© Amit Singh. All Rights Reserved. Written in Mid 2003


:: 1.01

Windows 1.01

Microsoft Windows 1.0 (note that Microsoft did not really specify a version number) was introduced on June 28, 1985, a couple of years after the first Windows announcement in November 1983. The blue colored product box featured the Windows GUI with tiled windows. Microsoft's selling point for Windows was that it provided a new software development and runtime environment that uses bitmap displays and mice, thus freeing the user from the "MS-DOS method of typing commands at the C prompt (C:\)".

Windows 1.01 came on 5 5.25" 360 KB floppy diskettes: Setup/Build, Utilities, Fonts, Desktop Applications and Program Disk. There was support for a few kinds of pointing devices, CGA, Hercules and EGA cards, and about 19 printer models.

Windows 1.0 came with a file manager, calculator, a calendar, card file, clock, notepad and terminal. It runs on Virtual PC without incident, and best of all, it starts up very fast!

Although it was "better" than bare-bones DOS, Windows 1.01 did not have a whole lot of usability. There are no icons for executables, no program groups, no true multitasking, etc. There was an update (again, Microsoft did not specify a version, but it could be considered 1.02) on November 20, 1985 that broke the 640K barrier.

You may need an old enough version of DOS (I used 3.3, but 5.x should work as well) for making this work properly on Virtual PC.

:: 1.03

Windows 1.03

Windows 1.03 was released on August 29, 1986. It was very similar to 1.02, and came on 6 5.25" 360 KB floppy diskettes: Setup, Build, Utilities, Fonts, Desktop Applications and Program Disk. The entire "system" has an installed size of a little over 2 MB.

Windows 1.03 was not any more usable than 1.02. It did support different keyboard layouts (26 countries), a variety of input devices, CGA/EGA, 25 models of printers (including support for multiple printers). The individual applications were more-or-less the same as in 1.02, with a few improvements here and there. It also worked with MS-DOS 3.2.

You may need an old enough version of DOS (I used 3.3, but 5.x should work as well) for making this work properly on Virtual PC.

:: 2.03

Windows 2.03

Windows 2.0 was introduced on December 9, 1987. This release was aimed for the 286 processor, and had support for expanded memory. It also made use of DDE (Dynamic Data Exchange). Windows were no longer restricted to just being tiled: they could be overlapped in this release. According to Microsoft: "... users could control screen layout and use keyboard combinations to move rapidly through Window operations. Many developers wrote their first Windows-based applications for this release." Version 2.0.3 already made use of the protected mode and extended memory (Intel 386).

Windows 2.0 runs fine under Virtual PC, though a bit slower than 1.0 (kidding). You do need an "old enough" version of DOS (I used the 1987 release of MS-DOS 3.3, but 5.x should work as well) to run it properly.

:: 2.1

Windows 2.1

When Windows/386 was released on September 23, 1987, Microsoft renamed Windows 2.0 to Windows/286 for consistency. Microsoft released version 2.1 of both Windows/286 and Windows/386 on June 28th, 1988. The "386" release had the additional capability (over the "286") to run multiple DOS applications simultaneously in extended memory. According to Microsoft: "... subsequent Windows releases continued to improve the speed, reliability and usability of the PC as well as interface design and capabilities."

Windows 2.1 runs fine under Virtual PC, though a bit slower than 2.0 (kidding, again). You do need an "old enough" version of DOS (I used the 1987 release of MS-DOS 3.3, but 5.x may work as well) to run it properly.

:: 3.0

Windows 3.0

Windows 3.0 was released on May 22, 1990. The "multimedia" enabled version followed a few months later in 1991. As the name says, this was the third major release of the Windows platform, and was essentially a complete overhaul. Windows could address memory beyond 640K, have advanced graphics (for its time) with 16 colors, and more comprehensive support for the 386.

Various usability additions and improvements included proportional width font, 3-D UI elements (scroll bars and buttons), multi-color icons, configurable screen background, customized desktop, etc.

Windows 3.0 came with Program Manager, File Manager, Print Manager, a new application development environment and improved icons. What's more, Microsoft release an SDK that helped Microsoft a lot in gaining market share. In Microsoft's words: "... [the SDK] helped software developers focus more on writing applications and less on writing device drivers. Widespread acceptance among third-party hardware and software developers helped fuel the success of Windows 3.0." Indeed, it sold over 10 million copies.

Windows 3.0 runs fine on Virtual PC.

