Play around with this Windows 1.0 emulator to celebrate its 35th birthday

Windows 1.0 Reversi
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Growing up using a PC that ran on Windows 3.1, I don't think it ever occurred to me that there was a Windows 2.1. Or 1.0. That was just Windows, until Windows 95 came around a few years later. But that wasn't true, of course. There were earlier versions of Windows, and a time when Microsoft wasn't making the most dominant computer operating system in the world. Windows 1.0, which started it all, came a good five years before the Windows I knew. As of today, November 20, it's turning 35 years old.

You could read whole history books about the impact of Windows 1.0 on the last 35 years of computing, but I think a more fun way to celebrate Windows' birthday is to use it. What passed for a cutting-edge interface in 1985? What could the average PC do at the time? How impressive was the ray tracing? 

The PCjs project has a great Windows 1.0 emulator you can use in your browser. It runs on Javascript, and all you have to do to use it is just click in the windows to take control of the Windows-within-Windows virtual mouse. If you load up the emulator, definitely check out its example to-do list, which has a cute human touch that you don't see so much in modern Windows. And play Reversi, pictured above!

One especially cool feature of the emulator is that it has some disks pre-loaded in memory that you can load to the A drive. Circa 1985 these would actually be 5¹/⁴-inch floppies, which could hold a grand total of 360 kilobytes. I spent a few minutes playing a game called Castle Adventure, released in 1985.

Castle Adventure

(Image credit: Kevin Bales)

Here's just a tad bit more history—the emulator is actually of Windows 1.01, which was the version released on November 20. The actual Windows 1.0 was never sold—it was basically the beta version that Microsoft tested out before launching the final product. 

To hype up Stranger Things Season 3 last year, Microsoft actually created a modern Windows 1.11 app for Windows 10. The link isn't live on the site anymore, but you can still find it here.

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).