Flashback: How Microsoft Windows 1.0 Was Sold

Before it was a household name and built the world’s largest channel, Microsoft sent its best pitchman -- Steve Ballmer -- to television to hock its revolutionary new product, Windows 1.0. Here’s a flashback to the commercial that started it all.

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BallmerHere's a little Friday Flashback fun to end your week. Long before Microsoft Corp. released Windows 8 or built the world’s largest channel, there was Microsoft Windows 1.0. And how did Microsoft take this revolutionary operating system to market in the mid-1980s? Television commercials featuring their top pitchman of the day, Steve Ballmer.

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Yes, Virginia, the energetic and excitable Ballmer took to the airwaves in 1986 wearing his best suit and narrow tie to entice 8088 PC users to order via mail Microsoft’s first GUI operating system that “integrates Lotus 1-2-3 with Miami Vice.”

Why was Ballmer on the airwaves and not Microsoft's emblematic founder, Bill Gates? Back then, Gates wasn't that well known and was still more of a behind-the-scenes guy. Ballmer, who joined Microsoft in 1980 as the 30th employee, was the company's first real business manager. He was the one driving Microsoft's expansion, and therefore the perfect choice as pitchman, we suspect.

Microsoft’s sales model and channels have come a long way since the days when you sent a $99 via snail-mail for a handful of floppy disks. Even as Microsoft preps Window 8.1 with a boatload of enhancements and new features, it’s fun to see what the software giant considered “revolutionary” back when "Night Court," "Moonlighting" and "LA Law" ruled the airwaves (and, yes, they were still broadcast over the airwaves).

Ballmer, in his trademark dynamism, perfectly explained all the applications that came with Windows 1.0, including Reversi. Other applications included Windows Write, Windows Paint, Calendar, Card File, Control Panel, RAM Driver and a Clock.

“Can you believe it?” as Ballmer exclaimed.

And like any good infomercial pitchman, Ballmer built the value based on price. Was it worth $500 or $1,000? No. It was all $99. Now, if that seems like a bargain, consider that adjusted for inflation, the cost of Windows 1.0 in 2013 would be approximately $211. That's still cheap considering the average PC cost between $1,500 and $2,500 in the mid-80s (or as much as $5,000 in today's dollars).

Yes, Microsoft has come a long way since Window 1.0. It even sells software in Nebraska now (still trying to figure that one out).

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