What once was thought lost has now been found. After 27 years, a VHS copy of the launch event Microsoft held for Windows 95 has been uploaded to YouTube. It’s 90 minutes long, hosted by Jay Leno, and is full of O.J. jokes and other references to 90s culture that no longer makes much sense.
The launch of Windows 95 was a big deal. Microsoft was already ubiquitous in personal computing, but Windows 95 would launch the company into the stratosphere and help the mainstreaming of personal computers and, a little later, the internet.
The presentation begins with on camera interviews with Microsoft employees touting the product before cutting to an infamous faux commercial produced internally in 1986 for Windows 1.0. Then Jay Leno shows up and the show really starts.
In 1995, Jay Leno was one of the biggest celebrities on the planet. He opens with a joke about the O.J. Simpsons trial, then the hottest news story in the U.S.
“To give you an idea of how powerful Windows 95 is, it is able to keep track of all of OJ’s alibis at once. Pretty amazing stuff,” he said.
Then Bill Gates comes on stage and we see the beginnings of a thousand tech presentations we’d be subject to in the coming decades. A CEO demoing a product while making jokes that employees in the audience feel obligated to laugh at. Steve Jobs had a certain kind of charisma that could hold a crowd. Others have tried to match that but no one compares.
Gates doesn’t try. He knows Leno is the better pitch man and pushes the talk show host to demo Windows 95 for him. “I think we paid you enough. You should do the demo,” Gates said.
What follows is a 90 minute infomercial created for an internal audience, a victory lap showing off what Microsoft had created. Every few minutes Leno intrudes to tell a terrible joke, deliver a weird insider knowledge of PC history, or inappropriately hit on a woman. The video ends with a Rolling Stones song, which Microsoft allegedly paid millions for and used in its ad campaigns.
Footage of this launch event has been floating around online for decades now. Occasionally, someone thinks they have the whole video only to be told, by someone who was there, that what they’ve posted is just a different awkward Microsoft video. Now, we have the whole thing for the first time.
“I consider this to be the absolute pinnacle of my VHS collection, as I doubt anything else I collect will ever top this,” Blue OS Museum, the YouTube account that posted the video, said in the video's description. “It cost a pretty penny to obtain too! That doesn't mean it won't be the end of my collecting endeavors, as I'll be back to upload more tapes from time to time—mostly on the Internet Archive. So now I bring this crucial piece of software history to you, and I hope you hold this landmark of a tape in high regard as much as I do. Enjoy!”