Windows 1.0 was the first ever commercial release of Microsoft Windows, an operating system that would eventually dominate the PC world for decades.

The first development on Windows began in September of 1981. They were still calling it Interface Manager back then, and it bore little resemblance to today's Windows—or even to the finished Windows 1.0. The initial prototypes featured menus at the bottom of the screen, but eventually they changed the interface to closer resemble the Xerox Star. By 1983 they had changed the name to Windows. The name was coined by Rowland Hanson, who was Microsoft's marketing guru at the time. They made the initial product announcement at the Plaza Hotel in New York, and claimed this new system would provide a GUI and multitasking abilities for the IBM PC, and would be available by April of 1984. But this announcement came only after VisiCorp (the makers of VisiCalc, which was a killer app for its time), released VisiOn, which was another operating environment designed to run on top of DOS. Not to mention the fact that the groundbreaking Apple Lisa was already on the market.

Bill Gates showed a beta version to IBM late in 1983 (hoping to gain their support), but they pretended to be unimpressed due to the concurrent development of their own Top View software (which beat Windows to market, but only lasted a few years, and never did have a real GUI).

Windows version 1.0 finally shipped on November 20, 1985. It did not exactly take the computing world by storm, as it faced heavy competition in the form of TopView, VisiOn, GEM, and DESQview (all of which beat Windows to market). The situation was not helped when Apple threatened Microsoft with a lawsuit over infringements on Apple's copyrights. Microsoft and Apple finally came to a licensing agreement that they were both happy with, although Microsoft ended up getting the better deal because the contract allowed for the use Apple's features in all future Microsoft products. The operating system itself was considered to be a crude, bug-ridden hack, but it was the start of something big for Microsoft.

The initial Windows release (version 1.01), required MS-DOS 2.0, 256K of RAM, two double-sided disk drives or a hard drive, and a graphics card. Later versions increased the memory requirement to 320K, but the other system requirements remained unchanged. Windows shipped with a small selection of native applications, many of which still exist today in one format or another. This package consisted of MS-DOS Executive (the file manager), Calendar, Cardfile, Notepad, Terminal, Calculator, Clock, Reversi, Control Panel, PIF Editor, Print Spooler, Clipboard, RAMDrive, Windows Write, and Windows Paint. This was about all prospective Windows users had to work with, since third party Windows software was almost non-existent for the first few years. These Windows 1.0 applications will not run on later versions of Windows (not even on Windows 2.0; I have tried). If Microsoft had kept up that trend of ditching backwards compatibility, then Windows would probably be a much better operating system today (although it would probably have a smaller market share).

The interface itself was somewhat similar to that of the Macintosh (or of modern day Windows). It included pull down menus, and allowed more than one application to run by placing them in separate windows. But the "windows" could not overlap each other. They had to be "tiled" on the screen, which made them of limited use on the low-resolution displays of the mid-1980s. The color schemes left something to be desired (on systems that could support color), and overall the system was not nearly as polished in its appearance as the competing Macintosh was.

The system itself gained very little market share until Aldus PageMaker shipped in January of 1987 with a Windows executable. This was the first WYSIWYG desktop publishing program available on the PC platform, and finally gave people a reason to buy Windows. Later Windows compatible products included Excel and Corel Draw. But the system as a whole still needed work, and development on Windows 2.0 had already begun.

Today you will almost never encounter a Windows 1.0 installation out in the real world. It never had much of a market share to begin with, and never ran the kind of mission critical applications that keep some machines in service for 20 years or more. However, it has become a valuable collectors item, and a genuine set of Windows 1.0 install disks (preferably with documentation), will sell for several hundred dollars on eBay.

Yes, there was actually a predecessor to Windows 3.1. Several, in fact. The first of these was Windows 1.01, which was an actual project, not some myth. In fact, it was quite a large project for its time - it took 55 programmer years to complete. Released in 1985, Windows 1.01 retailed for $99, and was barely usable, which should hardly come as a surprise.

