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Why Is Windows Called “Windows”?

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Do you know that the first-ever version of Windows wasn’t initially called “Windows,” and was internally called “Interface Manager”? Thankfully, the codenamed didn’t stick around, because “Microsoft Interface Manager 11” doesn’t roll off the tongue like “Windows 11.

So, why did Microsoft decide to call its OS just “Windows”? Let’s find out.

Why Is Windows Called “Windows”?

Before we get into the actual reason why Microsoft decided to name its premier OS “Windows”, we have to understand the context of the decision. Or in this case, the tech landscape when Microsoft first decided to develop Windows.

Operating systems with a graphical user interface (GUI) were a rarity in the 1980s. Back then, computers had single-task OSes to fit their needs. These single-tasking systems were operated through a command prompt. MS-DOS is a prime example of such an OS.

Related: Relive the Golden Days With FreeDOS, an Open-Source MS-DOS Implementation

But these operating systems were difficult to use because you had to remember the commands to use them. Not only that, but you also had to keep track of the state of the OS. For instance, you first had to be able to figure out where you were in the file directory to navigate to your destination.

To solve these problems, Xerox created the first prototype GUI in its Palo Alto lab.

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Xerox’s GUI represented the state of the OS on the screen, so users could simply look at the screen and tell what was happening. The GUI at that time represented each function or program in separate windows on the screen as shown in the image of Xerox PARC’s GUI.

Xerox PARC GUI
Source: Kevin / Flickr

When Xerox was working on the prototype GUI, nobody knew what to call the interface. So, people took the most important parts of the GUI, namely Windows, Icons, Mouse, and Pointer, combine the first letters of these parts, and call graphical interfaces as a WIMP interface.

Later, Steve Jobs took the idea of WIMP interfaces, nurtured it, and gave the world “Macintosh or Mac”. Inspired by the Mac, Microsoft decided to wrap DOS in a WIMP interface. And thus, Windows was born.


Related: Mac vs. Windows: Which Is Right for You?

Look at it this way: Microsoft has a habit of using incredibly simple names for their products. “Microsoft Word” for word processing, “Microsoft Paint” for a painting program, and so on. In the end, the company took Windows from WIMP and decided to name its OS “Windows”.

If you ask us, Microsoft nailed the naming scheme for its OS. “Windows” is simple and iconic. People around the globe remember the name.

Over the years, Windows has become the most popular desktop OS in the world. But on the road to becoming the most popular operating system, there were some grave missteps.

Let’s hope Microsoft has learned from those missteps and Windows 11 proves to be a success.


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