Love it or hate it, but it’s hard to deny the impact that Microsoft’s Windows operating system has had on the PC market. After all, if it weren’t for Windows and its ability to copy Apple while simplifying the user interface to a simple move of the mouse and a click of the button, PCs might still be the domain of nerds who prefer typing their commands into a computer to get it to do what they want.
Perhaps no version of Windows has proved more iconic than that of Windows 95, which turned 25 this week. This may have not been the first version of Windows, but it was the iteration that has had by far the biggest impact in terms of the future of OS design. Largely thanks to its revolutionary at the time start button and easy to navigate menus, Windows 95 made it easy for just about anyone to find the application they were looking for and customise their experience appropriately.
It wasn’t just about that start button though, as Windows also revolutionised computing in many other ways. Firstly, it was a 32-bit operating system that was able to support long file names of up to 250 characters. Things that sound silly now, but at the time the this drastically improved the processing that a computer was able to handle while making it far easier to name documents. The OS even featured the first attempt at “Device Syncing” with its My Briefcase feature that allowed a person to transfer files between their laptop or desktop machine
Another big feature introduced with Windows 95 is that of Plug and Play. The idea was that you simply needed to insert a printer or mouse into a computer, and it would be able to start working. Yes, it wasn’t very reliable in the early days and most often you ended up needing to spend a tireless number of hours trying to get hold of a disk with the necessary drivers because the internet hadn’t quite developed into the useful hub for these sort of things yet. A time when PC skills actually meant something.
Windows 95 also gave Windows – and many users – a much bigger focus on the internet than ever before with the launch of MSN (Microsoft Network). People had greater access to the internet, email, chat rooms and would eventually form the foundation for the browser that was Internet Explorer. Yes, we may laugh at it all now, but it was revolutionary for its time.
Microsoft may have lost ground to Google in the mobile phone space and is no longer the most widely used operating system in the world (that honour belongs to Android), but it rewrote the rulebook on how people used their computers, allowing more people to use computers than ever before.
Last Updated: August 27, 2020