Microsoft Timeline

Date and LaunchSoftware featuresHardware required
May 1964


Professors John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire write a high level "compile and go" language called Basic and place that listing (written in assembly language) in the public domain. It initially ran on Dartmouth's General Electric 225 mainframe computer. GE-225 mainframe computer — running a new interactive time-sharing operating system that Dartmouth College writes for its students, later called the Dartmouth Time Sharing System (DTSS). Click here for more details.
Mar 1975

Microsoft Basic
program language

8-bit Microsoft Basic was the first Basic interpreter, written by Bill Gates & Paul Allen using a cross assembler program and an Intel 8080 emulator on a Digital PDP-10 minicomputer at Harvard. Runs in just 4kb ROM as Altair Basic.
Click here for an annotated disassembly.
The MITS Altair 8800 — an 8-bit micro-computer kit with Intel 8080   processor
Aug 1980

Microsoft Unix
Click here
uses source written in C.

16-bit Xenix, a multi-user, multi-tasking PLATFORM, developed on Digital VAX and Digital PDP-11 computers. Licensed to OEMs by issuing assembly code relevant to each processor. Also used for in-house development.Licenses for Intel, Tandy, Altos and SCO.
SCO release it for the IBM PC in Sep.1983.
Aug 1981

Microsoft DOS
operating system

16-bit MS-DOS PC-DOS as rebranded for IBM — a single-user, single-tasking personal operating system. Written as 86-DOS by Tim Paterson in assembly code using a Z80 microcomputer running CP/M. Runs in just 64kb RAM

Click here for Microsoft's initial abstraction library IBMBIO.COM

Click here for the bootup sequence, including its later sequence in IO.SYS, written for the upcoming compatibles

Click here for the PC-DOS original Assembly code.

16-bit IBM PC with 8-bit data bus on Intel 8088, up to 256kb RAM and 160kb 5¼" floppy disk(s). Great keyboard "feel", but awkward layout. Approx $AU3,500

Click here for the background to its MBR Master Boot Record

Click here for background to its BIOS its startup firmware

Click here for the PC BIOS original Assembly code, including a font character set, each with an 8x8 (64 bit) pattern.

AMD — Applied Micro Designs became "second-source" manufacturer for Intel's patented x86 chip. With this guarantee the IBM PC was launched with, importantly, VisiCalc for spreadsheets Microsoft Adventure for games, EDLIN for a built-in line editor, Easywriter for Word Processing (but fairly unpopular), Peachtree Accounting for businesses and dBASE II for database developers. For extra help built in, it came with a "Prt Scn" key that printed the screen image from the video card's frame buffer, three versions of Microsoft Basic: BASIC and BASICA (Advanced) on diskette, and Cassette BASIC in the ROM BIOS if no diskette loaded. In April 1982 Wordstar was ported to the PC and rapidly replaced Easywriter. In January 1983, Lotus 123 was launched as a "killer" spreadsheet application with more functions and commands. Accountants everywhere encouraged businessmen to learn its features.

AT&T broken up, to go into computers.

In May, PC-DOS 1.1, then MS-DOS 1.25.
In July, their in-house LAN running Xenix for email.
IBM Compatibles — Compaq, Columbia on 8086 with 16-bit data bus & 320kb disks.

AT&T markets Unix, competes with Xenix, but owns the standard.

In March, PC-DOS 2.0 and MS-DOS 2.0, supporting a 10mb hard drive, sub-directories (folders), pipes, redirection & other Unix-like features. Novell & Laplink launch using TSRs.16-bit IBM XT still 8-bit data bus but up to 640kb RAM, 10mb Hard Drive & 360kb 5¼" disks. Approx $AU8,000-$10,000

Click here for the PC's Master Boot Record for IBM PC DOS 2.00


Apple Mac's Debut
Microsoft talks to IBM regarding a new GUI, multi-tasking platform

In August, PC-DOS 3.0 and MS-DOS 3.0, supporting a 32mb hard drive. In Nov84, file-and-record locking controls added in MS-DOS 3.1. IBM authors NetBIOS using SMBs on IBM's Token Ring network. MS-Net launches on a dedicated server. Tries to compete with Novell. But not very well.16-bit IBM AT with 80286 processor, 1.2mb 5¼" disks, a 20mb Hard Drive, and an "enhanced" keyboard layout now in use everywhere. Approx $AU5,000-$8,500. Compatibles cheaper but compatibility issues arise.
Aug 1985

New OS Platform
But a 32-bit Consumer GUI on a stable platform will take 16 years in arriving as Windows XP

