Windows 1.0: Still Playing Reversi After All These Years

Hide the women and children: It's the first version of Windows!


Remember your first time firing up Windows 1.0 and playing some Reversi? I don't, since I was six years old and cruising through Montezuma's Revenge and Oregon Trail on an Apple II at the time. Chances are good you don't remember Windows 1.0, either. It took a few versions for Bill Gates' favorite software to really take off. I recently used Windows 1.0 for the first time, after downloading an old copy and installing it in a virtual machine on my Windows 7 PC. Here are the results.


A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away

First, a little bit of history. Microsoft announced Windows to the world on Nov. 20, 1985, in a press release that noted the suggested retail price of $99. Bill Gates declared that "Windows brings unprecedented power to users." It's the power of DOS - plus tiled windows!


Only the best in modern DOS-based systems

As you can see, we have Microsoft Windows/MS-DOS Executive running version 1.01, copyright 1985 -- with 416 kilobytes of free memory. That's almost half a megabyte, or about one one-thousandth of what you'd get with a modern smartphone.


So... many... applications!

Our first stop is the list of installed programs, including a calculator, clock, calendar, notepad, print spooler, paint program, a primitive word processor and, of course, Reversi. Although Windows applications have evolved and expanded in the past quarter-century, Notepad and Paint survived all the way up to Windows 7.


The first Windows game machine

Reversi! (It's also known as Othello.) Right from the beginning, Microsoft knew people would play games on their computers. But gaming capabilities have improved a lot over the years - by 1990, Windows users could play Solitaire.


Oh, so they have Internet on computers now?

There was no World Wide Web in 1985, but Windows 1.0 apparently has some kind of modem functionality in the terminal application. Hmm, typing "Google" here doesn't seem to do anything.


Windows gets artistic

The first version of Microsoft Paint, with an untitled original masterpiece painted by yours truly. In all fairness to Microsoft software, I probably wouldn't do any better even if Picasso was giving me personal instruction.


The awesomeness that is Notepad

Notepad, a simple text editor, hasn't changed much over the years. But Notepad did, perhaps, pave the way for a far more advanced note-taking and productivity application, OneNote, which Microsoft offers in downloadable and Web-based editions.


Like a typewriter, but on a computer

Early versions of Windows also came with "Write," a word processor that had more features than Notepad but was later phased out in favor of Microsoft Word. Microsoft Word has evolved into one of the core components of Microsoft Office, which is facing a challenge from Google Docs but is one of the keys to Microsoft's $60 billion-a-year revenue stream.


windows with a lowercase w

Windows 1.0 did not allow overlapping windows, but you can see multiple programs at once with tiled windows. Here, we have Paint and the clock running simultaneously. The ability to have overlapping Windows, which was already present in Apple's Mac computers, came to Microsoft computers with Windows 2.0.



The calendar and calculator provided cutting-edge productivity tools for the 1985 home computer user. Nowadays, your Microsoft Exchange Calendar gets synced across all your devices, from your PC to your iPhone, with annoying little reminders everywhere you go.


Read your instruction manual

Windows 1.0 came with instructions in a readme file. Remember to try to conserve disk space when you're running a two-floppy drive configuration. If you lose the instructions, just search for them on Goog... oh, right.


It doesn't work??? I want a refund

Not surprisingly, I got a few error messages when clicking certain files. Running 25-year-old software in a virtual machine doesn't provide the smoothest user experience.


Windows 7

Here's one last pic of Windows 1.0... no, wait, actually that's Windows 7, which has sold 350 million copies, by the way. If you want to learn more about Windows 1.0 and see all the versions of Windows through the years, check these out:

Windows 1.0 turning 25: First experiences recalled

Microsoft Windows after 25 years: A visual history

Windows 7 Bible: Everything You Need to Know About Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.