You know when you go over to a friends house and they have a basement where none of the furniture matches and everything is kind of broken? Somehow that’s the best analogy I can give you about Windows 3.1.
It was just kind of there. It did its job, but it didn’t have many jobs to do. You could type things with it and print on your dot matrix printer, you could do some clerical work, but if we’re being honest it was there to play Minesweeper on your 75lb desktop computer.
Because of this, most people weren’t too enamoured with computers. You could get far better entertainment out of your Nintendo or TV. It wasn’t until August of 1995 that our inner computer nerd was awoken from its slumber.
Windows 95 was upon us.
To say the hype behind Windows 95 was big would be a massive disservice to the word “hype”. And the word “big”, actually. Hysteria is a better way to describe it.
Picture an iPhone release times about ten. Thousands of people lined up for midnight releases to get their hands on something that would change the technological world. And there weren’t any ironic customers back then either. No one was buying Windows 95 just to smash the box on the sidewalk.
It started with a $300 million advertising campaign, a Rolling Stones hit and a couple of stars from one of the biggest sitcoms on the planet in Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry. Bill Gates and his team marketed the hell out of this product, even if parts of it were awkward.
The advertising was centred around the word “Start”, where of course the whole Windows 95 experience began.
There was a Start button, a task bar, and the ability to minimize, maximize and close a window. It had fully customizable themes, wallpapers and a mind-blowing 3D experience for your screensaver. They were also really psyched that you could rename files. That was a big get for the tech world, I guess.
It also had a new feature called the “Recycle Bin”, “My Briefcase” which I doubt you ever used, and the explosion of the CD-ROM era, which was a big game changer, literally. Windows 95 allowed for vastly improved graphics and capability for multi-media experiences.
Ultimately, though, you were mostly interested in one goal:
The biggest feature was of course it’s improved internet experience, whether or not the general public knew it.
In 1995 the world wide web was home to only 23,500 websites, and surfing the net was a new and exciting experience. Windows 95 came included with Internet Explorer, which was a big deal at the time, as Netscape was the top dog on the information superhighway.
Windows 95 set things in motion for the future of Microsoft and was the reference guide used for every OS they would produce in the future.
It changed how we looked at computers, how society operated and just about everything the future would bring. Windows 95 brought computers into the mainstream and would set into motion what was to come. Tech was starting to become cool, and what would be considered a computer nerd back in 1995 is simply just an average person today.
From Napster to Myspace, to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, we likely wouldn’t have had any of these societal culture shifts without the influence Windows 95 had on the mainstream world.
But back then, we really only cared about Solitaire, Paint, and one of the best sounds of our childhood…