The old 8088 / 8086 processors operated in Real Mode, able to address a maximum 1mb of memory, and ran just a single process. But Protected Mode, especially in the upcoming 32-bit 80386 enabled memory paging and safe multi-tasking in up to 4gb RAM.So, Microsoft and IBM announce the Joint Development Agreement. IBM to build a proprietary Personal System/2 (PS/2). Microsoft to write its protected mode & networked Operating System/2 (OS/2) in C
Nov 1985

Microsoft Windows
Click here for extra history

16-bit Windows 1.0, mostly written in C, runs on MS-DOS 2 & 3 using 256kb - 512kb RAM. Offers multi-tasking. But the memory maximum is still 1mb, and tasks need explicit programming to share processing time & memory.IBM's 16-bit computer is released in April 1987, the IBM Personal System/2 (PS/2) with 1.44mb 3½" disk, VGA screen & PS/2 mouse. Runs PC-DOS & Windows.
Nov 1987

Windows 2.0

16-bit Windows 2.0 runs on MS-DOS 3, still with 1mb limit, but now DDE (Dynamic Data Exchange). Lantastic P2P launch. IBM's new operating system OS/2 v1.0.
Stays 16-bit for the PS/2 286. Text mode display.
3Com (Ethernet cards) write LAN Manager.
May 1988

Windows 2.1

16-bit Windows/286 & /386 with HMA access, V86-mode & NDISOS/2 v1.1 on PS/2 in Oct 88. Now GUI.
May 1990

Windows 3.0

16-bit Windows 3.0 runs on MS-DOS 3.1 also 4.0, 5.0, 6.0
Program Manager and now Protected memory support.
In Oct91, Multimedia extensions added in 3.00a
3Com bows out. System unravels when IBM insists Windows be dropped. Instead, Microsoft recasts OS/2 3.0 as Windows NT.
Mar 1992

Windows 3.1

16-bit Windows 3.1 with Apple TrueType fonts, OLE. In Oct92, 16-bit Windows for Workgroups (32-bit in Aug93). Samba launch.32-bit OS/2 2.0 in April 1992 by IBM solo.
Supports multitasking of DOS / Windows.
Apr 1993

Lots of New Names 
COM Framework:
OLE Developers SDK,
Visual C++ and the MFC Wrapper Library

COM: Model for interprocess communication. Clients to access Components (as Objects) via a binary interface's unique GUID.
In 1994, introduced visual OLE controls. Then, in between Visual Basic 4 & Visual Foxpro in 1995, and Visual J++ in Oct96, technology renamed ActiveX.
After the disagreements over the previous 8 years, the clean break with IBM offered Microsoft a new start, culminating in Windows XP, 8 years later. Click here for a humorous 1993 email, possibly from IBM.
Jul 1993

Microsoft Windows NT

Meanwhile, OS/2 3.0 is now 32-bit Windows NT
1993 NT 3.1,   1994 NT 3.5,   1995 NT 3.51
32-bit Server and Desktop.
NT stable but limited in hardware/ games.
Aug 1995

Windows 4.0

16 & 32-bit Windows 95 with MS-DOS 7 as boot loader.
Includes 16-bit Win3.1 code to run numerous 16-bit Windows games.
IE Browser, LongFileNames, PlugnPlay, DirectX, then PPTP in Aug96
Became the most successful operating system ever.
32-bit PC.
Easy to use though a little more unstable.
Says 4mb RAM but prefers 16 - 32mb
Jul 1996

Windows NT 4.0

32-bit Windows NT 4 with CIFS, a new name for SMB.
In May97, ASP — Active Server Pages. In June98 Terminal Server.
Server and Desktop.
Jun 1998

Windows 4.1

16 & 32-bit Windows 98 using MS-DOS 7 still as boot loaderPC. Says 16mb RAM but prefers 64mb
Feb 2000

Windows NT 5.0

32-bit Windows 2000. Server edition now uses Active Directory.Server and Desktop.
Sep 2000

Windows 4.9

16 & 32-bit Windows Me using MS-DOS 8 as boot loader
Last of the 16-bit MS-DOS Kernels
PC. Says 32mb RAM but prefers 128mb

Windows XP

Oct 2001

Windows NT 5.1

32-bit Windows XP both stable and easy to use. 64-bit edition also.
COM → .NET Framework with more secure Library
PC. Numerous hardware options
Says 64mb RAM but prefers 256mb
Apr 2003

Windows NT 5.2

32-bit Windows Server 2003. 64-bit edition also.Server
Nov 2006

Windows NT 6.0

32-bit Windows Vista with SMB2. 64-bit edition also.PC. Says 512mb RAM but prefers 1 - 2gb
Feb 2008

Windows NT 6.0

32-bit Windows Server 2008. 64-bit edition also.Server
Oct 2009

Windows NT 6.1

64-bit Windows 7. 32-bit edition also.PC. 1gb RAM 32-bit & 2gb RAM 64-bit
Oct 2009

