On this day, 25 years ago, Microsoft released Windows 3.0. It was a very big deal. You see, for almost a decade before that, Microsoft had only managed to provide MS-DOS. It was an 8086 clone of the CP/M operating system, written by 25-year-old programmer Tim Paterson. Just to be clear, all Microsoft did was buy what Paterson had written. And this may explain why for the next nine years — 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0, 6.0, 7.0, 8.0! — Microsoft hardly managed to improve it. Of course, Microsoft did manage to come out with Windows 1.0 in 1985 and Windows 2.0 at the end of 1987. They were pathetic attempts. The only thing more pathetic was that Apple (Of course!) sued Microsoft for copyright infringement — unleashing on the world the “look and feel” lawsuit. (Note: the lawsuit that started this kind of anti-freedom nonsense actually dates back to Broderbund Software Inc. v Unison World, Inc. Courts should not be allowed to rule on technology or science when they don’t understand it — which they rarely do.)
But with Windows 3.0, Microsoft had finally managed to create something that was usable. It certainly wasn’t great. And a lot of it was just that computers were more powerful by that time, so the program could work reasonably well. Even still, the earlier versions of Windows did not multitask well. But let us remember: Windows 3.0 was a program that ran on MS-DOS. It was not until Windows 95 (version 4.0), that Microsoft managed to combine MS-DOS and Windows. And it wasn’t until Windows 2000 (version 5.0) that it became a modern operating system. (For the record, Windows XP is Windows 5.1. I find it annoying that people think that Windows XP was this major release. But all they did was put a different UI on it. If you wanted to save some resources, you could make it look just like Windows 2000. Indeed, my current Windows 7 computer looks just like Windows 2000. I don’t like change.)
So there you go. You may think that I’m opinionated about politics, but clearly computer history trumps that. And that’s especially true when I’m talking about Microsoft and Apple. Bill Gates is (usually) the richest man in the world for one reason: he got the contract to provide the operating system for the new IBM personal computers. He used that advantage to stifle innovation for years. But mostly because of computer heroes like Mitch Kapor (creator of 1-2-3), Gates was able to become an incredibly rich man despite the fact that he was only hurting the industry. But it after Apple lead the way with the graphical user interface (which they stole before they started suing everyone who did the same thing), that Gate got immorally rich based upon his control the operating system that so many people used because of the great programs created by people who were not Bill Gates nor worked for Bill Gates.
Happy birthday to the first decent product that Microsoft managed to produce!