It was the night of August 23, 1995, when people were awake till midnight. Wondering why???
It was because today was the night when the brand-new Windows 95 Operating System got available for purchase on the store shelves. Now, you might be wondering what’s the big deal behind it.
Do read further to resolve the revolt of questions within you.
Windows 95 Launch
Microsoft got the whole world excited for its latest operating system, Windows 95. This was all because of its retrospectively famous Start Me Up Campaign, which had incredible marketing. It was undoubtedly very famous because thousands of people waited in line at various retail stores across the world to buy it, and this made it the most popular launch in history.
Everyone certainly knew that Windows 95 was an important milestone in the tech field. The most interesting and fun part about Microsoft’s product launch was that it was even able to mesmerize people who didn’t know what was going on and what was about to come.
What were the causes and effects of this great software phenomenon?
The Windows 95 Operating System was quite important because it had an everlasting influence. The Windows 95 operating system can be boiled down to three things-
- Brilliant marketing (arguably the best)
- Innovative features
Windows 95 is a revolutionary piece of software and cannot be overlooked, even at that time, but now the question arises that how important was Windows 95?
Being important and revolutionary are two different things and talking about whether Windows 95 was revolutionary or not. So the answer is no or at least not as much as you think.
Criticism by Apple Users
The exotic amount of marketing brought a lot of criticism, particularly from Apple users. Many of these people (who were criticizing) scoffed at the features that Windows 95 was boastfully advertising. And as a result, they mockingly nicknamed it Macintosh 87. It was because they claimed that Mackintosh did it first, that too almost a decade earlier, and they weren’t too far off.
The new feature included in Windows 95, allowed users to name files up to 255 characters long. It was a huge improvement to the previous 11 character limit. But, the Macintosh already supported file names as much as 31 characters long since its launch in 1984, and while 255 characters were much bigger than that, it was argued to be almost unrealistically big, considering that file names more than 120 characters long were extremely uncommon at that time. Apple users felt that this was just excessive, and an unnecessary add-on to a feature that Apple had included first. This was a feature that Macintosh had for over 10 years, along with the similar-looking GUI that used similar icons.
In technical language Macintosh actually copied Xerox and on the other hand in windows just copied it afterward. Still, this chain of copying was not understood by the Apple users at the time and they still gave Windows 95 some bad PR.
Change brought by Marketing
The Mac VS PC debate is a lot older than you might ever think, but the incredible advertising of Microsoft serves as a testament to why people still chose windows 95 over the already existing macOS. Though Windows 95 was similar to the Macintosh, what changed the scenario was the marketing as its marketing gave it a better personality.
Computing had an interesting role in the 90s and was leading to an objective of relatability. To transform from this niche community, into something that everybody did. Computers were soon going to be as relatable and fun as cars or television. And this was what Windows 95 was doing. In a lot of ways, Windows 95 was the one that took initiative on achieving the objective of relatability. The commercials were upbeat, exciting, and appealing to the masses as they used the pop culture references of the time.
Their main focus was to show the simplicity of the operating system and how much the user could do with such little effort. Windows 95 was less of a convoluted piece of software and more like a person. But in reality, Windows 95, honestly wasn’t different from its previous version – Windows 3.1. Visually, yes. But under the hood not so much, the way these previous versions were marketed, basically people just saw Windows as DOS, wearing a fancy outfit. Not just this, but Windows 95 also ran on top of DOS.
The only difference was that the DOS was booted into windows by default, so you didn’t notice it. And of course, it would not be shown in ads. All this fun advertising excited people and encouraged them to go out and see, what all the fuss was about?? It also included those who were just getting into computers and had no prior experience with them.
Consequently, many people weren’t even exactly sure why they were in line but just knew that it was the start of something big and this product was soon going to bring a big and fruitful change in their lives in one way or the other. Now, the question arises-
Can we say the same thing about the Macintosh in 1995?
What did their advertising look like in comparison?
Which one will you buy?
Keeping aside the little criticism that Windows 95 faced that it was just copying the Macintosh. Windows 95, actually did have some new features that proved to be innovative for the time.
The Start Menu
The most notable one was the ‘Start’ menu. It was the main subject of all windows 95 commercials. This was a big deal, particularly because it made all the difference. When it came to the organization, the Start menu was essentially the hub of the computer. All of your file applications and system configurations were just a couple of clicks away.
It was a big improvement on the previous Windows version-3.1, where users had to use a tool called Programme Manager, which was much more complicated. The new Start menu along with Windows Explorer- another new feature, made Programme Manager unnecessary.
