One of the most popular computer games of all time, the 25-year-old Windows Solitaire, was written by an intern named Wes Cherry who was never paid for it, or given royalties of any kind.
The history of Solitaire has been one of the stories that surfaces now and then.
It came to light on Monday when someone on Reddit posted a “where is he now” update on Cherry, noting that these days he’s into apples — and not the technology kind, but the kind you eat.
He owns Dragons Head Cider, an apple orchard and apple cider producer on an island west of Seattle. The post went crazy on reddit and temporarily crashed the Dragons Head website.
Someone sent Cherry a Facebook message telling him his website had been slammed by Reddit and so he jumped on the thread and wound up telling the Windows Solitaire story again including Microsoft’s internal company “Bogus Software”:
I wrote it for Windows 2.1 in my own time while an intern at Microsoft during the summer of 1988. I had played a similar solitaire game on the Mac instead of studying for finals at college and wanted a version for myself on Windows…
At the time there was an internal “company within a company” called Bogus software. It was really just a server where bunch of guys having fun hacking Windows to learn about the API tossed their games.
A program manager on the Windows team saw it and decided to include it in Windows 3.0. It was made clear that they wouldn’t pay me other than supplying me with an IBM XT to fix some bugs during the school year — I was perfectly fine with it and I am to this day.
He also created a Windows version of another popular game back in the day called Pipe Dream. This one was included in one of the bundles of software known as a “Microsoft Entertainment pack.” He was “paid a few thousand bucks in stock for that,” he said.
If he held onto that stock over the years, it would have done well for him. Microsoft created many a millionaire employee from the crew that worked for the company in the 1990s. And he went on to work for Microsoft after his internship, working on the Excel team.
Remember, in the 1990s, Microsoft was THE tech company to work for, like Google or Facebook is today. Employees were well paid, got stock, and did quite alright.
Still, every few decades people talk about how the intern who wrote Solitaire never made money on it.
The running joke that is that if everyone who has ever played sent him a penny, he’d be rich enough to hang out with Bill Gates.
All through the years, he’s kept his sense of humour about that. On Monday’s he quipped:
A few people have paid me ‘a penny’ as a joke. I’d get them in the mail, or in person if someone introduced me as the author of Solitaire and the obligatory no royalties conversation came up. I think I’m up to about 8 cents now.