Steffi Lewis


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The Launch Of Microsoft Windows

The first epiphany ...

Posted by Steffi Lewis on 30/01/2012

Windows has evolved into an amazing platform and even its detractors give it credit for a nice design and almost bulletproof stability. But that's version 7. It wasn't always like that; I still remember the first clunky version of Windows that was little more than a graphic version of ms-dos ...

i really was joyfully happy the day microsoft lauched windows

i really was joyfully happy the day microsoft lauched windows

It's around 6am and I'm sitting in a service station on the M5 just south of Birmingham. It was a really early start up in Liverpool but trips down to Microsoft in Reading always mean we get breakfast on the Boss and we're all making the most of it with a lovely Full English. These really are the best garlic mushrooms I've ever had!

By the time we hit Reading, it's a lovely sunny day. We took our time as we didn't need to be there until 10am so ended up hanging around outside for an hour or so watching swans drifting lazily on The River Thames in the early summer sunshine. Whispy clouds reflected in the slow moving waters and there was a sweet smell of pollen in the air. What a beautiful place.

My colleague Wendy - who didn't realise that lunch was always provided at Microsoft - decided to feed her sandwiches to the swans so wandered down to the bank, broke them up into pieces and cast them on the water. A curious swan floated over and gulped one of the pieces down greedily.

The next thing we heard was a scream from Wendy and we looked up from our conversation and saw said swan, flapping and hissing and chasing her towards the building. It was total pandemonium with sales reps and techies scattering everywhere, out of the path of the speeding Wendy and her angry pursuer! She legged it into the building and held the door shut, looking terrified as the swan tried to beat down the door with his wings. We fell around laughing at what just happened. Poor Wendy. How was she to know that ham & English mustard sandwiches would have such a profound effect on the poor bird? I'll never forget that moment.

But I digress ... the reason we were at Microsoft on that sunny day was for the launch of a very special piece of software. We were here for Windows version 1.0c - and based on today's standard of GUI design - it was truly awful! But it allowed the user to run more that one program at once and that was the clincher for me! I fell in love on the spot. This was a truly defining moment of my career - the first epiphany - and I was determined to learn as much about it as possible.

All the way back to Liverpool that evening, I was rabbiting on about how awesome it was to type into Notepad, play a game of Reversi AND see the second hand of the clock ticking around ... all on one screen ... all at the same time! I just couldn't shut up about it!

When we got back to the office, my boss - who wasn't the most tolerant of people - jumped out of the car and said "Steffi! As of Monday morning, you are supporting Microsoft Windows!" I was thrilled! It was the proper start of my support career and meant I could go do installs on client sites all over the North West of England. A couple of months later it meant I got my first company car as well!

You see, like a lot of people in the industry at the time, my boss thought Windows would just be a flash in the pan - something of a novelty that would melt away into obscurity. Who on earth would ever want to do more than one thing at once on a computer? WordPerfect and Lotus certainly didn't and what became of them? Within a year, if you weren't GUI (Graphical User Interface) based you were dead in the water. Microsoft had changed the world.

I loved Windows. I even learned how to program using the first ever "object oriented" database called Omnis Quartz and developed my design skills using Aldus PageMaker - all amazing and revolutionary products at the time that taught me so much about computers, operating systems and the people that use them.

Microsoft Windows v1.0c was the first of the two epiphany moments I have had over the years and it has been amazing to watch how this clunky little piece of software went through law suits, design revisions and complete rewrites until we got to what we have today - the phenomenal Windows 7 - and what we'll have next year ... the eagerly anticipated touch screen capable Windows 8!

But I do wonder ... what will my next epiphany be?

S x

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