back to article HAPPY 20th Birthday MICROSOFT BOB

Tuesday, 10 March 2015, is a day of infamy, for on that day in 1995 Microsoft gave the world Bob, the “social interface” for Windows 3.x and 95. In 1995 PCs were nowhere as ubiquitous as they are today, not least because they weren't very easy to use. Microsoft knew that Windows 3.x wasn't welcoming the rising numbers of first …

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  1. Yag

    "We offer it here without any warranty, guarantee, or prospect of support"

    Not even against sanity loss?

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: "We offer it here without any warranty, guarantee, or prospect of support"

      Don't be silly, we all know there's no sanity clause.

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

        Re: "We offer it here without any warranty, guarantee, or prospect of support"

        Not even against sanity loss?

        Given the reminder of Clippy and the painful memories that induced, especially not against sanity loss..

    2. Herby Silver badge

      Re: "We offer it here without any warranty, guarantee, or prospect of support"

      Just musing here, but isn't this what Microsoft does with its products?

      On Bob/Clippy...

      A Microsoft "original". And like most Microsoft "Originals" flopped miserably.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "We offer it here without any warranty, guarantee, or prospect of support"

        Wasn't there a spoof with Clippy? I thought it was done by the Register. Maybe as part of the BOFH?

        I've got it somewhere archived away...

        1. DiViDeD Silver badge

          Re: "We offer it here without any warranty, guarantee, or prospect of support"

          I don't know about a spoof, but I remember an old gif with a Clippy dialog which went something like:

          Hi, it looks like you're about to write a letter. Would you like me to:

          - Bollox it up for you

          - Just fuck off and leave you alone

          there was also a prank program around which made Clippy die horribly over several days, I believe.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "We offer it here without any warranty, guarantee, or prospect of support"

          Are you talking about the UserFriendly.org spoof?

          http://ars.userfriendly.org/cartoons/?id=20120427

    3. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      Re: "We offer it here without any warranty, guarantee, or prospect of support"

      I've switched it off, now what!

  2. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Bubba

    I wish I'd kept a screen capture of the hillbilly riff on MS Bob - MicroSoft Bubba. As I recall you closed programs by shooting them with a shotgun which was always to hand.

    1. Admiral Grace Hopper

      Re: Bubba

      Gah! Just missed the edit window. Some else kept a copy of Bubba in all its glory.

    2. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Bubba

      This one perhaps?

      - photo bar at the top.

      From the TechRepublic article on the subject...

      1. Admiral Grace Hopper

        Re: Bubba

        That's the one (see cross-posting). I seem to remember we thought it a refreshingly original UI paradigm (we were still saying "paradigm" with a straight face back then - ah youth!).

    3. Bob Vistakin
      Unhappy

      Re: Bubba

      Alas cousin Bubba darn well done n drowned himself in a barrel o moonshine a few summers back.

  3. Calum Morrison

    It looks like you're writing a letter.

    Didn't Rover live on? IIRC you could choose different avatars if Clippy wasn't to your taste but annoying virtual assistants were. I'm sure there were things like a star and indeed that wee dug.

    1. stucs201

      Re: It looks like you're writing a letter.

      Didn't rover search for files for a while?

      1. Chris Watson 2

        Re: It looks like you're writing a letter.

        Yep, he was the default search assistant in Windows XP.

        http://www.geekrant.org/2004/11/22/windows-xp-search/

        1. Joey M0usepad Silver badge

          Re: It looks like you're writing a letter.

          I saw Rover just a couple of days ago, whilst hunting down and killing off XP installations. Had to put him down. Sad really. Everytime I log onto an XP machine to rip any required info out of its guts before shooting it in the head xp is always as excited as a puppy to see me:

          "Would you like to take a tour of the exciting new features in windows XP?" (y/n) :) ) )

          At that point you lose sympathy

          Its the same kind of excited hype when installing a not new ms os - loads of ads for the "exciting new features" and sentences with "productivity" in them . You'd think theyd put some sort of timer in - and if its 5 years past the release date of the OS swap the messages for something like:

          "sorry your having to go through this shit for the billionth time - why diont you go get a coffee, I'll beep when ive finished"

          1. LDS Silver badge

            Re: It looks like you're writing a letter.

            Today, the forced display of XP tour is used as an example of bad UI design in MS very own interface design guidelines. Just, it looks many Windows developers never read them....

          2. Blitterbug
            Meh

            Re: loads of ads for the "exciting new features"

            Actually only XP & Vista had a nasty 'Welcome' screen. You can't in all fairness call the rolling info displayed during initial commissioning of Win 7 & 8 'Ads'. Vista's was much nastier, it was an actual program that ran every time until you unticked an option. XP's horrible thing just needs completing once in non-graphical mode and then its gone forever too.

  4. Sir Sham Cad

    MS Comics Sans

    Eww. I thought that debuted in MS Comic Chat which is the second worst IRC program I've ever seen.

    Didn't know it was originally created for Bob. I've learned something today. That means I can officially go back to bed, doesn't it?

