Windows 1.0 was released thirty years ago yesterday. Despite an amazing sales pitch from Steve Ballmer, it didn’t get a great reception.
The system took two years to appear after Microsoft first announced it, leading to widespread claims of it being “vaporware.”
It was by no means the first graphical user interface, coming a year after the first Mac OS. However, it would arguably be more successful in — eventually — using a more affordable system to persuade the consumer and business markets that point and click was the way to go.
Windows was almost called by its developmental title, Interface Manager, but Microsoft opted to pick a name that better conveyed the concept of visible multitasking. Indeed, much of the early marketing for the system stressed the capability of copying and pasting data from one application to another.
The original system required two floppy disk drives to run, along with a minimum of 256 kilobytes of RAM. In practice — and in a manner that would become familiar in later editions — the system did not work well with the minimum specs, which was the source of much of the early negative-to-middling reviews. The most famous of these, from the New York Times, concluded that “running Windows on a PC with 512K of memory is akin to pouring molasses in the Arctic.”
Despite the critics, the system eventually caught on. Amazingly, while it was replaced by a host of sequels, it wasn’t until the end of 2001 that Microsoft officially ended support for Windows 1.0.
Oh, and that Ballmer pitch? Well, it’s just as bombastic as you might expect: