Summer of 95

The summer of 1995 was a pretty memorable one. In June, we travelled from London to a holiday cottage in Kerry in Ireland, along with my brother, sister in law and their one year old daughter. It was too hot for the locals. One told a local radio phone in: “we Irish aren’t designed for heat. We’re not like the Japanese. It’s so hot I have to have a wash nearly every day”. We introduced our two year old son to a clear blue sea, ate fresh salmon sandwiches, drank cold Guinness and watched the famous South African victory in their home Rugby World Cup final on a tiny TV.

Meanwhile, back in London, John Major announced in his “put up or shut up” speech that he would stand for re-election as Conservative Party leader to stop the endless speculation about whether he should resign or not. After a very brief campaign, he beat the only person who ran against him, John Redwood, by 218 votes to 89.

Still in the world of politics, I did some freelance work for the Labour candidate in the Littleborough and Saddleworth by-election, which took place on 27 July, but I was mainly busy in the small editing and design business that I had set up with my old colleague Lliane Phillips. Life there was going well; we worked from a small office on the top floor above a shop in Upper Street – voguish enough then, balls-achingly on trend now. Under the roof, we got boiling hot in summer and froze in winter. By then we had a couple of Macs. One was the pizza box style LC475, small enough to be portable, the other a Performa. We had both become deft users of QuarkXPress.

Even though we were firmly in the Apple camp, we could hardly not have noticed the release by Microsoft of its new operating system, Windows 95, described this week by The Register in a piece marking its 25th anniversary as “arguably the most consequential event in modern computing history”. I remember that the hype even reached the cartoon pages of the mainstream press, with Gary Trudeau drawing a hilarious sequence of Doonesbury cartoons which ran in the Guardian for a week or more.

Three of the Doonesbury series are shown above. In a search for them on Google, I came across the first two in a guide to the installation of Windows 95, a glorious web page set up by a Florida company which doesn’t seem to have been updated since it was created.

The Register article also has a link to a much under-appreciated resource, an hour-long (!) video guide to Windows 95 on YouTube, where your hosts are two fresh-faced young actors, Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry.

As if to remind us where we are in the evolution of computing history, at one point the video proclaims Windows 95 as the “on-ramp to the Information Superhighway”. The Internet Explorer versus Netscape battle was about to start.  Google’s revolution of search was still three years away.

And all this was just 11 years after Apple’s 1984 campaign that introduced the Macintosh personal computer. The greatest TV commercial ever, according to Advertising Age. How time flew.

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