I found this kind of interesting, a breakdown from the original guy behind the once popular After Dark screen saver.
- UX lessons from the Magic of Screensavers (part I)
- UX lessons from designing After Dark (screensavers II)
As it started as an experiment on Windows 2, it became a product on it’s own, and launched an entire industry, along with being copied by every major OS vendor. In the 90’s having a screen saver was key, just as having simple games like solitaire, especially a broken shuffle one where the user wins most of the time led to Windows being heavily favored in the work space.
So for the heck of it, I figured I’d check it out, and as always thanks to Jason Scott, there is a copy of 1.02 on cd.textfiles.com And as reported it’s basically the ‘mystify your mind’ screen saver.
The runaway hit Magic Screensaver became After Dark, which then had several licensed addons like the Simpsons, Star Wars etc. Back then themes for Windows were popular along with sound effects. A lot of the functionality is still in Windows, although most people prefer that their machines are silent, only making audible alerts if there really is something wrong. But back in the day a ‘multimedia desktop’ was a $5,000 noise maker, and not many offices were impressed. Which of course gave rise to the ‘office sound card’
Naturally under Windows there were virtual device drivers to emulate a sound blaster, as people still wanted to game with this cheaper ‘business audio’ card, although with the rise of Windows 95/Direct X gaming under Windows finally became a thing making Sound Blaster compatibility a thing of the past.
But going back to After Dark, they made a fatal error of teaming up with Berkeley Systems, who eventually started to make their own releases pushing the original team out of their own product.
The toasters became focal in a few lawsuits, namely the Jefferson Airplane album, although it was dismissed as the artwork for the album had not been trademarked! And they were able to force the Opus ‘n Bill screen saver where Opus shoots the toasters. Late they changed the toasters to have propellers to avoid being too similar.
Oddly stuff like screen savers too have largely fallen out of fashion with the rise of power saving monitors that just turn themselves off either from a lack of new images, or a signal from the OS.
One of those weird legacy things that in today’s world really doesn’t have that much meaning, but a scant 20 years ago was a major industry.