The Story Of Windows: Its Development Process From Being A Vaporware To Becoming A Reality

This story has been dictated by the product manager, Tandy Trower, of that company and responsible for this tour of windows. He talks out how the product was earlier just a troubling dream and now the major OS for everyone.

Not many people have known the Microsoft like Tandy Trower. He had been with the company for almost twenty eight years. When he was presented with the project of Windows 1.0 it was known to be the ruin of career. Many had tried to work on it but had to be relocated with some other project or left the company. Being influenced by this, he felt that he was to embark with an impossible task and maybe would meet the same consequence. However, the experience that he has recorded here talks about something else; it is the recollection of his experience with this development of windows.

When this project was handed over to Tandy Trower he had only had three years completed in the company. It was the year of 1984, and he had quite a good experience of the working in the company. He had made a good reputation of himself as a product manager there, working on the flagship product of the company, BASIC. It was a successful project for him, and he had also added many versions to it, like the GW- BASIC. Also there were many compilers for the BASIC and APPLE Macintosh and also an interpreter for BASIC. Having such success stories to his name he had been handed over with the responsibility of programming languages as well, the Pascal, the COBOL, FORTRAN, and 8086 Macro Assembler and also the complier for MS-DOS in C. this is where he describes that things started to take a turn.

Bill Gates had just then reviewed them for the project. He was known to have a good vision on the marketing front along with the technical knowledge of the product. It was the time when the Microsoft BASIC had experienced a competitor in the recent release of Turbo Pascal by Borland. Microsoft also had their own version of the Pascal; however, it was more of a developer tool meant for the professionals. This was, in fact, the core language of the products for Microsoft, before they started using C. the comparison between the products of Microsoft to that of Borland was like comparing the Porsche to VW. The Borland product was for $50 and compiler by Microsoft for $400. Even though the developer by Borland was not very adaptable for serious work it was quite fast on the programming and the debugging like the BASIC interpreters. Reviewing this condition of the market there was a need for some real strategy to make the Microsoft Pascal as the compiler architecture. And it was also to be thought of that how all this should be coordinated with the BASIC product.

After this review session not only was bill gates not very pleased but our Tandy Trower felt almost devastated. While he was trying to work on the strategy for the product he was continuously bugged by the thought of incompetency. He was very uncertain with the fact that he should be continuing with this new role of his.

When he had come to Microsoft, he was working with a company dealing with consumer computers. There he was managing the software for the various education and entertainment programs. When he had started in the Microsoft, there as well he did with the PC games like the Decathlon, Typing Tutor and Flight simulator. While he was working with the BASIC he was very enthusiastic for he felt his start in the PC business. He felt that with the help of BASIC a vast audience was now considering the PCs and its applications. With the help of this growing enthusiasm he felt an evolution in his work profile as well. He was now handling a lot of products for those who dealt with technicalities of the computer, who used it for serious work. With all this commotion going on in his mind, he met his senior and suggested that maybe  he is not the right man for this work.

As an answer to this disbelief of mine in the ongoing project my senior proposed me to work on the windows project. This might sound as the best opportunity to everyone, but at that time this was the dreaded project. It was talked about to be the “vaporware” amongst the clients. The coming of windows in the market was announced with many claims, but it was not shipped till now, the way after the promised timeline. In fact, his senior, Ballmer had just come with a meeting with the clients and apologized to them for the delay. He had promised in the meeting of meeting with the needs very soon.

This was also the time when IBM had rejected the license to windows. Microsoft was planning to launch windows along with the IBM, which was leading the markets. However, IBM had rejected this plan as it was in favor of its DOS application product for windowing, which was the character based. It was called the Top View. The strategy behind using IBM for marketing was that it would have helped them deliver their product to all the users of IBM. Hence people would get to know about the product on buying the PC and this would also create a good consumer base. This was dreamt to be the first time when an OS the product would be delivered to the end user. None other than Apple had worked this way till now with the Apple Soft Card. This was the hardware card that would help the Apple II users work with all the CPM-80 applications on their PCs. Ballmer thought this to be the best job for me as I had been working with the marketing oriented technical products. Also he thought that the whole project might appeal to me as windows was supposed to expand and also improve the appeal of the PC. It would be soon about the user interface and the working convenience of the computers; it would very soon be going to deal with the easy to use graphical interface. Since I was always interested in the end user experience and interests, hence it was the best possible opportunity for him, according to Ballmer.