:: 3.1

Windows 3.1

Windows 3.1 was released on April 6, 1992. It sold over a million copies within the first couple of months of its release (over 3 million, if you include upgrades from Windows 3.0). It provided various improvements to Windows 3.0, such as context sensitive help, a universal printer driver, dynamic font downloading, configurable startup application, and OLE (Object Linking and Embedding).

On October 9, 1996, Microsoft announced the immediate worldwide availability of the beta version of Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 for Windows 3.1. This version of the browser had low system requirements (386 processor, 4 MB RAM), was compatible with Netscape's plug-ins, had a new mail client (SMTP/POP3), had ActiveX Scripting support and even SSL-2 support!

Windows 3.1 runs fine under Virtual PC.

:: Microsoft Bob

Microsoft Bob

In their attempts to make Windows 3.x friendlier, Microsoft created a product called "Bob", which was meant to replace the Program Manager. Bob was essentially a "highly friendly" user-interface for Windows, and was based on the concept of assistants. For example, when you started up Bob, you were presented with a door to your "home" (essentially your desktop). A yellow dog called Rover greeted you. You knocked on the door to get into your home. Inside, you saw applications as "familiar" objects (for example, a calendar). You clicked on an object to launch the corresponding application, whose interface in turn would be similar, with possibly another assistant in place of Rover.

Bob was rather unsuccessful as a product.

Bob was not an operating system, but it was a large enough departure from Windows (interface-wise), that it must be noted as an important operating environment -- one that failed -- in Microsoft's history.

:: NT 3.1

Windows NT 3.1

Windows NT 3.1 was released to manufacturing on May 24/July 27, 1993. It was released generally in August, 1993. It had a Windows 3.1 like user interface, but was entirely different "under the hood". The NT Project began in the late '80s with the goal of creating a modern operating system ("NT" stands for New Technology). NT 3.1 is a 32-bit operating system. It was geared for high-end, client/server business applications, and was available both as a Workstation (Desktop) version and an Advanced Server version. NT included the Win32 API, and had various other important features like: a preemptive scheduler, integrated networking, subsystems for OS/2 and POSIX, SMP support and a new file system (NTFS).

Windows NT 3.1 will fail to install under Virtual PC claiming that the processor is not supported. You can work around this in the following manner:

/* * The three .INF files contain lines that invoke a library * function to retrieve the CPU type of the machine. We are * going to force the installer to believe it is running on * an I586 (the highest supported on the version I have). */ /* * Look for lines that say the following: */ STF_PROCESSOR = "" ? $(!LIBHANDLE) GetProcessor /* * Change the above lines to say the following: */ STF_PROCESSOR = "I586"

Once the above changes are made, simply reboot the system and installation will continue without further ado.

:: 3.11 for Workgroups

Windows for Workgroups 3.11

Windows for Workgroups 3.1 was released in October, 1992, while Windows for Workgroups 3.11 was released on November 8, 1993. This was more-or-less Windows 3.1 with some improvements, with the most important addition being integrated peer-to-peer workgroup and domain networking support. According to Microsoft: "For the first time, Windows-based PCs were network-aware and became an integral part of the emerging client/server computing evolution."

Windows for Workgroups 3.11 also had centralized configuration and security, Remote Access Service (RAS) and improve NetWare support. File and printer sharing were also integrated. Moreover, it included Microsoft Mail and a Workgroup Scheduler (Schedule+).

Windows for Workgroups 3.11 runs readily under Virtual PC, say, using MS-DOS 6.22.

:: NT 3.5x

Windows NT 3.5x

Windows NT 3.5 was introduced in September, 1994, as two products: Windows NT Workstation 3.5 and Windows NT Server 3.5. The project was code-named "Daytona", after the race course. Version 3.51 came less than a year later. It added support for PowerPC PreP compatible systems. Besides x86 or compatible systems, Windows NT now supported three RISC-based platforms: Alpha AXP, MIPS R4x00, and PowerPC.

Windows NT 3.5 improved upon Windows NT 3.1, reducing code size, enhancing speed, improving stability, and adding several networking features. It also included some accessibility features.

New or improved features in Windows NT 3.51 included NTFS file compression, a new licensing mini-application called "Flippy", with a larger licensing application called "Honesty" to follow it, extensible WinLogin, 3D support in OpenGL, persistent IP routes when using TCP/IP, automatic display of textual descriptions when the mouse pointer was placed on toolbar buttons ("tooltips"), support for Windows 95 common controls, and so on.

Windows NT 3.51 runs out of the box under Virtual PC.

