In a few weeks time, the lives of millions of people will be irrevocably changed. As the one of the world’s largest information corporations prepares to launch its major project of the decade, it will alter the way we work, play, think, perhaps even the way we dream.
It is hard to exaggerate the impact of Microsoft’s imminent release of Windows 95. Windows already has some 60 to 70 million users and this radically revised new version is set to become the standard graphical interface for the information age. Long awaited (and long delayed) the launch of Windows 95 is perhaps the first time a piece of software has become a major cultural event.
We are in the middle of a golden age of computer software. Today, the make of PC is becoming almost as irrelevant as the make of the projector that plays the latest cinema release. More important is the software that runs on it, the artistic and intellectual content. The golden age began in the 70s when the Xerox team at Palo Alto developed an intuitive approach to computing using windows, a pointer, icons and a virtual desktop. From these metaphors, Apple went on to create the wit and beauty of Macintosh. For ten years Windows has, in terms of its poetics, been a poor relation of the Mac. But because it was cheap, cheerful and portable, 70 percent of PC users now see the world through its frame.