I remember standing in line to purchase a copy of Windows 95 when it was released at the newly built CompUSA store in Torrance, California. It was a warm August evening and no breeze. There were at least 400 people there lined up to buy only about 300 copies of the new operating system. Excitement was in the air and people couldn’t wait to get home to load up their 486DX/25 machines with the new OS. I was up all night installing it.

Most of the people lined up were running DOS 6.22 with Windows 3.11 and were eager for a change. For one, Windows 3.11 did not support TCP/IP built-in. Most people that accessed the Internet had UNIX shell accounts running a program called TIA over dial-up lines using the SLIP protocol. People also used the Mosaic, and later the Netscape browser to access the web, and Eudora for email. My ISP was Netcom, which was acquired by Mindspring, which was eventually acquired by Earthlink.

Windows 95 was a huge leap forward. It had built-in TCP/IP and PPP protocols to access the Internet through dial-up. This eventually meant the end for TIA, as Internet service providers started to provide PPP modem banks that no longer necessitated the use of a shell account. Those were the glory days of personal computing. Windows 95 was a big step forward and was an eagerly anticipated media event.

Contrast this with last night’s release of Windows Vista. Although there are big improvements in this new OS, mostly in security and graphics, it’s not much better than a well-patched installation of Windows XP Professional. People out there are happy running Windows XP and don’t want to learn new menus and graphics. Some may not want to upgrade Windows because they don’t want to upgrade their hardware. Either way, people are resistant to change.

Last night, the crowds of people never showed up. Granted, there wasn’t a huge marketing blitz featuring the Rolling Stones song “Start Me Up” like the Windows 95 launch. Ultimately, I think Microsoft knew that users would never line up for only a slight improvement, no matter what commercials they ran. Deep inside, Microsoft must know that it has lost its magic and it will never be 1995 again.

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