The True Purpose of Solitaire, Minesweeper, and FreeCell

If you haven't ever played Solitaire, Minesweeper, Hearts or FreeCell, it's safe to say you're in the minority. These simple Windows games have probably caused more lost worker hours than anything short of a worldwide coffee shortage. Whichever one was your favorite, the temptation to take just one more go at beating them—to get a faster time or a better score—was hard to ignore.

But as fun as these games were, they weren't actually designed for entertainment. At least not in their Windows incarnations.

The oldest of the four, Microsoft Solitaire, was first added to Windows 3.0 in 1990. Although the game (sometimes called "Patience") has existed since the late 1700s, this digital version seemed to be demonstrating that in the future we would no longer require a physical deck to play simple card games. But that's not what it was doing at all. Its real aim was far more modest: it was teaching mouse-fluency by stealth.

The intention was that Solitaire would get a generation of computer users still most familiar with a command-line input to teach themselves how to drag and drop, without realizing that's what they were doing. The fact that we're still dragging and dropping today suggests that it worked rather well.

Minesweeper, too, has a similar place in technological culture. The numbers-based logic puzzle has roots in the mainframe gaming scene of the 1960s and 1970s, where a version called "Cube" by Jerimac Ratliff became incredibly popular. Decades later, in 1992, the Microsoft version Minesweeper was introduced to Windows 3.1—not to demonstrate that Windows was an adept gaming operating system, but to make the idea of left and right clicking second nature for Windows users, and to foster speed and precision in mouse movement.

If you needed any proof that this isn't a coincidence, look at another Microsoft card game: Hearts. It was introduced with 1992's Windows for Workgroups 3.1—the first network-ready version of Windows—and used Microsoft's new NetDDE technology to communicate with other Hearts clients on a local network. Again, this wasn't just a card game. It was a way to get people interested in (and hopefully impressed by) the networking capabilities of their new system.

And finally, there's FreeCell. Released for Windows 3.1 as part of the Microsoft Entertainment Pack Volume 2, FreeCell was bundled with the Win32s package that allowed 32-bit applications to run on the 16-bit Windows 3.1. Its purpose was actually to test the 32-bit thunking layer (a data processing subsystem), which had been introduced as part of Win32s. If the thunking layer was improperly installed, FreeCell wouldn't run. So what you thought was a game was actually a stealth test of software systems.

Of course, none of this explains why those games persisted once their remit was fulfilled. The answer is simple: people had too much fun with them. Any time Microsoft tried to remove the games from a release of Windows, testers went crazy. Eventually, in 2012, Microsoft released a version, Windows 8, without any of the games. Users could download the Solitaire Collection and Minesweeper separately, but you had to pay extra to play without ads.

However, with this year's release of Windows 10, Microsoft has at least brought back Solitaire. If you go looking for the others in your search bar, you'll instead be shown search results from the Windows Store where you can download the latest versions. And maybe that's intentional, because what better motivation do you need to learn how to use the Windows Store than to get your hands on your favorite games? Maybe they're still teaching by stealth, even after all these years.

This post originally appeared on our UK site.

This 'Smart' Bed Accessory Will Rock You to Sleep

Damir Khabirov/iStock via Getty Images
Damir Khabirov/iStock via Getty Images

Unlike other consumer goods, mattresses have largely remained exempt from the wave of “smart” home technology. Some mattresses, like the Tempur-Pedic or Sleep Number bed, offer options to adjust their incline or firmness, but the rest are not terribly sophisticated.

Adiva is looking to change that. The company is currently promoting the Adiva One, a “smart” bed accessory that claims sleepers can benefit from a slight rocking motion similar to movement that soothes babies. The device fits under the four legs of a bed frame and gently agitates the mattress while you sleep. Adiva asserts this calming motion can promote deep sleep. Motion sensors clipped to the mattress track the sleeper’s movement, allowing the device to make adjustments on the fly.