Unlike the bloated Microsoft monstrosities of today, which can run terribly even on relatively new hardware, Windows 1.x asked for relatively little; MS-DOS 2.0, at least 256k of memory, a graphics adapter card, and either two double-sided disk drives or a hard drive. (Remember those days when you had to choose?) Graphically, Windows 1.x was extremely primitive, and betrayed its status as an Operating Environment over DOS far more clearly than Windows 3.x, or Windows 95 for that matter. Windows could only be tiled and couldn't overlap. There were resize controls in the upper right corner, and sometimes in the lower right corner as well. The upper left control was the system box, a control that actually remains to this day.

All Windows sessions started out in MS-DOS Executive, the predecessor to File Manager (or Windows Explorer). The Executive bared a striking resemblance to the DOS Shell program - text only, incapable of icons, no drag-and-drop, and so forth. Windows 1 was capable of Multitasking, and had what could be considered a primitive taskbar at the bottom of the screen. That area was reserved for minimized program icons, which could not be moved around, nor could they be overlapped by an application unless that program was running in "zoomed" mode, meaning full screen mode.

There was a clipboard, and had a very evolved ability to share data between applications for its time. For example, you could copy text from Notepad and paste it into MS Paint as text. However, the programs themselves were often very limited - Notepad had a buffer limit of 16 kilobytes, and MS Paint was capable only of monochrome graphics.

Later versions of Windows 1.x included Windows 1.03 and Windows 1.04. These mostly included support for later versions of DOS, improved font variety, downloadable fonts, and enhanced support for some mice, keyboards and printers. Also assisting in this effort was the Windows Device Driver Library, which provided further support for monitors, printers, and mice.

In short, this half-baked little Operating Environment is of amusing historical value today, but had little practical value in its day. It served mainly as an evolutionary step to the later versions of Windows, namely Windows 3.1, which put Microsoft and Windows on the map.

Sources: (Screenshots available here!!) (Screenshots available here!!) (Screenshots available here!!);EN-US;Q32905&LN=EN-GB&SD=gn&FR=0

Phraggle: I had suspected as such. I think the thing to remember here is that, while it did take rather advanced hardware for its time, that need was justified. These days, with newer Microsoft Operating Systems, that is rarely the case.

Actually for the time the hardware required was relatively expensive. The following is quoted from Practical Computing, November 1985 (the title of the review was "Windows: Brightening Up MS-DOS"):

Windows Premier Edition comes on four discs and takes some time to install. Although the software is cheap, you need a lot of hardware to run it. The manual says Windows will run on a twin-floppy system, but you really need a hard disc for reasonable speed. What's more, if you are running Windows on the IBM PC you will need a graphics adaptor card, and if you want colour you will need the more expensive enhanced graphics adaptor. Although you could conceivably use Windows without a mouse, we found it difficult, the system is clearly designed for one.

Here is another gem from the same review:

One big advantage of Windows is that it lets you switch rapidly between almost all application programs. You don't have to exit the program you are in, and most of the time you will not have to load the new application into memory: Windows will already have done this when it set up the icon. The time saving can be considerable. It takes about 30 seconds to load Microsoft Word on an IBM PC/XT, but only four seconds to switch to it from most other applications under Windows.

It is amusing that something that seems so primitive now was at the time clearly seen as being advanced. Of course, Moore's Law implies that in 15 years time the systems we use now will probably look just as dated and primitive as Windows 1.x does to us.

I would agree with the earlier poster that Windows 1.0 requirements were not extreme. Like he says, the modern version of Windows pretty much requires exactly what is sold today in the average consumer computer store, except that modern hard disks are far larger than necessary. Windows XP will gladly use all 256Meg of memory and all 2G of processor speed and will not work well without it.

Comparatively in 1985 all machines had 256K (it was more expensive to get smaller memory chips) and most had 512K. At work all machines had 1M of memory, although the well-know 640K limit made a block of that useless, and the part after that block nearly useless (see HiMem.sys for one use). Also everybody was actively looking at EMM and other horrible hacks so that more than 1M of memory was usable, as it was quite obvious that it was going to be needed soon. Also all the machines had 20M hard disks, I am actually suprised to hear that Windows1.0 did not require a hard disk.

So what I am saying is that WIndows1.0 needed about 50% of a "good" machine in 1985. In 2005 Windows XP needs 100% of a "good" machine. Seems we are going backwards...

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