  5. Gavin Jamie

    Comic Sans

    I was having a little rant about Comic Sans recently until a couple of teachers in the group said that they liked it in education because the "a" was drawn as it taught in handwriting.( i.e. an ɑ rather than an a).

    1. Pellinor

      Re: Comic Sans

      I like Comic Sans. When I see someone use it, it tells me that the author is wanting to be friendly, informal and comfortable; and isn't so familiar with the sibboleths of design that they know it's anathema.

      The latter implies that they're a perfectly ordinary likable person who cares about the message rather than the medium and just wants to on with the job in hand. These attributes are, to me, more worthy than being a snob about fonts :-)

    2. Montreux

      Re: Comic Sans

      I can't find the exact quote, but developer of Comic Sans, Vincent Connare, once said something like 'People who love Comic Sans don't know much about typography. People who hate Comic Sans don't know much about typography either'.

      It was a good first attempt at a casual, handwriting-like font. As with all fonts there are places it is suitable and places it isn't.

      1. Shrimpling
        Trollface

        Re: Comic Sans

        I like Comic Sans because it winds up my designer friends when I use it.

        They are such easy targets!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Comic Sans

          I like Comic Sans! I have it as the font for my web browsers, and the Linux desktop! Bob was just before my time, but I did get it later from one of the Abandonware sites to see what all the lack of fuss was about. But I never had the slightest inkling that's where Comic Sans comes from! Honestly, you learn something new every week!

        2. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

          Re: Comic Sans

          Comic Sans is of great use to me socially. If I meet someone who claims to be a graphic designer, I ask them what they think of it. Then I ask them about Helvetica.

          If they claim Comic Sans is irredeemable while holding Helvetica up as the flawless pinnacle of type design, I change the subject entirely - life's too short to listen to second-hand dogma.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Comic Sans

            If they claim Comic Sans is irredeemable while holding Helvetica up as the flawless pinnacle of type design, I change the subject entirely - life's too short to listen to second-hand dogma.

            Indeed. Anyone with any aesthetic sense would say "Palatino or GTFO".

            Seriously - I admit I don't understand the adoration of Helvetica either. (No, I didn't catch the documentary. One of these days...) It's easy to argue that it's better-designed than some of the alternative sans-serif fonts, like Microsoft's broken Verdana (with its disproportionate x-height), but idolizing any typeface is pretty stupid, since they have different uses and there's a huge subjective element anyway.

            To be honest, I've never been all that keen on the "humanist grotesque" typefaces anyway, at least for print applications. (For some screen applications they may be more readable.)

            1. Blitterbug
              Happy

              Re: No, I didn't catch the documentary. One of these days...

              ...you really should. It's informative and pretty essential viewing for anyone who reckons themselves a bit of a font head. It also (IIRC) has a few talking heads who hate Helvetica, for balance.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Comic Sans

      the "a" was drawn as it taught in handwriting.( i.e. an ɑ rather than an a)

      That's called a "closed lowercase a". Other fonts have them too, though sometimes only in their italic forms. Some examples I have to hand are Bell MT italic, Berlin Sans FB, Cambria italic, Century Schoolbook italic, Parchment, Pristina, Segoe Print, Twentieth Century MT ... you get the idea. Closed-a is less common than open-a, but it's hardly unique to Comic Sans.

      Of course, many of those are novelty fonts (or titling fonts at best). For the most part it's hard to argue any of them is "better" than Comic Sans for most purposes. I'd pick Twentieth Century MT, say, over Comic Sans if I absolutely needed a closed a and I had to choose among the typefaces already installed on this machine, but that's largely because I have a strong visceral reaction to the whole idea of a "friendly" typeface. (I think it's utter crap, the sort of nonsense you get from people who haven't bothered to study actual typography-reception research, and don't understand psychology very well either.)

  6. Sandtitz Silver badge

    Mutt mistake

    “Rover” guided users through Bob's features in ways that the video hopefully shows were clearly re-used once Clippy appeared in the Office suite.

    Rover the Useless Pooch was featured in Windows XP search window.

    Office 97 had altogether different flea bag: Power Pup, The Caped Mongrel.

    Both equally useless, but the Office assistants were WAY more infuriating.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Mutt mistake

      Arrrgh. I'm not starting to remember the ghastly hacks that were required to completely remove the sodding Office Assistants from an installed copy of Office. The alternative was to uninstall everything vaguely related to MS Office, kick the original installer hard in the knackers (or another appropriate punishment) and then install MS Office again, this time taking care to deselect the assistant options.

      IIRC after a while there were non-MS tools to remove the assistants from MS Office installations, and of course installation profiles that automatically deselected the things.

  7. Wombling_Free

    How to be a hipster part 47

    You must hate Comic Sans. It is a hipster rule.

    It is a FONT for Jove's sake; it's not exactly a threat to civilization as we know it.

    Unless you consider books or reading a threat.

    1. JDX Gold badge

      Re: How to be a hipster part 47

      YOU sound like a hipster, bleating on about things.

    2. stungebag

      Re: How to be a hipster part 47

      "It is a FONT for Jove's sake; it's not exactly a threat to civilization as we know it."

