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Happy 20th birthday, Windows 3.1

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#1 scaramonga



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Posted 14 April 2012 - 05:07 AM

On April 6, 1992, Microsoft released Windows 3.1: it was the first really successful version of the Windows GUI running atop of MS-DOS, bringing important improvements over the previous version (released two years before) and selling three million copies in the first two months.

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Windows 3.1 was the first version of the Microsoft operating environment (as we used to call GUIs running atop an external OS back then) to break compatibility with real-mode CPUs (8086/8088), requiring an Intel 80286 processor to run in “standard mode” or a 386-class CPU to take full advantage of the software and (underlying) hardware capabilities of the time.

CPU support aside, Windows 3.1 featured the “Program Manager” to manage groups of applications and the “File Manager” to copy, cut and paste files within a graphical tree-like view: the two features have been merged into “Windows Explorer” from Windows 95 onward.

Windows 3.1 introduced True Type fonts, vector-type char sets invented by Apple years before that for the first time turned the Microsoft GUI into a viable desktop publishing platform. The operating environment also saw the first appearance of Minesweeper, a rudimentary version of the Registry (now a fundamental part for the inner workings of Windows), a “modular” and customizable Control Panel, Object Linking and Embedding technology to dynamically share images and data within programs, better support for multimedia and so on.

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