Microsoft Windows 95 was released 15 years ago today

Microsoft Windows 95 startup screen

Microsoft released Windows 95 on Aug 24, 1995, 15 years ago today.  It was developed internally as Windows 4 or under the codename Chicago.  The whole operating system was designed to be a “ground up” improvement of Windows 3.1 including vast enhancements to the GUI, or “user interface”. It was with this release of Windows that Microsoft became the computing powerhouse it became in the late 90s/early 2000s. It was also this success with Windows 95 and early versions of Internet Explorer that would lay the ground work for all of Microsoft’s problems with the Justice Department about being a monopoly.

Windows 95 welcome screen

Like I said, Windows 95 was the birth of Windows as we now know it today.  The taskbar and Start button began here as well as “plug and play” compatibility, 32 bit processing and the Windows Explorer file management application.  All of these innovations were included and remain in current versions of Windows mostly unchanged to this day.  Internet Explorer 1.0 was available for the release of Windows 95, but not with the default installation, which didn’t even install TCP/IP.  You had to buy the Microsoft Plus! pack to get the brand new Microsoft browser as well as other features like themes and disc compression.  Microsoft Plus! was mostly used in factory installs, so not many people used IE at first.  Internet Explorer would become part of the Win95 installation with IE v2.0 several months later.

Windows 95 desktop

Above is a picture of the basic Win95 desktop. Like I said, this still looks like many computer desktops today.  You can see many basic Windows programs like Wordpad, Calculater, MS Paint and Windows Explorer that even today exist on current versions of Windows.

Windows 95 was launched with Apple-like fanfare including people waiting in lines to buy a copy at midnight and a full on television ad campaign including a commercial featuring the Rolling Stones song Start Me Up.

To help users with the brand new interface, Microsoft created a 30 minute promotional video starring Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry.

All of Microsoft’s ancillary programs were updated with the new 32 bit architecture and user interface enhancements and bundled into Microsoft Office 95, also released on Aug 24, 1995.

MS Office 95

The standard lineup of MS Office 95 was Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Schedule.  Microsoft Schedule was the precursor to Microsoft Outlook (which was released in 1997).  The Professional version of MS Office also included MS Access.  If you bought MS Office 95 Professional on CD-ROM (as opposed to like 10 3″ discs) you were also given MS Bookshelf which was Microsoft’s version of a digital encyclopedia (it was a cheaper version of Microsoft Encarta).

It was this release of Microsoft Windows that pretty much cemented Microsoft as the operating system for the masses. So regardless of what you personally think of Microsoft, there’s no denying that it is an essential part of our computing history.

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5 Responses to “Microsoft Windows 95 was released 15 years ago today”

  1. Crazy to think this was 15 years ago. I remember my college roommate waiting in line at the college bookstore to pick this up. Growing up with a Mac in the house, I was rather unimpressed because it seemed very reminiscent to me. However, I do recall thinking the “Buddy Holly” Weezer music video was really cool.

    Odd that as we move into reflections of more recent landmarks (say 15 years ago rather than 25 or 30), my sense of nostalgia fades and becomes nausea. Perhaps there should be a combination of those terms–nauseastalgia.

  2. Wow, I remember being kind of excited about this, as my high school computer applications class used 3.1 or something. I was happy when I eventually wound up with my own home computer, complete with Windows 95 already installed (and with IE, too).

  3. The internet sure has come a long way since huh?

  4. Interesting post! I never saw that Jennifer Anniston/Matthew Perry video before.

  5. Former Student (still learning) Says:

    I believe that Microsoft Windows 95 was an amazing era where software developers believed in education. It would have been impossible to be Microsoft today if games like 50 cent first person shooters were the leading software titles.

    Educate students things other than pulling a trigger and become the worlds richest man.

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