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Microsoft Windows®

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Windows 1.0

Microsoft first began development of the Interface Manager (subsequently renamed Microsoft Windows) in September 1981. Although the first prototypes used Multiplan and Word-like menus at the bottom of the screen, the interface was changed in 1982 to use pull-down menus and dialogs, as used on the Xerox Star.

Microsoft finally announced Windows in November 1983, with pressure from just-released VisiOn and impending TopView. This was after the release of the Apple Lisa (but prior to the Macintosh), and before Digital Research announced GEM, another competing graphical environment. Windows promised an easy-to-use graphical interface, device-independent graphics and multitasking support. The development was delayed several times, however, and the first version hit the store shelves (after 55 programmer-years of development!) in November 1985. The selection of applications was sparse, however, and Windows sales were modest.

The following were the major features of Windows 1.0:

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Windows 2.0

Windows 2.0, introduced in the fall of 1987, provided significant useability improvements to Windows. With the addition of icons and overlapping windows, Windows became a viable environment for development of major applications (such as Excel, Word for Windows, Corel Draw!, Ami, PageMaker and Micrografx Designer), and the sales were spurred by the runtime ("Single Application Environment") versions supplied by the independent software vendors. When Windows/386 (see next section) was released, Microsoft renamed Windows to Windows/286 for consistency.

The following are the major changes from earlier versions of Windows:

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In late 1987 Microsoft released Windows/386. While it was functionally equivalent to its sibling, Windows/286, in running Windows applications, it provided the capability to run multiple DOS applications simultaneously in the extended memory.

The following are the major changes from earlier versions of Windows:

Windows 3.0 

Microsoft Windows 3.0, released in May, 1990, was a complete overhaul of the Windows environment. With the capability to address memory beyond 640K and a much more powerful user interface, independent software vendors started developing Windows applications with vigor. The powerful new applications helped Microsoft sell more than 10 million copies of Windows, making it the best-selling graphical user interface in the history of computing.

The following are the major changes from earlier versions of Windows:

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Windows 3.1 92-09-21

Microsoft Windows 3.1, released in April, 1992 provides significant improvements to Windows 3.0. In its first two months on the market, it sold over 3 million copies, including upgrades from Windows 3.0. It is currently continuing to sell at a rate of over 1 million copies per month.

The following are the major changes from Windows 3.0:

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Windows 3.11 94-03-01

Windows 3.11, available now, adds no new features but corrects some existing, mostly network-related problems. It is replacing Windows 3.1 at the retail and OEM levels, and the upgrade is available free from

Windows for Workgroups 3.1 93-04-22

The Windows for Workgroups package, released in November, 1992, is the first integrated Windows and networking package offered by Microsoft. It provides peer-to-peer file and printer sharing capabilities (on a level comparable to LANtastic or Netware Lite) highly integrated into the Windows environment. The simple-to-use-and-install networking allows the user to specify which files on the user's machine should be made accessible to others. The files can then be accessed from other machines running either Windows or DOS.

Windows for Workgroups also includes two additional applications: Microsoft Mail, a network mail package, and Schedule+, a workgroup scheduler.

Windows for Workgroups 3.11 94-03-01

Windows for Workgroups 3.11, available now, adds 32-bit file access, fax capabilites and higher performance to Windows for Workgroups 3.1.

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Windows 95 94-12-02

This, the successor to Windows 3.1 and Windows for Workgroups 3.11, is to be released in the first half of 1995. It will be a 32-bit system providing full pre-emptive multitasking, advanced filesystems, threading, networking and more. It will include MS-DOS 7.0, but will take over from DOS completely after starting. It will not include Windows NT's security, multiprocessor support, server capabilities or multiple API personality modules. It will include a completely revised user interface, along the lines of "Cairo", but not taken as far as that product.

See the section entitled Windows 95 Q &A for more information about Windows 95.

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  • 4.00.950 - Windows 95a (The first release of 95)
  • 4.00.1111 - Windows 95 OSR2 (Second release with bugfixes)
  • 4.10.1998 - Windows 98
  • 4.10.2222 - Windows 98 Second Edition

Win32s for Windows 3.1 94-03-15

Win32s is a set of libraries for Windows 3.1, which enable users to run most Windows NT 32-bit applications on Windows 3.1, without the extensive hardware requirements of Windows NT. The Win32s interface has effectively replaced the older Windows-32 programming interface used by 32-bit Windows applications such as previous versions of Mathematica.

Windows NT 3.1 94-03-01

Microsoft Windows NT is Microsoft's platform of choice for high-end systems. It is intended for use in network servers, workstations and software development machines; it will not replace Windows for DOS. While Windows NT's user interface is very similar to that of Windows 3.1, it is based on an entirely new operating system kernel.

