Microsoft Windows is one of the most popular operating systems in the world, but it seems like it doesn’t live up to its namesake. After all, how many computers have you seen that has a window on it? There aren’t even any curtains in Windows 10!
Windows got its funny name a long time ago when windows were a really big thing. No, not the ones in your house; we mean the ones on your computer screen. You may not know what we mean by windows on your computer screen, but we use them all the time, to the point where we take them for granted!
In an operating system, a ‘window’ is a box that shows you stuff. When you open your web browser, it opens in a window. When you look for a file by double-clicking on a folder, the box that pops up is a window. Windows have content within them, and can usually be moved, minimized, and changed shape.
So that’s why Windows has the name it does; because it has windows in it. Even then, why is it so important? Operating system windows are so prevalent in our computing life that it’s weird that anyone would name something after them. It’s like getting excited over the wheels on a car.
What if we told you, however, that computers didn’t always have windows? In fact, what if we told you computers didn’t always have graphics, and desktops, and icons you can click on? This was once a reality, and the operating system was called the Microsoft Disk Operating System — or ‘MS-DOS’ for short.
MS-DOS wasn’t pretty to look at. When you booted it up, it was just white text on a black screen. If you wanted to open a file or program, you had to manually type in the location of that file or program and tell the computer to go to it. There were no menus to click or icons to select; just a lot of boring typing.
Programs like Word was also pretty primitive. You couldn’t run any other programs while Word was up; running other programs requires multiple windows, which hadn’t been invented yet. This means you couldn’t put on some tunes or open a game while you work; you just had you and the word processor. Yeesh!
As you can imagine, people got pretty bored of typing what files they wanted and only doing one thing at a time. That’s when the idea of a computer window came along. Bill Gates announced the feature all the way back in 1983, saying that he was making a brand new system that used this new technology.
The first edition of Microsoft Windows came out on November 20th, 1985, and it took the world by storm. Suddenly, you didn’t have to type out the full location of your homework file; you just double-clicked the “Homework” folder, then the file you wanted to open in the folder window.
You could also now minimize windows for later. No longer were you stuck in front of the word processor; now you could hide it away and boot up a game or a media player while you took a break.
As you might imagine, this invention of windows was pretty revolutionary; so much so that we still use windows 35 years later. The next time you’re multitasking on your computer, be sure to pay humble respects to the window; after all, they’re so useful, they named an entire operating system after them!