The Windows 95 shutdown screen

June 20, 2020

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I have always found the Windows 95 shutdown screen extremely attractive. The font and the text have very little to do with it. It's all about the colors.

This is what it looks like:

It's now safe to turn off your computer.

If you're viewing this page in a browser, you will note that it was so much of an inspiration to me that the site uses almost exactly the same colors. A black (#000000) background and orange (#F88E21) text.

I never really thought about why this shutdown screen existed in the first place. As a kid, I simply took it as a clear demonstration of my susceptibility to colors - to form. A metacognitive gift from Microsoft.

There is, however, a very interesting story behind the shutdown screen - specifically behind the necessity of the shutdown screen. This screen was necessary because many computers back then did not have the ability to shut themselves down via software.

Here is an excellent Stack Exchange post about this:

Retrocomputing Stack Exchange - It's now safe to turn off your computer

This puts me in awe of the level of depth to reality. The amount of human activity even in a field as young as computing is totally unimaginable to me. It is so easy to take things for granted that we see on a screen, but how many hours of effort have gone into making it possible for us to see what we're seeing and do what we're doing on a computer?

Let's (under)estimate the effort like this:

  1. Computers (as we know them today) have been in development for at least 50 years.
  2. During that time, on average, at least 1,000 people have been working full time to make computers this usable. The particular group of 1000 people may have varied from day to day.
  3. Each of those people have worked 40 hours a week for 50 weeks of the year.

By this estimate, at least 100,000,000 hours of effort have gone into making computers seem mundane to us.

And that they seem mundane proves that the effort was not in vain!