      You'll be defending WordArt next, then I'll have to call the police.

      1. Wombling_Free

        Re: How to be a hipster part 47

        No, I won't. WordArt is indefensible.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: How to be a hipster part 47

      You must hate Comic Sans. It is a hipster rule.

      Plenty of us hated Comic Sans before hipsters made it cool.1

      Personally, I dislike it not because I think it's ugly (I do, but so what?), as because the whole concept of a "friendly" typeface is theoretically unsophisticated, unjustified by any research I've ever seen into typographic reception, and about as rhetorically subtle as a car-salesman's smile. "Look at me! I'm a friendly text! Please like me!" Tonstant weader is inclined to fwow up.

      Here's an idea, fans of "friendly fonts": learn to write rather than trying to make your typeface do the work.

      1Yes, nasal daemon. I know, I know.

  8. Jim 59

    Thanks for the article. I guess it is easy to be cynical about poor Bob, but it isn't such a bad idea IMO, especially in the context of the time. But then, who would have thought that the most successful addition to the PC experience was a straightforward start button. Simplicity wins again.

    Personally I prefer Bob to Gnome3 / KDE4 messes.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Well it was only MS' version of the Apple menu. And instead of the menu being at the top it was at the bottom.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        The original design of the Windows Start menu (not the correct name for it, can't be bothered to look it up) was for the bar to at the top of the screen. I believe it was moved to the bottom by default quite late on in the development cycle to differentiate Windows from Apple.

        If you find an older version of the OS, move the start menu bar to the top of the screen and suddenly you'll find that it begins to make a lot more sense. Shutdown being at the end of the list of options, being the most obvious, but also any popup menus that show as well.

        1. Spleen

          Interesting. To non-techies this would be known as "Doing a BT Sport". (In televised sports matches they put the scoreboard at the bottom, for no reason other than Sky Sports puts it at the top.)

        2. stucs201

          The problem with putting the Windows task bar at the top (or left) of the screen is that most application which try to remember and restore their previous window position will drift by the size of the taskbar each time they are closed and re-opened. This obviously gets annoying when the title bar disapears off the top.

          It is possible to write programs which remember correctly if you remember to account for it, but the obvious implementation will have this problem.

          I suspect that making this problem less obvious would be part of the reason for it being at the botto by default.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      To me, Bob resembles nothing so much as the point-and-click video games of the period, like Beneath a Steel Sky and many Sierra titles. In fact, didn't Sierra Network have a "clickable objects" UI like that?

      Given the popularity of those games, it's not entirely bizarre that Microsoft would try to redesign the Windows UI around that metaphor. I'm not fond of it, but there was some reason to think it had a chance of attracting non-technical users.

      1. Turtle

        Norton Once Had Something Similar.

        "To me, Bob resembles nothing so much as the point-and-click video games of the period, like Beneath a Steel Sky and many Sierra titles. In fact, didn't Sierra Network have a 'clickable objects' UI like that?"

        Norton Utilities had such a point and click UI at one point; the user was presented with a picture of, if I correctly recall, an idealized living room and one had to click on the picture of the item corresponding to the function one wanted Norton to perform.

        Really fucking obtuse, if you ask me...

  9. RobHib

    Comic Sans

    "Comic Sans is now regarded as a low point in the history of computing"

    Says who?

    I've usually don't have much to say about MS that's good and Bob was a first-class fizzer, but whilst comic Sans is certainly no Garamond, it's still a very good informal font. I've used it often in informal emails, it looks and suits the part.

  10. Anonymous Blowhard

    So is "Cortana" short for "Bob"?

    I'm sure I've heard something similar...

    1. Magani
      Stop

      Re: So is "Cortana" short for "Bob"?

      I suspect Cortana is a misspelling of a certain Ford product from the '60s / '70s. The only decent one I drove was preceded by the word 'Lotus'.

      I hope Cortana makes the same sort of noise...

  11. Stumpy Pepys
    Facepalm

    Memories of Microsoft Bob

    I'm starting to believe Microsoft Bob to be a giant false memory; I don't believe I've ever seen Microsoft Bob, even though I feel I have.

    1. ItsNotMe
      Thumb Up

      Re: Memories of Microsoft Bob

      Well...I happen to have a couple of copies of Bob in my archives. Both are Gateway Computers branded versions, and I have gotten it to run on top of Windows XP Pro.

      Why you ask? Because I could. So Happy Birthday Bob!

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Memories of Microsoft Bob

        During my last move I found a copy of Bob still wrapped, seal unbroken. I thought about opening it to stick on a virtual machine but couldn't be arsed so it's sitting somewhere still sealed and it will probably turn up again the next time I move. Maybe someone will find it in a post apocalyptic earth and decide it was the pinnacle of human achievement or the beginning of the end.

        Bob's your uncle? I'm sorry, have a beer or six.

      2. SgtFalstaff

        Re: Memories of Microsoft Bob

        Oh, it existed all right. One of my first tech jobs was on the Gateway Computer help line. I knew it was going to be a bad day when I got a call about their _customised_ version of Bob. Which was most days.

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