The Press Packet That Launched Windows 1.0

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As a lover of history, one thing I worry about on a daily basis is that we aren't preserving archival information about software well enough. I don't just mean the bits themselves, but all the atoms that surrounded them. The manuals and self-help books, the retail displays and yes, even the press packets.

For example, who is archiving the universe of Where In The World is Carmen Sandiego? (Perhaps only Mizuko Ito?) Yet for a certain generation of kids, it was one of our earliest bases of geographical knowledge. Where else did a ton of 9-year-old Americans willingly learn fun facts about Colombo, Sri Lanka? That Broderbund logo could still send me into a cold sleuthing sweat.

In any case, Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's Chief Software Architect, did his own small part to preserve our software legacies. He posted the original press packet handed out at the launch of Windows 1.

Beyond its kitsch and "That's so OLD-LOOKING" value, there is actually historically important information in the packet. For example, we see that when Microsoft put out a feature comparison chart -- nominally looking at its competitors -- we don't see Macintosh. Instead, we see GEM, Digital Research's graphical user interface, and IBM Topview. That's meaningful as a statement of how Microsoft wanted the press to see its business and precisely why we need more software ephemera and institutional documents.

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Oh, and you gotta love the screenshots. Just look at that GUI! It just screams EASE OF USE.Picture 3_windows.png

 
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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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