The Surprising Reason Computers Include The Game Solitaire

If you bought a Windows computer in 1990 with Windows 3.0 installed, you got more than just a new way to be productive and interact with your data: You also got the card game Solitaire. The game Minesweeper followed suit shortly after, in 1992, according to Insider.

The two games combined take up a lot of worker time, or at least they did in the early days of the personal computer. A 1994 article from The Washington Post cites an addiction among office workers playing Minesweeper. In fact, The Post reported at the time that then Microsoft Executive Bill Gates was so enamored with the game, he had it removed from his own computer because he couldn't stop playing it. The Post also reported that flight attendants felt their airplanes were turning into arcades as they watched scores of business people playing Solitaire and Minesweeper in the skies. Surely the games weren't the point of the operating system.

Who developed Solitaire for Microsoft

It wasn't the work of some senior executive or a super advanced developer to create the Solitaire game. Given the game was included as far back as 1990, it's not hard to imagine that super-advanced programming was not required. In fact, The Verge reports that the game was developed by a Microsoft intern back in the late 1980s. That intern's name was Wes Cherry and in 2017 he told Great Big Story (posted on YouTube) that he made the game one day while he was bored.

In 2016, Cherry went on Reddit to explain more about his creation of the game. He said that he had played a similar Solitaire game on an Apple computer he was using at the time and wanted something similar on Windows. And if you're thinking this programming marvel made Cherry a millionaire, you can think again. In that same Reddit comment, he said that his bosses told him they were going to include the game on Windows 3.0 but he wasn't going to be compensated for it. But fortunately he says he was fine with that at the time and he still has no issues with it to this day. 

Why Solitaire comes with Windows

The reason Solitaire was originally installed on Windows machines wasn't so people could kill time or to make the computers kid friendly. As noted by Insider, when Solitaire was first installed on computers, it was also at a time when everyone was still learning what a computer was at all and how to use it. Insider reports that when Microsoft was getting ready to release Windows 3.0, they realized that the entire user interface would be a completely new experience for nearly all the computer users. So they opted to include Solitaire as an easy and fun way to get people used to using a computer, including learning the drag and drop feature with the mouse.

The game's developer, Wes Cherry, told Great Big Story that although Microsoft did hold the official position that the game was meant to teach users how to use a computer mouse, the reality is that the game was there just for fun. As for Wes Cherry himself, he no longer works in the computer field; instead, he works in fields — apple orchards, from which he makes cider under the name Dragon's Head.