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A+: History of Windows

1985: Windows 1.0 offered titled windows, the use of a mouse (heretofore restricted largely to graphics creation programs) and borrowed on IBM's Common User Interface ('CUI') to create the menu-at-the-top interface still used today in many apps. Multi-tasking was co-operative, not pre-emptive, and all programs were 16-bit, just like MS-DOS applications.

1987: Windows 2.0 added icons to make program launching easier, as well as the Program Information File (.PIF) which allowed easier configuration of programs to launch from the Windows desktop. Windows could now overlap, whereas with 1.0, they could only be tiled.

1990: Windows 3.0 allowed use of memory past the 640 KB limit, added virtual memory, and the File Manager and Program Manager applications.

1992: Windows 3.1 added Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) which permits data from one application to be easily used in another (such as drag-and-drop of a picture from Paint or a spreadsheet from Excel into a Word document). It also enhanced media playback as well as graphics capability in general.

1993: Windows for Workgroups 3.11 integrated small-scale networking into the operating system whereas before it required an expensive dedicated server running server software, such as Novell's Netware.  32-bit software could now be run which allowed more memory to be used by the program.

Also, the first version of Windows NT, an entirely 32-bit operating system with entirely 32-bit memory addressing, was introduced for the business community, with stability and networking its primary features. It introduced the NTFS file system for formatting its hard drives with journaling and redundancy in its directory, and runs on a Hardware Abstraction Layer ('HAL') to allow its installation on CPUs other than Pentiums. NT was originally intended to be OS/3, but Microsoft's decision to add Windows APIs to NT led to a falling out with IBM and NT instead effectively replaced OS/2 in the business world over the years to come. 

1995: Windows 95 was the first version to run without MS-DOS; it now emulated DOS within Windows. Plug and Play ('PnP') allowed new motherboards designed for PnP and new components also designed for PnP to be installed with no need for external drivers. The network stack, the behind-the-scenes programs which permit networking of personal computers, was also more rugged and resilient.

Also, Windows NT 3.51 was introduced, following closely on the heels of the fall 1994 release of ver. 3.5.

1998: Windows 98 was released and quickly replaced by Windows 98SE ('Second Edition') to fix stability issues.

2000: Windows 2000 replaced Windows NT, adding the Windows 95 look-and-feel to the business version of Windows while moving video management, spooler and server functions from the user space to the kernel for greater reliability. It shipped in Professional and Server editions. Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Server 2003, 7 and Server 2008 are all more sophisticated versions of Windows NT.

Also, Windows ME replaces 98SE, but the restricted access to real mode MS-DOS (in order to speed up system boot time) made ME unpopular.

2001: Windows XP replaces Windows ME (and the crowd goes wild!). Like Windows 2000, it is NT-based. It comes in Home, Professional and Media Center versions.

2003: Windows Server 2003 replaces Server 2000.

2007: Windows Vista is supposed to replace XP. If you don't have 2GB, it won't run well, if at all. Its User Access Control feature was also rough around the edges (if you still have Vista, you can turn it off with Start | Control Panel | Security | Security Center | Other Security Settings).

2008: Windows Server 2008 replaces Server 2003.

2009: Windows 7 replaces Vista (and the crowd goes wild!).



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