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solitaire - available in low resolution, text only and NEW graphics-card free versions - image by Sargant

Wes Cherry. Never heard of him? Well, he's only the creator of possibly the most played computer game ever written. Nope, it's not Space Invaders, but humble Solitaire for Windows, installed on hundreds of millions of machines World wide. Sadly, a compensation or royalty package was never discussed, so he's never benefited financially.

We sent Wes a load of questions, and the best part of a year later he got back to us to reveal what it's like to be responsible for a global recession, as well as giving away the secret of Bill Gates' strategy for winning at Minesweeper.

Are you bitter at not being paid for such a popular and essential utility?
Yeah, especially since you are all probably paid to play it!

I would like to compensate you for your fabulous game since Bill Gates won't. How much money do you want?
One penny per copy. If everybody pitches in, I promise to throw you all a big party.

What did you play when you were skiving off during the creation of Solitaire? Do you know I almost failed my degree because of you? Well, and a couple of other minor factors...
Heh, I wrote solitaire instead of studying for finals in college.

Exactly how much time and money has been wasted globally as a result of office workers playing Solitaire?
There was a global recession in 1991/1992, just after Solitaire was released. Thank you very much. Oh, and you can't have your time back.

Have you ever been caught playing Solitaire in the office and passed it off as software testing?
There was a "boss-key" which when pressed would display some random .C code. Microsoft made me remove that.

I once went to see Rick Wakeman in concert. I saw that his sound engineer was playing Solitaire practically all through the performance on his laptop. Who's the most famous person you know who plays Solitaire?
I know Bill Gates has played it (he said it was too hard to win).

+++I+++DESTROY++++YOUR+++PUNY+++CARDS++++ - image by mystery bob

Are there any cheats? What are they?
(Turnip Boy)
Yup. When playing Draw Three, you can hold down Ctrl-Shift-Alt and click on the deck to get one card. That makes most games winnable.

Is there a way to change the speed of the card trail thing at the end? I've found it at different speeds on different OS'.
Yes, upgrade to a IBM 286 running at 16mHz. That should slow it down right good. Or install Norton Antivirus. I'll leave it to Mr. Moore and his law to make things faster.

Actually at the time I wrote Sol, I went through all kinds of hoops to get that final cascade as fast as possible. Oh, and at one point, a computer magazine proposed a SolMark computer speed test: The faster the cascade, the faster your computer.

The Vegas scoring mode:
1) How does it work exactly?
2) Why is it so dang difficult?
3) Why was it included?
4) Do you know of anyone who actually plays Solitaire in Vegas mode?

I'm pulling this out of my bottom, which is pretty difficult because there's this big ol' world stuck there.
1) You pay $1 for each card ($52 to deal) and get $5 for each card placed up on the ace piles. Also, you only get 3 runs thru the deck if playing draw 3 or 1 run if playing draw 1.
2) You ever seen those casinos in Vegas? Bloody expensive!
3) I dunno, featuritis.
4) Me, I just did. First time in about 10 years.

Do you play Freecell?
Bah! I don't play Solitaire either.

Freecell keeps a handy record of playing statistics Why doesn't Solitaire? I'd like one.
(Mullet Over)
Answer 1: Freecell Freecell Freecell, I'm sick of hearing about how much cooler Freecell is...
Answer 2: Because your boss would fire you if he saw those statistics.

solitaire kittens - image by rob

Is it true that there is an 'Easter egg' embedded in Solitaire that pops up a picture of Bill Gates caught in flagrante delicto with a marine mammal?
Yes. Andrew Wyland has done some magnificent interpretations of the original Easter Egg (Art Editors note: Wyland is a famous producer of new-age marine art - see here).

We used to use Borland to hack the game apart and change the card backs to rude things. Does it annoy you when people do that?
Funny, I've been vaguely annoyed for the last few years. Thanks for letting me know why.

If toast always falls butter side down, and cats always land on their feet, what would happen if you strapped some toast to a cats back?
You'd get your eyes gouged out by a pissed cat.

What's the best card to leave at a crime scene, you know, to taunt the detectives?
A card saying "He went that-away →" pointing the opposite way I went! Hooo hooo heee hooo haw!

