- Aug 3, 2009
Microsoft believed that for personal computers to become mainstream, they had to be easier to use, which argued for a graphical user interface (GUI) instead of DOS's command-line interface. With that in mind, development on the inaugural version of Windows started in 1983, with the final product released to market in November, 1985.
Figure 2 Windows 1.0—the first version of Windows
Windows was originally going to be called Interface Manager, and was nothing more than a graphical shell that sat on top of the existing DOS operating system. While DOS was a keyboard-driven, text-based operating system, Windows supported the click-and-drag operation of a mouse. That said, individual windows could only be tiled onscreen, and could not be stacked or overlaid on top of each other.
Unlike today's overblown and overstuffed operating systems, this first version of Windows came with only a few rudimentary utilities. There was the Windows Paint graphics program, Windows Write text editor, an appointment calendar, a card filer, a notepad, and a clock. Windows 1.0 also included the Control Panel, which was used for configuring various features of the environment, and the MS-DOS Executive, a crude predecessor to today's Windows Explorer file manager.
Not surprisingly, Windows 1.0 was not wildly successful. There wasn't a lot of demand for a graphical user interface for the text-based applications then available for the IBM PC. Just as important, this first version of Windows required more power than machines of that era could deliver and had little impact on the market.
The second version of Windows, released in 1987, was an incremental improvement over Windows 1.0. This new version added overlapping windows and allowed minimized windows to be moved around the desktop with a mouse.
Figure 3 Windows 2.0—now with overlapping windows!
The big claim to fame for Windows 2.0, however, was that it came bundled with Microsoft's Word and Excel applications. Word and Excel were graphical apps competing against the text-based interfaces of then-reigning competitors WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3; the Microsoft apps needed a GUI shell to run properly, hence the bundling with Windows.
There weren't a lot of other Windows-compatible applications available, however. A notable exception was the Aldus PageMaker desktop publishing program (remember that one?), which was available in a Windows version.