Ryan Chartrand

It’s always a depressing, miserable day when we PC users must wave goodbye to a suddenly-ancient operating system. Yes, Windows XP, we will miss you.

As the PC world welcomes their new member, Windows Vista, into the family, I’d like to take a walk down digital memory lane. I present to you the three greatest installments in the Windows family history.

Windows 95

For many of us, this is where life began. No Adam and Eve or monkeys evolving into Michael Jackson; simply Windows 95. With that said, the following sound would be considered the first notes to soothe your primitive minds.

alt : Windows 95.wav

This whimsical sound of pure beauty was actually composed by Brian Eno, an avant-garde electronic musician. Eno said in an interview that Microsoft told him they would pay $30,000 for a piece of music that was “inspiring, universal, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional” and a page more of adjectives. Then they told him it had to be 3 ¬ seconds long. I’d say he surpassed their expectations. How will Vista’s startup sound compare to its ancient predecessor’s song of joy?

Just the sound should bring back memories of Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” video or the incredibly addicting Hover! game (collecting flags never gets old). For those of you who had a Packard Bell computer, or what is now considered a Compaq, you might remember navigating through a virtual house trying to find programs as the idea that your own home suddenly didn’t exist was cultivated.

Windows 95 also marked the birth of the “Start” button. In fact, Rolling Stones somehow owed Bill Gates a favor and did a commercial featuring the song “Start Me Up” to promote the idea that Windows 95, the “Start” button and cocaine all have something in common.

Imagine for a moment life today without the “Start” button. Yeah, that’s right. You wouldn’t exist. You can thank grandpa Windows 95.

Windows 98

The history of Windows 98 started, sadly, with a presentation by Bill Gates in April 1998 where he demonstrated the ease of use and stability of the new operating system. Then his presentation, running on Windows 98, crashed. That’s right, Windows 98 was known for crashing from the start. Yet, that doesn’t stop the fact that we all bought it, fell in love with it and now have happy nightmares about the blue screen of death.

Windows 98 was technically great and certainly the most stable operating system I’ve used since being introduced to a Mac, but what stuck with me after all the years was its interface. The simple, gray-consuming world of Windows 98 was by far the most comforting interface of all past Windows operating systems. Every time I reformat Windows XP, I always set its color scheme right back to the Windows 98 “old school” theme. Windows Vista is unfortunately the ultimate step away from that look, but it will always be remembered.

alt : Windows 98.wav

As for the startup theme, everything after Windows 95 was simply an imitation. Windows 98’s theme might have the magical, futuristic invitation that Windows 95 offered, the optimistic look of taking over the world that Gates wanted simply wasn’t present.

Windows XP

The bubbly, make-believe land of Windows XP was never attractive to me until the day I finally converted. The moment that rich, resonant bass chord set in and the green, blue and Oompa Loompa like-happiness was draped across my screen, I knew I had reached the Promised Land that was Windows XP. All problems suddenly faded away.

With Windows XP came a graphical world that Mac users could have only dreamed of. While it was more susceptible to viruses and trojans than a guy walking down a red-light district, Windows XP is so “cool” and popular that it can be found in 400 million homes.

The only problem I ever had with Windows XP, aside from its fallacious slogan “It just works,” was the brilliant idea of including the “Remote Assistance” feature with every copy. At what point in the development phase did someone forget to ask the question “Why are we making a program that lets someone take over someone else’s computer? Is it just me, or are we making it easier for hackers?”

Yes, we PC users have had many memories with the Windows family and hopefully there will be many more years of hopeful startup sounds and weird, pointless and somehow useful programs. While Mac might always win in the creativity department, at least the Windows family can boast, “Well, at least we can play games.”

As for the triumphant release of your new best friend, Windows Vista, you’ll have to wait until next week to get my review and find out which version (yes, there’s more than just a professional or a home edition) is best for you. It’s like a “Grey’s Anatomy” episode; I will torture you all week. Then again, hasn’t Microsoft been torturing you with blue screens since 1998?

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