The Creator of Windows Solitaire
As well-known and popular as Klondike Solitaire is, very little is known about the man behind it. That is to say, little is known about the man who created the wildly popular digital version, which has been used globally since the early 1990s. That specific version of Solitaire has been available on virtually every Windows device for over 30 years! Who can we thank for this enjoyable solo game that comes pre-installed on all of our Windows-based computers? Wes Cherry. Never heard the name? Let's discuss Wes Cherry, a man who joined the Microsoft company as a mere intern in the late 1980s. Through some experimentation within the Microsoft programming environment, Wes created the precursor to the digital version of Solitaire that comes installed on billions of devices today. Now, for the shocking part… Wes Cherry did not receive a single cent for this extraordinary contribution to the gaming community, as he developed the game as part of his internship.
While he did not make any money directly from the game's development, that isn't to say that it didn't benefit him. Cherry remained employed by Microsoft until 1999, at which time he threw in the towel and did something with apples. Literally. No, he did not switch over to the competitor of Microsoft. Instead, he started his own company called Dragon's Head Cider on an island west of Seattle. Today, he grows apples for his own cider company on Vashon Island. Because he removed himself from the industry and essentially disappeared for a long time, he could attain relative anonymity. That is until someone learned about his story and posted it on the popular online platform Reddit. The post got people thinking and made many people curious, and soon Dragon's Head Cider's website crashed due to the overwhelming interest. Following this, Cherry decided to tell his own story on Reddit, and, in doing so, he revealed details that had remained unknown until then.
On Reddit, Cherry walked people through his story, which began in the summer of 1988, during his internship at Microsoft. At that time, Windows 2.1 was in development. As it turned out, he developed Solitaire in his spare time. However, of some importance, Cherry did not come up with the idea of a digital card game himself. In fact, Solitaire for Windows is not the first digital version of this specific card game either. Rather, Cherry had played it on his Mac during his college days. When he found out from Microsoft that a Windows version of the game did not yet exist, he decided to develop it. His version caught the eye of a manager, who took the game and ran with it. Cherry's version of Solitaire was graphically refined and later added to Windows 3.0. As a reward, he received an IBM Personal Computer XT to further hone and improve the game by debugging it. At the time, he was perfectly content with this as his only compensation for the contribution and still indicates he is okay with it.
While Wes Cherry was not compensated financially for his game, he was employed at Microsoft until 1999, spending the time devoted to game development. Some examples of additional game designs by Cherry include "Pipe Dreams," which was released in 1991 and included by default in the game assortment of Windows operating systems. Pipe Dreams requires the player to connect different pipes to move the liquid to a final destination. Interestingly, Cherry also developed this game in his spare time. However, this time Microsoft compensated him with a few thousand dollars in shares in the company. During the 1990s, his focus shifted away from gaming, and he worked primarily on Microsoft Excel.
After leaving Microsoft in 1999, Wes Cherry decided to leave programming and software entirely. Instead, he started a cider company. He does still "get his feet wet" in the computer industry, though, using hardware within the company for which he develops the software. Wes Cherry is not arrogant about his unknown contribution to human civilization. In fact, he has been known to jokingly state that if everyone who has ever played Solitaire gave him one cent, he would live next door to Bill Gates.