Microsoft Windows was announced by Bill Gates on November 10, 1983. Microsoft introduced Windows as a graphical user interface for MS-DOS, which had been introduced a couple of years earlier. In the 1990s, the product line evolved from an operating environment into a fully complete, modern operating system over two lines of development, each with their own separate codebase.
The first versions of Windows (1.0 through to 3.11) were programs run from MS-DOS which then took over the screen and launched an application called Program Manager; later on, Windows 95, though still being based on MS-DOS, was its own operating system, using a 16-bit DOS-based kernel and a 32-bit user space. Windows 95 introduced many features that have been part of the product ever since, including the Start menu, the taskbar, and Windows Explorer (renamed File Explorer in Windows 8). In 1997, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 4 which included the (at the time) controversial Windows Desktop Update. It aimed to integrate Internet Explorer and the web into the user interface and also brought many new features into Windows, such as the ability to display JPEG images as the desktop wallpaper and single window navigation in Windows Explorer. In 1998, Microsoft released Windows 98, which also included the Windows Desktop Update and Internet Explorer 4 by default. The inclusion of Internet Explorer 4 and the Desktop Update led to an anti-trust case in the United States. Windows 98 also includes plug and play, which allows devices to work when plugged in without requiring a system reboot or manual configuration, and USB support out of the box. Windows ME, the last DOS-based version of Windows, was aimed at consumers and released in 2000. It introduced System Restore, Help and Support Center, updated versions of the Disk Defragmenter and other system tools.
In 1993, Microsoft released Windows NT 3.1, the first version of the newly-developed Windows NT operating system. Unlike the Windows 9x series of operating systems, it is a fully 32-bit operating system. NT 3.1 introduced NTFS, a file system designed to replace the older File Allocation Table (FAT) which was used by DOS and the DOS-based Windows operating systems. In 1996, Windows NT 4.0 was released, which includes a fully 32-bit version of Windows Explorer written specifically for it, making the operating system work just like Windows 95. Windows NT was originally designed to be used on high-end systems and servers, however with the release of Windows 2000, many consumer-oriented features from Windows 95 and Windows 98 were included, such as the Windows Desktop Update, Internet Explorer 5, USB support and Windows Media Player. These consumer-oriented features were continued and further extended in Windows XP, which introduced a new theme called Luna, a more user-friendly interface, updated versions of Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer, and extended features from Windows Me, such as the Help and Support Center and System Restore. Windows Vista focused on securing the Windows operating system against computer viruses and other malicious software by introducing features such as User Account Control. New features include Windows Aero, updated versions of the standard games (e.g. Solitaire), Windows Movie Maker, and Windows Mail to replace Outlook Express. Despite this, Windows Vista was critically panned for its poor performance on older hardware and its at-the-time high system requirements. Windows 7 followed two and a half years later, and despite technically having higher system requirements, reviewers noted that it ran better than Windows Vista. Windows 7 also removed many extra features, such as Windows Movie Maker, Windows Photo Gallery and Windows Mail, instead requiring users download a separate Windows Live Essentials to gain those features and other online services. Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, a free upgrade for Windows 8, introduced many controversial changes, such as the replacement of the Start menu with the Start Screen, the removal of the Aero glass interface in favor of a flat, colored interface as well as the introduction of “Metro” apps (later renamed Universal Windows Platform apps) and the Charms Bar user interface element, all of which received considerable criticism from reviewers.
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