The following are the major changes from Windows 3.1:

The following is the minimum platform for use with the client edition of Windows NT:

The Advanced Server Edition requires 16 MB of memory.

Win32 in itself is not a version of Windows, but the name of application programming interface for Windows NT and Windows 95.

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Windows NT 3.5 94-04-12

Windows NT 3.5 provides OLE 2.0, improved performance and reduced memory requirements. It was released in September 1994. Windows NT 3.5 Workstation replaces Windows NT 3.1, while Windows NT 3.5 Server replaces the Windows NT 3.1 Advanced Server.

Windows NT 4.0 ("Cairo") 94-03-15

"Cairo" is Microsoft's project for object-oriented Windows, and a successor to the "Daytona" release of Windows NT. Firm details are not available, but most rumors place expected availability sometime in 1995. Developers are encouraged to work with OLE 2.0 in order to start moving in the correct direction towards future "Cairo" compatability.


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Windows for Pen Computing 3.1

Microsoft developed Windows for Pen Computing for use on pen-based systems. In most aspects, it is basically equivalent to Windows 3.1 with extensions for pen support. These extensions include the use of a pen as a pointing device as well as handwriting recognition and conversion. Pen Windows first shipped in April, 1992.

Multimedia Windows

The term Multimedia Windows describes a package with Windows 3.0 and the Multimedia Extensions. These extensions are included in Windows 3.1, and thus Multimedia Windows is no longer sold as a separate product.

Modular Windows

Modular Windows is the operating system for Tandy Corp.'s Video Information System (VIS) multimedia player. It is essentially similar to Windows' core, but without any desktop accessories, TrueType fonts or a number of other features.


Win-OS/2 is the Windows component of IBM's OS/2 2.0. It is based partially on Windows 3.0 and partially on 3.1. While it runs a majority of the commercial Windows applications, it is not covered by this document. Windows 95 Q&A The following questions and answers are from a document distributed by Microsoft in December, 1993.


Windows 98

Windows 98 and 98SE are the follow up upgrades to Windows 95 with more multimedia, and shell enhancements over 95.  It was documented somewhere that 20% of the changes in Windows 98 were visible through the windows shell or desktop while the remaining 80% were changes made to the kernel and underlying components to make the operating system flow smoother.  It does show with superior hardware and driver support.

Probably the biggest noticeable improvement in Windows 98 was Active Desktop.  Although some several people dislike active desktop, including myself, it does serve a purpose and can be useful when used properly.  The basis of Active Desktop is to be able to download and view a live web page as your background that you can click and interact with instantly.   
Active Desktop works by having Internet Explorer embedded in the background processes of the desktop hidden away from it's usual format.  Due to IE's integration into Windows 98, it can easily run as a hidden process showing only web content that provides a live, active link to the web every time your computer boots.  I personally don't use Active Desktop since it takes up extra resources and memory and seems to litter a pretty desktop with a web page, possibly future advertisements too.


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Windows 2000

Windows 2000 the follow up operating system to Windows NT 4.0 is touted as being the best and most stable operating system to date from Microsoft.  Windows 2000 has a completely revamped desktop with tons of features that until now users have only found in Windows 98 and 95.  Such simple additions like Device Manager have made Windows 2000 the OS of choice for stability and ease of use.

Windows 2000 was released on February 17, 2000 in three different versions or levels, Professional, Server, and Advanced Server.  Professional replaces Windows NT 4 Workstation as the desktop operating system for businesses and recently some home users.  Windows 2000 Professional migrates all of the previously known networking components found in NT Workstation along with many user enhancements found in 98 to give it a solid and comfortable feel.  Before you almost had to feel like or be a IT professional to install and actually use Workstation at all, but with more people using computers Microsoft made Windows 2000 more easier to use and with a familiar feel with an operating system that they had used before.

Windows 2000 Server is part of a family of sorts itself.  There is Server, Advanced Server and the soon to be released Data center Server in what is called the 2000 Server Family.  Each of these operating systems are underneath the same OS, but with more enhancements and features.  Windows 2000 Server replaces Windows NT 4 Server which even though it is on the bottom of the three in the server family, is still a very powerfully operating system.  Server supports up to four CPU's running a once as well as all the services found in NT and more.  With the release of 2000 Microsoft decided that instead of offering services such as IIS and telnet separately that it would be better to include them along with others in the basic install.  Most companies as well as corporations would have their needs covered with 2000 Server from file/print servers to domain controllers.

Advanced Server and Datacenter Server are operating systems that most people and IT professionals won't see or use in a working environment to often.  Both Advanced and Datacenter servers are designed around massive database and e-commerce handling.  These two operating systems can handle up to 32 simultaneous CPU's and 64gb of RAM, a pc most of us won't be using anytime too soon.  Currently Datacenter Server is still in the development phase with a release date at approximately 120 days after the release of Professional and Server.