And now navigating the computer wasn’t as much of a hassle.
Again there was of course criticism that this was just a rip-off of Macintosh’s Apple menu, but the Start menu was arguably easier to use and more convenient. They were similar in one field: they were both system menus that gave the user access to applications. Whereas, the difference was how these applications were displayed. Many times you had to manually add your preferred applications to the Apple menu, by digging for it through the actual file system.
On the other hand, the Windows Start menu did this for you. And if you didn’t want something there you could just remove it at any time. This was a great setup for non-techno-savvy computer users and also saved them an extra step of navigating an environment that they were completely unfamiliar with.
Compared to the Apple menu, the Start menu also just stood out better. Often, inexperienced Macintosh users would assume that the menus icon was just a logo that didn’t do anything. This would be the case in future beta releases of OS X in the year 2000. Due to this many users would initially struggle with navigating the machine. And for those who don’t know where to start on a windows machine, it (Start Menu) tells them.
Another groundbreaking feature that windows had to offer was the ‘Taskbar’. If you were using multiple programs, it just took one click to switch back and forth between them. Much quicker and easier than the Application menu on the Macintosh or any other operating system.
Plug and Play feature
Windows 95 also had a great feature known as Plug and Play. It had a lot of problems, but it was a brilliant concept that would prove to be essential in future releases. Rather than having to manually install hardware, such as a printer, Windows would detect it automatically and install the drivers for you or prompt you to do so with a CD-Rom.
Access to Internet
Arguably the greatest feature in Windows 95 among the others that it had was access to the Internet. This wasn’t inherently revolutionary as most mainstream operating systems at the time had this feature. But, it didn’t matter because of one thing- TIMING.
The timing caused Windows Vista to flop. It caused the pet rock to become popular along with flagpole sitting, and in some respects, The Beatles.
So much of something’s success can be attributed to just coming out at the right time. And Windows 95 is no exception. The 1990s were a very special decade and that’s because, historically, it can arguably be divided into two different decades. After all, it has two eras that are so distinct. In the early 90s from roughly 1988 to 1994, you have the sort of pre-Internet, Golden Girls, and TV grunge era of the 90s. Still very much influenced by the 1980s, because in some ways it hasn’t had much time to identify itself. It’s from around 1996 to 2002 where the 90s were starting to solidify.
You have an era filled with AOL, boy bands, and a.com bubble. Not that all of these trends are mutually exclusive, but when looking at the decade through a historical lens, it’s clear to see which trends took priority in which time frames. 1995 is smack in the middle. It is the transitioning point between these two eras, essentially embodying both characteristics of these periods. This is how the two eras collided in the 90s.
Wondering why are the two eras being talked about??
Just like the 60s was a Cultural Revolution, the 90s was a technological one.
The thoughts and behaviors of the people at the time in 1995 can be an explanation. It was clear that the Internet was going somewhere big. And it was the year that most people were just getting introduced to it.
Windows 95 acted as a friendly gateway to the World Wide Web. You didn’t have to be a computer geek to use it. You could be anybody.
Since other operating systems didn’t do that. So yes, Windows 95 wasn’t the only OS to support the Internet but everyone knew it as, ‘The OS’ to support the Internet.
By 1999, your grandmother was using the Internet, You could not say the same thing back in 1992. It’s clear that the Internet was going to inevitably boom by the end of the 1990s, but Microsoft was just smart enough to be the one to lead the way. Windows 95 did not start the growing popularity of the world wide web. But it was part of it, it was both the catalyst and the leader.
When seeing the big picture, it makes perfect sense why Windows 95 was so popular and why it continues to influence us today. Its marketing allowed personal computers to become even more personal than they already were. Making something complicated, like an operating system, relatable to most people. All of its design configurations study precedent for how an operating system should look and feel.
And its timing was the last ingredient in creating a perfect storm of circumstances that would transform Windows 95 into this technological phenomenon. This was well known to Microsoft because they did everything to prepare for it.
Many features that were introduced or at least emphasized in the Windows 95 are still seen in many operating systems. Features that never need any sort of replacement because they were so convenient and timeless.
Windows 95 was the Operating System, where Microsoft finally found its sweet spot. And all future versions would essentially just build on top of it and make it better. Microsoft has been able to start us up ever since.
Do tell, what was your experience with Windows 95? Did you enjoy using it? Or you were too young to remember.