Windows 7: Is this finally the right one?

March 2, 2009

by Mark Ollig

To all the folks who said, “No thanks,” to the last Windows OS (operating system) Microsoft trumpeted as “Vista” – get ready – those trumpets are about to sound again.

The OS is what “runs” our PC (personal computer), it is the engine under the hood.

The OS manages the resources contained inside our computers. It directs our programs and computer hardware, much like a band director directs the musicians playing their instruments.

If we go back to a time before Windows, we mostly used something called DOS or Disk Operating System.

It was either Microsoft or “MS-DOS,” and if using the IBM flavor, it was called “PC-DOS.”

When our computers booted up we would be greeted with the familiar “C:\” prompt on our computer screen. To the right of the backslash the cursor blinked.

When we saw C:/ prompt, this meant we were accessing the computer’s internal hard drive labeled as “C:”.

In order to use programs on the computer we needed to type in the line commands.

There was no colorful Windows desktop, no icons, and no clicking.

In the early 1980s I was buying DOS self-help videos from the “Video Professor” – when they came on actual video tapes – to learn how to make batch files and how to use DOS.

Batch files saved us from repeatedly typing in the same keystrokes; we created our own DOS batch files. These batch files executed the longer command strings with just a short executable batch file name.

In the early ‘80s I purchased many books about DOS – I noticed they are now selling as antique books on eBay.

In 1983, Apple Computer’s “Lisa” personal computer came with something called a GUI or Graphical User Interface. The Lisa also included a mouse which could move an arrow prompt across the computer screen onto an icon or application, which was opened with a click. However, because the cost of the Lisa computer was so expensive, Apple’s GUI didn’t really become popular until the much lower-priced Macintosh computer was released in 1984.

This was a revolutionary way to start and interact with software programs, so Microsoft got busy and made their own simple “DOS GUI.”

I remember using my first Windows like GUI around 1988; it was called the “DOS Shell.”

DOS Shell was a type of GUI program activated by typing the command “dosshell” at the C:\ prompt.

The dosshell interface was one of the first successful attempts to create a basic graphical user interface (GUI) type file manager within the core of the DOS itself.

Today’s Microsoft Windows is an extremely advanced GUI, as is the new Mac OS X “Leopard” system.

Why did Bill Gates call it “Windows?” Well, with DOS, all the commands needed to be typed out, and with the new graphical interface, a person would click on an icon which was a software program. As the icon was clicked on, the program would open into a different screen. This procedure was known as “opening a window.”

Working with the earlier Microsoft Windows operating systems also caused some frustrations.

Ah yes, you do remember . . . computers tended to freeze up and “crash” a lot, which caused much aggravation – many times some shocking four letter words could be heard.

Microsoft has released many versions of its Windows operating system.

Some of those include the following six: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows 2000, Windows XP, and today’s Windows Vista.

XP editions included the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, Windows XP Media Center Edition, Windows XP Home, and Windows XP Professional.

Windows Vista includes the Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, and Ultimate editions.

The next Windows is the seventh version of the Windows operating system.

Windows 7 will also come packaged as Windows 7 Home Professional, Windows 7 Professional, and Windows 7 Ultimate.

One of the new applications on Microsoft Windows 7 will be the touch screen, which will allow us to open, move, and control applications (like our picture library) on our computer screen by just moving a finger across it.

It will be similar to how we use our iPod/iPhone screen.

The Microsoft web site has a feature video demonstrating this touch screen at: http://tinyurl.com/8oc3yw.

The new Windows 7 OS is rumored to be commercially available in October of this year.

I plan to purchase my new computer in December and decided to have the Windows 7 operating system installed in it.

After almost 10 years of using Windows XP, I will find out if this latest Windows operating system is really the much- improved edition I am hoping it is.

Yes, indeed, we PC users have come a long way from the days of DOS and the dosshell interface.

For more information and videos about the new Windows 7 OS, check out the Microsoft web page at http://tinyurl.com/5nod6j.

The Bits_blogger reported this week’s “Web Site of the Week” forum will feature the history of the various Microsoft Windows operating systems.