Klondike Solitaire is a card game that requires patience, persistence and lots of time to kill. The rate of success is low, so the gratification of playing solitaire and winning is high.

In 1988, Microsoft Intern, Wes Cherry, was training to be a computer programmer and had a deep affinity with the card game. The internship exposed a gap in the market of Windows computers—where long hours were spent behind a computer made purely for work but no fun to balance it out?!

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Wes Cherry pictured how Solitaire would be a perfect match for computing; given the long hours needed to be stationary for both, you could use a computer to hop between work and a game of Solitaire on the fly.

Cherry worked on the game’s code and got help from graphic designer & Apple Macintosh pioneer, Susan Kare, to work on the game’s visuals by designing the cards.

Peaking Microsoft’s Attention

Microsoft caught wind of the digital Solitaire game and believed it would be a good addition to Windows computers and Bill Gates gave the approval to include the game in Windows 3.0. under the now famous name, Microsoft Solitaire—launched in 1990.

At first, Bill Gates was somewhat hesitant about the game, criticising that it was ‘too difficult to win’. However, Microsoft & Bill Gates saw a different promise in Wes Cherry’s card game. That Microsoft Solitaire would be a great feature to get users accustomed to Windows computing and using a mouse—a key peripheral to play Microsoft Solitaire.

The ‘Boss Key’ – A Clash of Visions

Given the difference in vision Wes Cherry and Microsoft had for Microsoft Solitaire, a clash had occurred over the infamous ‘Boss Key’.

The Boss Key was a secret feature included in the original version of Microsoft Solitaire, where you press a key in-game to bring up a fake Excel sheet to trick a passer-by in the office into thinking you’re working instead of playing a game.

Of course, Microsoft wasn’t too pleased with this feature Wes Cherry included and had him remove the Boss Key from the game. Ironically, Cherry went on to work for the Excel team for Microsoft until the end of the 90s.

The Legacy

Both Wes Cherry and Microsoft’s vision for Microsoft Solitaire had become a reality. Microsoft played a key role in popularising the game by having it pre-installed onto their Windows computers.

Since Microsoft Solitaire launched over 30 years ago, the game has reached over 100 million unique users, with roughly 20 billion games played yearly.

The digital card game is not only a platform seller like it once was for Windows but also a game all platforms want. To bring that nostalgic fun to our modern devices, all thanks to a bored intern that combined Klondike Solitaire with computers to create a culturally iconic game.

What Happened to Wes Cherry?

You’d think a legend like Wes Cherry would be swimming in cash with Bill Gates. Sadly, Wes Cherry made no money from Microsoft Solitaire. The game was simply a side project that unintentionally became the defining game for Microsoft Windows over the decades.

Wes Cherry gave up programming to run a cidery with his wife, known as the ‘Dragon’s Head Cider’ located in Vashon Island, Washington, US.

Cherry is drawn to his passion projects, not money-making schemes. He has jokingly stated that if he earned a cent from each person that played his game, he would be rich enough to be friends with Bill Gates.