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TCWF The Computing Articles
by Daniel Bowen

Save Your Screen

Having recently been introduced to the joys of Windows NT4, and being the inquisitive type, I have been thoroughly exploring all the neat little features that this wondrous operating system has to offer.

One of the things NT comes with is an impressive collection of screen savers. I remember the screen savers that came with Windows 3.1. The trusty Marquee, so you could leave a suitable witticism for passing colleagues to chuckle at, or perhaps even a message revealing where on earth you were instead of being at your desk. Or perhaps you preferred the Star Trek-esque flying stars, or lines floating around your screen in your absence.

But these days, there are some extremely psychedelic looking screen savers that are installed with the operating system by default. Three-dimensional objects that fly around the screen, morphing into one another. Mazes into which the hapless computer user is placed, to run around like a laboratory mouse, faced at every turn with walls decorated with fractals.

I get the feeling these people are on drugs.

No, really, think about it. This is the kind of stuff which twenty years ago nobody dreamed would be displayed on computer screens in offices. Your boss would have been on the phone to security, shouting about subversive behaviour and getting them to drag you away kicking and screaming to the company psychologist.

Somewhere in one of the back rooms at Microsoft, there's probably a little group that writes these things. Half a dozen hippie programmers with Visual Arts degrees, expertise in OpenGL programming and a mandate from Microsoft management to make Windows look hip.

"Hey man, what about a kind of flying morphing pyramid thing that changes colours as it bounces around the screen?"

"Beautiful man, beautiful."

What will they come up with next? Something less abstract? Flying toilets? No, it's been done. What about flying money, flipping and bouncing its way around the screen until it gets eaten by a three dimensional image of Bill Gates?

Or a simulated wrestling match between two Goliaths, one wearing an "N" logo and the other wearing an "e" logo? (I wonder which one would win?) Or maybe that 3D maze can be programmed with a map of the Microsoft campus - a kind of Microsoft Doom (but without the bloodshed).

Where will it all end? Perhaps screen savers will be the artistic medium of the future? In a couple of hundred years, maybe people will queue at the Louvre in Paris to see an exhibition of "Great Screen Saver Masters Of The 1990s".

(If none of that sounds like your cup of tea, why not try the Toxic Custard screensaver?)

Toxic Custard Workshop Files - Computing

Copyrightę 1997-1998 Daniel Bowen