Did you chose the card-back designs, and are the flappy bats your favourite?
Half the card backs were designed by my girlfriend Leslie Kooy. Unfortunately she turned into a flappy bat, so we broke up.

No, really. Which of those was you favourite design? I like the castle best. How do you feel about the new ones?
The new ones are losergay. And I mean that in the original 3rd grade sense when gay meant stupid, not people who prefer same sex partners. My fave is the dealer with the Ace crawling up and down his sleeve (which is a reference to a Grateful Dead song, "Doin' that Rag").

I can only win about 1 out of 4 games. Am I crap?
I suggest redefining "winning" to mean "slacking at work".

Solitaireā„¢ - The Game You Can Play By Yourself! - image by WhoElse

Do you play Minesweeper? What's your high score?
I did. I actually learned a strategy from Bill Gates to win at Minesweeper: Click as fast and as randomly as you can.

If you could choose someone who would be afflicted with only telling the truth for a day, who would you choose?
(evil pixie)
George Bush. Man, what an evil dude. I wish I had another Solitaire game up my sleeve. If so I'd unleash it upon the world, causing another deep economic recession, leading a summary one term pruning.

If you consider how many millions of potential hours of constructive international office time your game has turned into mindless skiving, do you think you've done a good thing or a bad thing? (I think good, so don't feel like I'm putting you on the spot)
The thing about time is they are always making more of it. No harm done.

Have you ever been recognised? What did they say?
"Yes, officer, I'm sure he's the one who did it".

If you could take any object in the world and put it somewhere, what would that object be and where would you put it?
Me, Britney Spears.

If you could pick a shape as a new type of card (eg heart, club, diamond) - what shape would it be?
Go ask Alice, I think she'll know.

image by VampireMonkeyOnSpeed

Ever been in a fight with an animal? If so... did you win?
In high-school, my recent ex-friend Mark Causey connected a nice right hook to my chin, knocking me out.

Why does that smiley face wearing sunglasses and sticking his tongue out appear in the desert island pack of cards?
What the h*ck are you talking about? I suggest a psychiatric evaluation STAT.

Are there any cheats? What are they?
(Turnip Boy)
Yup. When playing Draw Three, you can hold down Ctrl-Shift-Alt and click on the deck to get one card. That makes most games winnable.

Why didn't you call it Patience in the English version?
Because I speak English, and I call it Solitaire.

Tell us a joke.
Three logs. No wait, that's not funny anymore. Three rocks?

What are your favourite websites?
(Az The Spaz)
I like BoingBoing, Memepool and FakeOrNot.

If you could play a musical instrument which band would you avoid playing in?
My band. And the world should be eternally grateful that I can't play a musical instrument.

You know you're going to be stuck on a desert island. What game do you take with you?
(evil pixie)
Robotron 2084 -- The pinnacle of video games.

100 Years of Solitaire - image by Baz

If Solitaire were to be left out of the next edition of Windows would you feel:
(a) like the bottom had dropped out of your world
(b) like the world had dropped out of your bottom
(c) cheated, bitter, hollow and abused
(d) warm, fuzzy and post-coital
(e) other (please specify)?
Definitely Bouncy.

What is the one piece of software you could most not do without?
10 PRINT "Wes Rulez!!!"
20 GOTO 10.

Is the Camel Notation better or worse than Hungarian Convention?
I like Hungarian, though with modern languages it's less necessary. Camel makes no gawlDamn sense to me.

What was the last thing you coded?
Free plug! I've been working on an update to my mp3 jukebox program, Juke. I also did a release of Mocha, my winamp visual software.

If you had been paid $1 for every game of ms solitaire ever played, would you be in any fit state to do this interview?
It took me 11 months to answer these bloody questions. If you cheapos would have actually paid me I might have not been so tardy. So buck up!

Visit Wes Cherry's website to view photos of Microsoft's 1998 Christmas Party, and to discover how to add a "Coffee Ready" indicator light to a Rancilio Rialto Espresso Machine.
Thanks to baz, Mystery Bob, rob, sargant, VampireMonkeyOnSpeed, WhoElse and The Masked Cheese for the images, to Fraser for nagging Wes Cherry, and to Wes Cherry for responding out of the blue when all hope was lost.