Windows NT 6.1

64-bit Windows Server 2008 R2HighUsage Server
Sep 2012

Windows NT 6.2

64-bit Windows Server 2012Server
Oct 2012

Windows NT 6.2

64-bit Windows 8. 32-bit edition also.PC. 1gb RAM 32-bit & 2gb RAM 64-bit but prefers 4gb
Oct 2013

Windows NT 6.3

64-bit Windows 8.1. 32-bit edition also.PC. Memory requirements lowered to 1 GB of RAM on all devices
Jul 2015

Windows NT 10.0

64-bit Windows 10. 32-bit edition also.PC. 1gb RAM 32-bit & 2gb RAM 64-bit but prefers 4gb
Oct 2016

Windows NT 10.0

64-bit Windows Server 2016Server

Notes re Windows Vista Takeup

The Australian
December 5th 2006

With respect to yearly sales of Windows, Apple and Linux,
research by technology analyst Gartner in 2006 showed current market share
and their predictions of market share through to 2010 to be as follows:

Windows Vista Business0.0%4.2%15.3%28%39.1%
Windows Vista Home0.0%4.9%14%22%28.6%
Windows 2000 Professional14.9%9.1%4.8%2.5%1.4%
Windows XP Professional44.5%47%39.7%28.6%18%
Windows XP Home29.8%28.6%21.6%14.5%8.5%
Apple Mac OS2.5%2.4%2.4%2.4%2.4%

Windows XP looks like being around for some time to come - much to Microsoft's disappointment - given how much time - and money they've spent on Vista.


In 2013, about 315 million PCs were sold globally, with 91% running some version of Microsoft Windows, 7% running Mac OS X, and the rest on Linux and other systems.
Click here to see these percentages, also a breakdown of operating systems used in web servers, mobile devices (i.e. smartphones and tablets) and mainframes.

The takeup rate for Windows Vista can be seen to have been much lower than Gartner estimated. In June 2014, Windows XP accounted for about 25% of market share, with Windows Vista on just 3%, Windows 7 on 50% and Windows 8 on 13%.

In May 2014, Microsoft's increasing lack of openness within Windows 8 meant that the Chinese Government banned Windows 8 from all Chinese government purchases. They had had considerable access to Windows 7's source code.

As part of efforts to "re-engage" with users in China, Microsoft announced that it would partner with Qihoo and Tencent to help promote and distribute Windows 10 in China, and that Chinese PC maker Lenovo would provide assistance at its service centers and retail outlets for helping users upgrade to Windows 10.

Some personal reflections

Apple (click for key dates) retain proprietary rights by always writing their own software and building their own machines. They cater to a niche (and loyal) market worldwide, historically in desktop publishing, graphics, sound, and research i.e. cutting edge development.

Linux, on the other hand, is an open source operating system, based on Unix-like commands, and originally written in 1991 by Linus Torvalds. Accordingly, companies can only claim ownership rights to their version of the operating system, as each one carves out its own niche.

For all its difficulties, the biggest strength of Microsoft through the years, I believe, has been continuity of data service: i.e. numerous software packages with accompanying file structures written with earlier versions of MS Windows have been regularly supported in later versions of Windows - at times for years into the future. It is this continuity that provides assurance to the vast majority of business companies and individuals who rely on Microsoft, and is doubtless a lesson Microsoft learned from the original computer companies: IBM, NCR, etc.

This continuity of service, incidentally, many times does not apply to old hardware. This was the source of a major difficulty between Microsoft and IBM during that period 1985-1990, given the enormous investment that businesses had made, and were still making, in 16-bit IBM 80286 and older XT computers, expecting ongoing support. Not so much an issue to Microsoft of course, who don't sell business computers. But coming back to today, for this reason it has been recommended that users only ever upgrade their version of MS Windows when purchasing a new computer — or when the computer they own is less than 12 months old.


On December 2, 2014 8:05 AM "Stephen Williamson" wrote:

Subject: Microsoft and those numbers

Hi Jackie

Found this Wiki page

As it says, Windows 9x is the generic term referring to the series of Microsoft Windows computer operating systems produced from 1995 to 2000 i.e.
Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME (with their internal release versions known as 4.0, 4.1 and 4.9)
Windows 2000 and Windows XP were NT 5.0 and NT 5.1, and Windows Vista became NT 6.0

And according to this page Microsoft have been referring to their next version since Windows 8 as "Threshold".

It was only speculated that it would be branded Windows 9 on its release, but I guess that might have been a bit ambiguous when referring to those earlier versions. On September 30, 2014 it was announced that "Threshold" would be called "Windows 10". I guess it saves that ambiguity, but, like happened with yourself, it's still only going to cause more questions about "What happened to Windows 9?"

love Steve

Stephen Williamson Computing Services Pty Ltd

** End of article