Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Microsoft BOB-A failed OS

Microsoft Bob 1.0a - splash screen Microsoft Bob 1.0a - "Splash Screen"
Microsoft Bob is an alternative graphical "shell" for Windows. It can be run like any other Windows program or it can run in place of Program Manager's shell.

Intended for the home computer user, Microsoft Bob is a "social interface" that uses sound effects and pictures of common items to access programs and functions instead of standard Windows 3.1x icons or Windows 95 "shortcuts." Microsoft Bob also uses "rooms" of a "home" to contain these pictures instead of Windows 3.1x icon groups or Windows 95's Start Menu.

No pull-down menus, no complicated dialog boxes, no detailed settings to apply -- just cartoon-like, bullet-listed "balloons" to choose options from.

Microsoft Bob 1.00 was released in January 1995 for Windows 3.1x. Microsoft Bob 1.0a was released in August 1995 to coincide with the release of Windows 95. Like Microsoft Bob 1.00, version 1.0a is also a 16-bit program that runs on both Windows 3.1x and 32-bit Windows 95.

Like Windows, Microsoft Bob is also packed with productivity software which will be featured later on this page.
Microsoft Bob 1.0a - the Front Door Microsoft Bob 1.0a - The "Front Door"
Bob's "front door" is actually a log in screen. You have to click on the door knocker to activate the user list prompt. This was Microsoft's way of bringing individual, password-protected user accounts to Windows 3.1x. If Bob is used in place of Program Manager, a user has to log in at the "front door." Bob allows each user account to set up the look and feel of their environment similar to the way Windows 95 and NT security does. There is also a "Guest" account to provide access to Bob's features without having to log in as a user. But Bob's security has some serious drawbacks that will be discussed later.

Bob also features animated, interactive "personal guides" to help you navigate the world, sorry, the home of Bob and step through all its unique functions and features. Bob is not like DOS, Windows 3.x or Windows 95. Bob's interface is unique and these virtual companions aid you by offering helpful tips and suggestions. Not quite like Apple Macintosh's "balloon help," these characters are a unique experience. You will either love them or hate them after just two minutes of using Bob. By default, "Rover," one of the most annoying "guides," is the main guide in Bob and gives you your first impression of Bob. He is used in this evaluation to demonstrate a default session of Bob.
Microsoft Bob 1.0a - The Public Family Room Microsoft Bob 1.0a - The "Public Family Room"
This is the default "room" that Bob displays after logging in. Default programs are represented as graphical pictures in the "room." Double-clicking certain items in the room run Bob's programs. The Rolodex is the Address Book. The mail box is an e-mail program. The blue book is the Household Manager app. The papers and pencil opens the Letter Writer program. The checkbook opens the Checkbook financial program. The "money box" opens the Financial Guide program. Clicking on the clock allows you to set the system time and date. The calendar opens the Bob Calendar program. The notebook computer opens the GeoSafari program. There are doors on both sides of the room to go to other "rooms." Pressing and holding down F1 displays all the programs and doors.

And, of course, in the lower right of the screen is your helpful "personal guide" to tell you how to navigate and use Bob's programs and features. Overloaded with annoying sound effects, barking, panting, etc., "Rover" can get on your nerves. If you leave Bob idle for a few minutes, Rover will start barking at you, find and lose a bone, play with a Bob ball, and repeats these routines over and over to annoy you into doing something with Bob. If you leave Bob idle long enough, Rover will finally lay down and take a nap ... and dream of lifting weights, chasing Chaos the cat, and of -- what else? -- a fire hydrant.
Microsoft Bob 1.0a - The Public Study Room Microsoft Bob 1.0a - The "Public Study" Room
Same concept, different decor. The same programs are accessible in this "room," they are just arranged differently.

In each "room" you can add or delete "furniture," change an item's style from Bob's collection of graphics, change the look of books on shelves, shrink or enlarge items, delete items and drag objects to other locations in the "room."

Bob has a collection of graphics grouped by style and item. The styles are abstract, castle, contemporary, haunted, pastorial, postmodern, retro, sketch and space. Graphics item categories include books, boxes, cars, computers, chairs, fire, furniture, holiday, houseware, lamps, odds & ends, pets, photos, plants, tables, tools, toys and wall decorations. There are other graphics, too which will be mentioned later.

Once you have a "room" looking the way you like it, Bob automatically saves the changes for you.

And, naturally, your helpful "personal guide" leaps from room to room to be with you during your entire Bob session.
Microsoft Bob 1.0a - The Public Safe Room Microsoft Bob 1.0a - The "Public Safe" Room
Designed for a feeling of security and financial dealings, the Public Safe room was created to allow you to organize programs by room in much the same way Windows 3.x organizes icons by groups. The implication of this room is to put the financial related programs in it.

In addition to adding, deleting and moving program items in a "room," you can size them larger or smaller to take up more or less space. The program items in this room are enlarged to give a sense of confinement.

By default, this room has only two programs in it -- Bob Checkbook and Bob Financial Guide. There are also two decorative items included; a digital clock which also shows the system time, and a "crystal ball" which is, in actuality, a lava lamp. When you click on the "crystal ball" it will swirl and emit ethereal sounds -- and sometimes the "lava" will coalesce into shapes of the heads of different "personal guides," and sometimes it will show Bob, too.