Many critics have criticized Microsoft for taking upwards of five years for the development of Windows 2000 to Windows NT 4.  At one point Win2000 was known as NT version 5 but in October of 1999 Microsoft officially changed the name from NT5 to Windows 2000.  This name change has confused many in the computer world as thinking this is a upgrade to Windows 98 which it is not.  Though the namesake of this version may seem to stem from Windows 98, Windows 2000 has a entirely different code base.  The upgrade to Windows 98 is the less hyped Windows Millennium Edition (WinME) which is more of a quieter bug fix/interim version instead of a major upgrade.  

Although Windows 2000 may be a upgrade for the business version of Windows (NT 4.0), Win2000 has superior support for most hardware and software titles on the market compared to NT 4.  This could be part of the future merging point of the Windows 98 and Windows NT based operating systems by Microsoft.  If anyone wants to use Windows2000 as their main operating system, I am not sure if I would probably tell them go ahead after reading up to make sure this is what they want.


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Windows ME

Windows Millennium is the next scheduled to be released operating system by Microsoft in the Windows 95 family of OS's.  WinME as it's also called is the latest and last upgrade to the Windows 9x kernel based operating systems.  Immediately after release of ME, Microsoft plans to begin merging the 9x family line into the NT family line with the upcoming Windows "Whistler" OS.

Development on Millennium began in late July 1999 with several copies of developer releases being given out to high end corporations for viewing.  Microsoft's overall company goal has been changed to develop and release products, especially operating systems within a year to a year and half time going start to finish.  This is evident with Millennium going from developer release in July 1999 to Beta 3 phase in mid-April 2000.  Working along side, Microsoft's other major goal is to combine the kernel and merge all operating systems to the NT based kernel which is more faster, efficient, and stable compared to the 9x kernel.  This will begin with Millennium being the last upgrade OS for the 9x family and "Whistler" being the replacement.

The most evident change seen in Windows Millennium Edition is the GUI and style changes.  These aren't major changes as was Windows 95 from Windows 3.x, but rather these changes deal with colors, Win2000 style icons, and a entirely new "feel" to it.  Now instead of having the gray bland look to it, WinME has a more softer and family oriented feel which should make everyone adapt quicker to it.


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Windows Neptune

Windows "Neptune" is a code-named operating system that very few people outside of the Microsoft circle have heard about and probably will never hear about.  Neptune was a scheduled upgrade to the now soon to be released Windows Millennium, but instead of using the 9x kernel, Neptune would have been based on NT.  Along with Neptune there was also another OS that was scheduled to be the future upgrade for Windows 2000 code-named "Odyssey".

Both the Neptune and Odyssey projects were cancelled as of March 2000 due to supposed restructuring of the internal Windows departments at Microsoft.  After all the dust had settled the plan for the future of Windows had changed from having Neptune be the NT based upgrade for the home user market (Win98/ME) and Odyssey from the business market (WinNT, Win2000) into a single operating system be the all around upgrade.  That new single operating system would be based on the NT kernel as were Neptune and Odyssey, but this upgrade would combine the business OS and home OS into one with different levels of support.  The new project that replaces Neptune and Odyssey is code-named "Whistler" that is suspected to technically be NT version 5.5 or 6.0 with a follow up operating system code-named "Blackcomb".  Due date for Whistler to be released is suspected around mid-2001, although don't hold your breath.

If you remember back with Windows 95/NT introducing something called Build Numbers.  Each major version and revision of a operating system has taken anywhere from 800-1000 builds to accomplish.  A interesting fact with Neptune is that there was only one known build leaked out of Microsoft and that was build number 5111.  What is strange is that the most latest build number for Windows 2000 is 2195 and for Windows Millennium is 2525.  It would interesting to see Microsoft's reasoning behind that especially since Neptune was upgraded directly from the Windows2000 code.  Also a side note, Whistlers latest leaked build is 2223.

Below are pictures of the operating system we could have seen.  This should give you a small glimpse into the workings of Microsoft and software development.

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Windows Whistler

With the Windows "Neptune" and "Odyssey" projects officially cancelled, Microsoft has combined the two former efforts into a new project code-named "Whistler".  The goal of Whistler is to be the first version of windows that is in the "next generation" of windows.  Windows Whistler is composed of a NT kernel base (derived from the Windows NT OS) with the usability for games and applications as Windows 98.

The development phase for Whistler started immediately after the "Neptune" and "Odyssey" projects were cancelled supposedly picking up where Windows 2000 development left off.  There has not been much development except kernel changes in Whistler to make it more stable and accessible by games.  At the moment Whistler is at build 2223 (Windows 2000 is build 2195) and is bundled with a pre-alpha version of Internet Explorer 5.6 that is far from stable or beta development.  Below are screenshots to see what the next generation of Windows will look like.


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