History of Windows Operating System (Windows 1 – Windows 11)

Before we go into the history of Windows, here is a little introduction to how Microsoft was founded. The hero of this journey was Bill Gates and Paul Allen. One of the first things they learned at Lakeside School in Seattle was how to programme in BASIC. New Mexico-based Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) produced the first personal computer kit (the Altair 8800) in 1974.

To help MITS’ 8800, Gates and Allen approached MITS CEO Ed Roberts and offered to produce the first microcomputer version of BASIC (originally developed by John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz). While Gates was attending Harvard, Paul Allen was working for Honeywell in New Mexico. Allen joined MITS as director of the software after designing Altair BASIC for the Altair 8800, and Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to join him in Albuquerque.

The seeds of a new business were sown under the name ‘Micro-soft.’ Microsoft relocated to Bellevue, Washington, in 1979 and became an official corporation the following year. MS-DOS 1.0, Microsoft’s new operating system, was released in the same year as IBM’s personal computer. After moving to Redmond, Washington, in 1986, the firm became public. There are now 100 million shares held by Paul Allen, notwithstanding his resignation from the Microsoft board in 2000.

Understanding what an operating system is is critical before examining the history of all Windows operating systems. Software and applications do not work on their own, much like a trampoline needs a trampoline operator. A computer’s operating system (OS) is required to run even basic pieces of hardware, including a hard drive, printer, and DVD writer.

Early Era of Operating Systems

DOS (Disk Operating System) and its derivatives were the operating systems of choice in the early days of personal computers. To create an operating system for the IBM PC, IBM turned to a brand-new business, Microsoft Corporation. As a result of Bill Gates’s foresight, he kept the rights to produce a version of PC-DOS exclusively designed for Microsoft, which became known as MS-DOS.

In the form of C:> command prompts, the commands were textual and triggered with a carriage return or “Enter.” For a long time, Microsoft Windows was intended to operate on top of MS-DOS, more often known as DOS. Windows 95, 98, and ME all used MS-DOS 6.22 as their core operating system. After then, DOS was no longer required to operate Windows, but it was still accessible.

Microsoft’s ‘Windows Operating Environment,’ released on November 20th, 1985, allows users to utilise drop-down menus, dialogue boxes, scroll bars, and iconography to their advantage. The user may move about the screen by moving the mouse cursor and then clicking on icons to perform specified actions. This is a lot less time consuming than having to memorise dozens of MS-DOS instructions.

A notepad, calendar, calculator, paint application, a clock, and a card file are all included with Windows 1. Reversi is the only game included. The majority of DOS users were astonished by all of this, while some still prefer to utilise DOS commands to perform tasks.

Windows 1: Discontinuation of DOS Commands

A more user-friendly platform, free of DOS instructions, is sought by Microsoft. At its Palo Alto Research Lab, Xerox had created a WIMP user interface. Window-icons-mouse-pull-down-menu acronym (or p for the pointer.) As the basis for Windows, Microsoft borrows from the original design of Apple’s Macintosh computers. The X Window System and IBM OS/2 both make use of it.

Windows 2: It’s all about the 286 processor

On December 9, 1987, Microsoft released Windows 2.0 in response to Intel’s introduction of the faster 16-bit 286 CPU.

Windows 2.0’s better screen layout control made it quicker and more dependable than Windows 1. As a result of the use of desktop icons and keyboard shortcuts, tasks could be completed more quickly and several windows could be opened at once.

Despite Intel’s 1982 debut of the 286 (or 80286) CPU, it was never widely adopted due to a lack of compatible software. Windows 2.0’s MS-DOS capabilities were severely limited, and it was rapidly supplanted by Windows/386 upon the introduction of Intel’s 386 CPU, which supported several MS-DOS processes simultaneously. Many think the divide between IBM and Microsoft was caused by IBM’s decision to stick with the 286 processor for their OS/2 system.

