back to article Twenty years since Windows 95, and we still love our Start buttons

Microsoft released Windows 95 on 24th August 1995, followed a week later by Office 95, and accompanied by a publicity campaign featuring the Rolling Stones song Start Me Up. Windows 95 was a great success, despite not being the most stable of operating systems. Microsoft’s own Windows NT 3.1, released two years earlier, was …

Page:

  1. dotdavid

    "accompanied by a publicity campaign featuring the Rolling Stones song Start Me Up"

    Haha, I mainly remember the parody song (NSFW) of that publicity campaign :-)

    1. Annihilator
      Paris Hilton

      NSFW?

      At first I thought you were referring to a different parody, but no. What's NSFW about that song? Unless you work at MS I suppose...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: NSFW?

        Not Suitable For Windows ?

      2. DropBear Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: NSFW?

        "At first I thought you were referring to a different parody, but no."

        Would that song be played at eleven, perchance...?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The question of why the public accepted a substantial user interface change

      "The question of why the public accepted a substantial user interface change in Windows 95, but not in Windows 8, would make a nice topic for someone to research."

      Er, no. The answer is known and well documented.

      Moving from DOS or Windows 3.1 to the GUI of Windows 95 was a step forward productivity-wise by making a lot of things easier, with just a mouse click or two.

      Moving from the Windows 7 GUI to the Windows 8 GUI was a step backwards by making many common tasks require more mouse clicks in 8 than in 7. Often many more.

      1. BobRocket

        Re: The question of why the public accepted a substantial user interface change

        Win3.x was effectively Microsoft GEM, a helper program that sat between the user and the OS.

        95 was graphical DOS.

        In the DOS world we had Xtree as filemanager, Sidekick as notepad/calculator (and an ASCII table).

        Office replaced 123 with Excel, Displaywrite/Wordstar with Word and dBase with Access, the only new thing it brought to the party was Powerpoint (and isn't the world a richer place because of that)

        I've been on Linux for years now (mint at the mo) but what I long for is a full Win95 interface

        1. Ogi

          Re: The question of why the public accepted a substantial user interface change

          Full win95 interface for Linux? Like fvwm95?

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FVWM95

          It was full enough for me to switch over non-techie users from win95 to Linux back in the day. I even used it on my old PDA as well.

          Might actually install it now on my work desktop, just to go totally retro in the office (I might still have some of the old win95/98 wallpapers somewhere as well)

          1. LionelB

            Re: The question of why the public accepted a substantial user interface change

            Full win95 interface for Linux? Like fvwm95?

            Or IceWM? Light, fast, configurable, productive and ugly as sin - used to use that back in the day (before discovering the *boxes).

            I guess XFCE is not far off either.

      2. Ted's Toy

        Re: The question of why the public accepted a substantial user interface change

        Win 95 wasn't a new inter-phase just a copy of Apple and Amstrad operating system.

        1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Ted's Toy

          The first windowed OS was Xerox's Alto (and later Xerox Star) developed in 1973, which Steve Jobs & other Apple folk saw when touring the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) a few years after Apple's founding in 1976. (I believe the tour was 1979 or late 1978.) Alto even had a mouse & ethernet network interface also invented at PARC. (TCP/IP didn't come about until 1983, & I don't recall what protocol the Alto used) Apple in 1979 started working on their first windowed GUI for the Lisa, released in 1983 which was pretty much a flop. The Macintosh was released a year later in 1984, which clearly was not a flop.

          Amstrad's system was a version of DRI's GEM on Amstrad hardware released in the mid-80's.

          1. Belardi

            Re: Ted's Toy

            And Amiga's AmigaOS came out a year later with color GUI and pre-preemptive multitasking. It would take the great MS another 10 years to make that for the masses.

            Win95 did well since it was an OS, unlike Win3.x which was a GUI shell than ran on top of MS-DOS. IE: try running or installing Windows 3.x on a blank HD without MS-DOS. And of course the horrible 8.3 file names.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Ted's Toy

              Let's not forget about Atari TOS which had DEC's GEM GUI slapped on top!

