A ticket to the Windows 95 launch


A limited number of seats at the Windows 95 launch were available to the product team, so there was a lottery to see who would get one of those tickets. The remainder of the team would be standing on bleachers hidden behind the stage, to be unveiled at the grand climax of the product launch festivities.

I happened to have been a winner in the ticket lottery, but the fact that there weren’t enough seats for everybody created some degree of grousing among the have-nots. As a show of solidarity, I forewent the special VIP pass and ticket, instead taking my place in the crowd of red, blue, yellow, and green T-shirts waiting backstage and giving the pass and ticket to a colleague who really wanted to be in the tent.

While I waited in the staging room to be positioned for the grand finale, I was somewhat surprised to see my colleague in the room with me. She gave me back my unused VIP pass and ticket, saying, “It didn’t feel right being out there in the tent. This is where I belong.”

I probably have the only unused ticket to the Windows 95 launch.

While standing on the bleachers behind the screen, we could hear everything going on. When Jay Leno disappeared backstage to head off to his next scene, he emerged between the two sets of bleachers. We silently waved at him, but he was obviously focused on his job and didn’t have time to schmooze with us.

It was very hard staying quiet for so long backstage. Our presence was supposed to be a surprise; any noise would give us away. There were moments where whispers got out of hand and people had to wave frantically (or—heavens—shush!) to restore quiet. I thought for certain one of our out-of-control moments had let the cat out of the bag, but from talking to people afterwards who were in the tent, I learned that nobody noticed a thing.

Our only instructions from the director were “Wave, clap, and cheer!”, keeping up the energy until the last of the crowd had filed out. Everything beyond that was improvised. Somebody started up a cheer, with half of the bleachers shouting “Windows!” and the other half responding “95!” I’m sure there were other things we did to maintain the excitement, though I can’t remember any of it now. I just remember that after a while I got tired of smiling and clapping but kept it up because I was on the aisle next to all the attendees, and that’s show business!

Comments (23)
  1. Today is Windows 95&amp;amp;#8217;s 10th anniversary. A start on the likely tsunami of  reminiscences from Joe Wilcox, Craig Rowland, and at The Old New Thing [1], [2].<br><br>...
    
  2. Danny says:

    I was another one of the product team members who won that lottery. Unlike Raymond, I decided to watch it from within the tent. While it was very exciting there, I knew from that day that I’d made the wrong decision.

  3. Matt says:

    After reading this little gem I just can’t wait to see what Microsoft comes up with for the Vista release!

  4. Al says:

    As I have for the last 5 or 6 years, I’m having a "birthday party" for Windows95 today. For real. I know that sounds totally nuts (and it probably is to some degree), but Windows95 took us all out of the dark ages and into the new frontier. Me and my co-coders will get some cake and soda and play "Start Me Up" from a Win95 CD… Nerds at their worst… I mean best.

  5. BTX says:

    …amazing, as it is amazing to hear all of you guys stories about how you took every single bug to heart to get to what we have today

  6. vince says:

    C:NGRTLNS.W95

  7. DavidKlineMS says:

    Funny you mention unused Win95 launch tickets. I believe I have mine also (I prefered to be with the team too).

  8. David Kline says:

    Ten years ago, as Raymond has mentioned, the Windows 95 team was hiding backstage at the launch event.&amp;nbsp;…

  9. Daev says:

    This tenth anniversary is a good time to point out what a great design the Windows 95 team came up with. 16-bit, 32-bit, and Ring 0 code was deeply intertwingled to produce a system that supported real DOS, Win16, and Win32 programs equally well. To applications written for each subsystem the OS appeared to be a new, compatible version of the architecture they expected.

    For example, 16-bit USER and GDI components drew on the 32-bit heap via a table of indirect handles, and the core kernel functionality (VMM.VXD and VWIN32.VXD) understood the structure of the 16-bit and 32-bit kernel modules; each level had its own internal database records that were carefully kept in sync by an intricate network of thunks, system calls, and mutexes. The result was a design in which unmodified Windows 3 and even DOS programs were first-class citizens within a 32-bit OS, unlike their limited status in the NT/2000/XP series.

    There were certainly problems with the implementation that had to be hammered out over time: the Win16 mutex was held in a lot of unnecessary places, 32-bit code thunked a whole lot more often than it needed to, and who knows what the heck was up with the weird INT 30H mechanism (the way protected mode code called the OS kernel involved some kind of secret internal address translation lookup table). But on the whole it was a triumph of the "big complex system" approach to OS design as described in Richard Gabriel’s famous "Worse Is Better" article (on what’s wrong with Unix): http://www.jwz.org/doc/worse-is-better.html . The Windows 95 developers solved very hard problems in a remarkable way.

    Win95 reminds me most of the "Soul Of A New Machine" architecture, from Tracy Kidder’s book on the development of the Data General Eclipse MV/8000. "Wide" and "narrow" versions of everything existed side-by-side on that machine, so that no matter what sort of code you wrote, it interoperated with everything else. Neither the Eagle nor Windows 95 may make it into academic case studies of OS design, but they were both elegant engineering solutions.

    Recommended reading: "Windows 95 System Programming Secrets" by the inimitable Matt Pietrek.

  10. Fred Fenster says:

    Raymond, I’m sure this has been covered before, but I was just wondering what you do now? Are you working on Vista and can you say specifically what you are working on?

    Just curious.

  11. JenK says:

    That had slipped my mind…but yup, that was 10 years ago today. I was in the yellow t-shirt section* with my friend Betsy.

    And, naturally, they played "Start Me Up" while the inside-the-tent crowd was heading between the bleachers to the midway. So we danced and laughed and clapped to that song over and over and over.

    I wasn’t too surprised by the midway til I saw the Ferris Wheel. Funny how working there can raise your expectations (remember the company party with the merry-go-round inside the convention center? ;)

    I remember a reporter asking me very hesitantly if my t-shirt meant I was on the Windows dev team.

    *We were organized into a "living Windows flag", so there were red, blue, green, and yellow sections.

  12. James Schend says:

    Windows95 took us all out of the dark ages and

    >into the new frontier.

    Just you PC users. ;) What’s MacOS 7? Chopped liver?

  13. Anon says:

    Just you PC users. ;) What’s MacOS 7? Chopped?>liver?

    What the hell is a MAC fan doing here ? get outta here.

  14. Michael J. says:

    After reading Andrew Shulman’s Undocumented Windows95, Win 3.11 For Workgroups seemed like a bigger step forward than Win95. In Win3.11 filesystem was entirely controller from 32-bit protected mode. Win95 was "downgraded" in order to maintain better compatibility with older hardware and software, including popular at that time on-the-fly disk compressors. Afaik, these improvements came back in OSR2 along with FAT32.

  15. Scott says:

    Speaking as a consumer and not a programmer, Win95 was quite a leap forward. However, that nasty DOS code was still a mess for people like me, who wanted to use nothing but 32 bit apps and longed for a real 32 bit OS. And a system that wouldn’t run out of "system resources" and lock up every 24 hours.

    Freankly, I was more excited about Windows 2000 than 95.

    Heck, I only made it to XP about 8 months ago.

  16. I started at Microsoft the day after Labour Day, 1995 (which I soon learned was spelled Labor Day)….

  17. One of the things I love about Microsoft is that you often get talk with, or listen to interesting people.

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