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Adam Samuel Harris via YouTube
Adam Samuel Harris via YouTube

How an Intern Developed Microsoft Solitaire

Adam Samuel Harris via YouTube
Adam Samuel Harris via YouTube

If you’ve ever spent hours playing Microsoft Windows solitaire, you have a lowly intern to thank. During the summer of 1988, Wes Cherry was interning at Microsoft and noticed that the company's computers didn’t have virtual card games like the ones included on his Mac. He set out to change that.

On his own time, Cherry wrote code to create solitaire (also known as Patience and Klondike). His then-girlfriend, Leslie Kooy, also pitched in, designing some of the cards: “I did the weirder ones: rainbow shell, haunted castle, beach scene, robot, hidden ace,” she said. Designer Susan Kare was responsible for the rest of the deck.

After he finished the game, Cherry left it on a shared server for others to use. “At the time there was an internal ‘company within a company’ called Bogus software,” he wrote on Reddit. “It was really just a server where [a] bunch of guys having fun hacking Windows to learn about the API tossed their games.”

A program manager for Windows 3.0 eventually spotted the game on the server and decided to add it to the official install. The game was released in May 1990 and it became an instant classic—and the most popular way to kill a little time at the office.

Unfortunately, the developer—who now owns and operates a cidery on Vashon Island in Washington State—didn’t receive a dime, though he says that doesn't bother him: “It was made clear that they wouldn't pay me other than supplying me with an IBM XT to fix some bugs during the school year—I was perfectly fine with it and I am to this day.”

Cherry knew you were going to use his program to procrastinate, by the way. He even included a “boss-key” that users could hit to quickly switch to a more work-friendly screen. “Microsoft made me remove that," he said. (Too bad—the boss-key could have prevented Edward Greenwood from losing his job in 2006, after New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg saw the program open on Greenwood’s screen.) Cherry also used the program to procrastinate, though not exactly in the way you and I do: “I wrote solitaire instead of studying for finals in college.”

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Big Questions
Why Are the Keys On a QWERTY Keyboard Laid Out As They Are?
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Why are the keys on a QWERTY keyboard laid out as they are?

C Stuart Hardwick:

What is commonly called QWERTY (more properly, the Sholes layout) was designed by Christopher Lathan Sholes, then modified through a series of business relationships. Sholes's original keyboard was alphabetical and modeled after a printing telegraph machine. The alphabetical layout was easy to learn, but not easy to type on.

For one thing, all practical typing machines of the day relied on mechanical levers, and adjacent letters could jam if struck with rapidity. There has long been a myth that Sholes designed the QWERTY layout to slow typists down in order to prevent this. Nothing could be further from the truth, but Sholes’s first customers were telegraphers. Over several years, he adapted the piano-like alphabetical keyboard into
a four-row keyboard designed to aid telegraphers in their transcription duties.

This new layout mostly spread out commonly struck keys, but also placed easily confused telegraph semaphores together. This layout was sufficient to permit telegraph transcription to keep up with transmissions and created a growing market.

During this time, Sholes teamed up with several other inventors to form a typewriter company with assignment of all related patents. An association with Remington led to increased sales, at which time another company acquired the shift platen patent that permits a typewriter to type in mixed case, and they seem to have made a few essentially random changes in order to avoid the original typewriter company patents.

So that’s it then, right? QWERTY is crap?

Well, no. QWERTY was based mostly on the needs of telegraphers in transcribing Morse code, and Morse had been scientifically designed to make transmission of English language messages as efficient as possible. The result is that the QWERTY arrangement is pretty good—efficiency-wise.

In the 1930s, John Dvorak used modern time-motion study techniques to design his own keyboard, and around it had grown up a whole cult following and mythology. But the fact is, it’s much ado about nothing. Careful scientific studies in the 1950s, '70s, and '80s have shown that choice between the Sholes and Dvorak layout makes no material difference in typing speed. Practice and effort are what yields rapid typing, and studies of professional typists have shown that however well we may perform on timed trials, few typists ever exceed 35 words per minute in their daily work.

So relax. Take an online typing course, practice a little, and relax.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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Afternoon Map
Monthly Internet Costs in Every Country

Thanks to the internet, people around the world can conduct global research, trade tips, and find faraway friends without ever leaving their couch. Not everyone pays the same price for these digital privileges, though, according to new data visualizations spotted by Thrillist.

To compare internet user prices in each country, cost information site HowMuch.net created a series of maps. The data comes courtesy of English market research consultancy BDRC and Cable.co.uk, which teamed up to analyze 3351 broadband packages in 196 nations between August 18, 2017 and October 12, 2017.

In the U.S., for example, the average cost for internet service is $66 per month. That’s substantially more than what browsers pay in neighboring Mexico ($27) and Canada ($55). Still, we don’t have it bad compared to either Namibia or Burkina Faso, where users shell out a staggering $464 and $924, respectively, for monthly broadband access. In fact, internet in the U.S. is far cheaper than what residents in 113 countries pay, including those in Saudi Arabia ($84), Indonesia ($72), and Greenland ($84).

On average, internet costs in Asia and Russia tend to be among the lowest, while access is prohibitively expensive in sub-Saharan Africa and in certain parts of Oceania. As for the world’s cheapest internet, you’ll find it in Ukraine and Iran.

Check out the maps below for more broadband insights, or view HowMuch.net’s full findings here.

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

[h/t Thrillist]

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