From the KnowledgeBase
The Windows operating system was created by Microsoft in the early 1990's and has progressed along two converging lines since that time. One line of operating systems was intended and designed for home use; the other for an office environment.
Windows 3.1 (1992) was Microsoft's first major operating system release.
The OS created a GUI (graphical user interface) to interface with the underlying
command-based MS-DOS system. Windows 3.1 was fairly unstable and had trouble
running multiple applications, even on a machine with plenty of RAM. Windows
3.1 was a 16-bit operating system often installed on machines with 386 and
486 Intel chips, which were 32-bit processors; the processors had to do extra
work to run a 16-bit program.
Windows NT (1993) (short for New Technology) proved more stable than
Windows 3.1, but was not very popular among end users; NT was memory-intensive
at a time when RAM was still expensive.
Windows 95 (1995) supplied a more user-friendly interface that borrowed
ideas from operating systems such as MacOS and NextStep. Windows 95 took
better advantage of 32-bit processors than Windows 3.1 and also proved to
be more compatible with older applications than NT, though 95 still required
no more hardware than 3.1. However, Win 95 was slightly less stable than
the original release of NT.
Windows NT 4.0 (1996) made NT a more viable option by adopting the
improved Win 95 interface and allowing users to run almost all the software
written for Windows 95. NT also included remote management tools and required
a special "administrator" login in order to make any changes to the operating
system (adding hardware, installing software, altering the control panel
settings, etc). These features make NT especially popular in office
Windows 98 (1998) was a relatively minor upgrade of Windows 95 but
proved to be a very popular Windows operating system for home users. One
of the only significant differences between 95 and 98 was the hard-wiring
of Internet Explorer 5.0 into 98, creating the "Quick Launch" bar on the
task bar and allowing the Windows Explorer tool to also act as a web browser.
In 1999, Microsoft released Windows 98 Second Edition, providing y2k readiness,
support for newer hardware (USB, Pentium III, etc.) and improved Windows
built-in software (Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, Windows Media Player,
Windows 2000 NT 5 (2000) was the successor to Windows NT, not Windows
98. In an effort to merge the lines of corporate and home PC use, it was
sold as an upgrade for both NT 4.0 and 98, but it functions primarily as
NT 4.0 does. The administrator login created with NT 4.0 remained in 2000.
Win 2000 has been popular among home users as well as in office environments
in part because it is more stable than its predecessors. Windows 2000 is
the current recommended Windows operating system for Princeton users - this
is the OS maintained on all standard DeSC (Desktop Systems Council) computers
and distributed with computers purchased through the Student Computer
Windows ME (2000) (short for Millenium Edition) was the successor
to Windows 98. The interface was changed to resemble that of Windows 2000,
but few other features were changed. Win ME was notorious for crashing and
was not well-liked by end users.
Windows XP Home Edition (2001) is the latest windows operating system
designed for the home. XP introduced a flashy new interface, a significantly
faster boot-up time and added stability. Win XP Home is not designed for
use on a network, so OIT does not recommend this operating system for any
Windows XP Professional Edition (2001) is the XP operating system
designed for the office. It uses the same interface and has the same capabilities
as XP home, but it also has the ability to join a domain and network with
other computers. Windows XP Pro is no less stable than 2000, but some of
its flashier features make this operating system too taxing on the system
resources of slower computers.
Please visit the following web page for Microsoft's history of Windows:
Windows Operating Systems Family History
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