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Operating Systems

Forget Windows 10: Remember when Windows 95 was new?

As Microsoft introduces its newest operating system, we venture back 20 years in the CNET Vault to find our video coverage of its ancestor, Windows 95. Let new features like the recycle bin, MSN and long file names amaze you.

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This summer marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Windows 95, a significant improvement over Windows 3.1 in reliability and ease of use but an upgrade that was dismissed by Apple fans as being 11 years late to the party.

Because 1995 also marked the birth of CNET, this clip that we pulled from the attic is one of our earliest product demos. Host Richard Hart points out some of Win 95's new features: a recycle bin (not a trash can, the Mac already had that), long file names, desktop shortcuts, a task bar, a "briefcase" for syncing files, plug-and-play capability, the Microsoft Network (aka MSN) and a "start" button that was at the center of a massive marketing campaign featuring the Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up."

As Hart explains, "Even if you don't use a PC, whatever kind of computer you use, you will feel the impact of the release of Windows 95.

"While Win 95 was a milestone product for Microsoft, Microsoft's market share in the mid-1990s was already at about 90 percent and the Mac was about 10 percent. But with Win 95, the Windows OS continued to take share from the Mac, which eventually hit 4 percent and set the stage for Steve Jobs' return to Apple in 1997.

To more fully understand the state of computing when Win 95 was released, here is a video of Windows 3.1, which had been on the market for about three years. And here is a video of Steve Jobs unveiling the Macintosh almost 11 years (!) prior to Win 95.

Fun fact: Microsoft's code name for Win 95 was Chicago. Apple's code name for System 7.5, released in fall 1994, was Capone, as in the Chicago mobster Al Capone.

Funner fact: Jennifer Aniston and Mathew Perry of "Friends" fame produced a 30-minute video (dubbed "the world's first cyber sitcom") touting Win 95's features with some comedy. Bill Gates' office, for example, uses The Clapper to operate the lights and when asked what she knows about Windows, Aniston replies "I'm still mastering Pong." It's definitely Must See TV.