Because the attachments fit under furniture legs, they can also be placed under a sofa, in the event you wanted to produce a calming motion while binge-watching television.

Adiva appears to be basing its philosophy on a 2011 study published in the journal Current Biology, which examined the role of a gentle rocking motion like that of cradling a baby or sleeping in a hammock. In the study, 10 volunteers napped on beds that were either stationary or rocked slightly. The shaken sleepers reported a comfortable nap and the study’s authors reported deep sleep was induced more quickly in the shaken subjects versus the stationary ones. The sample size was small, however, and with limited research available on sleep oscillating devices, you might want to opt for the Adiva One with cautious optimism. It works for babies, so it might work for you, too.

The Adiva One is currently being funded via an Indiegogo campaign, where early adopters can purchase the device for $1428, or 53 percent off the expected retail price of $3075. The device is expected to ship beginning in April 2020.

[h/t Digital Trends]

The 8 Best Horror Movies to Stream on Amazon Prime Right Now

A24
A24

Streaming services offer a wide variety of movies, but for October, nothing else but some horror will do. If you’ve gotten your fill of spooky content from Netflix, check out these eight films currently available on Amazon Prime that are guaranteed to send a chill down your spine.

1. Hereditary (2018)

A slow burn that eventually catches fire, Hereditary sees Toni Collette as a mother struggling with her mother's death. When her kids begin experiencing strange visions, Collette will have to face some of the demons lurking in her family's past.

2. Child’s Play (1988)

Chucky will be your friend ‘til the end. Unfortunately, the end might come prematurely and gruesomely in this horror classic about a doll possessed with the spirit of a serial killer (Brad Dourif) who gets adopted by a child and his mother. Pint-sized terror ensues.

3. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Mia Farrow experiences a highly complicated pregnancy in this eerie and atmospheric film that continues to shock more than a half-century after its release. While carrying her first child, Rosemary realizes that her high-rise neighbors are taking an unusually strong interest in her offspring.

4. Black Christmas (1974)

Margot Kidder leads a cast of co-eds who find their holiday break less than relaxing when they begin to get picked off by a rampaging killer. Bob Clark directed this 1974 classic, which helped establish the slasher genre as we know it and served as an inspiration for John Carpenter's Halloween. (Nearly 10 years later, Clark would direct a very different kind of holiday-themed classic: A Christmas Story.)

5. Goodnight Mommy (2015)

Looming dread saturates every frame of this stylized Austrian film that sees twin 9-year-old brothers struggling to cope with their mother, who’s come back from a plastic surgery appointment heavily bandaged and acting so oddly that the brothers begin to suspect she may not be their mother at all. An effective third-act twist might compel you to pass the recommendation on.

6. Pumpkinhead (1989)

Special effects legend Stan Winston directs this tale of a grieving father (Lance Henriksen) who targets the teenage gang responsible for his boy’s death by conjuring a vengeful creature.

7. Diabolique (1955)

Two women working at a French boarding school—one married, the other a mistress—decide to put their mutual problem out of his misery. Unfortunately, his demise is only the beginning of their troubles. This moody French film based on a novel was nearly filmed for an American audience by Alfred Hitchcock, but director Henri-Georges Clouzot snapped up the rights first. The result so impressed Hitchcock that he decided to up his game with the classic Psycho (1960). If it impressed the Master of Suspense, it’s worth a look.

8. Trilogy of Terror (1975)

Disclaimer: Only one segment in this made-for-television anthology is worth watching, but it’s a killer. Karen Black stars in three stories, all penned by Richard Matheson (The Twilight Zone), with the third, “Amelia,” the standout. As the title character, Black is a single woman under the thumb of an overbearing mother and hoping to further a relationship with a history professor. She buys an African artifact as a gift for him, then spends the next 25 minutes running for her life when it gains sentience. Pair it with Child’s Play for a great double feature.

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