Windows 1.0

From Academic Kids

Microsoft Windows 1.0, released in November 1985, was Microsoft's first attempt to implement a multitasking graphical user interface-based operating environment on the PC platform.

Unlike later versions, Windows 1.0 offered limited multitasking of existing MS-DOS programs and concentrated on creating an interaction paradigm, an execution model and a stable API for native programs for the future. Twenty years later, it is not only possible to execute Windows 1.0 binary programs on current Windows XP to a large extent, but also to recompile their source code into a functional "modern" application with limited modifications.

Windows 1.0 was often regarded as a "front-end to the MS-DOS operating system" rather than a full-fledged operating system, a description which was also applied to subsequent versions of Windows. However, unlike simple graphical shells such as DOSShell, Norton Commander or DESQview, it had its own segmented-executable file format for applications, which allowed demand-loading of code and data, and its own memory management system, which implemented a software-based virtual memory scheme allowing for applications larger than available RAM. Windows 1.0 included original device drivers, for video cards, mice, keyboards, printers and serial communications. In contrast, contemporary graphics support in MS-DOS was extremely limited.

Version 1.0 was announced by Microsoft in November 1983, two years before release; the delay led to charges that it was 'vaporware'. Nonetheless, the announcement of Windows' imminent arrival probably did not help the sales of VisiCorp's Visi On environment. Even when finally released, Windows 1.0 aroused little interest, showing the market was simply not yet ready for a switch-over from MS-DOS.


Version history

The first release version was actually numbered 1.01.

Version 1.02, released in May 1986 was international and had editions in several European languages.

Version 1.03, released in August 1986, was US-only, with enhancements making it consistent with the international release. It included drivers for European keyboards and additional screen and printer drivers.

Version 1.04, released in April 1987, added support for the VGA graphics adapters of the new IBM PS/2 computers. At the same time Microsoft and IBM announced the introduction of OS/2 and its graphical OS/2 Presentation Manager, which were supposed to ultimately replace both MS-DOS and Windows.

Windows 1.x was superseded in November 1987, with the release of Windows 2.0.


This first version of Windows ran a shell program known as MS-DOS Executive.

Microsoft Windows 1.01
Microsoft Windows 1.01

One of the interesting aspects of the system were the non-overlapping windows, which were instead tiled. Only dialog boxes could appear over other windows.

Windows 1.0 executables, while having the same .exe extension and initial file header as MS-DOS programs, did not yet contain the so-called MS-DOS stub which prints the "This program must be run under Windows" or similar message and exits when the program is run outside of Windows. Instead, the file header was formatted in such a way as to make DOS reject the executable with a "program too large to fit in memory" error message.

From the beginning, Windows was intended to multitask programs (although this originally only applied to specially-written applications and for many versions the multitasking was non-preemptive), so Windows programs always had their own menu bar rather than switching a single menu bar at the top of the screen like Apple Macintoshes did.


Another GUI for the PC platform at the time was GEM. It had a nicer look, inspired more closely by the Macintosh GUI (particularly its inclusion of a "trash can"), and generally more intuitive desktop interaction. GEM was eventually used as the standard GUI for the Atari's ST range of 68k-based computers, which were sometimes referred to as Jackintoshes as a slurry of thought(the company being run by a man called Jack Tramiel). GEM's resemblance to the Macintosh OS later caused legal trouble to the manufacturer, Digital Research, who were obliged to modify GEM.

An alternative multitasker released shortly before was DESQview, a successor of IBM's failed TopView from 1984. It did not have graphical capabilities initially, but was able to multitask DOS applications in Windows as long as they were well-behaved or had a specially written "loader" which could fix them on the fly.

See also

External links

  • GUIdebook: Windows 1.0 Gallery ( - A website dedicated to preserving and showcasing Graphical User Interfaces

History of Microsoft Windows
Windows: 1.0 | 2.0 | 3.x | NT | 95 | 98 | Me | 2000 | XP | Server 2003 | Server 2003 R2 | CE | Mobile | Longhorn | Blackcomb
cs:Windows 1

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