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article imageMicrosoft's infamous Solitaire game was built by a summer intern

By James Walker     Apr 17, 2017 in Technology
Microsoft's Solitaire game, included with Windows PCs for generations, has long been presented by the company as a way to teach new computer owners how to use the mouse. According to the intern who created it, it was actually built 'out of boredom.'
Microsoft Solitaire was built by Wes Cherry, now the owner of a cidery. In the summer of 1988, he was working as an intern at the rapidly growing Microsoft. The company was working on the next version of Windows and although Cherry's experience was "all-encompassing," he was left with free-time in which he had nothing to do.
Cherry told Great Big Story that he got the idea for Solitaire "out of boredom." Back in 1988, there were hardly any computer games and Cherry couldn't find any entertainment. He sat down to make Solitaire, creating a first version of the beloved game after a few hours of programming. It was developed as part of Microsoft's "Bogus Software" internal company, a group of team members who built games to learn the workings of Windows.
Unusually for the time, Solitaire was controlled using the mouse. Cards had to be dragged between the decks, an emerging concept in the 80s. When Solitaire was launched as part of Windows 3.0 in 1990, Microsoft said it was included to teach people how to use the mouse. Windows 3.0 introduced a new form of desktop that emphasised the mouse so proper use became important to effective computing.
Although this was Microsoft's official explanation for Solitaire, Cherry revealed no such thought went into its development. The game was simply "something to have fun with," although Microsoft CEO Bill Gates didn't necessarily agree. Gates complained the game was "too hard to win."
Microsoft Solitaire Collection has reached 100 million unique users
Microsoft Solitaire Collection has reached 100 million unique users
Before Solitaire's 1990 worldwide launch, Microsoft forced Cherry to remove one feature of the original game. The intern had added a "boss key" to hide the game from passing co-workers. Pressing the button would cover the screen with a fake Excel spreadsheet window, enabling people to keep playing Solitaire in the workplace. Even with the omission, the game has gained a reputation for use at work, owing to it being preinstalled on every Windows machine.
While Cherry doesn't know how many productive hours have been lost to the game worldwide, he noted that "right after Solitaire was released, in 1990, there was a world recession." Perhaps the success of the new mouse-driven game was sufficient to distract the world into economic catastrophe.
Solitaire is still available on Windows PCs today and remains highly popular with users. It remained little changed until Windows 8 when Microsoft launched a new version in the Windows Store but also cut the game out of the default installation. With Windows 10, Solitaire's place in Windows was cemented once again, having been further improved and added back to the Start menu on new PCs.
With Solitaire still attracting worldwide attention, it could be expected Cherry has been receiving royalties from Microsoft for decades. In reality, he "never received a cent" though, having agreed with Microsoft he wouldn't be paid. He did receive a "few thousand bucks" in Microsoft stock for his work on another game. After his internship, he continued working at Microsoft for a few years, joining the Excel team.
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