10 Years On: Windows 95 Remembered

August 24, 1995 was a momentous occasion for the computer industry as Microsoft introduced Windows 95 at a gala launch event. The long awaited new operating system not only sparked the explosion of the Internet, but for the first time computers became inspirational tools that would make our lives better.

The Windows 95 launch took place on a 12-acre sports field at Microsoft's Redmond campus. It took 20 days and over 200 people to prepare for the festivities, and Bill Gates' address was beamed simultaneously to 43 other events in cities around the world - not an easy feat in 1995.

Over 70,000 people tuned in to watch the launch event live via satellite. The Empire State Building in New York City was even lit up with the Windows 95 logo. Fields in England were also painted with the logo so it could be seen from the air. In Poland, journalists were taken in a submarine to experience "a world without Windows."

The launch was a hit. 20 national magazine cover stories, 13,000 newspaper stories, 800 radio news spots and 2,000 television news segments all covered the arrival of Windows 95, which would usher in a new era in computing.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Windows 95 and relive the excitement, we have collected stories from those who where there to experience the events first hand:

"Windows 95 was launched in a big white tent on the suburban Microsoft campus east of Seattle. The tent held about 1,500 people; some 300 were journalists. I sat with a pack of them, all identifiable by their press badges and shopping bags full of free software.

"At the end of the show, the backdrop was yanked away, revealing two bleachers full of the Windows 95 software team. They were in four groups, each of which wore t-shirts of a single color. The whole created the four-paned window that is the Win95 logo. Then -- kaboom! -- the stage split in half, a way-cool thing to happen. We were supposed to exit through the divided stage and into an aisle between the two bleachers.

"As we trooped out, the software developers began to chant. One bleacher yelled, "Windows!"; the other, "95!" "Windows!" "95!" Anyone who has been to a high school football game gets the idea. As the press filed out, it joined the cry: "Windows! 95!" - Charles C. Mann, Inc. Magazine

"I remember.

"Windows 95 was an event. People lined up for blocks outside computer stores (like Egghead) at midnight to get their copy of Microsoft's newest operating system. Rolling Stones' song "Start Me Up" set the tone for the launch.

"Those were the days when Microsoft got aspirational marketing right and for the right audiences. Microsoft wooed businesses to Windows 95 with features like easier networking, more productivity and (gasp) long file names! Microsoft promised consumers better entertainment, such as desktop games or multimedia (no one called it digital media back then). The Windows 95 CD included music videos "Buddy Holly" by Weezer and Edie Brickell's "Good Times" to show off the cool, new multimedia features." - Joe Wilcox, Jupiter Research

"You can hide under a bridge, row a boat to the middle of the ocean or wedge yourself under the sofa, cover your ears and then hum loudly. But get near a newspaper, radio, television or computer retailer today and you will experience the multimillion-dollar hype surrounding the launch of Windows 95." - David Segal, Washington Post

Microsoft was also making the Windows 95 Launch event known on the Internet, and even put up a Web site heralding the new operating system's arrival on August 24. Advertising banners bombarded the few Web sites in existence and online services such as AOL with reminders of the special day.

"While Microsoft has spent nowhere near the $200 million reportedly allocated for its Win95 TV campaign on this site, and perhaps not even the $12 million reportedly spent to license the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up" (highlighting the start button on the new OS interface), the company has obviously taken pains to make the Internet launch a success.

"The site has plenty to offer Windows enthusiasts before and after the big date, including a downloadable product demo, a free copy of the new Internet Explorer browser, and plenty of technical information." - Writeside Review

Even those on the other side of the pond were getting hyped for the launch.

"Perhaps acknowledging that little about Windows 95 remains unsaid, Microsoft PRs disclosed that the development team consumed an estimated 2,283,600 cups of coffee and 4,850 lbs of popcorn while toiling over the new product.

"Mr. Gates, 39, laid on hot air balloons, a ferris wheel and free food and Coke to sustain the enthusiasm of anyone not intoxicated by the prospect of smoother multi-tasking and being able to call computer files any name they want.

"He also enlisted late night chat show host, Jay Leno, who cracked that Windows 95 was 'so powerful that it can keep track of all of OJ's alibis at once'." - Ian Katz, Dan Atkinson and Nicholas Bannister, England's Guardian Newspaper

"What better way to show how fun, and easy Windows 95 was than to have Bill Gates demonstrate to irreverent computer novice and late night talk show host Jay Leno how cool Windows 95 really is. A TV star who knew almost nothing about computing, sharing the stage with a computing great who knew almost nothing about television. It was a match made in heaven.

"The event was a cross between a High Tech Expo and a Carnival, with the inclusion of a playful "Midway Area" designed to let people simply have fun. It was here and in the pavilions where launch attendees experienced Windows 95 and related products hands-on." - Bob Johnson, The Caribiner Group

Looking back, it's hard not to be nostalgic. "I think it would be tough to recreate the magic of the Windows 95 launch today or next year. But I certainly would encourage Microsoft to try. And I would like to see the company remember Windows 95," says Jupiter's Wilcox.

"Windows 95 launched with such promise, with such aspirational context, that somehow buyers' lives would be better with it or worse if they didn't buy it. You were hip, you were tech, you belonged if you had Windows 95."

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