Windows 1.01
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Windows 1.01

Windows 1.0 is a 16-bit graphical operating environment that was released on November 20, 1985[1]. It was Microsoft's first attempt to implement a multi-tasking graphical user interface-based operating environment on the PC platform. Windows 1.0 was the first version of Windows launched. It was succeeded by Windows 2.0.

The first release version of Windows 1.0 is actually numbered 1.01[2].

Version 1.02, released in May 1986, was international and had editions in several European languages. Version 1.03, released in August 1986, was for the US- and international market, with enhancements making it consistent with the international release. It included drivers for European keyboards and additional screen and printer drivers. Version 1.04, released in April 1987, added support for the VGAgraphics adapters of the new IBM PS/2 computers. At the same time, Microsoft and IBM announced the introduction of OS/2 and its graphical OS/2 Presentation Manager, which were supposed to ultimately replace both MS-DOS and Windows.

Windows 1.0 was superseded by Windows 2.0 in November 1987, but supported by Microsoft for sixteen years, until 31 December 2001.

Installation mediaWindows 1.0 was available only on floppy disks. The user had to have DOS to install it. The same was true with all versions of Windows up to Windows 95.

The history of Windows dates back to September 1981, when the project named "Interface Manager" was started. It was first presented to the public on 10 November 1983, renamed to "Microsoft Windows"; the two years of delay before release led to charges that it was "vaporware". The initially announced version of Windows had features so much resembling the Macintosh interface that Microsoft had to change many of them: overlapping windows, although supported by the GUI engine, weren't allowed for exactly this reason. The announcement of Windows' imminent arrival in 1985 probably did not help the sales of VisiCorp's VisiOn environment which debuted at the same time. However, even when finally released, Windows 1.0 aroused little interest.

Another GUI for the PC platform at the time was GEM. It used more aspects from the Macintosh GUI, for example the trash can concept (which Microsoft would later employ in future Windows releases) and more generally the desktop interaction. GEM was eventually used as the standard GUI for the Atari's ST range of 68k-based computers, which were sometimes referred to asJackintoshes (the company being run by Jack Tramiel). GEM was also included in the Amstrad PC1512, probably the first 8086 based PC targeted at the home consumer and sold alongside TV's and washing machines at appliance stores. GEM's resemblance to the Mac OS later caused legal trouble for the manufacturer, Digital Research, who was obliged to seriously cripple the desktop's appearance and functionality (applications were not affected).


GEM was relying of multitasking of the OS under it (non-existing in DOS on that time), so users had to close one program in order to run another one. Collections of related programs, like GEM Draw, had confusing File menu items like Close (to Edit) to facilitate switching.

An alternative multitasker released shortly before was DESQview, a successor of IBM's failed TopView from 1984. It did not have graphical capabilities initially, but is able to multitask DOS applications in windows as long as they are well-behaved or have a specially written "loader" to fix them on the fly.

Windows 1.0 market share grew very slowly, as there was no killer app (market-dominating software) that required the graphical shell. The killer apps at the time were generally only available on the Apple Macintosh platform (this statement was true even of Microsoft's Mac-OS-only Microsoft Office).

The Macintosh remained the platform of choice especially for high-end graphics and desktop publishing (DTP). Although Aldus PageMaker shipped in January 1987 with a Windows executable, it remained a curiosity due to poor support relative to the Mac version, and a steep $795 price tag.

PC-based DTP remained out of the reach of most Windows users until the release of $99 Serif PagePlus 1.0 in 1991. PagePlus won considerable praise from the prestigious Seybold Reports, not only for being the first sub-$100 DTP package capable of CMYK color separations but also because Serif backed up their customers with free 24-hour support. Nearly every desktop publishing magazine shootout review would include both programs side by side despite the price differences. In the real world however, the lack of a Mac version meant few prepress service bureaus would accept PC data or PC PostScript files. Corel Draw 1.0, Micrografx Picture Publisher, Paint Shop Pro, and Cool Edit also provided a Windows-only focus and provided capabilities previously only found in expensive applications.

Other shell programs for MS-DOS include Norton CommanderPC ToolsXTreeDOS Shell, and DOS Menu (in MS-DOS version 4.0). These applications attempted to be organizational and menu-driven tools, and did not try at all to be a 'desktop' shell.