THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Friday, August 25, 1995 TAG: 9508250692 SECTION: FRONT PAGE: A1 EDITION: FINAL SOURCE: BY STEPHANIE STOUGHTON, STAFF WRITER LENGTH: Long : 109 lines
For days, the bulky cardboard boxes in CompUSA's storage room had drawn warnings and hushes. They were The Boxes - the ones containing Microsoft's Windows 95 - and NO ONE was allowed to touch them.
``We can't even look at them,'' joked Ed Reck, retail manager at the Norfolk computer store Wednesday.
That was until a stroke past midnight - or 12:00:01 a.m. Thursday to be exact - when a store employee's excited voice echoed through the store: ``Ladies and gentlemen. It is midnight, and we are now selling Windows 95!''
At that point, cheers erupted among the more than 100 anxious computer junkies who formed a line weaving around the inside of CompUSA. The store blasted the Rolling Stones' ``Start Me Up,'' and the computer buffs began to politely and patiently edge toward the software packages.
``My daughter called it Disney Land for Geeks,'' said Steven Tippett, a computer network manager from Virginia Beach who chatted as the human line wound around the store.
If you're asking - ``What is Windows 95 and why should I care?'' - you're not alone. But it has been rather difficult to escape Microsoft Corp.'s $100 million-plus marketing blitz for the new computer operating system. It was bigger than the New Coke and Wonder Bra bonanzas.
Advertising campaigns drew scores of shoppers to CompUSA, Egghead Software and other computer stores. If Thursday was any sign of the program's success, Microsoft's Bill Gates will be laughing all the way to the bank - again.
Gates, the 39-year-old chairman of Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, is the force behind this frenzy. His bespectacled, unassuming-looking face appeared live via satellite in hundreds of computer stores across the country. Shoppers unfamiliar with his visage should note that he is the richest nerd in America.
And if Gates is happy, so are computer store owners. The good news for retailers is that customers may have to upgrade their computer systems to get the most out of Windows 95. That means shoppers will be picking up more memory, new application programs, printers or even a new computer.
Indeed, most customers who walked out of Egghead Software in Virginia Beach, were carrying three or four software application programs in addition to the $90 Windows 95 box. Application programs perform tasks like running a spreadsheet or connecting to an on-line service. However, a new operating program like Windows 95 tends to make previous application programs obsolete.
``This is the biggest day for this store in its history,'' said Shawn Dailey, manager of the Egghead Software store. ``It was crazy. It was like the Saturday before Christmas compressed into three hours.''
Depending on whom you talk to, the newest version of Windows is either a must-have or an overhyped boondoggle.
The truth is somewhere between these two extremes.
PC people will love the new user-friendly features in Windows 95, which works more like Apple's Macintosh now. Much of the annoying double-clicking on the mouse is gone. There's also an easy-to-reach start-button icon in the lower left corner of the screen.
On the flip side, some people may run into a few problems setting up the program.
``For normal people, it will mess them up,'' said David Edery, a computer consultant from Norfolk. ``If you just push ENTER, ENTER, ENTER - it won't work. But that's what everyone does.''
While much has been said about Windows' possible glitches and installation problems, shoppers Thursday said the product was still a ``must-have.''
``It's not perfect, but it's outstanding if you know how to work it,'' said Paul Long, a computer consultant from Norfolk standing outside Egghead Software. ``Obviously, the more experienced people who take time to read the books are going to have fewer problems than the people who just go in blind.'' ILLUSTRATION: [Color Photo]
JOSEPH JOHN KOTLOWSKI/Staff
Microsoft's new Windows 95 remained crated at CompUSA in Virginia
Beach until midnight Wednesday, when it was made available to more
than 100 waiting customers.
The pros and cons of Windows 95.
TO FIND HELP
For Microsoft's tips hot line, call this toll-free number 24
hours a day: 1-800-936-4200.
Microsoft's site on the World Wide Web is located at
http://www.microsoft.com. This site also carries information about
the making of Windows 95 and several games.
If you have major problems with upgrading to Windows 95 and want
technical support, call: 206-635-7000. There is no toll-free tech
support number. The lines will be open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 9
p.m. It may take a few tries to get through. Actually, we couldn't
get in at all Thursday.
Best bet is make friends with computer guru next door.
WHAT IS WINDOWS 95?
What Microsoft Corp. has delivered in Windows 95 is a revision to
the operating program that runs millions of personal computers
worldwide. Simply put, Windows 95 is something that makes your
computer go, running the PC's basic functions.
Upgrading to Windows 95 costs about $90, but many people may want
to buy extra hardware for their machine, new application programs or
even a new computer. At minimum, Windows 95 will run on a 386-class
computer with 4 megabytes of random access memory (RAM). Recommended
is 8 megabytes of RAM. Users say their PCs run smooth and speedy
with a 486-class processor and 16 megabytes of RAM.