:: 95

Windows 95

Windows 95 was released on August 24, 1995. It was a greatly improved system over previous Windows versions. Windows 95 was a 32-bit operating system, with an integrated 32-bit TCP/IP stack. It had a better file system, pre-emptive multitasking, better multimedia capabilities, a totally overhauled user interface and the much touted plug-and-pray support.

Microsoft put incredible amounts of money and other resources into the launch of Windows 95, including Bill Gates demonstrating to talk show host Jay Leno the coolness of the operating system. Steve Ballmer, then Microsoft's Executive Vice President of Sales and Support, called the event: "Fan-f---ing-tastic! ... Everything was perfect, spot-on!" Windows 95 sold over a million copies in the first 4 days of its release.

Windows 95 is an officially supported system on Virtual PC and as such runs out of the box.

:: NT 4.0

Windows NT 4.0

Windows NT 4.0 was released in August, 1996. This was an important upgrade to the previous NT version, and had better networking capabilities and throughput, simplified management and tools for developing and managing intranets. Moreover, this version of NT had a similar user interface to Windows 95. NT 4.0 was geared towards corporate intranets/mass-managed installations.

Microsoft dropped the "NT" initials sometime in 1998.

Windows NT 4.0 is an officially supported system on Virtual PC and as such runs out of the box.

:: 98

Windows 98

Windows 98 was released in June, 1998. The "SE" (Second Edition) was released in May, 1999.

Windows 98 was a successor to Windows 95. Microsoft described it as "Works Better, Plays Better". Microsoft also claimed that "Windows 98 is the first version of Windows designed specifically for consumers", which is pretty jarring, if you think about it (What about earlier versions?) Windows 98 gave the desktop a browser-like interface, even for local content (Active Desktop).

Windows 98 had out-of-the-box support for DVD drives and USB (Windows 95 had USB support added to it too). It also supported FireWire and AGP. It had better power management, multiple display support, and the same driver model as Windows NT (it was capable of using device drivers that also worked with NT).

Windows 98 SE was an incremental update, which included Internet Explorer 5.0 and Net Meeting 3.0. It also included Microsoft DirectX 6.1.

Windows 98 is an officially supported system on Virtual PC and as such run out of the box.

:: 2000

Windows 2000

Windows 2000 was released in February, 2000. It was original meant to be Windows NT 5.0, but Microsoft dropped the "NT" in 1998. It was meant to replace all previous versions of Windows, both for business and home use.

Windows 2000 had support for a lot of modern hardware: FireWire, Wireless, Infrared and so on. It aimed to seamlessly integrate the Internet, Intranet, Extranet and other management infrastructure. Important features included: tight integration with Active Directory, VPN support, disk encryption, better installer and updater etc.

Many people consider Windows 2000 to be the most reliable and usable operating system to ever come out of Microsoft, and consequently many prefer it over Windows XP (claiming that Windows XP is just Windows 2000 with un-necessary eye-candy that slows it down).

Windows 2000 is an officially supported system on Virtual PC and as such runs out of the box.

:: Me

Windows Me

Windows Me (Millennium Edition) was released in 2000. It was a release aimed for home computer users, with specific improvements to home networking, multimedia (Windows Movie Maker, Windows Media Player 7) and reliability (System Restore that lets users roll back software configuration to a date or time before a problem occurred).

Windows Me was the last operating system from Microsoft to be based on the Windows 95 code base.

Windows Me is an officially supported system on Virtual PC and as such runs out of the box.

:: XP


Windows XP was released on October 25th, 2001. Quoted verbatim from Microsoft: "Microsoft's most advanced desktop operating system, Windows XP, is at the center of ongoing personal computing innovation. With Windows XP, home users can experience the digital world like never before, while business users can work smarter and faster.". Furthermore, Microsoft says about Windows XP Professional: "Designed for businesses of all sizes and for home users who demand the most from their computing experience, Windows XP Professional delivers the new standard in reliability and performance. It includes all the great features and new visual design of Windows XP Home Edition, plus premier security and privacy features, advanced recovery options, improved ability to connect to large networks, and much more".

Windows XP has various variants now, such as: Windows XP (2001), Windows XP Professional (2001), Windows XP Home Edition (2001), Windows XP 64-bit edition (2001), Windows XP Media Center Edition (2002) and Windows XP Tablet PC Edition (2002).

Under normal circumstances in many business settings, a Windows operating system is almost indispensable. It is extremely useful to have a version of Windows running on the PowerBook, say, for running applications like MapPoint. Of course, one could point out that therein lies the reason why Virtual PC exists!

It would certainly be gratuitous to say that Windows XP installs and runs seamlessly under Virtual PC. What's more, you get to use the "Virtual PC Additions".