Windows 95 turns 28 years old today. it introduced important features such as the Start menu, the taskbar, and Internet Explorer.
On Aug. 24, 1995, Microsoft released Windows 95 to the world. Indeed, this powerful OS release turns 28 years old today. Not only was it the first version of Windows to ship with Internet Explorer, it also introduced features that would become a staple of Windows for decades to come. Even to this day, you can feel the impact of Windows 95 on Microsoft products.
Start menu, taskbar, and Internet
I’m not kidding when I say that Windows 95 introduced features that became essential for many future releases of Windows. Windows 95 introduced the Start menu and the taskbar, arguably the two most iconic features of any Windows release, even if they’ve changed a lot over the years. In fact, the concept of the desktop as we know it was introduced here, since this release also added the ability to have links to programs on the main screen.
The platform gave users a new way to manage their open windows by seeing them all at the bottom of the screen, allowing users to switch between windows by writing their text, and minimizing and restoring them easily. The original implementation of the taskbar did not include features such as docks or window groups, but the basics were similar to what we know today. It also included settings like volume control at the bottom right corner.
The Start Menu, on the other hand, used to be the starting point for programs and tools on your PC. It made it easy to find all the software installed on the computer. At that time, the Start menu was very different, giving you only a list of directions to access programs and documents on your PC. Future versions may introduce a space with the most used programs, as well as the ability to lock and reset things.
Of course, another big highlight of Windows 95 was that it came with Internet Explorer for the first time, although not immediately. Internet Explorer 1.0 was part of an expansion pack. In a later update, called Windows 95 OEM Service Release 1, Microsoft began to include Internet Explorer 2.0, which was still based on Spyglass Mosaic. Later, with OEM Service Release 2, Internet Explorer 3.0 came into its own and eventually became the most popular browser in the world before it was dropped and replaced by Microsoft Edge.
That wasn’t all, though. File Explorer, Control Panel, and features like AutoRun were all introduced with Windows 95.
Bringing MS-DOS and Windows NT together
Windows 95 was also notable because it was the first Windows release to bridge the gap between MS-DOS and Windows NT for users. Windows was born as a GUI for MS-DOS, but later, the company developed a new kernel called Windows NT (which originally stood for New Technology). However, because of the problems, Microsoft released several versions of Windows that came in both MS-DOS and Windows NT versions.
Windows 95 changed this by combining the MS-DOS version with the Windows NT release, allowing users to run 16-bit programs in this 32-bit system through the compatibility section. It was also possible to boot directly into MS-DOS and leave the Windows 95 UI entirely.
Windows 95 laid the foundation for the Windows we know today
Although you could argue that every release of Windows laid the groundwork for future releases, Windows 95 is best known for introducing some of the most important concepts of the OS, such as the taskbar and the Start menu. It is impossible for most people that an operating system does not have these features, and we can see it to some extent in competing Linux-based distros, macOS, and even Android. In addition, the Windows NT kernel is still at the core of Windows 11 today (with many changes over the years), so it’s clear that Windows 95 played a major role in shaping the operating system we know and (mostly) love.