Microsoft followed up with Windows 2.0, released in November 1987. Windows 2.0 included support for the then cutting edge 286 (and later 386) processor. Windows 2.0 also included an upgraded GUI and support for keyboard shortcuts.
Microsoft also includes a program called “Presentation Manager”, which would later be re-named PowerPoint.
Windows becomes mainstream: Windows 3.0 and 3.1
In 1990 Microsoft announced the follow-up to Windows 2.0, called Windows 3.0. Shortly after came Windows 3.1.
Windows 3.0 and 3.1 utilized new versions of Intel’s (NASDAQ: INTC) 286 and 386 processors, increasing the operating system’s speed and utilization of memory. It also included updates to the Windows interface, introducing Program Manager and File Manager as well as a redesigned Control Panel.
It also had support for 256-color VGA, a big enhancement over the 16 colors supported before.
While Windows 3.0 shipped on a half-dozen floppy disks, Windows 3.1 was the first release of Windows to ship on a CD as CD-ROM drives were beginning to find themselves in more and more home computers.
In the summer of 1993, Microsoft releases Windows NT. The NT stood for New Technology.
Though the Windows NT GUI looked very similar to that of Windows 3.1, it was a complete rewrite of Windows starting at the Kernel. Windows NT was a 32-bit operating system, intended to be used for high-end engineering and scientific platforms.
Eventually Windows NT would find itself as the workstation and server variant of Windows. The consumer version of Windows adopted the Windows NT kernel with Windows XP in 2001.
The first modern Windows: Windows 95
With the release of Windows 95, Windows starts to become recognizable to its modern iterations. It was the first Windows for the internet era, with Internet Explorer built right in.
The launch of Windows 95 was a media-heavy event, with prime-time television commercials featuring the Rolling Stone’s song “Start Me Up” and a Windows banner draped over the CN Tower in Toronto.
Windows 95 was the first Windows OS to introduce the paradigm of the Start button. This aided to the ease of use of the platform, with Bill Gates joking at a launch event with Jay Leno that “Windows 95 is so easy, even a talk-show host can figure it out.”
Windows 95 included “Plug and Play” support which allowed for the easy installation of hardware.
The minimum system requirements for Windows 95 were an Intel 386DX computer with 4MB of RAM and 50-55MB of hard disk space. However, for acceptable performance at least a 486 processor and 8MB of RAM were recommended.