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If you’re in search of some nostalgia on April 6, head over to the Internet Archive to celebrate the 27th anniversary of Microsoft’s release of Windows 3.1. Thanks to the hard work of dedicated developers, you can once again play Wheel of Fortune, Election ’92, Desert Storm: The Air Campaign, and, yes, even Minesweeper in a 16-bit format, all from the comfort of today’s technology.

Aside from the joy of seeing a pixelated Vanna White, it’s worth the trip to recognize and commemorate the Windows 3.1 innovations we now take for granted, including:

  • TrueType fonts, making fonts scalable and changing the course of history for lazy term paper writers
  • Built-in screensavers (got to love those flying Windows icons!)
  • Paintbrush (now Paint)
  • Enhanced Object Linking and Embedding (OLE), or copying and pasting between programs
  • Multitasking, or running multiple programs at once
  • CTRL-ALT-DEL to efficiently deal with crashes
  • Minesweeper

Windows 3.1 changes the game

Whether Windows 3.1 introduced these functionalities or simply brought them to the masses, this was the operating system that took graphical user interface (GUI) mainstream. So long, MS-DOS prompts.

The debut of Windows 3.1 also revolutionized office procrastination, at least until high-speed Internet connections. The operating system included Minesweeper; in Windows 3.0, the game was part of the add-on Windows Entertainment Package. Not even Bill Gates was immune to the allure of Minesweeper. Gates reportedly uninstalled Minesweeper from his own computer because he was wasting too much time on it — but then he would sneak into a colleague’s office to play. Even Microsoft’s founder saw part of his life being shaped by Windows 3.1 and all its fun innovations.

Photo: pikselstock / Shutterstock & Mírian Bruckschen Motta Barros via Flickr (CC by 2.0).

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Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

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