Windows 3.0: Using the 386 Processor

With the introduction of the Intel 386 (80386) processor in May 1990, Windows 3.0 is substantially quicker than the 286 version. In 1992, Microsoft releases Windows 3.1, which brings new features including virtual memory, 16-bit colour support, and improved icon design. As a result of this release, Windows 3 is now directly competing with IBM’s OS/2 hardware.

File Manager, Print Manager, and Program Manager are just a few of the user-friendly additions that make Windows 3 a great choice for both personal and commercial usage. Hearts, Minesweeper, and Solitaire are all included in this famous suite of games. Computers are emulating the appearance and feel of today’s personal computers.

Windows 3.0, which comes with Microsoft’s SDK (Software Development Kit), allows software developers to focus more on building applications, resulting in the creation of several new programmes for both commercial and personal use. Only huge boxes containing floppy discs and printed instructions are available for this programme.

Development of hard drives and internet downloading are still in their infancy. Windows for Workgroups 3.11, on the other hand, provides domain and peer-to-peer network capability. For business users, the future version will include improved networking capabilities.

Windows NT: Networking and Corporate Use

Microsoft’s first real 32-bit operating system, NT, stands for ‘New Technology.’ Windows XP was supposed to be the successor to Windows 3, but it quickly became apparent that the majority of PCs on the market could not run it well enough for that purpose.

While the common consumer version of Windows stays at 16-bit, its use is restricted to business servers and networking. In 1993, it was published as a portable strategic business system following a series of beta tests in 1991.

As an OS/2 port, it was renamed NT after IBM’s breakup with the company. When Microsoft released Windows XP in 2001, it marked the beginning of a dramatic shift toward a single operating system for both consumers and businesses. The NT operating system is now the basis for all future generations of Windows.

Even in the most recent Windows NT editions, the File and Program Manager from Windows 3.0 remains. To use the new Windows Explorer, you must be running NT 4.0 or later (below.)

Windows 95: Internet connectivity and the elimination of DOS

Once DOS is no longer needed, Microsoft looks to find ways of focusing on the internet frenzy. Because of this, Windows 95 was released in 1995 as a stand-alone operating system that did not require the purchase of a DOS licence. Windows is now an operating system in and of itself, and no longer needs DOS to function. Despite this, MS-DOS is still accessible and maybe run on its own or with Windows.

The interface between software and hardware, a “kernel” takes programme demands and distributes them among the necessary hardware components, such as CPU, RAM, and I/O devices. (keyboards, mice, printers, display, etc.)

Since it has a built-in kernel, Windows 95 is more reliable and less likely to crash than previous versions of Windows since it cannot be changed with user data. There will be a DOS command prompt in all future versions of Windows that may be used independently of Windows (except Me which will still need Windows to run MS-DOS.)

Additionally, Windows 95 aims to meet the ever-increasing need for internet connectivity. Plug and Play capabilities make it easier to install software and hardware, and the network and mobile computing are both improved as a result. The minimise, maximise, and close buttons for each window appear along with the Start menu. In addition, Internet Explorer 3.0 is included in the package.

Windows 98: Dedicated to Personal and Small Business PCs

Windows 98 is the final version of Windows to be based on MS-DOS, which was released in June 1998. To better serve home users and small workplaces than Microsoft’s previous offerings, this new operating system was built from the ground up. People without access to a home computer may now surf the web, send emails, and engage in online gaming thanks to the proliferation of Internet cafés. “Works Better, Plays Better” is how Microsoft describes Windows 98.

The Quick Launch bar and DVD and USB compatibility have been added, as well as a host of other features. Also included is Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Another feature is ActivDesktop, which uses Microsoft’s ActivX control to allow users to access both local and Internet files and programmes via desktop icons or objects.

In 1999, Microsoft introduced a second version of Windows 98.

Windows 2000: Revamped NT Version

A minimal operating system for Pentium CPUs was released in February 2000: Windows 2000. Incorporating some of the advantages of Windows 98, such as Internet Explorer 4 and Outlook Express, into the NT operating system. In reality, starting with Windows XP, all future versions of Windows are built on NT.

