Sometimes the internet guffs out material so zany that I remember why I like it. This month it’s a new website titled WINDOWS93 that’s providing this service. It transports you back to the 1990s through a wormhole made of broken memories. Starting up as if it were Windows 95—albeit with the nostalgia-stroking PlayStation One introduction chime (I still get chills)—it seems a convincing if off-color recreation.
But don’t you dare stop there. You bet your ass you’re going to start double clicking your way into those desktop icons that are arranged as a wonky pyramid for some reason. It won’t take long after opening just a few of these programs that you’ll realize that this isn’t your mom’s operating system. While some of the programs will be familiar by their title, they actually end up being closer to joke versions of them, all of which are informed by a combination of familiarity with operating a computer in the early ’90s and today’s meme culture.
Take a look at Wolfenstein 3D, which has all its Nazi imagery replaced with today’s tech icons (we’re talking Mark Zuckerberg as Hitler), as if to allude to the evil of our all-powerful high-tech corporations. Most of the other programs in WINDOWS93 are less biting in their satire while some are full-on goofs. Skype (called Zkype) is unavailable due to a satanic kitten orgy overtaking all its channels. Solitaire is brutally retitled “Solitude” as if to make an assumption of the type of people who would sit there and play the game on their computer. There’s a Hydra.exe virus that doubles the number of windows on-screen every time you close one down (replicating the mythical serpent). And Internet Explorer takes on its most honest form yet as “Cat Explorer.”
You can spend a while giggling along to each of the programs, playing some of them for hours, others entertaining you for only seconds. But there’s more to WINDOWS93 than these programs. There are also files to delve into where you’ll find a range of what would seem completely random images to some. For artisans of internet history these gifs, demos, and songs will trigger memories of the fads of our online past: the Hampster Dance, Rickrolling, and the dolphin icon that is totally not a virus. Oh, and there’s porn hidden away in there somewhere, because of course there is.
It seems that WINDOWS93 is meant to act as a love letter to everything mad and creative about computer culture of the past 20 years. It enjoys randomness and silliness, hence a computer virus designed to break the desktop is considered entertaining enough in its raw form, while the laborious act of defragging a computer has to be turned into a game of Snake.
In essence, WINDOWS93 is how an operating system would be if it were created by us lot, the users, instead of the highly-paid tech guys. It’s Windows if its sole intention were to entertain us. Apple boss Tim Cook and Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella give keynotes about how they’re trying to improve user experience with their next iteration of iOS and Windows, but the typical internet dweller doesn’t care for any of that, they just want to play videogames and make their computer’s text-to-speech program say rude words.