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Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 6/4/2004Whisper it quietly... Microsoft Bob is back!

Tuesday 6/4/2004
Whisper it quietly... Microsoft Bob is back! You may not recall this thrilling product from 1995 -- for some reason, it's never mentioned on Bill's CV -- but it is of such historical importance that it deserves better. These days, it would probably be called a skin: it sat on top of Windows 3.1 and made it look like a home. You moved between rooms, all gorgeously rendered in 256 colours, and clicked on various objects that let you... well, use Windows 3.1. There was a suite of home management software -- birthday card creator, anyone -- and a Letter Writer that cheerfully assumed everyone still communicated on paper. No email silliness for Bob!

The happy dog so beloved of people using File Find made its first appearance in Bob, as did various other "Friends of Bob" later to appear as assistants in Office and elsewhere.

Microsoft was very pleased with this piece of user interface engineering, which started off with a big splash screen of a huge yellow smiley wearing geek glasses, and made sure it was heavily promoted and available in stores across the States. And there it sat, to the utter indifference of Windows 3.1 users, until Windows 95 turned up and Bob was hastily buried -- you can read more about it here.

It would be mouldering in its grave still, had not a sharp-eyed Diary reader (big up to PeterI) spotted the following intriguing item in the Microsoft Developer Network's product update feed.

Microsoft Bob 1.0a

Wed, 31 Mar 2004 16:36:35 PST

Microsoft Bob 1.0a was posted to MSDN Subscriber Downloads on March 31, 2004.

Further inspection of the downloads revealed nothing -- Bob is still in hiding. Of course, 16:00 Pacific Standard Time on 31 March is 00:00 GMT on 1 April, which raises the suspicion that it was nothing more than a jape by some naughty developer support bod within the machine.

It's still nice to speculate, especially in the light of the current crop of zombie movies, that Bob is now among the Undead and prowling the Internet in search of peace. Whatever the truth, Microsoft can rest easy: ZDNet UK will remember him.

ZDNet UK always remembers.