ON THIS DAY: Windows 1.0, Microsoft's first major release and longest-supported OS to this day, launched to the market

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The year was 1985, just a year after Microsoft’s very own Bill Gates starred in the advertisement for the original, first-ever Apple Macintosh computer. 

Wanting to fend off the competition, Gates then headed back to the Redmond camp. Microsoft launched Windows 1.0 on November 20, 1985, and soon became Microsoft’s longest-supported out of all versions of Windows until its discontinuation on December 31, 2001. 

That’s a crazy 16 years. Windows XP, for example, had only about 13 years since its release until Microsoft cut its extended support. 

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer, who at that time was Gates’ first business manager at the company, then took himself in front of a camera in 1986 for a Crazy Eddie-style commercial for Microsoft’s first-ever major, retail release.

Watch the clip below:

But it’s fascinating how far we’ve come in technology. 38 years ago, Ballmer was proudly advertising Windows 1.0x at just $99. You’d need a “whopping” 256KB of memory, an Intel 8088, and floppy disk drives to get this tech back in the ’80s. 

Microsoft Windows wasn’t a stand-alone OS that we know today. It was just a graphical shell that ran on the MS-DOS kernel with basic built-in programs like Microsoft Write (now known as WordPad), Paint, MS-DOS Executive, appointment calendar, control panel, RAM driver, and … Reversi. It sold over 500,000 copies in the first two years, while Windows 7 shipped over 450 million copies in the same timeframe. 

Calculate it in today’s inflation rate, that’s almost $300 now. You can buy Windows 11 Home at $139 today on Microsoft Store, which now has its own AI assistant tool, Copilot.

It’s been a long time coming, indeed.