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Ken Millar (Tpa_ken)
Master Solitaire Player
Username: Tpa_ken

Post Number: 758
Registered: 2-2006
Posted on Wednesday, July 16, 2008 - 2:23 am:   

Why solitaire is the most popular computer game
By Josh Levin, Slate
In print: Sunday, July 13, 2008

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The game of computer solitaire is according to a Microsoft employee who worked on reprogramming it for Windows Vista the most-used program in the Windows universe. We mock solitaire, but it is our secret shame.

Though on its face it might seem trivial, pointless, a terrible way to waste a beautiful afternoon, etc., solitaire has unquestionably transformed the way we live and work. Computer solitaire propelled the revolution of personal computing, augured Microsoft's monopolistic tendencies, and forever changed office culture. It has also helped the human race survive innumerable conference calls and airplane trips.

Solitaire has been around for more than 200 years but took vast strides in the late 1960s, after 10-year-old Paul Alfille invented a solitaire variant there are hundreds called FreeCell. Alfille loved his new game, but he really hated shuffling. By 1979, he'd coded up a version for the computer network at the University of Illinois, PLATO. FreeCell soon went viral.

Then as the university mainframes gave way to the personal computer, solitaire again paved the way for a tech revolution. According to a 1994 Washington Post article, Microsoft executives wanted Windows Solitaire (a rendering of the game's popular Klondike variant) "to soothe people intimidated by the operating system."

Solitaire also proved particularly useful in teaching neophytes how to use the mouse.

It's surprising now that Windows solitaires, with their primitive delights, remain hugely popular despite now competing for our affections with e-mail, the Web and thousands of online games. According to Microsoft developer-blogger Raymond Chen, the company's usability research crew discovered that the three most-played computer games are, in order Spider Solitaire, Klondike Solitaire and FreeCell.

One reason solitaire endures is its predictability. The game-play and aesthetic have remained remarkably stable. The game has also maintained a strong foothold in the modern-day cubicle. Despite the easy availability of other cheap amusements, five minutes of dragging cards around on the screen remains a speedy route to mental health and a mild form of workplace disobedience.

The ability to screw around while staring at one's computer a posture once exclusively associated with doing work added new friction to the boss-employee dynamic.

By the early 1990s, companies like Coca-Cola, Sears, and Boeing either removed Windows' preinstalled games or enacted bans on engaging with them.

But despite upper-management freakouts, you could make the case that the card game has actually been good for business. Before e-mail and the Web, solitaire introduced the idea of being chained to your desk. Consider that the rise of FreeCell coincided with the erosion of coffee breaks, cigarette breaks and lunch breaks. Why leave the office when you can just eat at your desk and entertain yourself?

Jeralyn Taylor (Annika)
Master Solitaire Player
Username: Annika

Post Number: 113
Registered: 4-2004
Posted on Tuesday, August 05, 2008 - 7:35 am:   

Never heard of Paul Alfille, but I played the game now called Free Cell, with real cards, in the fifties. It had no name that I knew then, but I liked it. Now, of course, there are so many games in PGS that are real challenges and fun , that I never play the boring Free Cell, Klondike, or Spider. I played a variety of solitaire games before the computer, and almost all have shown in PGS, including: Matrimony, Thirteen Packs (taught to me as "Bone"), and another 1 deck simple game that took me 19 years to win. I hate to shuffle and deal, too, and the undo/redo/snapshot features make the games even better.
Mike Bailin (Mikeb)
Master Solitaire Player
Username: Mikeb

Post Number: 136
Registered: 3-2003
Posted on Tuesday, August 05, 2008 - 9:43 am:   

Add me, naturally enough, to the fans of computer solitaire. I vaguely remember seeing that article too, and it missed a few other advantages of "modern" play.

On a day to day basis, probably the most notable is that rows and columns get laid out oh so neatly, with no effort at all on your part. And no problems having to skip multi-deck games because you don't have enough space.

And we lose a couple of problems with "real" cards that have little or nothing to do with game-play. No more wearing them out, with eventual nicks, creases, etc. Plus no more of what we used to call "Chinese 52-card Pick-up", when you've accidentally knocked the deck over onto the floor.

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