              1. Richard Plinston Silver badge

                Re: Ted's Toy

                > Let's not forget about Atari TOS which had DEC's GEM GUI slapped on top!

                GEM was a product of Digital Research Inc (DRI), not Digital Equipment Corp (DEC).

            2. Mage Silver badge
              Thumb Down

              Re: Ted's Toy

              No, Win95 was STILL a GUI semi-OS on DOS boot, exactly like Win3.x. The only differences were:

              1) All the media stuff optional in Win 3.x in basic install

              2) an expanded Win32s built in rather than option

              3) Explorer.exe replaces Program manager and File Manager.

              NT 3.5 was a real 32 bit OS and predated Win95, it ran 16 DOS and 16 bit Windows on 32 bits, using NTVDM and WOW + NTVDM. Win95 ran 16 bit code identically to Win3.x, natively. It ran 32bit code the same way as Win32s on Win3.x.

              Win98 was the same. Note that Win95 didn't initially have OpenGL, but it was standard on Windows NT.

              With ME they hid the DOS layer, it was a broken version of Win98SE.

              Real MS Windowing OSes:

              MS OS/2 in 1989 (Built in LAN Manager)

              32 bit NT3.1 in 1993

              32 bit NT3.5

              NT3.51 (changes to Win32 that were added in win95 to stop Office 95 working on Win3.1x stopped Office 95 working on NT3.5!). Just a Win API patch. 1995. (Explorer briefly available as a tech preview)

              NT4.0 1996 (Explorer, Graphics and Print moved to Kernel, Direct X added). There was 32 and 64 bit versions for Alpha. Also NT supported Power PC and MIPS

              W2K (2000) = NT5.0

              XP = NT 5.1

              Server 2003 = NT 5.2

              Vista = Windows NT 6.0

          2. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: Ted's Toy

            Re: "TCP/IP didn't come about until 1983, & I don't recall what protocol the Alto used"

            The physical network interface and signalling was: Alto Aloha Network protocol or "ALOHAnet" which was renamed "Ethernet".

            The protocol suite being used over this was an early version of XNS, parts of which were subsequently integrated into the then emerging TCP/IP protocol suite and other office network offerings such as Novell NetWare, 3Com 3+Share, Ungermann-Bass Net/One, Banyan Vines and AppleNet/AppleTalk. The real strength of this protocol suite (compared to SNA, DECnet etc.) was it's focus on document processing within a single office (ie single physical network segment/subnet).

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Ted's Toy

            You forgot to mention Laser printer came out of Xerox Parc too. John Warnock (Adobe founder) worked there along with Larry Tesler who was later part of the Macintosh team. I'm not sure what the arrangement was between Xerox and Apple but from what I understand Xerox heads in New York canned the projects at Xerox Parc and many of the staff went on to work for Apple. It wasn't a blatant steel or copy, if you look the Xerox Parc videos the GUI was quite rough, no actual toolbar menu that I could see, no X Menu ( Apple or START menu) so what you see in Win 95 really can be credited to Apple as it is a blatant rip off.

      3. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Re: The question of why the public accepted a substantial user interface change

        Windows 95 behaves like a desktop OS.

        Windows 8 behaves like a tablet OS ported to the desktop.

    3. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Re ?NSFW

      Especially since they cut the last two lines of the song in that video.

      Kind of like the Photoshopping that removed the cigarette from Paul McCartney's fingers on the Abbey Road picture, but even clumsier.

      What was it again? 'Makes a grown man cry, it's making Bill Gates.....' something or other.

      1. Chika
        Trollface

        Re: Re ?NSFW

        Come again?

    4. Dave Pickles

      Strange how they never used the next line from the song: "You make a grown man cry".

    5. Chika

      Hmm... wasn't Bob Rivers also responsible for the ACDC rip "Dirty Deeds Done With Sheep"?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The question of why the public accepted a substantial user interface change in Windows 95, but not in Windows 8.

