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Windows 3.0

The third time was a charm. Windows 3.0, released in 1990, was the first commercially successful version of the operating system, selling 10 million copies in the two years before the 3.1 upgrade. This was the first version of the operating system to incorporate true multitasking, thus providing a real alternative to the dominant DOS operating system of the time. After the success of Apple's Macintosh, the PC world was ready for a multitasking OS with a graphical user interface.

Figure 4 Windows 3.0—the version that put Windows on the map

It helped, of course, that Windows 3.0 was a big improvement over the previous version. The interface was a lot nicer looking with 3D buttons and such, and users could, for the first time, change the color of the underlying desktop. (No wallpaper yet, however.) Programs were launched via the new icon-based Program Manager, and a new File Manager replaced the old MS-DOS Executive for basic file management. This was also the first version of Windows to come with Solitaire built in, contributing to an incredible amount of wasted time worldwide. Equally important, Windows 3.0 included a Protected/Enhanced mode that enabled native Windows applications to make use of more memory than their DOS counterparts.

After the release of Windows 3.0, applications written for Windows thrived while non-Windows apps eventually died on the vine. It was Windows 3.0 that made Word and Excel the dominant apps in their spaces, beating out WordPerfect, 1-2-3, and other entrenched DOS-compatible competitors.

Windows 3.1

Windows 3.1, released in 1992, was more than a simple point upgrade. Version 3.1 not only included the requisite bug fixes, it was the first version of Windows to display TrueType scalable fonts—which turned Windows into a serious platform for desktop publishing. Also new to Windows 3.1 were screensavers and drag-and-drop operation.

Figure 5 Windows 3.1—first with TrueType fonts

Windows for Workgroups

Also released in 1992 was Windows for Workgroups (WFW), the first networkable version for Windows. Originally developed as an add-on for Windows 3.0, WFW added the necessary drivers and protocols (including TCP/IP) for peer-to-peer networking. This made WFW the first version of Windows suitable for a corporate environment.

Figure 6 Windows for Workgroups—the first networkable version of Windows

With WFW, Windows releases split into two paths: The consumer path, designed for use on single PCs, represented by Windows 3.1 and the upcoming Windows 95, and the corporate path, designed for use on multiple networked PCs, represented by WFW and the upcoming Windows NT.

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Last Update: November 17, 2020