It’s a little hard to imagine today, but in the mid-1990s, Microsoft was the most well-known, powerful and exciting technology brand in the world. The launch of Microsoft’s Windows 95 operating system was met with a global fanfare that tends these days to be reserved for Apple product launches, or when Kanye West releases new shoes.
The company spent millions to procure the rights to the Rolling Stones’ Start Me Up (to show off the new Start Menu of course).
And the executive team came out dancing to the song at their launch event in Washington.
Microsoft also produced a bizarre promotional video with the sitcom stars Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry, from Friends.
PC fans went wild.
This fan picked up two copies at the midnight launch in Australia:
In the US, the new operating system cost $210—that’s about $330 today, adjusted for inflation. (Microsoft’s newest operating system, Windows 10, is a free upgrade for owners of Windows 7 and 8.1.)
Queues stretched across malls for the midnight launch in Singapore:
Crowds were thick for the midnight launch of the Japanese version three months later at Tokyo’s Akihabara district, the city’s electronics and gadgets neighborhood:
This teenager in Auckland, New Zealand, was one of the first in the world to pick up the new operating system, and he seems appropriately overjoyed at the prospect of task bars, start menus, and surfing the World Wide Web:
This kid picked up a lot of copies from the now-defunct electronics store CompUSA at the midnight launch in New York City:
He probably stayed up all night installing the operating system on all his computers. Because it took ages to install.
Here, a sales clerk in Japan shows off Windows 95 and Microsoft Office on a typical beige box computer, replete with myriad peripherals and add-ons, as were usually found on PCs of the time:
Bill Gates enlisted the help of talk show host Jay Leno at the official launch event at Microsoft’s Washington headquarters:
And Gates, in appropriately 90s attire, again showed off the new operating system to Budapest’s parliament a few days later:
Windows 95 went on to sell 40 million copies in its first year alone, and remained the dominant operating system well into the new millennium.
It’s unlikely that any new Microsoft product will be released with quite this level of fanfare again—or even the level of Windows Vista. But perhaps we should spare a thought for how excited we were back in 1995.