Gizmodo has a great article regarding the operating system that started it all, Windows 95. It’s worth considering how long ago 15 years was. By today’s tech standards, the mid-90s might as well have been the Cretaceous Period.
In his review of Windows 95 for the New York Times, Stephen Manes hyphenated “on-line.” That long ago. Manes also recounts the frustrating experience of fine-tuning his AUTOEXEC.BAT file—a computing relic whose name is a shock to my eyes, softened by years of smooth animations, color gradients, and idyllic menus. Operating systems were gritty back then. But they worked—most of the time.
“In many ways,” Manes poetically sighed, “[Windows 95] is an edifice built of baling wire, chewing gum and prayer, but you will probably end up living there.” You’ll be forgiven if Windows 95 doesn’t summon a burst of nostalgia. It was never pretty, often cantankerous, and, for the most part, our only option. But within two years of its release, 70% of the planet was using it.
Your own preferences and computing ideology aside, Windows 95 is an undeniable icon. For hundreds of millions of people, Windows 95 was personal computing, spanning the inscrutable crudeness of the Windows 3.1 era and the soothing balm of Windows 98. It was inescapable. It was, possibly, the first operating system you used at home. It might not have been your favorite—we’ll stop there out of respect for our elders—but it helped an entire generation make sense of the PC’s ascension.