Just about everyone and their mothers has played at least one of the four iconic games that came with older Windows operating systems — Solitaire, Minesweeper, Hearts and FreeCell — but not everyone knows that the games were designed for purposes greater than entertainment.
Solitaire is a card game that has existed since the late 1700s. It’s the oldest Windows game and dates back to the 3.0 version released in 1990. While many believe that Solitaire was designed to flaunt an interactive digital deck of cards, the game was actually created to familiarize computer users with the drag and drop feature of the mouse.
Minesweeper, the logic-based game, originally made its first appearance in the late 1960s but was introduced on the Windows 3.1 version in 1992 not because computer users were logically inept, but because Windows developers wanted users to develop speed and precision when using the mouse making left and right clicks a natural habit.
Both Hearts and FreeCell were released at the same time but were created for separate reasons. In 1992, Windows Workgroups 3.1 released Hearts as its first network-ready game. The developers introduced the concept of communicating digitally by using Hearts as a way for users to interact amongst each other online.
Freecell was introduced as a part of a package called Win32s which allowed 32-bit applications to run on the 16-bit Windows 3.1 software. The game was actually designed as a test for a data-processing subsystem called a thunking layer. If the thunking layer was not properly installed, Freecell would not run.
While Solitaire, Minesweeper, Hearts and FreeCell have grown to be a few of the fathers of computer games, they were never really intended for sustained entertainment. When Windows tried to eliminate the games in the past, many people became furious and protested. It wasn’t until 2012 that Windows finally eliminated the games from their operating software, although the games were readily available in the app store.