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Inventors of the Modern Computer
The History of Microsoft Windows

By Mary Bellis

On November 10, 1983, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, Microsoft Corporation formally announced Microsoft Windows, a next-generation operating system that would provide a graphical user interface (GUI) and multitasking environment for IBM computers. Microsoft promised that the new program would be on the shelf by April 1984. It might have been released under the original name of Interface Manager if Microsoft's marketing whiz, Rowland Hanson, had not convinced Microsoft founder Bill Gates that Windows was the better name.

That same November, Bill Gates showed a beta version of Windows to IBM's head honchos. Their response was lackluster, perhaps because IBM was also working on its own product called Top View. They did not give Microsoft the same encouragement for Windows that they gave MS-DOS in 1981, the first highly successful operating system that Microsoft wrote for the IBM-PC.

Top View was released in February 1985, as a DOS-based multitasking program manager without any GUI features. IBM promised that future versions of Top View would have a GUI. The promise was never kept, and the program was discontinued barely two years later.

No doubt, Bill Gates realized how profitable a successful GUI for IBM computers would be. He had seen Apple's Lisa computer and later the more successful Macintosh computer. Both Apple computers came with a stunning graphical user interface.

Side Note: Early MS-DOS diehards liked to refer to MacOS as 'WIMP' - the Windows, Icons, Mice and Pointers interface.
Microsoft's Windows faced potential competition from IBM's own Top View, and there were others. VisiCorp's short-lived VisiOn, released in October 1983, was the official first PC-based GUI. The second was GEM (Graphics Environment Manager), released by Digital Research in early 1985. Both GEM and VisiOn lacked support from the all-important third-party developers--and, if nobody wanted to write software programs for an operating system, nobody would want to buy it.

Microsoft finally shipped Windows 1.0 on November 20, 1985, almost two years past the initially promised release date.

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