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It's (still) Windows 95's world. We just live in it.

Josh Fruhlinger | Sept. 1, 2015
From the Start menu and Taskbar to and device autodetection and free, bundled Web browsers, here’s a brief history of how Windows 95 became the operating system that time never forgot

Have fun, get online, crush your enemies

To power all the graphical imagery in Windows 95, and to lure game developers away from DOS, Microsoft released the DirectX set of APIs, which soon came standard with the operating system. Developer adoption was slow, but DirectX was crucial to creating the current gaming environment, in which PCs compete with dedicated consoles for gamers' dollars.

Without Windows 95 there would be no Steam or Xbox and we would still be playing Pong. - Tim Lynch

"We make gaming computers and wouldn't be doing that if it weren't for Windows 95," says Tim Lynch, CEO of Psychsoftpc. "It was the first true graphical gaming platform with the introduction of DirectX and games such as Hover, Pitfall (think Lara Croft), Al Unser Jr. Arcade Racing, Battle Beast, NBA Full Court Press, Havoc, and Diablo, all of which defined genres of games. Without Windows 95 there would be no Steam or Xbox and we would still be playing Pong."

Users in 1995 at least knew that games were available for their PCs; many of them were only vaguely aware that they could connect to the Internet. Windows 95 wasn't the first operating system to ship with TCP/IP -- Macintosh System 7.5 had beat Microsoft to the punch by a little more than a year -- but Microsoft was the first to recognize the crucial importance of the Web browser.

Internet Explorer didn't technically ship with the initial consumer version of Windows 95; it came with Microsoft Plus! for Windows 95, a separately sold add-on that many people coveted more for its desktop themes than its Internet tools. But most OEMs that shipped computers preinstalled with Windows 95 bundled Microsoft Plus! from the get-go, and soon it was a standard part of any Windows 95 install.

This was another instance of Windows 95 defining what we expected out of a computer: the idea that it wouldn't include a browser out of the box, for free, quickly became unthinkable, and this destroyed Netscape's entire business strategy. Even though it led to litigation, the world we live in now, in which even third-party browsers are free of charge as a matter of course, was created by Microsoft's Windows 95 plans.

The Mac again was a laggard in this regard, and after playing catch-up by briefly bundling Netscape Navigator, Apple eventually signed an agreement with its arch-nemesis in 1997 that saw Internet Explorer set as the Mac's bundled, default browser for the next five years. But this was part of a larger investment in Apple by Microsoft that, perversely, was specifically designed to prop up Redmond's long-time rival.


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