Twenty years ago on August 24, 1995, Microsoft shook up the computing world with the launch of the innovative and cutting-edge Windows 95. Like any Microsoft Windows launch, it had its share of bumps and naysayers, but it also set the stage for the next 20 years of Windows releases.
The most noticeable change with Windows 95 was the new taskbar interface and the addition of the now-famous Start Menu. Earlier versions of Windows did everything with menus and you had to go hunting for open windows if they were in the background using the “Tile” command.
The Start Menu made it easier to find and launch programs which became such a major part of Windows that when Microsoft took out for Windows 8 there was a huge consumer backlash. That’s why Microsoft put the Start Menu back in for Windows 10.
Another major innovation that came along with Windows 95 was the Internet Explorer browser, although it started as an optional add-on in the “Plus! for Windows 95” package. For nearly a decade, Internet Explorer was the default browser replacing Netscape for most Internet users, and it was still going strong until Microsoft replaced it with Microsoft Edge this year.
In other firsts, Windows 95 was the first Windows to launch the GUI(Graphics User Interface) instead of the text-based DOS which was still around behind the scenes, it would become less important with every new Windows version.
Windows 95 also included Plug and Play, integrated networking, multimedia support and more that we take for granted today.
Windows 95 marked the confusing shift in Microsoft’s naming scheme that would see it move away from version numbers to years (95, 98, 2000), which later changed back to version numbers (7, 8, 10).
Windows 95 also kicked off the trend of each new Windows release requiring computers with more RAM, hard drive space and graphic ability rendering old hardware useless. Luckily it has stopped with Windows 7, and gained steam with Windows 8 and 10 as Microsoft is aiming Windows at lower end hardware.