Happy Windows Refund Day!

Just a small orderly protest…

Just a little blog post here to remind us all of the moment some 22 years ago (only a couple of weeks StaffsLUG was launched) on the 15th February when 100+ people showed up at the Microsoft offices at 950 Tower Lane in Foster City… to protest and demand that Microsoft refund the copy of Windows that was unused and bundled with their PCs.

[picture in the elevator]
Damn it, why won’t this button work!

Unfortunately they couldn’t get up to the 9th floor where Microsoft resided and Microsoft had been prepared for their arrival! Even putting up a giant banner in the multi-story car park opposite the building…

[welcome sign]
Someone didn’t keep this under wraps, they knew they were coming!

Suffice to say the contentious point seems to have been a part of the EULA (End User License Agreement) which came with the bundled Windows software. It basically stated that if the software is unused, then you’re entitled to a refund. Trouble is none of the OEMs (the PC vendors at the time) were prepared to do this and told them (believing to be completely futile) to go to Microsoft instead.

So they did… and it caught media attention…

[picture of the reporters]
Get your penguins out, the cameras are rolling!

Naturally this was all in the USA (near Silicon Valley in California), however it did at least get some media attention over here too. You can find information on how the BBC and The Times reported it in the links below.

Unfortunately it’s not thought that anyone actually got any refunds and Microsoft in fact used the linux.org web site against them in their reply back, stating back at them the number of OEMs offering Linux pre-installed at the time.

Luckily today there are a great many choices for buying a system with Linux including from giants like Dell and Lenovo (this is a handy article from It’s FOSS if you’re interested in knowing more).

However it’s still not quite the same as the domination that still continues to this day, made worse by Microsoft treating the PC as a “Device” rather than an open platform for any OS. This is made worse further by the existence of things like the Surface line of “Devices” and PCs which use Secure Boot, but only recognise the signatures of Windows versions.

Here are some great resources for where you can find much better information…

Information leading up to the day from linuxmafia.com including an FAQ for those thinking of participating.

A huge amount of information (all the photos on this post, except for the top one, are from here) from Marc Merlin about how the day went.

The account from the Silicon Valley LUG and some extra pages full of additional photos (I got the top photo used in this post from their page 4).

News coverage at the time

BBC News
The Times [courtesy of the Internet Archive, got about 6 column inches at the bottom of the Business section]
New York Times
ABC News  [courtesy of Tech Perspectives via YouTube]
CBS News  [courtesy of Tech Perspectives via YouTube]
FOX News  [courtesy of Tech Perspectives via YouTube]
NBC News  [courtesy of Tech Perspectives via YouTube]