Microsoft intends for Windows 2000 professional to be the commercial equivalent of all previous Windows versions, from 95 through NT. Is it the most dependable version to date, with better internet and mobile capabilities? A few years down the road, Microsoft Windows XP is expected to surpass Windows 2000 in terms of reliability.

Windows Me

Windows Me, which was released in September 2000 and focuses solely on video, music, and home networking, is aimed solely at consumers, whereas Windows 2000 was created for businesses. System Restore, System File Protection, and auto-update are just a few of the new security and health features in Me.

Many people find Windows Me to be unreliable, and it is quickly replaced by XP. All subsequent Windows versions will be built on the Windows NT/2000 paradigm, with Me being the final version to use the Windows 95 kernel.

Windows XP: Improved Stability, Speed and Usability

In October 2001, Microsoft released Windows XP, a new version of the operating system that was more stable and easier to use in 25 languages. The Start Menu, Control Panel, and Taskbar are very straightforward to use. Media Player 8.0 and Windows Movie Maker, along with Internet Explorer 6 and Windows Messenger, make XP an excellent choice for home entertainment.

With the reliability of Windows 2000 and the gaming power of Windows 98 and Me, XP is the best of both worlds. Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system has two editions: a Home Edition and a Professional Edition. The two versions are at odds, and a middle ground must be found between them. Windows XP makes no concessions. Improvements in security, performance and stability have been made to both versions. Me users have seen the most improvement.

Networking functionality, an encrypting file system, and file access control are all included in XP Professional. Although it includes a firewall, it is off by default, and many users aren’t even aware that this is a problem. Even though service pack updates have a substantial impact on security, many users are still vulnerable to hacker assaults and viruses before they can benefit from them.

For the first time, Windows XP lasted more than three years before being replaced by its successor. The release of Vista is scheduled for 2007, while the end of XP support is expected in 2014.

Windows Vista: Focus on Security

Increased security and dependability have become increasingly important as laptops become more widespread. Windows Vista was released in 2006. XP’s early security flaws may have a role. As a free download for XP, Windows Defender required the user to be proactive to utilise it. To prevent viruses from making changes to your computer, User Account Control has been implemented. Improved data security is provided by BitLocker Drive Encryption in Windows Vista Ultimate. Vista Ultimate is a mix of Vista Business and Vista Home Premium.

It comes with a new look for the taskbar, start button, and window borders, all of which are intended to emphasise the differences between Vista and prior versions of Windows. It takes less time to start up and consumes less battery power while in sleep mode. Windows Media Player has been improved to suit Vista’s media friendliness. Play and edit videos, watch movies and TV, see images and transmit them from a single spot.

Windows Vista is more secure, more user-friendly, better at integrating media, quicker, and more visually appealing than any prior version of the operating system in the Microsoft family. Even Microsoft users question how they might better this. That’s not the case!

Windows 7: focus on portable Laptops and touchscreens

Windows 7 debuted in 2009 as a laptop and touchscreen-friendly operating system. Allowing users to view folders and files, surf the web and flick through videos or images without the use of a mouse or touchpad, Windows Touch is launched. The boot, shutdown, and wake-up speeds are all noticeably faster than Vista’s, making it the clear winner here. Passwords or security keys can be used to connect to private networks or public wireless hotspots.

It’s the first time since multiple windows were made feasible that Windows 7 provides a change in how they’re handled. Open windows may be viewed and interacted with in three distinct ways thanks to Snap, Peek, and Shake. Some important new features have been added in this edition of Windows, even if it isn’t much different from Vista.

Windows 8: Improved touchscreens and Metro Apps

October 2012 marks the release of Windows 8 to the general audience. A dramatic break from earlier versions, it uses the Metro design language instead of the Windows NT operating system. In addition to allowing access to the regular desktop, Metro offers a tablet-compatible interface that also works with touchscreen devices. Windows 8 is compatible with both touchscreen and non-touchscreen PCs and monitors, including monitors, keyboards, and mice.

