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Photos: Windows through the ages

The countdown from 1.0 to 7...
By Tim Ferguson, Contributor on
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1 of 10 Tim Ferguson/ZDNET

The countdown from 1.0 to 7...

Microsoft Windows has been around for more than 20 years and love it or hate it, it's the most ubiquitous desktop operating system in the world.

The first version, aptly called Windows 1.0 (seen in its box above) was released in 1985 and changed the way computer users could interact with their PCs using bitmap graphics and a mouse.

Picture credit: Microsoft

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As can be seen above, the 16-bit Windows 1.0 featured tiled windows and a graphical user interface - a significant change from previous PC OSes such as MS-DOS, which still used C prompt commands.

Another new feature was that users could run several applications at the same time including the MS-DOS file management program, a calendar, calculator, clock and notepad.

Picture credit: Microsoft

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Windows 2.0 emerged in 1987 and added some new features to the Windows recipe which took advantage of more memory and improved processing power of the Intel 286 processor.

The new features included the communication between different applications (Dynamic Data Exchange), overlapping windows and use of keyboard combinations for certain tasks.

Picture credit: Microsoft

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Windows 3.0 also had a software development kit meaning developers could write applications and device drivers. By now, hardware and other software developers were producing products to work on Windows, boosting uptake of the OS.

Picture credit: Microsoft

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Windows NT 3.1 came out in 1993 and was much more focused on business computing being available as both desktop and server version (Windows NT Advanced Server).

Unlike the latest version of the more consumer-focused Windows 3.1, NT (standing for new technology) was a 32 bit OS.

NT included new applications such as domain server security and support for multiple processor architectures.

Picture credit: Microsoft

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The next major Windows update came in 1995, with Windows 95. The OS was launched with a huge fanfare and was a 32 bit OS designed to replace Windows 3.1, Windows for Workgroups and MS-DOS.

Windows 95 was the first OS to really support internet use and dial-up networking. It also included an easier way to install hardware and software and was better suited to multimedia applications.

Windows 98 was essentially a revised version of Windows 95.

Picture credit: Microsoft

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In 2000 Microsoft released Windows Millennium Edition (Me), which barely lasted a year before being superseded by XP.

Me was designed for home use and was the last OS to be based on the Windows 95 code base. Its business equivalent was Windows 2000 Professional and was based on Windows NT Workstation 4.0.

Me featured the system restore feature for users to roll back their system configuration to an earlier time before a particular problem occurred.

Picture credit: Microsoft

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Hot on the heels of Me and Windows 2000 came Windows XP in 2001.

XP stood for "experience" and this was the first time Microsoft merged its business and consumer OS lines into one. Based on the Windows 2000 code base, XP continues to dominate the business market today.

Picture credit: Microsoft

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Emerging towards the end of 2006, Windows Vista was touted as a huge leap for Windows operating systems. However, it met with lukewarm reviews and has failed to have the impact Microsoft hoped for.

Two years on, despite being Microsoft's biggest selling OS ever, it remains a minority choice for businesses, many of which are already looking towards its successor, Windows 7...

Picture credit: Microsoft

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And here's how Windows 7 is shaping up. Microsoft is working to make the OS much faster to start up as well as support multitouch inputs and make it easier to manage multiple windows.

The OS uses much of the same technology as Vista but will aim to remove some of the more unpopular features of its predecessor.

Microsoft also recently unveiled a web-hosted operating system named Azure, which is seen as its attempts to stake its claims for a piece of the cloud computing pie.

The beta is of Windows 7 due to land in January.

Picture credit: Microsoft

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