Hence Tandy was led into the world of windows, and he was to handle the dream project of the IT industry. As already talked about this, the project had lost its luster. It was such a failure that it was secretly considered to be the embarrassment for the Microsoft. People who were working on it were constantly under this uncertainty of its working and its completion. This was the project that had tested the abilities of four product managers before Tandy. Before coming to him, Ballmer had tried convincing the upcoming talent of the industry as well. This was Rob Glaser. He thought it to be bad move in terms of career. This is the same thought that he had shared with Tandy when he got to know about the next person to handle the project. Hearing from him and viewing the conditions prevalent Tandy was thinking if this was a move of Ballmer and Bill gates to get rid of him. The earlier project that he was been assigned was put down by him. Also, he had suggested that giving him the projects for the management of the languages for programming were not a good idea. May be irritated by these things they would have plotted to get rid of him. Tandy was so disturbed by all the things around that he thought that he was plotted into this game; this was the project that no one had succeeded with and there were bleak chances that he would make anything out of it. He would be held as the scapegoat for all the failure, and soon he would be shown the exit. Troubled by all this thought he even went to Bill Gates and Ballmer talking about this thought of his. No wonder both of them laughed and soothed him saying that it was their sheer belief that led them to take this sdeci9sion, and they really believed in the capabilities of Tandy. It was only after this that he was able to think and work ahead on the project with a new outlook.

The work soon began. However, there were still many who were backing out on the project. It was in the January of the 1985 that the architect and the manager dealing with the development of the windows had resigned. To this new development in the project, Ballmer came up to help and volunteer. He took up the department that was managed by McGregor, who had resigned. Hence it was now Tandy and Ballmer working ahead on the project. Ballmer was personally taking care of the development of the OS along with the usual responsibilities that he used to take care of.

The Building Up And Forming Of Windows OS

Starting with the work Tandy first had to assess what all had been the developments in the work till now. He studied all the developments that had been done, the work that was completed, the work that had to be completed and the work which was yet to be figured out for the completion. Also, they had to come up with the strategy to market the product to the users. The marketing strategy was also to come with a problem as no one had known about the Windows and there were no applications. Hence the question that was countered by Tandy at that time was. How would he sell the new interface application without any existing applications?

Tandy had noticed that there were three components in windows for its functioning. It was the memory management component that was the Kernel, then there was the component dealing with the windowing and the controls called the User and the last component being the GDI dealing with the device rendering. All these components were in place and working fine but still there was lot of work to be done in this regard. For all this work Tandy was given six months. He was to get the product out of the doors for Ballmer. This was, however, no hindrance to Tandy as he had the best understanding for management of timeline of any project.

Starting with the work Tandy had realized that there was no time to make new things for the work already done. All the time that he had was only enough to make it workable and according to the demands. Even Ballmer was not very inclined towards the changes, for he was aware of this condition. McGregor had already moved the design of the windows from the overlapping layout to the tiled layout. He had also worked on all the windowing systems to feature the overlapping layout. There was no time for then to work on the fonts of the windows. They had to stick with the font that was being displayed on the control labels and the title bars as well. They wished to work on the proportional typeface and not the –present fixed width typeface. This is the reason why they felt that it was very clunky in appearance when compared to the interface that Macintosh was using. Due to conditions at present Tandy had to keep his creative self a bit tied down for now and work ahead with the completion of the project, the next time would be for his creative freedom. He was promised that he would be given enough freedom in the next release to make the functional aspects of the OS more appealing to the end users. With this Tandy had started up with the project and was working towards its completion in the summer of the same year.

The next work was to look for developers who would write for the software. To Tandy’s amazement, it was hard to look for the developer for this project in Microsoft. The applications group of this company at that time was busy with the developments in the applications that were meant for Macintosh. This was also an important front to work open as the competitors of Microsoft were not taking Apple as a platform to work on. Hence this was an opportunity to work on. It was also a problem for Tandy to get his earlier team to work on this project. They were not even available for the building of the BASIC for this project. This was something that Tandy continued to pres on till the time Bill gates gave in and there was a Visual Basic to make for the windows version as well.  This was the important development as it was the catalyst needed for further development. The language was simple and hence it was very useful to make a BASIC version for windows.

While surveying, he found out that the development team had earlier named few application samples for windows. This development was more in the form of illustrations that are meant for the developers toolkit meant for the programming. This was not something that would be used by the end users for applications. The framework include the text editor meant for simple uses and was called the Notepad. This was basically the text box meant to write many lines and was also able to open and save these files. Then was the simple game called the Revesi,  and the calculator for the purposes of calculating. Then there was the Executive by the MS DOS which would make to possible for the users it starts the applications and views their file. This was not much more than what was done with the command line of MS DOS. All that was different in this version was that you were not to write the name of the file again and again. Apart from these things there was one more thing that was in this framework. This was the pixel drawing application that was being worked on any one of the developers. This was the Windows Paint.

