Windows 95 turns 25 years old today, capping off a quarter of a century of user-friendly versions of Windows. While Windows 95 was not the first version of Windows, it was, in many ways, the first consumer-friendly Windows operating system. Its navigation mechanics were innovative, and some of them live on to this day.
Windows 95 introduced or greatly improved several elements that went on to become staples of all Windows operating systems, including the Start Menu, Windows Explorer, and the Taskbar. While Windows has evolved greatly since the launch of Windows 95, it looks similar in many ways to modern operating systems. It’s somewhat similar to comparing the original iPhone to modern iPhone models; the bones are surprisingly similar.
Windows 95 also introduced the Recycle Bin and the buttons to close, minimize, and maximize windows. It was also the first operating system to run Internet Explorer, though it didn’t launch with the browser initially. Internet Explorer dominated the browser space for years and is still only being fully phased out today.
The operating system also made managing files much easier, as it allowed you to use long file names. Previous versions of Windows limited file names to eight or fewer characters.
“Krazy Ken” from the YouTube channel Computer Clan has a great breakdown of the history of Windows 95 and some of the things that made it so innovative.
Arguably the biggest change that came with Windows 95 was its relatively simple interface. You didn’t have to know DOS to run a program, though you could if you preferred to. The simple point and click interface of Windows 95 greatly opened up the computing space to the average person.
If you’re looking for some more Windows 95 fun, Microsoft has a blog post, along with a short video celebrating its 25th birthday.