The bottom left corner of the screen may be clicked (or touched) to show the Start screen. Each app is represented as a tile on the screen. IE10, Windows Explorer, Defender, USB 3 compatibility, programmes for sports, news, and travel, and a Task Manager are all included in Windows 8.

Windows RT

If you want to run touchscreen programmes from the Windows Store on a device with long battery life, this is the version of Windows 8 you should choose. Some tablets and PCs can run RT, but not all of them.

Windows 8 Pro

Using BitLocker and Encrypting File System, VHD booting or Hyper-V will necessitate a Pro licence. You won’t need the Pro version if you don’t know what they are. However, if you want to watch DVDs right out of the box, you’ll need it. This is not allowed in the standard 8-bit version. For this, you will also need the Windows 8 Media Center Pack.

Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1, which was released in 2013, allows you to customise the Start screen on all of your devices and then sync those customizations across all of your devices. Its primary goal is to make Windows easier to use on a wide range of devices, whether they utilise touch input only or combine touch and mouse input. There are more applications available, and you can move between them more quickly.

Bing Smart Search, Bing Health & Fitness, and Bing Food & Drink are all included as part of Windows 8.1. To get back to the desktop from the start screen, there is a Start button.

Windows 10: Cortana and Evolution of OS

It was in 2015 that Microsoft released Windows 10, and some claim it is the finest version yet. The Windows Insider Program brought together a large number of users to create it. Customer input on early preview releases let Microsoft quickly respond to complaints and feedback from daily Windows customers.

Windows 10 isn’t meant to be a one-off release; instead, it will be updated and improved regularly rather than released in chunks as was the case in the past. A major shift in Microsoft’s operating system policies will benefit its consumers.

What new features and capabilities does Windows 10 bring? Cortana is a significant addition to the latest version of Windows 10. Cortana, Microsoft’s first digital personal assistant, is already well-known to Windows Phone users. Now it’s coming to PCs for the first time. As she interacts with each user, she gains knowledge about their tastes and habits so she can provide thoughtful and witty responses. To get the most out of Cortana, employ her frequently.

Project Spartan is a new web browser that lets you highlight and annotate online pages before sharing them on social media. Xbox One games may be streamed to PCs and tablets. These are all new Microsoft features.

It’s good to have the Start button back in action. Another problem with Windows 8 was that it didn’t have it. As a bonus feature, Microsoft Edge, a new browser designed for 21st-century surfing, is integrated with several of Windows 10’s features, including Spartan. In addition, the interface has been simplified and is more logically organised than in Windows 8.

Windows 11: Minimalist Design with a bunch of Animations

For those who haven’t seen it yet, Microsoft’s Windows NT operating system has been updated to Windows 11, which was unveiled on June 24, 2021. Eligible Windows 10 devices running Update or the Windows 11 Installation Assistant can get a free upgrade to Windows 11, which was made available to the general public for free.

It includes a redesigned Start menu, the removal of “live tiles” from the taskbar, the creation of tiled sets of windows that can be minimised and restored from the taskbar as a group, and new gaming technologies inherited from Xbox Series X and Series S, such as Auto HDR and DirectStorage, on compatible hardware.

In Windows 11, Microsoft Edge, based on Chromium, has taken over as the default web browser, and Microsoft Teams has been incorporated into the Windows shell. The Microsoft Store will be able to distribute applications with more freedom, and Windows 11 will enable Android apps (including a partnership with Amazon to make its app store available for the function).

Wrap Up

So, what’s next? The days of big Windows releases appear to be ended. Free updates will be made available to Windows 11 users whenever possible. Manual input devices may be replaced by voice instructions – or perhaps thoughts – soon if computers continue to advance at their present rate.

Also Read: How to enable Fast Startup mode in Windows
Also Read: What is System32 in Windows and Why You Can’t Delete It?
Also Read: How to Disable Background Apps on Windows 11?

Founder and Chief Editor of Network Herald. A passionate Blogger, Content Writer from Mumbai. Loves to cover every current affair in terms of technology. He writes about the how-to guides, tips and tricks, top list articles.

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