There were some things that apple had also bundled up in its OS. This includes the small set applications which had the MacWrite, which was actually a word processor, and then there was an application for drawing, called the Mac Paint. Then there was the Borland and the Lotus, who had their Dos products released in the markets. This was the little suite of all the applications, which were character based, and they were able to be operated even when other applications were being worked on. This was the Metro and the Sidekick, which was being able to be popped up with the combination of keys worked together. Hence these packages that were already being provided had a calendar, a simple editor for texts, a database like the business cards and a calculator.

So Tandy had his list of things decide and went to Ballmer and Gates with it. He suggested that they would have a package of similar helps to the user and the windows. He suggested that those which were already in development shall be refined and a few more things shall be developed to match with the list. This would be comparable in function to the other applications. Tandy had also envisioned a word processor which was to be called as the Windows write. All this development suggested by him was sanctioned by both Ballmer and Gates; however, the word processor thing got Tandy caught in the hot waters by the Applications group.

The mini processor for the word and the program for painting were to involve font strategy, which had some hitches. This was not yet defined and needed Tandy to get the architects working on its development. There were three options in typefaces that were sanctioned by him and were hence to be included. This was the serified font with proportions in working, then there was a sans-serif and ten the fixed width font of characters, this was then also to be mapped with everything in the daisywheel printers and dot matrix printers. At the same time, the HP was also coming up with its laser printers; however they were working with the Aldus. Aldus was looking ahead to send its application of PageMaker to windows. Also the versions of a word and excel of the windows shall not be in the market for one year from the time it would be shipped in the market.

The existing DOS applications were not very well behaved. They would only work one at a time on the resources that were available. And due it situation that was discussed, they had run the windows on the existing applications of DOS only. This was to be made possible with the special application of theirs, which was to be called as the Window OLD Application. The developers which used to work on these applications, often used bugs and in the OS and the processors ion a tricky way so that they could get more memory to work on and keep off the running of the unlicensed copies. The thought that Tandy had of windows was that it had to be able to run various applications at one time. In this case, it was not possible to make the working of the existing applications and also isolating them so that the tricks would not corrupt the applications.

The windows were also required to have an interface for the keyboard as well due to the existing character based applications of DOS and the dominance of such things. Other OS already had their interfaces, for example, the Lotus 1-2-3, which had helped the users to select their characters very easily. Hence the windows also had to do the same way even though it had incorporated the mouse in this game. In this whole assignment, the Microsoft also came to call up[on the other developers to give their suggestion and this format also helped. The developer Ray Ozzie of the Lotus who was at that time working on his program Notes which was a groupware, had given a workable solution to this problem. They had very well determined the DOS application which the windows needed for the transition.

At the same time, Ballmer was busy with the other preparations for the windows for the IBM. He had been deciding the requirements for the windows system in the IBM PC which was to be the minimum, the 256 kilobytes of the whole RAM and a CGA display and two of 5 ¼ drives for the floppy. The specification of the CGA display was a very interesting specification to ask for as the pixels are rectangular and twice as high as they are wide making it quite a challenge for the display of the graphics appealing, and the resolution that it used to offer was only of 320 X 300. The producer that was to be developed was also supposed to support the new version of IBM display, which was the EGA display. This had a better resolution and the pixels in this were almost square. Also another thing to be supported was the Hercules card which had its display only in blacks and white.

While they were struggling with all these things the world was not even aware of what all they were trying to make available to the people? While the Apple had already made such things and was successfully having a name in the market the biggest advantage it had to itself was that it had only it’s kind of hardware it supports. Hence they didn’t have to think much about the compatibility and such things while, windows were striving to make the same facilities available to for everyone, on any hardware. Hence they had to consider the compatibility of the software to a number of specifications. They were in a way striving to make a product that would work on any adapter for display and would work in accordance with any printer.

The date that was decided by them for the completion of the process was still not be met the way things were going. To keep the word of Ballmer and the prestige of the Microsoft it was then decided that they launch a premier version to the world. This way the promise of shipment was to be fulfilled at least this time. Hence they decided on a few features that would be taken in this version of the release and hence they all were working throughout the day and the weeks till the time to come.

It was at this critical moment when everything was supposed to be right the developer who was taking care of the memory management reported a serious problem. All the testing till the date was found to be futile and the program was to be rewritten. There was no way they could get out of this problem and hence had to give into the situation.

The manager of the product, who actually materialized the operating system of Windows, tells the tale of how the product became global.

It was the November which marked the end of testing and the release was ready. It was then released at the Comdex and was hosted by Steward Alsop, who is renowned as the great pundit of the computer industry. Microsoft clearly expressed that they did not estimate what it would take to launch windows. The release which was lined after the premiere release was the 1.01 version which was to be followed by the 1.03 version that had the feature of fixing the bugs.

