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Take a break from Windows 10 by revisiting Windows 1 in your browser

Windows 1
Now that Windows 10 is up and running on the consumer market, it’s time to take a look at the Windows that came before — all the way to the first efforts in the 1980s. And by “take a look” we really mean “launch the OS and play with it when we’re bored.”

So let’s blast you back to the past. Specifically,  all the way back to  Windows 1.01, which was released in 1985. While later versions of Windows handily blew the earlier efforts away, Windows 1 created a vital baseline for the company and included a surprising number of features that modern-day Windows users are likely to recognize.

How do you take this trip down memory lane? Just follow our lead.

Emulating Windows

We hate to break this to you, but there’s no magic command that will instantly revert your new Windows 10 system to the first Windows OS just for fun. It would be a nice easter egg, but it just isn’t happening. The key to getting the old OS on your new computer is emulation.

Emulators, of course, are designed to emulate a particular past machine through software. Whether it’s an old-timey game console or the ghost of Windows past, the emulator holds the entire recreation of the system as a program. Without getting too technical, the particular emulator for Windows 1.01, for example, creates an IBM PC XT model via PCJS, which is designed with JavaScript for extra versatility.

With the power of modern online emulators, code craftsmen in charge of PCJS can emulate a surprisingly complete version of Windows 1.01. PCJS has emulated a computer with an Intel 8088 CPU running at a whopping 4.77MHz, with 256KB of RAM, and CGA graphics.

Pretty sweet hardware, right? Hold on to your butts — we’re about to get retro.

Logging onto the past

So, how do you get the emulation for Windows 1.01? Visit this PCJS website link.

That’s it. No need for downloads, patchs, or uneasy pirating. Windows 1.01 will simply appear in its own box over at PCJS and start calmly loading. And while this is one of the best Windows emulators around, if you decide to visit other versions of the Windows OS you can expect much of the same thing. The JavaScript design and web-friendly development means that you simply have to open a new browser tab to launch the application. Windows 1.01 will work in most browsers, too, so you don’t have to worry about switching.

Keep in mind your browser will emulate a new instance of Windows every time you open the website. You can play for hours with various applications, but nothing you do will ever be saved. Don’t try typing up an essay on the old-time Text program for giggles. You can’t actually save and send it anywhere.

What can you do with early Windows?

You may be surprised by how feature-complete the first version of Windows was. There’s a number of basic applications, such as a calculator, a clock, a calendar, and so on. If you want to try typing you can open one of the text programs (some show fun little exercises in how the programs can be used – possibly from the original OS?) and start typing away. Certain keystroke actions will be a bit different than the modern version, and remember, you can’t save what you write.

If you want to try more advanced options, head over to the early version of Paint and mess around, then visit some of the complex files that the emulation has included. Pit your wits against Reversi, mess around with Terminal, and experience the timeless sensation of being notified that no printer is connected to your computer.

Also, pay attention to the buttons at the edge of the emulation, which allow for other advanced tinkering. You can lock your mouse, visit various drivers, halt processes, and reset to a command prompt mode if you want to. We probably don’t need to tell you what “ESC” and “CTRL-C” and those other buttons do.

More website emulation choices

Because of various copyright and licensing concerns, emulating Windows OS is done as a research-based project or educational experiment firmly in the personal, nonprofit sector to avoid ruffling Microsoft’s feathers. That being said, you can find emulators for some other versions of Windows if you are curious. Here’s one you can start for Windows 95. That version was a huge upgrade over Windows 3. And here’s one for the madness that was Windows 93. Oh, what, you don’t remember that last one? How odd.

I want to keep this forever

Whoa, slow down there. It doesn’t matter if you are George R. R. Martin or some sort of hipster singularity, replacing a modern OS with an older version isn’t an easy task.

However, you can download the emulator files from organizations like PCJS and even the original Windows 1.01 installation disks if you really want. Tinker with these as much as you want, but you are unlikely to install a version of early Windows as stable as the website emulators.

Tyler Lacoma
Former Digital Trends Contributor
If it can be streamed, voice-activated, made better with an app, or beaten by mashing buttons, Tyler's into it. When he's not…
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