Windows 8 is the new Windows 95

There is lots of talk about how Windows 8 is the new Vista, and although I can certainly understand why many tech pundits make that claim, Microsoft’s new operating system -- and the furor surrounding it -- actually brings to my mind the memory of a much, much older version of Windows.

I first started writing about computers for a living in 1993, when I joined a UK magazine called PC Home. Back then we used Windows 3.11 and MS-DOS, and much of our online life was spent on CompuServe, although the World Wide Web (and the "information superhighway") was slowly starting to make its presence felt. After I’d been in the job for a couple of years, Microsoft announced a new version of its OS: Windows 95. It was hugely different to 3.11 -- being 32-bit for starters, integrating DOS and Windows and boasting a smart new look that included a desktop, taskbar and Start button. And I hated it.

I wasn’t alone. For the first few months after its arrival only one person in our office used Windows 95 as his primary operating system and the rest of us used his computer when we wanted to write something about it. Other tech journalists I spoke to weren't that keen either.

Fortunately for Microsoft, consumers were far less reticent to try something different -- Windows 95 sold some seven million copies in the first five weeks, buoyed by the multimillion-dollar hype (Microsoft spent an estimated $300 million promoting the OS, which included some $12 million for the rights to use the opening chords of the Rolling Stones song "Start Me Up" as its theme tune).

When I eventually made the switch to Windows 95, begrudgingly, but I soon embraced it, learned to love it, and I’ve liked every version of Windows since, even -- albeit to a lesser degree -- the much maligned Vista. Windows 8 is the first version of Windows I’ve not taken to immediately. I use it every day now, but like those early days of Windows 95, it’s begrudgingly. I’m slowly letting go of the past though, and I’m now at the point where I don’t mind it. In fact, there are quite a lot of things I really like about Windows 8.

Yes, Windows 8 is a Frankenstein of an operating system, but Microsoft was right to force users to go through the Start screen, for two reasons. Firstly, the company wants to make money from apps, and that won’t happen if users never see or use the new interface. Secondly, Microsoft wants users to understand and use the new interface which, again, won’t happen if they skip it every time.

The more time you spend with Windows 8, the more it will begin to get under your skin. You may not like the OS initially, it may irritate and frustrate you in equal measure, but eventually you’ll learn to accept it, and at some point, it will just become the way things are.

Looking back to 1995/96 I find it amazing, stupid, crazy that I clung on to Windows 3.11 as doggedly for as long as I did. Preferring to type commands into DOS instead of using menus in a GUI. I can’t see what possible reason I had for resisting change, avoiding making such an obvious upgrade, even though it must have been very clear to my youthful self back in the day. I wonder if, in years to come, I’ll find myself thinking the same about Windows 8?

Time will tell, I guess.

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