- November 10 -

Microsoft Released Windows

On November 10, 1983, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, Microsoft Corporation formally announced Microsoft Windows, a next-generation operating system that would provide a graphical user interface (GUI) and a multitasking environment for IBM computers.  The history of Windows dates back to...

Microsoft Released Windows

On November 10, 1983, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, Microsoft Corporation formally announced Microsoft Windows, a next-generation operating system that would provide a graphical user interface (GUI) and a multitasking environment for IBM computers.

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 November 10, 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 Visi On 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 as Jackintoshes (the company CEO was 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 on 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 Quarterdeck's DESQview, modeled after but more memory-economical and versatile than 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. Early Windows versions of Microsoft Excel and other Windows applications were bundled with a runtime version of Windows, presumably to both increase sales of the applications and allow users to 'test drive' Windows at no additional cost.

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.
Other shell programs for MS-DOS include Norton Commander, PC Tools, XTree, DOS 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.

Windows 1.0 offers limited multitasking of existing MS-DOS programs and concentrates on creating an interaction paradigm (cf. message loop), an execution model and a stable API for native programs for the future. Due to Microsoft's extensive support for backward compatibility, it is not only possible to execute Windows 1.0 binary programs on current versions of Windows to a large extent, but also to recompile their source code into an equally functional 'modern' application with just limited modifications.
Windows 1.0 is often regarded as a 'front-end to the MS-DOS operating system', a description which has also been applied to subsequent versions of Windows. Windows 1.0 is an MS-DOS program. Windows 1.0 programs can call MS-DOS functions, and GUI programs are run from .exe files just like MS-DOS programs. However, Windows .exe files had their own 'new executable' (NE) file format, which only Windows could process and which, for example, allowed demand-loading of code and data. Applications were supposed to handle memory only through Windows' own memory management system, which implemented a software-based virtual memory scheme allowing for applications larger than available RAM.

Because graphics support in MS-DOS is extremely limited, MS-DOS applications have to go to the bare hardware (or sometimes just to the BIOS) to get work done. Therefore, Windows 1.0 included original device drivers for video cards, a mouse, keyboards, printers and serial communications, and applications were supposed to only invoke APIs built upon these drivers. However, this extended to other APIs such as file system management functions. In this sense, Windows 1.0 was designed to be extended into a full-fledged operating system, rather than being just a graphics environment used by applications. Indeed, Windows 1.0 is a 'DOS front-end' and cannot operate without a DOS environment (it uses, for example, the file-handling functions provided by DOS.) The level of replacement increases in subsequent versions.

The system requirements for Windows 1.01 constituted CGA/HGC/EGA (listed as 'Monochrome or color monitor'), MS-DOS 2.0, 256 kB of memory or greater, and two double-sided disk drives or a hard drive. Beginning with version 1.03, support for Tandy and AT&T graphics modes were added.
Windows 1.0 runs a shell program known as MS-DOS Executive. Other supplied programs are Calculator, Calendar, Cardfile, Clipboard viewer, Clock, Notepad, Paint, Reversi, Terminal, and Write.

Windows 1.0 does not allow overlapping windows. Instead all windows are tiled. Only dialog boxes can appear over other windows.
Windows 1.0 executables, while having a similar .exe extension and initial file header similar to MS-DOS programs, do not contain the code that prints the 'This program requires Microsoft Windows' message and exits when the program is run outside of Windows. Instead, the exe file header has a newer C programming model specifying more memory and makes DOS reject the executable with a 'program too large to fit in memory' error message.
Windows 1.x applications were not designed to run in protected mode and as such are not normally compatible with Windows 3.1 and up, although they may be patched for all 16 and 32-bit versions of Windows.

From the beginning, Windows was intended to multitask programs (although this originally only applied to native applications and for many versions the multitasking was co-operative, rather than preemptive).
Pre-release versions had menus at the bottom of windows, as it was used in Microsoft applications, such as Word and Multiplan of that era; however, this was changed before the first release.


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