Wolfgang Wiebach's Light Musings on Heavy Subjects

    A Historical Mystery

  Why did mankind embrace the "Windows" operating system?
    It is doubtful that, in an over-populated and energy-starved future, mankind will be able to conduct such lofty endeavors as historical research. But if it does, one of the big historical mysteries emerging from the late 20th century will be the quick and widespread acceptance of an operating system for the personal computer known as "Windows". The personal computer ("PC") had just appeared at that time; Windows offered only minimal improvements of its capabilities, but required massive and expensive hardware upgrades. Adding insult to injury, it proved to be unreliable and generally difficult to use. Yet the people all over the world, in an unprecedented case of mass mania, took these purchases upon themselves, causing an astonishing, if temporary boost to the market of computer hardware, and made the leading originators of PC operating systems and perpetrators of the Windows scam ("Microsoft") rich to a spectacular degree.         
    These people, probably themselves astonished about the ardent acceptance of their machination, were quick to capitalize on it and issued in rapid succession one version after another with only superficial modifications. For reasons unable to fathom, vendors of certain application programs, such as for the preparation of those onerous income tax declarations common at that time, modified their programs so that they would run only with the latest version of Windows, forcing the populace to purchase those subsequent editions, even if they had come to regret to have switched to Windows in the first place.

    Similarly, the makers of certain classes of novel hardware, as for example the digital cameras appearing during this period, contrived to let their products work with only the latest version of Windows, forcing yet more upgrades by people who may have resisted otherwise.
     So while the world population generally went along with the Windows madness, partly eagerly and partly by coercion, there was a general feeling that the retail price of every new Windows program was much too high compared to the production cost, evidenced by the ever increasing accumulation of wealth of the originating company, Microsoft, and its principal shareholders. This wealth was remarkable even for this period, which was generally characterized by the abandonment of reasonableness in the payment of company figureheads ("CEOs").
    We see here another strange phenomenon. In the Western world during this period, the regulation of the retail price by the manufacturer of a product was generally frowned upon or possibly even illegal. Practically all products, both of the hardware and intellectual genre, could be purchased from various sources at wildly variable prices - with the exception of Windows by Microsoft.
    It appears that the company enforced this setup by threatening exclusion of the retailer from further deliveries in case of any aberration, an approach that should have been completely illegal but apparently went unchallenged as well. As our title says, a big historical mystery.
     As a footnote to history, Microsoft was at one point taken to court and charged with various unlawful business practices, the unjustified and illegally enforced retail price among them; but nothing came of it; and the next edition of Windows ("XP") was promptly sold at double the price of the previous one.
     It seems that this strange process might have continued for a long time, if not the disruption of oil deliveries to America and the ensuing economical turmoil had shifted the attention of the populace to far more urgent matters.