Solitaire has been a staple for office distraction since Microsoft first included the game in Windows 3.0 in 1990. But the digital adaptation wasn’t made by an iconic coder or just one of the company’s many full-time employees. It was programmed by an intern.
Great Big Story has an interview with Wes Cherry, who was an intern at Microsoft in 1988. He describes the experience as “all-encompassing,” but even internships at Microsoft have lulls. He put the downtime to good use. “I came up with the idea to write Solitaire for Windows out of boredom, really,” Cherry said. “There weren’t many games at the time, so we had to make them.”
In the digital version of this classic card game, players use a mouse to drag and drop cards by suit. If you successfully complete a game, your prize is a cascade of cards.
Cherry’s game got an official blessing from Bill Gates himself (though Gates’ “biggest complaint was that Solitaire was too hard to win”), and it became a staple of Microsoft’s operating system. “Microsoft officially said that Solitaire was there to teach people how to use the mouse, but in reality it was just something to have fun with,” he said. Cherry even had added a special “boss key” that would pop up a fake spreadsheet for crafty office workers slacking, but Microsoft nixed it.
The real kicker of this story is that, despite its long-standing success, Cherry said he “was not paid a single cent.” He’s since moved on from computer work to owning a cidery.