    Problem solved, Windows 8+ are shite (bar m.e. as that was a big festering pile of dogshit)

    What happened to Windows 9?

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      The old ones are the good ones!

      Windows 7 ate 9.

      1. David Austin

        Re: The old ones are the good ones!

        For a less Official and Jokey answer, Look to the build numbers:

        Windows Vista: 6000

        Windows 7: 7601

        Windows 8.0: 9200

        Windows 8.1: 9600

        Windows 10: 10240

        The real question is where did Windows 8 go, which is interesting on both a technical and philosophical level.

        Supposedly the real reason there was no Windows 9 was for compatibility: lots of older/badly designed programs would assume Windows 9 = Windows 9x, and set themselves up for DOS instead of NT Windows - head that a lot, but don't know how true it is.

        1. david 12 Bronze badge

          Re: The old ones are the good ones!

          Build numbers just increase incrementally with the build. For a less Offical and Jokey answer, don't cut the version numbers off the front:

          Windows Vista ---------6.0

          Windows 7 --------------6.1

          Windows 8---------------6.2

          Windows 8.1 ------------6.3

          I haven't looked at Windows 10. Either we are up to version 7 now, or (more likely) we are still on version 6.

          1. HipposRule

            Re: The old ones are the good ones!

            10.0 - didn't take long to find from MSDN

          2. Named coward

            Re: The old ones are the good ones!

            Those version numbers are more related to the core OS (NT = 4, 2000 = 5, Vista = 6). The big difference becomes obvious once you delve into the kernel and driver architectures of the corresponding systems. Presumably 10 is still 6 (6.4) unless they changed it for marketing purposes.

    2. Peter Simpson 1
      Mushroom

      We (the public) will tolerate user interface improvements, but not changes, for change's sake (unless we have the option to retain the previous UI).

      Microsoft doesn't seem to "get", that users make an investment of time and effort in learning how to efficiently use a UI. They do this, not because they enjoy learning a new UI, but so they can efficiently do... whatever it is they are using the computer for. Often, this is Real Work, the kind they get paid for, or yelled at if they don't do it quickly enough.

      Hey! Microsoft! I have some news for you...your product is not a choice, it's a necessity. People need to have it, in order to use their computers at all. We don't enjoy it when you make us re-learn the UI. We enjoy it even less, when you do it EVERY G*DDAMN YEAR!

      Pick a UI, and stick with it. And take those tiles and that ribbon, and shove it where the sun don't shine.

      // and your "Clutter" folder, too

      // didn't ask for it, don't need it

      // spent the better part of an hour figuring out how to turn it off

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        "We (the public) will tolerate user interface improvements, but not changes, for change's sake"

        Exactly. Lots of apologist zealot eejits attack anyone rejecting any change with "you're just too damn lazy to learn!", wilfully neglecting to consider that most people are quite happy to learn changes they find a marked improvement. The thing is most of the time changes are fairly arbitrary and not for the better at all. As such, I have no problem learning how to operate an elevator if that means I don't have to use the stairs - but if you try to replace that with a body harness and a pair of tensioned bungee cords that are now supposed to fling me up five stories because "it's the cool new way to do it" don't be surprised if I punch you in the face at the first chance I get...

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge
          Pint

          dropbear

          a body harness and a pair of tensioned bungee cords that are now supposed to fling me up five stories because "it's the cool new way to do it"

          Best description of Win 8.x I've come across.

          Have a beer.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            But think of all the stock images of jumping and dancing youngsters. You wouldn't want to take away their god-given joy at being presented with a new non-boring and cool-again user interface, would you?

      2. hplasm Silver badge
        Alert

        ".....your product is not a choice, it's a necessity."

        That's what MS want people to believe- and it's worked up to now... until-

        1. Peter Simpson 1
          Linux

          Re: ".....your product is not a choice, it's a necessity."

          Well, it's a necessity if you didn't buy an Apple product :-)

          // there's always Linux...

