Microsoft invested a tremendous amount of its resources into the promotion the long-awaited arrival of its new operating system, Windows 95. Bill Gates paid the Rolling Stones two million dollars to license the rights for their song, "Start Me Up" for use in television advertisements. Tonight Show host Jay Leno was hired to host the official launch party at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington. The Empire State Building was even lit with the colors of the Windows 95 logo. The total Windows 95 advertising campaign cost Microsoft approximately 200 million dollars.
Microsoft finally released Windows 95 (code named "Chicago" in its developmental stages) on August 24, 1995 after delays that lasted over a year. The new operating system was introduced simultaneously in thousands of different locations worldwide.
With Windows 95, Microsoft finally released a home operating system that supported 32-bit applications. Because of this, it was significantly faster than its 16-bit predecessor, Windows 3.1. Windows 95 was also backwards-compatible with MS-DOS, but it was no longer a "Shell Utility" operating system -- meaning that it was not simply operating "on top" of DOS.
Though it was a stand-alone operating system, Windows 95 still allowed users access to an MS-DOS mode. In order to run DOS programs that would require nearly all of the computer's capabilities, Windows 95 features the ability to temporarily save itself to disc and then shut down. The computer would then be re-launched in the MS-DOS mode enabling it to access the resources of the entire system. When the DOS program had completed running, Windows 95 would then reload itself.
Memory management in Windows 95 is especially accommodating to older computer games because it allows users to play any previous software that was written for DOS as well as directly for Windows 95. Programs that were written specifically for Windows 95 and utilized its 32-bit architecture, were able to run much faster than on Windows 3.1.
Improvements include the File Manager from Windows 3.1 being replaced with Windows Explorer in Windows 95. Windows Explorer allows users to copy and move files to different locations and launch programs. It features improved ways to rename files as well as to search for them. Windows Explorer provids users a greater means of control over the system's functions.
Windows 95 is also capable of creating a "swap file," or a temporary space on the hard drive that acts as a supplement to the RAM (Random-Access Memory) when a program is running. When there is not enough RAM available to run a program, Windows 95 locates the swap file on the hard disk. A swap file permits Windows 95 to access a "virtual memory" (or simulated RAM) on the hard drive to permit it to run more applications. The process of accessing data directly from RAM, it is significantly faster than accessing it from the hard drive. When Windows 95 is forced to access data from the hard drive it becomes less efficient, because of this, a system with a large amount of RAM offers optimal performance.
Unlike DOS, which has no multitasking capabilities, and Windows 3.1, which provides cooperative multitasking (where the software is programmed to temporarily yield control of the CPU), Windows 95 provides "preemptive multitasking" where the operating system, not the software, determines which applications are most deserving of processor time. Preemptive multitasking is an important improvement because it selects the applications to process first based on the system's needs. Though it may seem otherwise, preemptive multitasking provides the illusion that several programs are running simultaneously when they are still only able to be processed one at a time.
Windows 95 is also capable of "multithreading," meaning that it can have more than one task occurring independently within an application. Windows 95 can separate an individual program into several "threads" that function independently of one another. Each thread receives its own individual CPU time. This lets an application's individual functions operate while other tasks are being performed. The tools in an application appear to run independently of one another, as if they were entirely separate programs. An example of multithreading is a word processing program that is able to both print and run a spell check at the same time. With multithreading, an application is able to multitask within itself.
With Windows 95, Microsoft has also done away with the eight character (plus three character extension) limit that users were restricted to when naming a file. Windows 95 uses the VFAT (Virtual File Allocation Table) to locate files on a hard drive. VFAT features increased disk access (over Windows 3.1) because it uses 32-bit protected-mode drivers. VFAT is compatible with DOS 6.x and earlier FAT (File Allocation Table) file systems.
Windows 95 is also capable of detecting certain peripheral devices that are plugged into it. This ability is known as "Plug and Play." Any modem, monitor, scanner, CD-ROM drive, or printer that features the Windows 95 logo will be automatically recognized by the computer when it is inserted into its proper port.
Another improvement that Windows 95 provides is the CD-Player AutoPlay feature that enables a computer to play a compact disc immediately after inserting it into the CD-ROM drive. It also provides easy access and programmability.
Over the three years following the release of Windows 95 Microsoft released three updates to the operating system: OSR1, OSR2 and OSR 2.5. It was eventually replaced by Windows 98, which was released on June 25, 1998. ~ Dave Beuscher, All Game Guide
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