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April 2, 2010 4:51 PM   Subscribe

Bob and Beyond - Tandy Trower (previously) on the history of Microsoft Bob, Clippy and other Microsoft forays into the field of embodied agents.
posted by Artw (24 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Don't forget Steve Ballmer
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:54 PM on April 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bob is an idea whose time MUST come. It just needs a reboot.
posted by mazola at 5:01 PM on April 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Beta testing of early Bob prototypes left some users confused.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:07 PM on April 2, 2010

Thank you, thank you very much.....
posted by HuronBob at 5:08 PM on April 2, 2010

Credit where credit is due
posted by joost de vries at 5:11 PM on April 2, 2010

Today someone posted to reddit that he'd made a modern desktop as living room. (Of the two, I think I prefer Bob's, in which, at this remove, I find a certain Monkey Island charm.)
posted by Zed at 5:19 PM on April 2, 2010

I do kind of wonder what Brenda Laurel makes of Clippy. A quick google finds no particular comment from her on the spawn of her work.
posted by Artw at 5:25 PM on April 2, 2010

Nass and Reeves were two of my favorite professors in college, and Clifford Nass talked extensively about his dealings with Clippy. He was very specific that Clippy tested poorly from the start, and it was not supposed to be the default character.
posted by shinynewnick at 6:58 PM on April 2, 2010

I always preferred Shakespeare.

You haven't had fun at an office job until you've seen your high-strung, over-educated boss repeatedly fail to do basic tasks in Office and then freak out at an animated Bard.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:14 PM on April 2, 2010

I fucking hate Clippy and his stupid eyebrows and his "It looks like you're blah blah blah blah."
posted by sallybrown at 7:41 PM on April 2, 2010

Bob is an idea whose time MUST come. It just needs a reboot.

posted by device55 at 7:44 PM on April 2, 2010

Nolan Bushnell, who started Atari, had a Bob project in 1983. Bob stands for "Brain on Board." It got a lot of publicity, at the time.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:14 PM on April 2, 2010

Rule 34 Clippy. Links, anyone? "It looks like you're trying to have anal sex..."
posted by unSane at 8:36 PM on April 2, 2010

Real life former Bob user here. The first computer my parents ever bought me was a giant, clunky Gateway 2000 desktop machine around 1994 or 1995 which ran Windows 3.1. I was eight. The computer came bundled with Microsoft Arcade (a port of the classic arcade games Asteroids, Missile Command, Centipede, Battlezone and Tempest), Cinema 95 (an old school database program complete with Leonard Maltin film reviews and a handful of video and audio clips, Encarta 95 (remember CD-ROM encyclopedias? Those were the days...), Microsoft Wine Guide (again, whose idea was it to make a wine database complete with video clips of a guy tasting the stuff) and Bob. Freeware games, such as they were, were difficult to come by as a kid with a 30 minute a day dial up connection limit. I played a little with LOGO at summer camp, and would start programming in BASIC in earnest a year or two later, but as of yet had few real techie skills and was petrified of breaking the machine my parents had earnestly bought me. Plus I didn't exactly have the money to go to the Best Buy and pick any games up. So, when the novelty of Arcade ran out, there was Bob.

I didn't really use Bob as a program starter, and my brief explorations with its built-in productivity software were essentially playing house at best. What I did do was use Bob as my giant zen garden. New rooms would go up weekly, complete with new decors and stacked program launcher boxes made to look like bricks or books. An airplane toy put in the outside room and enlarged became a private jet. A lava lamp put in a room by itself and enlarged (apparently, I had a real fascination with making stuff big) became a sort of strange psychedelic animation for the mind. My step-siblings and I actually created personalities for Bob's many avatars, which found their way into our games. For an introspective kid just realizing he wanted girls to like him but not having any idea how to go about that task, Bob was okay. Not good, necessarily, but good enough.

I know it's cliche, but if you had told that kid that fifteen years later, he'd carry a computer in his pocket that held 25 GIGABYTES of his music, let him get on the Internet from anywhere, played full length movies and books, gave turn by turn directions and was controlled entirely with his right thumb, he would have laughed at you.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:00 PM on April 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

(frequently slow, give it time)
posted by Evilspork at 9:08 PM on April 2, 2010

Well this blew my mind: Bob begat Comic Sans.
posted by mazola at 9:33 PM on April 2, 2010

Heh. The comic sans thread inspired some research that inspired this one.
posted by Artw at 10:19 PM on April 2, 2010

Everything's Better With Bob [Not safe for TVTropes addicts]
posted by tomcooke at 1:15 AM on April 3, 2010

I always preferred Shakespeare.

Thou hast the seeming of one who assays to enter an assignation into one's Outlook calendar. Dost thou want to:

* let this pernicious hour stand ay accursed in the calendar?
* stand a tip-toe when the day is named, and rouse you at the name of Crispian?
* look in the almanac; find out moonshine?
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:40 AM on April 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

"After I managed the first two releases of Windows, I shifted my focus to helping improve the design and usability of Microsoft’s products..."

This part made me snicker a little.

Bob begat Comic Sans

Maybe, but it was Microsoft Comic Chat that "popularized" it. Very few people ever had Bob, but Comic Chat was a free download and later bundled with Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. Being a crusty internet fogey, I sometimes trot out screenshots of Comic Chat to show the younger whippersnappers. They are routinely amazed by it.
posted by dammitjim at 11:03 AM on April 3, 2010

I've always felt that MS-Bob was just way ahead of its time...

As an aside, I had the chance to talk with the author of MS-Bob for Dummies...turns out it was never actually published. Just wanted to point that out for those that also have shared a life long quest to obtain a copy.
posted by samsara at 11:20 AM on April 3, 2010

Every time I installed Office for someone, killing Clippy eventually became part of the plan. "Oh, and make sure you turn off that goddamn paperclip" and its variants were oft-heard. I got cold-blooded about it. Casual. It was like stopping to shoot the zombie that was invariably lurking behind the well whenever I went out to the barn. After a while, it was relegated entirely to muscle memory.

"Intelligent agents" my white patootie. They have yet to feature a button, something, anything, that's the equivalent of "shoo." I don't necessarily want it to say, "How shall we fuck off, O Lord?" but it would not be unwelcome if there was a "shoo now, and begone forever" option that appeared once the first shooing had happened.

And now? Internet Explorer 8 wants to have a chat about what search engines I could use and various services it could offer me. I just love it when someone knows how much of a big favor they can do me.
posted by adipocere at 3:23 PM on April 3, 2010

Holy shit, I really wish Skuzzy was here to help me figure out my computer problems. Although he sort of looks like most of his problem solving techniques involve a condom full of heroin.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 4:53 PM on April 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Or "Scuzz," rather.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 4:54 PM on April 3, 2010

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