        2. Kevin 6

          Re: ".....your product is not a choice, it's a necessity."

          Its wasn't a necessity unless you wanted to run 98% of programs which started relying heavily on MS's library files.

          It also wasn't a necessity when I was in college... if I planned to fail out as none of the needed software could run on anything else.

          Then there is the whole computer game issue with how the extremely vast majority of them will only run on windows.

          Gaming is actually the only thing keeping me using windows still on my main PC as I migrated my personal web server from an older windows box to linux(on a raspberry pi 2) a few months back.

    3. Chika
      Alert

      The question of why the public accepted a substantial user interface change in Windows 95, but not in Windows 8.

      Actually, there were a couple of reasons why W95 didn't cause as much aggro as W8 did. First of all, bear in mind that W3 was not the huge powerhouse system in the home - in fact the number of different computer systems and operating systems was quite staggering back then. Also consider that some were CLI based and the ones that actually were GUI based, say RISC OS or AmigaOS, already made W3 look a bit cumbersome. As far as business was concerned, well they were fine as long as it ran their software. Considering that some of the underpinning of W95 was lifted from W3.11, that wasn't such a problem though I do remember the issue with some drivers caused some moans at the time (but don't they always?)

      The second reason, however, was that the new interface on W95 actually was somewhat more intuitive than W3 was. That isn't to say that it was perfect, but it included a number of features that were to last for many years afterwards, not just on Microsoft GUIs but on plenty of other GUIs, for example more than one Linux GUI resembles this same layout, from the start button to the menu layout and dialogue boxes.

      Problem solved, Windows 8+ are shite (bar m.e. as that was a big festering pile of dogshit)

      Generally speaking, I tend to view the whole business as trying to dress the system up to be something we have no need of rather than just concentrating on improving what is underneath. And even there we have a difference of opinion about what actually constitutes an improvement.

      Windows ME could have been a real improvement on W98SE but for the fact that Microsoft spent too much effort on trying to get WME to do things that W98SE users could accomplish in DOS or with third party add-ons and that they placed too much importance on releasing an operating system to commemorate an arbitrary date. This is the sort of thing that happens when marketing gets too involved.

      What happened to Windows 9?

      Apparently it was due to come out but Germany said no to it. ;)

    4. big_D Silver badge

      People didn't like the Start Menu at first, there was a vocal minority asking for Program Manager back... But unlike now, there weren't that many public platforms to shout from and most weren't on the Internet anyway...

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        If you wanted the Program and File Managers back you had until Me, you could run them or change the shell in the ini file. So you had about six years transition if you wanted. It wasn't like Windows 8.

      2. Pookietoo

        Re: asking for Program Manager back

        The Win3.1 Program Manager was an included option in Win9X, you could even set it as the default shell.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why did the public accept a UI change in Win95, not Win8

      I don't think they did really. I think that Windows 95 was the first UI most people really saw. So they used it, and put up with it. The "UI change" was from using typewriters and calculators. Yes, there were Macs and Amigas, but these were in a small percentage of homes and on a small percentage of office desks.

      By the time of Win8 everyone was used to the old Win95/XP/7 way. Microsoft did a terrible job of explaining why their new way was better and why people should take time to learn it. So they didn't.

      (And no, I don't think it was necessarily any better or worse. But it was definitely different. And suddenly people went from "I can use a computer" to "How do I use a computer?" And they didn't like it. Telling a person "You will get used to it" is unhelpful when it means missed deadlines or getting home later because they took longer to do a task the first few times.)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpMvS1Q1sos

    ^that's where it's at

  4. Anonymous Blowhard

    "The question of why the public accepted a substantial user interface change in Windows 95, but not in Windows 8, would make a nice topic for someone to research"

    I think the answer is twofold:

    1) At the time that Windows 95 was introduced, the number of home users on Windows 3.11 would have been a lot lower than the number of home users on Windows XP + Vista + Windows 7 when Windows 8 was introduced, so the number of people with a prior experience would have been much lower. The number of people using computers at work would have been higher but many would still have been using DOS or terminal based applications, so the user experience would have been completely different and users wouldn't expect any similarity with Windows 95.

