Happy Birthday, Windows 95! Microsoft Celebrates 20 Years Of Its Revolutionary OS

Do you remember what you were doing two decades ago? Depending on your age, you might have been waiting in a long line for Windows 95. Yes, there were lines to purchase Windows 95, the revolutionary operating system that launched at midnight on August 24, 1995, 20 years ago to the day.

Codenamed Chicago, Windows 95 was a big upgrade over Windows 3.1. It was a 32-bit OS with a customized version of MS-DOS baked in to serve as a boot loader and a compatibility layer for legacy 16-bit device drivers. Enhanced multimedia features accompanied the dressed up graphical user interface, and so did built-in Internet support, a critical component as the Internet was just beginning to bloom.

Windows 95 Launch

To run Windows 95, you needed a PC with a 386DX or higher processor (486 was recommended), 4MB or RAM (8MB recommended), 35-40MB of hard drive space for upgrades and 50-55MB for a clean install, 3.5-inch floppy disk drive, and VGA graphics (256-color SVGA recommended).

Windows 95 was a big deal. At the time, it was the most publicized launch in history. The OS starred in television commercials with the Rolling Stones singing "Start Me Up," and famed talk show host Jay Leno was on hand to introduce Bill Gates during the launch event (and of course to add comedic value).

Microsoft's marketing and development efforts paid off. Windows 95, which carried a suggested retail price of $210 and an upgrade price of $110, jumped out to 7 million sales in the first five weeks, setting what was then a record.

Windows 95 helped propel Microsoft into the tech giant it is today. In 1995, Microsoft reported year-end sales of $5.94 billion and employed 17,801 people, compared to year-end revenue of $86.83 billion in 2014 and over 117,000 employees currently.

Twenty years later, Windows 95 is a footnote and part of the old way of doing things. Going forward, Microsoft, is pushing its recently launched Windows 10 OS as a service that will receive continual upgrades. Like Windows 95, it's a significant upgrade, but whether or not it's an OS that we'll reflect on in another 20 years remains to be seen.