It took about 18 months for him to finally finish with windows 2.0 and therefore, anything that was missing in the first release was then taken care of this time. The interface then was again back to the windows and a similar font for the system was added. There were a number of UI improvements that were made and a new team managed the changes that were to be made so that the interface becomes compatible with the presentation manager of OS/2.

Al through this time a new section called the dynamical research was started. One of the biggest achievements was made when big names entered the company like Nathan Myhrvoid, who was later even crowned the chief architect. Many other contributors like David Wesie also employed the tricks that extended the memory of the system.

Then the limitation of the address space of 640 kb was also overcome by the programming. This was also being done by Lotus and Intel. David then also took part in this and also gave this feature to Windows. All this while the manager of MS DOS used the same code as we were already using for the second version of windows, and he developed a new memory that had the support which was necessary for the new processor of Intel, the 386 processor and this gave way to the new product which was called the Windows/386.

The manager of the product who himself was responsible for getting the operating system out of the cupboard, tells the story of success.

As far as the operating system is concerned, Microsoft has been very busy on that front. The bigger ones were going on with the OS/2 while the other teams were engaged in the completion of the second version of Windows and the Windows/386. According to Ballmer, these versions wereto be the last ever versions. Therefore, I was confused if I should get to the work that was already given to the team of OS/2 or should I start o look for a new job itself. However, as I knew that the applications of Windows and the design of Windows itself had a lot of scope of improvement, I decided that a new group should be developed that would basically look for 4 different things. The first would be to get the graphic designers that can create the interface. The next would be to establish the use of the test service. This would also be complemented with the defining of the good designs for UI and so that the applications in Windows become more consistent and the last one would be to further define cycles that will continue the growth of the interfaces of Windows.

With this idea, I went to Bill Gates and advised him that there needs to be an improvement in the interfaces. He liked the idea and the new VP Mike was given the task. However, he was from IBM and so many of the people there worried that this would lead to a similar style of IBM.

The Breaking With The IBM And The Odds With The Apple

As per the Ballmer, the relationship that Microsoft shared with IBM was like the grinding together of the gears.

The similarity between the windows and the OS of Apple was because they both were out of the same source. They were after the earlier OS that were being used like the Star and Alto which were both being developed at the PARC. It has also been seen that the people who were working for Apple were earlier working for PARC. Hence the brains that were behind these products were the same behind Macintosh. When Apple was working on Macintosh its first interface for that OS was a failure. There was an extensive support from the side of Microsoft, which made the working of the Macintosh possible. Hence it is very belittling for Tandy to know that people think that he was the one to copy the format of Macintosh. He says that it hurts to know this for as far he is concerned if he had to d that he would have gone far from what the world knows of it at present.

The trail period for then had dragged on for years now. This was partly because the Apple had claimed for the visual copyrights. There was also a deal between the companies long back where it had given the license to Microsoft for the interface and its usage. Even then there was never an idea to take help from this previous developed program from the Apple account.

After all this Tandy had moved on to work on the new interfaces meant for the user and hence had an impact on the way the products had been used till now. This changed the way we got to use a variety of things and products. The team he headed has also come up to work on the new interfaces that were meant for the windows and has later on got to be an influence for the further developments in the windows OS. The new interface and the overhaul of it are to be seen in the ninety five versions.

With the constant working on this project and for so long it helped all of us have an understanding of what was to be worked on and what was to be delivered to the consumer. Now the team had also known how to work ahead with things and there was a healthy discussion every time on the work they used to start with. As when the number of new version kept on coming Tandy assumed an advisory role in the team and started to work on the development of the new interfaces and products using them. This was the time, when he was actually exercising his’ creative freedom’, which was promised to him at the start.

The Vision For The Year 2010 And After

After talking of all this strife it is amazing to know that it is twenty five years to the famous OS that we all grew up to. This is certainly something that makes Tandy and the entire fellow look back with pride and nostalgia. It is not only the strong feelings that they shared with each other during all these years that makes them happy but also the way it has helped the ‘users’ , something that always influenced Tandy all the working years. The impact windows has had on the way people conceived computers is very different from the way Apple was working ahead. The developments in the Microsoft have got a wider audience for the PC world and this has in turn helped the creative workers as well. They still continue to work ahead on their principles, bringing forth new possibilities.

What entices all of us more I what would windows do after all the development it has made till now. It is now the time when the form of the hardware is also changing. It not only the conventional PC that we are going to work with, other forms of technologies have also come in and now we are able to blur the lines between the different appliances. We have the phones, the laptops and the whole entertainment sector left open for further work. The internet has also widened its own parameters and the way people work with things. The information of anything is accessible to anyone. And all this development is no where going to diminish the importance of windows. Tandy does not find himself the fit person to predict the working path of windows. He wants to give other people a chance to put their input in this movement and bring forth new ways to help the mankind.

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