After watching The Fine Brothers’ Teens React To Windows 95 video go viral last week, it’s easy to forget how technology that looks old and clunky now was such a huge innovation in 1995.
One of the most popular features of the early Windows operation system, from Windows 3.0 onward, was, not surprisingly, games. But Microsoft didn’t include Solitaire, Minesweeper, Hearts or FreeCell to prove computers could provide entertainment and productivity.
There was a utilitarian reason Microsoft included these games with Windows, and an innovative one at that.
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As Mental Floss has pointed out, Microsoft added Solitaire to Windows 3.0 in 1990 for the purpose of teaching mouse-fluency.
At a time when operating systems were evolving from command-line to point-and-click user interfaces, people needed to develop skill for using a mouse. Specifically, people needed to learn how to drag and drop virtual items, exactly the skill needed to play virtual solitaire.
Solitaire Teaches Drag & Drop
Microsoft included Minesweeper with Windows 3.1 in 1992 to acclimate users to the idea of left and right clicking and to build the skill and precision to be able to use Windows 3.1 efficiently.
Minesweeper Teaches Left & Right Clicking
In 1992 Microsoft released Windows for Workgroups 3.1 and along with it, the game Hearts, which demonstrated the operating systems networking capabilities by allowing other Hearts clients to communicate on a local network.
Hearts Demonstrates Windows Networking Capabilities
As Mental Floss explains, FreeCell was included as part of the Microsoft Entertainment Pack Volume 2 for Windows 3.1 not to build user skill or demonstrate a feature but as a quality control test:
FreeCell was bundled with the Win32s package that allowed 32-bit applications to run on the 16-bit Windows 3.1. Its purpose was actually to test the 32-bit thunking layer (a data processing subsystem), which had been introduced as part of Win32s. If the thunking layer was improperly installed, FreeCell wouldn’t run. So what you thought was a game was actually a stealth test of software systems.
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