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22nd Aug 2019

An appreciation of the Microsoft Windows 95 video guide

Ciara Knight

Could it *BE* more 1995?

The year is 1995 and Microsoft has enlisted the help of national treasures Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry to explain their new Windows 95 operating system.

In this era-defining video, our trusted duo takes us through the ins and outs of this revolutionary system, balanced with the perfect amount of intrigue, sarcasm and whimsy.

This video serves as ironclad proof that advertising peaked in 1995. Nothing has even come close to the undisputed triumph that was the Microsoft Windows 95 video guide.

So, a concise 24 years after the video was made, it feels only right to look back and pay tribute to The Greatest Instructional Video Guide Of All Time.

In a genre-defining move, this fun-yet-informative instructional video is self-dubbed as ‘The World’s First Cyber Sitcom’ and it is, by all accounts, delicious mid-90s trash.

Matthew Perry and Jennifer Aniston respectively play the exact roles that they’ve been famed for throughout their highly-successful TV sitcom lives. The show’s name escapes me right now. Bunch of friends, all living in New York, all fancy each other, you know the one. Mates, or something. Chums? Pals?

The script for the video appears to have been written by a distant relative of someone who was once told, as a joke, that they were kind of funny in a weird way, not like traditionally funny.

We get to see an exciting scenario play out in excruciating detail, whereby Matt and Jen have happened upon the official Microsoft offices of their own volition, to speak with Bill Gates about getting cast in the video guide for Windows 95. But, get this. They’re already appearing in the video guide for Windows 95!!!! It is happening right now, they simply don’t realise.

The receptionist does some extremely 1995 things such as clapping to turn the lights on in Bill Gates’ office and wearing kitten heels at work. During the 90s, every TV show legally had to have at least one reference to clap-triggered light fixtures, otherwise they would be taken off the air. The same rule was in place for having jazzy kitchen wallpaper and Bernie Mac in the cast.

The untouchable script effortlessly shoehorns in such rolls-right-off-the-tongue phrases to describe Gates’ office as “the nerve centre of the world’s biggest software company” and how “the atmosphere resonates with anticipation of mythical achievement”. This is advertising at its finest. ‘Conversational’ scrips are out. ‘Written by a man in a suit who smokes in his car and neglects his children, prioritising work over family despite knowing that it will cost him dearly in the years to come’ scripts are in.

“Oh, pretty”, Jennifer Aniston says as she does an over-the-top performance of hitting the much-publicised ANY KEY to wake the sleeping monitor. She’s looking at the nauseating green desktop on a brand new computer. There are four icons looking back at her. My computer, trash, etc. It’s not pretty, it’s not even five out of ten. It’s hideous, but Rachel is really selling it.

The receptionist explains the concept of scrolling through the Windows 95 ‘Start menu’ to two multimillionaire actors who continue to ask appropriate questions so as to get the viewer on side. Our fragile young 1995 minds ate it up, thinking ‘If Jennifer Aniston can do this, so can I’, because Rachel Green and her unattainable hairstyle was the single most relatable figure of the mid-90s television era. In second place was Hyacinth Bouquet’s nervous neighbour Elizabeth, but Microsoft couldn’t afford her.

Between Chandler, Rachel and Bill Gates’ fake receptionist, they finish off a Christmas poem that Bill had already started because in the year of our Lord 1995, literally all you could do on a computer was write incredibly weak poetry, set up a glitchy screensaver and fantasise about being friends with Friends.

Everything that happens in the video maintains a consistent level of responsible fun. As is standard in every household, a window washer turns up to install the computer’s printer using a CD-ROM, and then a stereotypical nerd who looks remarkably like Michael J. Fox arrives to explain the concept of e-mail to everyone within earshot. The same guy makes a weird comment to Jennifer Aniston about keeping his hands where she can see them, which probably is best kept buried in this 24-year-old informative video.

The 1995-equivalent of a Deliveroo cyclist bursts into Bill Gates’ office to drop off some Chinese food and explain the concept of shortcuts and doing a right click, which at the time was a revolutionary concept. I want to find that delivery guy today and tell him that the phone sitting in my pocket right now has the ability to be unlocked simply by scanning my face. I think he would get sick, then eat the sick for sustenance, then get sick again. (He was a bit of a pervert).

Perhaps one of the most important characters to aid the explanation of the Windows 95 operating system is the final addition – Joystick Johnny, a small child who wears a bicycle helmet with an attached rearview mirror sticking out from one side. He absolutely crushes a game of 3D Pinball, which to this day still slaps. Everyone is stunned by his ability to keep a very much 2D pinball afloat as he wears a pair of fingerless gloves and gets far too invested in the whole thing. The director’s instructions to this child must’ve been ‘Just fucking go for it, lad. Be the scene-stealer you were born to be. You are Leonardo DiCaprio and this is The Revenant, a movie that will come out in twenty years time’.

Sadly, we must bid farewell to “The World’s First Cyber Sitcom” at this point, after Jen presses the infamous red button that she was warned not to touch from the start. That kind of plot progression was years ahead of its time. The characters were well-developed, showing a substantial growth and depth of intellect that frankly went beyond the remit of an operating system’s instructional video. The storyline was airtight and the whole thing barely even felt like a television advert. Frankly, it must be said, The Big Bang Theory could never.

Given that this piece of content was produced 24 years ago, a lot can be learned from its continuation to set an impressive precedent for all future advertising. We need to carry on the foolproof trend, plucking beloved and relevant television characters from their comfort zones and plonking them into uncharted territories. I want Tracy Beaker to sell me bog roll. I want Tracy Barlow to demonstrate the best way to limbo so that you can win every time. I want Tracy Chapman to preach about the dangers of traveling too quickly on the motorway. People trust Tracys. We need to wise up.

Having watched the now-redundant video several times over the course of this day, one thing has become abundantly clear. We need to return to the simplicity of 1995. Technology is evolving, but our brains are not. We need things to be explained to us by celebrities. It’s the only way we can learn to trust, and as a result, truly be free.

Very simply put, who are you going to buy cleaning products from, a guy named Barry Scott, or Barry from EastEnders?

The future is now. Advertisers, take note.



Images via YouTube