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They say technology advances at an exponential rate and a lot can change in a year. That’s true, of course, so how impressive is it that so many of the programs we use today have been around for multiple decades? Quite impressive, if you ask me.

Walking down Nostalgia Lane is nothing new here at MakeUseOf. This particular trip was inspired by our readers when we asked about the oldest PC software you still use today. The answers blew us away and brought smiles to our faces.

So let’s take a look at the oldest surviving Windows programs that still reign in popularity today. What we find may surprise you.

Command Prompt (1981)

The average Windows user has never used the command prompt, which makes sense because we don’t really need the command prompt anymore. Almost everything can be done through a graphical interface. So why do we still have this “outdated” option?

The command prompt finds its roots in MS-DOS, a small piece of software that wasn’t even developed by Microsoft. A guy named Tim Paterson developed 86-DOS over six weeks in 1980 and sold it to Microsoft in 1981, who then renamed it to MS-DOS.



MS-DOS would go on to revolutionize the PC industry as Microsoft licensed it to hundreds of companies and continued to build additional features on top of it.

Some x86 systems still use MS-DOS today, but modern versions of Windows have moved on to CMD.EXE, a command line interpreter 7 Common Tasks The Windows Command Prompt Makes Quick & Easy 7 Common Tasks The Windows Command Prompt Makes Quick & Easy Don't let the command prompt intimidate you. It's simpler and more useful than you expect. You might be surprised by what you can accomplish with just a few keystrokes. Read More that was first released on Windows NT in 1993. With the advent of Windows 10, Microsoft will be moving onto a more advanced command line called PowerShell 6 Basic PowerShell Commands to Get More out of Windows 6 Basic PowerShell Commands to Get More out of Windows PowerShell is what you get when you give steroids to the Windows Command Prompt. It grants you control of nearly every aspect of the Windows system. We help you leap up its learning curve. Read More .

Microsoft Office (1982)

There are a lot of things that people don’t know about Microsoft Office. While Microsoft Office suite wasn’t introduced until 1990, its individual components existed as far back as 1982. Not only that, but prior to Microsoft Office there was Microsoft Works which was smaller and cheaper.

Another fact that people don’t know: we often view Microsoft Word as the primary application in the Office suite, but Microsoft Excel actually existed first. Granted, it was originally named Multiplan and didn’t get renamed to Excel until 1995, but it is what it is.


Likewise, Microsoft Word was originally named Multi-Tool Word before it was renamed to Word for Windows in 1989.

Their biggest competitors at the time were Lotus 1-2-3 (for spreadsheets) and Corel WordPerfect (for word processing), but Microsoft stuck it out and emerged as the market winner after several years. Now Word and Excel are two of the most widely used programs in the world.

SimCity (1989)

SimCity may not be the oldest game around — not by a long shot — but it has certainly proved to be one of the most robust titles of the past couple of decades. After all, it debuted in 1989, yet continues to produce sequels with the latest SimCity being released in 2013 SimCity 2013 - The Tale Of a Terrible Launch & a Terrific Game [MUO Gaming] SimCity 2013 - The Tale Of a Terrible Launch & a Terrific Game [MUO Gaming] SimCity was one of the first PC games I ever played when it was first released in 1989 - I was just 7 at the time. You'll understand then why this game holds a particularly... Read More .


The original game earned its reputation for being a complex game like no other before it. As city mayor, your goal was to work within budgetary limitations while expanding a city to be as profitable and livable as possible. In a lot of ways, SimCity pioneered the entire “simulation” gaming genre.

Today, the gameplay has become so popular that SimCity clones The 3 Best Modern Alternatives To SimCity The 3 Best Modern Alternatives To SimCity One game genre that’s unfortunately withered is the city simulator. This type of game was never a huge success compared to action-packed shooters and real-time strategy games, but it’s always had a place in the... Read More exist all over the place. If PC gaming isn’t your style, you can always scratch that itch with these mobile SimCity alternatives SimCity for Android: What Are Your Options? SimCity for Android: What Are Your Options? SimCity is an excellent game, but EA made a few massive blunders that resulted in a poor launch, disgruntled customers, and a sour taste in everyone's mouths. Even so, no one can deny the city-building... Read More instead. Then again, others think that clones aren’t good enough and that everyone should just return to playing SimCity 5 Reasons To Go Back To SimCity 4 [Opinion] 5 Reasons To Go Back To SimCity 4 [Opinion] The city builder is a genre that’s nearly disappeared over the last decade. It’s a victim of the market. City builders aren’t the kind of flash-bang titles that big publishers usually love, but they’re also... Read More .

Adobe Photoshop (1990)

Adobe Photoshop was initially created in 1987 by a lone PhD student named Thomas Knoll, who went on to sell it to Adobe Systems in 1988. After two additional years of development, Adobe released the first version of Photoshop in 1990 for Macintosh systems only.

It wasn’t until the 2.5 version release in 1992 that Photoshop became available for Windows systems. Since then, Adobe went through several version cycles until 2003 when they switched their branding over to Creative Suite.


