A nostalgic look through a window on computer history

windowspackaging1Microsoft’s chief software architect, Ray Ozzie, posted a little bit of computer nostalgia if not history the other day – the press release from 1985 announcing the launch of Micros0ft Windows.

I don’t remember much about Windows 1.0. Although I’d been using personal computers since CP/M days (and since my first experience with a ‘real computer’ in about 1979 in the form of a TRS 80 complete with cassette tape storage), I was far more impressed with GEM, a graphical overlay for command-line computers developed by Digital Research – the same firm behind CP/M and who famously lost out to Microsoft in 1981 when IBM came looking for an operating system for the new ‘personal computer’ they were planning to launch.

I was into desktop publishing in a big way in the 1980s primarily with Ventura Publisher built with a run-time version of GEM as its interface, running on top of MS-DOS.

I do remember Windows 2.0, though, as I still have the original floppy disks (remember those?), manual and packaging somewhere in the attic. But Windows at that time (1987) just didn’t have any impact for me; I continued with DOS right up until Windows 3.0 came out in 1990. Now that got my attention. And Windows got everyone’s attention when version 3.1 came out in 1992. That set the scene for everything that followed in terms of bringing personal computing out from the shadows of complexity (and from the realm of nerds, enthusiasts and techies) and into the mainstream for, eventually, a global mass market.

Such nostalgia! Read the history of Microsoft Windows and the history of the IBM PC if you want to get absorbed (if you want to get really absorbed in this topic, get hold of “Blue Magic,” an outstanding and compelling book that chronicles the development and launch of the IBM PC in 1981). And see TechRadar UK’s excellent timeline of Windows packaging from version 1.0 to 7 published last year.

Anyway, back to Ray Ozzie’s little bit of nostalgia with the Windows 1.0 launch announcement in 1985. There’s some PR history with this, too, when you read the press release. For instance, it was issued on behalf of Microsoft by Waggener Group, which continues to be Microsoft’s main PR agency a quarter of a century later and known today as Waggener Edstrom Worldwide.


There’s a rich seam of additional information in Ozzie’s document, not just the press release – it’s a complete press kit. And some of the names mentioned in it are icons of the early days of personal computing: names like Ashton-Tate, Lotus Development Corporation, Hercules Computer Technology and more.

Definitely a(nother) trip down memory lane.

(Via SeattlePI Blogs.)

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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