If you didn’t live through the jump, it can be hard to describe the cultural revolution between Windows 3.1 and Windows 95. Its taskbar ussured in an era of “multitasking”; its built-in web browser put the world’s information at your fingertips; its “Start” menu, complete with its own ~$10 million Rolling Stones song, was pure optimism rendered in bits.
But what if Microsoft released an operating system in the chasm between Windows 3.1 and Windows 95? It might look something like Windows 93, an interactive art project by Jankenpopp and Zombectro that you can try right in your browser.
The experience of the OS is hard to put into words–it’s Windows imagined in some parallel universe, with plenty of retro homages to the weird OS quirks of yore.
The hard drive defragger comes with a funky MIDI beat so head-bobbingly enticing that you’ll wonder why it wasn’t implemented in the first place. Perhaps familiar to some, a horribly sad “Virtual Girl” can sit on your desktop, though instead of flirting or stripping via 16-bit animation, this one lays there as lifeless as a paper doll. You can watch a video of Star Wars right on your desktop (the catch: it’s rendered in ASCII). And then there’s the “Totally not a virus. Trust me..im a dolphin” icon that’s pretty much a must-click, harkening back to the good old days when viruses were as much about pranking you as they were stealing your data. Though, for the record, that virus is nowhere as devastating as the army of Clippys that will randomly show up.
It’s surprising just how deep you can dig in Windows 93, thanks to content like GameBoy emulators and pixel editors that have actually been pulled from various sources across the web. I spent a shameful amount of time giggling nostalgically, until suddenly, a beach ball of death showed up on my screen. At first, I figured it was just another one of Windows 93’s jokes until, moments later, Chrome froze and then crashed.
Oh how far we’ve come in the last 20 years!