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Windows 95 turns 20 today!

Windows 95 turns 20 today!
Photo courtesy of Microsoft

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 (remember the "Tile" command?).

Windows 95

The Start Menu made it easier to find and launch programs while decluttering the desktop. In fact, the Start Menu 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 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 to the Windows shell by default instead of the text-based DOS. While DOS 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. Of course, it wasn't all highlights.

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), concepts (ME, XP, Vista) and back to version numbers (7, 8, 10).

Windows 95 also kicked off the dubious trend of each new Windows release requiring computers with more RAM, hard drive space and graphic ability. That only started to reverse with Windows 7, and gained steam with Windows 8 and 10 as Microsoft is aiming Windows at lower-end hardware.

Overall, though, we believe it was an important, and mostly positive, milestone in the world of computing. Do you agree?

Let us know your thoughts and fond (or not so fond) remembrances about Windows 95 in the comments below.

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