Skip to main content

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.

Related Videos

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.

Editors' Recommendations

Firefox just got a great new way to protect your privacy
Canva in Firefox on a MacBook.

If you’re fed up with signing up for new accounts online and then being perpetually spammed in the days and weeks after, Mozilla has an idea that could help. The company has just announced its Firefox Relay feature is being directly integrated into its Firefox web browser, and it could help guarantee your privacy without any extra hassle.

Firefox Relay works by letting you create email “masks” when you sign up for new accounts. Instead of entering your real credentials into the sign-up field, Firefox Relay provides you with a throwaway address and phone number to use. Any messages from the website -- such as purchase receipts -- are then forwarded to your real email address, with all the sender’s tracking information stripped out to protect your privacy.

Read more
The most common Chromebook problems and how to fix them
A person working on a Toshiba Chromebook.

Chromebooks are great alternatives to MacBooks and Windows 10 laptops, but they aren’t perfect. Any laptop computer is bound to have issues, and some of the most common problems faced by Chromebook users can feel difficult or even impossible to solve on their own. 

From issues with updates to internet connectivity, troubleshooting common Chromebook problems doesn’t have to ruin your day. Read on to discover easy fixes for the most frequent issues Chromebook users face. 
The Diagnostics app

Read more
These are the new AI features coming to Gmail, Google Docs, and Sheets
Google has announced a host of new writing focused AI features for its Workspace suite.

Google Workspace is getting a generative AI boost at the same time that many other productivity suites are adding new features that allow users to simplify clerical tasks with just a prompt.

Following up on the visual redesign to Google Docs and the announcement of Google Bard, these new AI features are the company's latest attempt to bring more buzzy goodness to its most popular applications.

Read more