The Inventor of Microsoft Solitaire Never Saw a Nickel

Wes Cherry is responsible for what must amount to decades of wasted worker potential. He's never been paid for his invention — and he doesn't care.

Abel Cheung (Flickr)

Early Microsoft Windows users will fondly recall Solitaire — or, maybe, not so fondly, depending on how much time said users wasted clicking and dragging cards across screens. Solitaire, the most-used application on Windows for years, was invented by then-intern Wes Cherry. And Cherry has never seen a nickel for his efforts.

Solitaire was a beautifully simple card game that was apparently implemented, at first, to calm the nerves of overwhelmed first-time computer users and familiarize them with the mouse. (Click this card here, drag it over there — voila, now you know how to drag and drop files. Et cetera.)

Cherry invented the game for Windows 2.1 in the summer of 1988. He says that the biggest initial challenge was getting “card dragging to work smoothly.”

The famous victory screen (which, should you ever need an ego boost, you can reproduce ad infinitum here) took about “20 lines” of code. His girlfriend at the time, Leslie Kooy, designed the famous card backs, and one of the designs (Cherry’s favorite) incorporated a subtle Grateful Dead reference.

On Monday, Cherry signed up for Reddit to clarify his story, and also to announce that he isn’t bothered by the lack of compensation.

“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.”

A while back, he did a similar, endearing Q&A, joking that he’d like a penny per copy.

“If everybody pitches in, I promise to throw you all a big party,” Cherry said then.

In this week’s Reddit thread, he explained that he received “a few thousand bucks in stock” for another game — which he evidently used to buy a boat — and he’s now running a hard cider company in Washington.

He’s probably doing alright, financially, but if Microsoft weren’t so stingy, he could be doing way better. If you’re particularly incensed, feel free to send him a penny in appreciation. He says he’s gotten about eight of them so far.