Ten years later, Adobe abandoned the Creative Suite label in favor of Creative Cloud, which coincided with a shift in their business model towards a monthly subscription for access to their software.

If you lived through the 90s, you probably recognize the name of one of Photoshop’s most popular alternatives 5 Free Alternatives to Photoshop You Should Try 5 Free Alternatives to Photoshop You Should Try Read More : PaintShop Pro. It released in the same year as Photoshop and met some initial success, but eventually disappeared under Photoshop’s massive shadow.

SnagIt (1990)

There are several ways to take a screenshot How To Take Awesome Screenshots In Windows 7 How To Take Awesome Screenshots In Windows 7 In principle, taking a screenshot is very simple. With the right technique however, you can save yourself a lot of time and hassle and greatly improve the look of your screenshots. In this article I... Read More on a Windows system and there are third-party screenshot tools 4 Best Tools For Creating Screenshots Compared 4 Best Tools For Creating Screenshots Compared CTRL + SHIFT + 4. Three keys - that's all you need for perfect screenshots. It doesn't need to be a hassle! Try these advanced screen capturing tools and you won't ever look back. Read More that make it even easier. One of those third-party tools, SnagIt, is consistently rated as one of the best for the job.

Who knew that this program has been around since 1990? Not me.


At first, SnagIt was a simple replacement for the built-in Print Screen functionality on Windows. Over the years, the feature set has expanded to include performance and convenience improvements like different selection formats, different capture methods, format converters, and even post-process editing.

With a price tag of $49.95, it’s certainly not cheap. However, many people — including our former managing editor — swear by SnagIt and how it improves screenshot-related productivity. It comes with a 15-day free trial in case you want to try it out.

Norton AntiVirus (1991)

When it comes to antivirus software on Windows The 10 Best Free Anti-Virus Programs The 10 Best Free Anti-Virus Programs You must know by now: you need antivirus protection. Macs, Windows and Linux PCs all need it. You really have no excuse. So grab one of these ten and start protecting your computer! Read More , there’s no clear winner that comes out on top. However, there are a few names that deserve the flak that gets fired their way. Norton AntiVirus is one of those programs.


People often complain about Norton and how it negatively impacts their computer performance. They also complain about Norton’s aggressive pestering of users for money. But the worst part is that Norton isn’t much better — if at all — than free alternatives.

Do you have Norton installed? Here’s how to uninstall Norton completely How To Completely Remove Norton Or McAfee From Your Computer How To Completely Remove Norton Or McAfee From Your Computer Read More .

That being said, Norton does deserve a bit of praise for lasting as long as it has, even with the reputation it has built over the years since it debuted in 1991. This just goes to show that even highly-criticized, widely-hated programs can still succeed.

Microsoft Visual Studio (1995)

Microsoft Visual Studio first arrived on scene in 1995, but its roots reach much further into the past. Visual C++ debuted in 1983 and Visual Basic came out in 1992, the same year that Microsoft acquired Visual FoxPro.

The first version of Visual Studio packaged all three of these together, plus a fourth program called Visual SourceSafe. As of today, both FoxPro and SourceSafe have been discontinued while the rest of the suite continues to thrive.


In 2014, Microsoft announced a change in company direction and a desire to open up the Microsoft ecosystem to non-professionals. This included a free version of Visual Studio 2013 A GNU Beginning For Microsoft: What An Open Source .NET Framework Means For The Rest Of Us A GNU Beginning For Microsoft: What An Open Source .NET Framework Means For The Rest Of Us Microsoft just released a significant part of its code under a permissive open source license. This move breaks with years of tradition. But why and what does it mean for you? Read More that wasn’t gutted and limited like their previous Express versions.

It’s safe to say that Microsoft has definitely come a long way and it’ll be exciting to see where they end up a few years from now.

And History Moves On

Did you enjoy that stroll down Nostalgia Lane? If you want to explore some of these older versions first-hand, check out these websites for downloading old software 10 Websites To Download Older Versions Of Software 10 Websites To Download Older Versions Of Software Read More . You may need to tinker around to get old programs running on modern Windows Windows 3.Fun: Getting Really Old Software Running On A 64-Bit PC Windows 3.Fun: Getting Really Old Software Running On A 64-Bit PC Bit by bit, Windows' reverse compatibility is fading. Here’s how to fight that – and get incredibly old 16-bit software and games like Chip’s Challenge running. Read More .

For more memory-tickling goodness, continue your trip across these websites for 90s nostalgia 6 Websites That Will Bring You Back To The '90s 6 Websites That Will Bring You Back To The '90s Oh, man. I may have a biased opinion, being born in '89, but were the '90s not incredible? Nostalgia just drives me nuts and the '90s felt like the peak of music, movies, gaming, and... Read More .

Do you still use software that existed back in the 80s and 90s? Are there any programs that you would never give up? Do you yearn for the “golden days”? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

Image Credits: old computer to new Via Shutterstock, Microsoft Books Via Shutterstock, MoMA SimCity Via Isriya Paireepairit, Photoshop Before & After Via Graham Richardson, SnagIt Example, Norton AntiVirus Via Luigi Rosa

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