Let there be graphics

Though Xerox implemented a mouse-based Graphical User Interface on its Alto Computer as early as 1973, it took about a decade for Microsoft and Apple, in direct competition with each other, to sell this system to the world.

Windows 1 first arrived in 1985, introducing graphical matter into the black void that was MSDOS. Twenty-eight years later, Windows is estimated to be the operating system of choice on around 90% of all personal computers. Over time, each new stage in the advancement of digital technology has been incorporated into the functionality of the Windows operating system. The advent of more powerful CPUs, the internet, social media and the rise of mobile devices; all of these have played their part in its evolution.

Twenty-seven years and eight versions later

Learning to use a computer can be a frightening thing, with the inexperienced being under the false impression that a click in the wrong place will initiate a self-destruction sequence.

Imagine those same people using the MSDOS interface and its system of commands that preceded Windows 1. Well, in truth that might actually have seemed less threatening to them, in the sense it would be hard for them to believe that typing commands like “DIR” on a black screen could do anything whatsoever, let alone cause something to blow up.

Windows 1 arrived in 1985 with its GUI (Graphical User Interface), allowing users to execute commands by clicking on them with a mouse. It was the beginning of a philosophy that would become the fundamental tenet of User Interface Design: Make things simpler and more intuitive, which usually implies making it more visual.

In 1987, Windows 2.0 replaced the commands with desktop icons, and supported keyboard shortcuts; in 1990, Windows 3.0 introduced multitasking and improved multimedia support. It also incorporated the 16 color graphics made possible by the introduction of VGA cards.

Windows 95 was the next major step. Whereas previous versions of Windows were basically MSDOS dressed up in a Graphical User Interface, Windows 95 was the first to do away with the underlying MSDOS core, and introduce an entirely new GUI that would be the basis for the versions that followed.

It was the first 32-bit operating system, allowing specifically designed applications designed to run much faster than before, and it was the first to implement plug-and-play compatibility, meaning that new hardware devices added to the computer would be detected by the operating system  and assigned the necessary resources.

Versions that followed included Windows 98, with its FAT32 system allowing for file partitions larger than 2 GB; Windows 2000 and Windows XP in 2001, each of them enhancing the Windows 95 interface and introducing new features.

In 2006, Windows Vista introduced the “Aero” visual interface, with new features that included the ability to preview windows before opening them. In 2009, Windows 7 sought to implement an enhanced version of the Aero interface without the clunkiness of its predecessor.

Windows 8 was released in 2012, with a completely redesigned interface that reflected all the trends we’ve seen in User Interface design over the past few years. Touchscreen usability, for example, and a menu system geared towards both desktops and mobile devices.

DotTech created a visual representation showing the evolution of the Windows interface over the decades. It perfectly emphasizes how far the operating system has come. Some will swear by Linux, others by Mac, but few can deny the impact of Windows.

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