Time To Defenestrate: 95 at 25

Defenestrate is a transitive verb (to throw something out a window), but has one definition that is intransitive: to stop using the Windows operating system.

Windows 95 was released on August 24, 1995 (The Verge), twenty five years ago today (ZD Net).  People loved it or hated it (or both, I’m a 30%/70% split). it changed computing, and not just because it increased Microsoft’s monopoly.  It radically increased the expectation of what a GUI can and should do, forcing other operating systems to improve and add features.  Linux might still be a command line OS and Macintosh still have a black, grey and white screen.  Windows 95 introduced multitasking, plug-and-play support (*), USB support, accessibility features, long file names, multilanguage fonts, among other things.  One major failing of the OS was a lack of a TCP/IP stack as default.  Dialup modems were the standard way to go online at the time without a cable connection and knowing how to configure the system.

(* Plug-and-pray as it was jokingly called for its unreliability.)

As much as I slam Microsoft, I give them credit for one thing: They have maintained backwards compatibility for decades and still do.  Software made for Windows 3.1 (or even 2.0 and 1.0) could run on XP, programs for Windows 95 until Windows 7.  A disk, file or program created in CP/M in 1978 can still be read and used by a Windows 10 computer today (either in emulation or native), which is an amazing feat.  And even now with emulators and multibooting, it’s still possible to keep running software made forty years ago.  Apple intentionally prevents the use of software from two or three previous Macintosh OS generations.

But I would also like Bill Gates, Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer to suffer a punishment: One slap across the face for every Blue Screen of Death experienced by users (with billions of people each suffering hundreds of BSoDs, that’s going to hurt).   I want them to receive a kick in the shin for every time they blamed the user by saying “windows was not shut down properly!” after the OS crashed.  I never once shut down windows “improperly” (i.e. hitting the power button instead of closing from the start menu).  All the crashes were the fault of the OS.  (Linux says “Whoops, something went wrong,” which doesn’t assign blame.)

More below the fold.

Microsoft spent a colossal $130 million in 1995 dollars ($221m today) on its advertising campaign, paying huge amounts to celebrities like Jay Leno, and paid millions to the Rolling Stones for use of “Start Me Up”.  But it was another song I remember from the ad campaign.

I was already a fan of Shonen Knife for several years before Windows 95 came out.  Microsoft used Shonen Knife’s cover of “Top Of The World” to appeal to both mainstream society and “alternative music” culture still at the height of its popularity, as well as a Japanese band giving the campaign international appeal.  How can you not love a band that sounds like this?

Here’s Toastytech’s page on Windows 95.  Toastytech is a “rabbit hole” site, containing many interesting pieces of history.

For those who want to try out Windows 95, there is a partially functioning version emulated for Windows 10.  Here’s a direct link to the emulator.

For collectors and fans of retrocomputing, W95 is a necessity, not just for the nostalgia.  Many old games and old software simply won’t work in newer versions.  If you need information, you can find it on sites like Computer Hope and Vogons.org which still maintain their collections.  For business running proprietary software made in-house, using an old OS is a necessity.  It’s cheaper to keep an old OS than to redesign, test and debug a rewrite for a newer one.  Many sites keep their information and help pages online.  Anthony Sequeira is a youtuber who claims he can troubleshoot and solve the BSoD, though I haven’t watched his series of videos yet.

Four years ago, the Fine Brothers did a video with teens trying Windows 95.  You can feel their pain as they learn what wasn’t there.

In closing, links to a collection of the more famous jokes about Windows 95 and Microsoft, though there are many sites with collections of Windows humour.  Two of my favourite jokes:

Microsoft Windows: A thirty-two bit extension and graphical shell on a sixteen bit patch to an eight bit operating system originally coded for a four bit microprocessor, written by a two-bit company that can’t stand one bit of competition.

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Windows 95 has a counter that increments at one bit per millisecond, with maximum of 4294967295 for 32 bits.  At 1000 increments per second, 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour and 24 hours per day, that means if you turned on a Windows 95 computer and left it running untouched, it would crash in 49.7 days.

Windows 95 can’t run for 49 hours without crashing.

Read Abbott and Costello meet Windows 95.  It’s a tear jerker, and I don’t mean it’s sad.

From Medium.com, “Why we should all be using Windows 95”.

And let’s not forget the Windows RG (Really Good Edition) version which matched so many people’s experiences:


  1. jrkrideau says

    I cannot remember if I ever used ’95 but I remember using two or three Windows versions after transiting from a Mac for employment reasons. I even had to use Word!

    It was traumatic but after after ten years of Linux I am think I am over it.