    2) When Windows 95 was introduced the home-use of the Internet was almost non-existent, and there was no social networking for any disgruntled users to vent their frustrations on.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      MS just copied the best ideas from the Mac, the Amiga, and the ST and ended up with system which was actually quite usable. Nobody could argue that it was worse than Windows 3.1 or DOS.

      Unlike Windows 8...

    2. DropBear Silver badge
      Devil

      Also, let's not forget that even back then the change from a two-panel file explorer to the now-classic windows explorer did not go down well AT ALL - I remember no end to grumbling, and I still see lots of people using some Total Commander clone even today...

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Explorer

        On NT 4.0 you could run NT3.51's File manager. Or indeed switch entirely to Program manager.

        The Explorer Desktop was better than Program Groups/ Program Manager.

        The File Browser in Explorer is STILL flawed. It should have consistent move/copy not based on parent drive, better options for overwrite/archive/newer and a two panel mode.

  5. John 110

    The public accepted Windows 95

    The public accepted Windows 95 because what they saw on screen finally bore some relationship to where their programs actually were. If you were coming from AmigaDOS or Atari's GEM, windows 3.1 was a pile of pants.

    The public didn't accept Windows 8 because Microsoft hid all the programs again.

    People like to know where things are.

    NOTE: People in this case are usually IT savvy, either professional or enthusiasts. The great unwashed couldn't care less about any of that stuff as long as they've got somebody from the first category to badger into doing hard stuff for them...

    1. Doctor_Wibble

      Re: The public accepted Windows 95

      Maybe it's easier for us to find our way through a tree than remember where on the screen an icon is supposed to be? Trying to think back to Program Manager here and I think that was the main thing I didn't like - plus the tree from a start menu has the branches available at a single slick instead of scrolling around icon groups and all that double-clicking to open them. Maybe.

      And perhaps weirdly the 'windows key' (in spite of crapping on games if you were careless) was good because you could go through to your program with just keys in a mere second or two - functionality (effectively or actually?) killed in Win7 for no sane reason I can think of.

      p.s. and the whole thing worked better anyway, so it wasn't really just the start menu that was different

      p.p.s in truth I'm probably remembering win98se and backdating somewhat - games! 2xVoodoo2! extra fans! the whole thing was a damn sight more fun...

      1. Irongut

        @ Doctor_Wibble

        The cursor keys still work to navigate the start menu in Windows 7 and indeed in 10 (I have no idea if they did in 8 and don't have a machine to test). Don't know where you got the idea that MS removed that capability.

        1. Doctor_Wibble

          Re: @ Doctor_Wibble

          Not the cursor keys, the letter ones - use of these makes it convenient to get to stuff by its start letter, being able to do 'up arrow' 50 times is not something I rate as convenient!

          So yes, the ability to fire up e.g. openoffice writer went from 4 keys (WnK-P-O-W) to nothing useful keyboard-wise unless I want to do lots of arrow key work or type the program name/description into the search box, both of which are annoying because I know it's now less convenient than it used to be unless I want a desktop full of icons like a retro program manager homage. Hurrah for progress...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @ Doctor_Wibble

            "So yes, the ability to fire up e.g. openoffice writer went from 4 keys (WnK-P-O-W) to nothing useful keyboard-wise "

            windows key o-p-e works for me. Actually, windows key, "o" <enter> is sufficient on my Win7 box.

      2. Andy Non

        Re: The public accepted Windows 95

        "And perhaps weirdly the 'windows key' (in spite of crapping on games if you were careless) was good..."

        I remember cursing the Windows key as it buggered up my keyboard skills playing Doom. Bloody great fat useless key right where it got in the way. To be honest I've never much used that key since, it seemed more like a PR exercise by Microsoft than something useful. The only time I do press it is on the rare occasions when the Start menu crashes.

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019