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Did you know that the most widely played computer game of all-time was written by an intern who didn’t see a single cent for his game? Yes, Microsoft Solitaire, that classic go-to for procrastinators and time-wasters the world over, was the creation of Wes Cherry, who created it in 1988 in his spare time as a Microsoft intern. Debuting in 1990 with the release of Windows 3.0, it has been a fixture of Windows releases ever since, providing countless hours of enjoyment to bored office-workers (or stealing countless hours of productivity, according to their managers).
While Microsoft was and still is notorious for working their interns hard, there was inevitably some down-time, which Wes put to good use. “I came up with the idea to write Solitaire for Windows out of boredom, really,” he said. “There weren’t many games at the time, so we had to make them.” Solitaire was even shown to Bill Gates at an early stage. He liked it enough to include it with the upcoming Windows 3.0 release, but thought the game was too hard to win.
Officially, Microsoft has claimed the game was included in order to teach people how to use the mouse and "to soothe people intimidated by the operating system" at a time when mouse-driven graphical user interfaces were a novel technology. While it’s unclear how “soothed” people were, Solitaire has undoubtedly become one of the world’s most played computer games.
You can play Wes Cherry’s original version of Solitaire for Windows 3.0 from your home computer through the magic of emulation. Living Computers’ own archivist, Jeff Parsons, a former Microsoftie himself, has written a Windows 3.0 emulator that runs right in your web browser—no need to install anything! You can find that here
BONUS DID YOU KNOW:
Solitaire creator Wes Cherry originally included a “boss key” that, when pressed, would hide your Solitaire game behind either a fake Excel spreadsheet or some random C code. It’s too bad that Microsoft made him remove that feature because in 2006, New York City employee Edward Greenwood IX was fired by his boss, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, after the mayor spied the game on Greenwood’s computer screen. According to Bloomberg, "There's nothing wrong with taking a break, but during the business day at your desk, that's not appropriate behavior."