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This Doesn’t Mean We Are Shipping A New Version Every Year

January 14, 2014

(Photo Credit: Kilbeys Classics)
The year was 1995. I had recently moved from WordPerfect to Microsoft. (I Don’t Want To Know How Much That Cost Me.) In a lot of ways I didn’t feel like a “real” Microsoftie (Yes, that’s actually what we called ourselves.) It would be years before I warranted an office. My cubicle was not on campus in Redmond. It was on the 11th floor of the Hyatt Regency building in downtown Bellevue, about 20 miles from “campus.” You see, I was there to support Microsoft Mail. A nearly forgotten product. Support calls were so slow that my best and I who both worked the night shift on Wednesday would practice doing comedy. People would even stay late to watch us.

However, tonight was different. Tonight the phones were busy, but not with MSMail calls.

Microsoft Mail Support, how can I help you?

Is this Microsoft?

Yeah. Is there something I can help you with.

Hey guys, I’m talking to MICROSOFT! YEAH!!!

Ah. . .sir? Where are you?

I’m in line at Best Buy waiting to buy Windows 95!

It’s 15 minutes to midnight.

Yeah, I know. They won’t open the doors until the stroke of midnight. There must be 200 people in this line. I got here about 5 hours ago and there were people in front me!

Why?

I just can’t wait to buy Windows 95. I just can’t believe I got through to you. The main lines were jammed, but then I remembered the MS Mail number. And it WORKED!!

Well, thanks . . . Anything else I can do for you?

Nah. You have a good night.

You, too sir. And thanks for calling Microsoft support.

I had never seen anything like it. People all over the country were standing in line to buy Microsoft’s latest product. And stores that were contractually prevented from selling it before August 24th, were setting up midnight premier parties. And people were so caught up in it that they were calling random Microsoft support numbers just for a chance to talk to an actual Microsoft employee. That night, I felt like a Microsoftie.

It reminded me of a movie premier.

It was one of the most brilliant marketing campaigns I’d ever seen. It was certainly a revolutionary product for the PC. We take the graphic user interface for granted today. But, in the early 1990’s, if you were using a PC, you lived in the world of DOS and Windows 3.1. You booted your computer and when it got to the point where it showed you a black screen with a

c:\ prompt,

you entered the command to start Windows. Windows 95 did that itself. And where Windows 3.1 was kind of clunky looking (even for 20 years ago) Windows 95 was sleek and cool looking.

A couple of interesting notes on Windows 95. First, is all my friends who used Macs were like,

What is the big deal? You’re only about 10 years late to the party!

And the ironic thing about Windows 95 was that it did the same thing that Windows 3.1 did. By that I mean that the computer was still running DOS underneath. The only difference was that Microsoft put this shiny new package round it. It would be another 3 years before Microsoft released a version of Windows that finally did away with DOS and ran natively.

The other memorable thing about the Windows 95 launch was the name. Again, with the benefit of nearly 20 years, we take it for granted that products have a version that corresponds to the year they were released. But, prior to 1995 no one named them that way. In fact, the naming scheme was so radical that Microsoft went so far as to send a letter to their employees. Time has faded my memory of much of the text, but the important part was this

The fact that we are naming the next version of Windows 95, does not mean that we will be releasing a new version every year.

Prior to that it was only things like cars that got a year designation: The 94 Mustang, the 56 Chevy Bel Air, a 59 Cadillac. But, no car ever got the reception that Windows 95 did. It’s estimated that microsoft made$4.4B on Windows 95 that year. At $129 per copy, that’s a lot of Windows. It was very cool.

They even got the Rolling Stones “Start Me Up” as the theme song to introduce the new START button. However, the one small disappointment was at the company meeting that year. They always have a surprise guest. No, it wasn’t Mick Jagger and Keith Richards and friends. Now THAT would have been cool.

20140113-214251.jpg
(Photo Credit: Softpedia

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

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