improved in Windows 98 and led to its widespread adoption, including USB hubs and USB mice.

Windows ME

It was the consumer-aimed operating system twined with Windows 2000 which was aimed at enterprise market. It introduced some important concepts to consumers, including more automated system recovery tools.

Internet Explorer 5.5, Windows Media Player 7 and Windows Movie Maker all made their appearance for the first time. Autocomplete also appeared in Windows Explorer, but it was considered a low point in Windows series by many due to being buggy, failing to install properly and being generally poor. It was the last system to be based on Windows 95 code base.

Windows 2000

Windows 2000 was designed for business rather than consumer use, Windows 2000 used Microsoft’s NT technology. Supported a range of Plug and Play devices, wireless devices (such as infra-red), advanced networking and USB products.

Windows XP

Considered as one of the best Windows versions, it brought Microsoft’s enterprise line and consumer line of operating systems under one roof. It was based on Windows NT like windows 2000 and brought consumer friendly elements from Windows ME.

The green colour start button and blue colour task bar gave a visually appealing appearance. Had various shadow and other visual effects.

ClearType, which was designed to make text easier to read on LCD screens, was introduced, as were built-in CD burning, auto play from CDs and other media, plus various automated update and recovery tools. It was the first version of windows to include a device activation key in a bid to reduce piracy, as well as online security updates.

The biggest issue Windows XP had was the security, though it had a firewall built in, it was turned off by default.

Windows Vista

Windows Vista gave windows an updated look and feel sporting the ‘Aero’ user interface with glass effects and new borders, it featured a new Windows Search function and enhancements to Windows Media Player pitching the PC as an entertainment device.

Even though Microsoft claimed Vista is securer than XP users complained about the new User Account Control which burdened them with hundreds of requests for app permissions. It also ran slowly on older computers some features did not work properly.

Windows Media Player 11 and Internet Explorer 7 and Windows Defender, an anti-spyware programme came with Vista. It also included speech recognition, Windows DVD Maker and Photo Gallery. It was the first Windows to be distributed on DVD.

Windows 7

Windows 7 was introduced to fix all the problems and criticism faced by Vista. Had slight tweaks to its appearance and a concentration on user-friendly features. Large icons could be pinned to the redesigned taskbar even when not in use. In ‘Snap’ mode windows could be compared side-by-side.

It was faster, more stable and easier to use. Windows Touch added support for touchscreen devices. Introduced Handwriting recognition

Windows 8

Windows 8 was Microsoft’s most radical overhaul of Windows interface, ditching the Start button and Start menu in favour of a more touch-friendly Start screen. The new tiled interface saw programme icons and live tiles, which displayed at-a-glance information normally associated with “widgets”, replaced the list of programmes and icons.

Windows 8 was faster than previous versions of Windows and included support for new and faster USB 3.0 devices. The Windows Store, which offers universal Windows apps was introduced.

The radical overhaul was not welcomed by many. The majority of Windows’ user base was still using a desktop with a mouse and keyboard and had no need for touch features and didn’t like start screen. Microsoft released Windows 8.1, a free update which rectified many complaints, bringing back Start button and adding the ability to boot to desktop, along with resizable lice tiles and improved search.

Windows 10

Windows 10 brought back the start menu and more balance to the traditional desktop computer users. Included the ability to switch between a keyboard and a mouse mode and a tablet mode.

Introduced new brand new browser, called Microsoft Edge.

The core operation system of Windows 10 will work on mobile devices and desktop PC’s, supports universal apps and advanced voice control via Cortana.

Timeline of Evolution of Windows OS

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