There is no obvious "door" in this room -- just the hinges. To exit the Public Safe Room, click the green arrow at the far left center of the screen.
Microsoft Bob 1.0a - The Public Mouse Hole Microsoft Bob 1.0a - The "Public Mouse Hole"
In the screen shot of this "room," uh, "hole," er, whatever, I have included a few extra items to show some of the ways a room can be decorated in Bob. The candles on the wall and the stand, a stereo setup on the upper left wall, a clock, a candy bowl on the table, the spider web on the table legs, a Bob picture, and an animated rug are the extra decor I added. When you put the mouse cursor on the rug, it ruffles and sometimes a cat pops out from under it. Funny thing, though -- the "mouse" that would occupy this hole would be many times bigger than this cat. Nice mousey ... here's some cheese....

I also added all of Bob's application programs to this room. This is done by clicking the "Add something" bullet, selecting "Add a program," then selecting the desired program to add and clicking "OK."

And, as sure as a dog will bark, "Rover" faithfully follows me wherever I go.

There's one thing I've been wondering about this "home" -- it has a public family room and a public study room. So where the heck is the public RESTROOM???

While Microsoft Bob may not show off the restroom in his home, there are many other rooms, room styles, and even outdoor scenes available in version 1.0a. Click on the links below to view 20 other rooms and outdoor areas.

Abstract - "big pink" room
Castle - study room
Contemporary - attic
Contemporary - garage
Contemporary - kid's room
Contemporary - kitchen
Contemporary - sun room
Haunted - dungeon
Haunted - kid's room
Pastoral - farm house
Pastoral - Japanese
Pastoral - jungle
Pastoral - lilly pond
Pastoral - meadow
Post Modern - family room
Post Modern - kitchen
Retro - sun room
Sketch - family room
Space - engine room

Bob's 'security'

Unlike Windows 95 and Windows NT, whose security can be set up so users can have separate desktop setups that can't be accessed by other user accounts, the "rooms" in Microsoft Bob's "home" are shared by default, meaning any user can enter any room. That sharing allows all the users to add, modify, or delete program items and/or room "decorations" -- or even delete the room itself (except for the Public Family Room)! If a user makes changes to a room, those changes are seen by all other users. One person could set up the room one way, then another could log in and change it. The first user would return to find the room altered to the second user's arrangement.

There are no controls in place to stop any user from altering a shared room -- except making the shared room password protected or private to one user. Then, of course, the room is no longer shared.

Bob's Security? Microsoft Bob was designed to let you make copies of rooms for private or shared use. Bob's utopian concept is that you are supposed to be a "good" user and only make private or password protected copies of rooms for your personal use, which you can modify to your liking, and leave the shared rooms alone for all to use -- unfettered and unaltered.

That's all nice and well, but what kind of a world do we really live in? Microsoft Bob also allows the default shared rooms, except for the "Public Family Room," to be made private as well -- by anyone and with no restrictions -- meaning none of the other users can access it unless the user who made it private changes it back to a shared room. Those same shared rooms can also be password protected to allow only those with the password access to them. But worse still, those rooms can be deleted as well.

Even more serious, Microsoft Bob's security is "first come, first serve." In other words, a user could log in to Bob for the first time and "steal" one or all of the default shared rooms, except the Public Family Room. Subsequent users would have no access to those rooms. Or, the first user could log in and password protect one or all of the rooms, again, except the Public Family room, and force all the other users to enter a password to access those rooms. Consequently, a second user could use a password to enter a room, then change the password to have control of the room for themself -- locking out the original user who password protected it. A third user could gain access to the new password and delete the room so the second user couldn't have it.

And what is perhaps the greatest lapse in Microsoft Bob's security is that anyone can log in as Guest and lock out all the other users from one or all available shared rooms, except the Public Family Room, by making them private or password protecting them. Worse yet, anyone can log in as Guest and delete those shared rooms -- no log in user account required.

While nobody can lock out the Public Family Room, every user has the ability to make changes to the contents in it. One user can move a chair. A second user can move it back to its original position. A third user can delete the chair and replace it with a different chair. The first user can delete the different chair and put the original back. A fourth user can delete all the program items in the room. A fifth user can add ten different programs outside of Microsoft Bob. The second user can reset the room to its default state. And on and on it goes....

Never mind the chaos even two users can create in Microsoft Bob, the most inexcusable insult to the concept of security Microsoft Bob makes is not having a provision for an "administrator" account to manage or override or prevent a user from doing the very things Microsoft Bob is trying to prevent by having security in the first place. Microsoft Bob plainly states in the graphic above, "Note: If a room isn't listed, someone has deleted it from the home or excluded you by making it private." There is no security administration in Microsoft Bob at all. Two users could make using Microsoft Bob a sheer nightmare. Can you imagine ten or more users in the same "home?"

If you cannot have control over users in a system, there is no point in having user accounts at all.

Bob's Application Software

While Microsoft Bob may have some shortcomings, one of Bob's best attributes is the wealth of productivity software incorporated into it. Included are an address book, a PIM (personal information manager), a financial management program, information about home management and finances, an e-mail program, a geography educational program, and a word processor.

Microsoft Bob allows you to be productive with your computer without having to procure several application programs at additional cost.

Featured below are all of the application programs included in Microsoft Bob 1.0a.

Microsoft Bob 1.0a - Bob Calendar 1.0a Microsoft Bob 1.0a - Bob Calendar 1.0a
Moving on to the application software that comes with Bob, this is Bob Calendar -- a personal information manager (PIM). It features day/week/month views with event entry, event reminders from the actual time of the event, 15 minutes before, 1 hour before, 1 day before, 2 days before or 1 week before the event, recurring events, to-do list with completion checkbox, etc. In day view is a window containing word of the day (aplomb?), holidays and events of special days of the year and their origins in history, "EcoTips" -- ecological scribings and quotes from leading ecologists, and the phases of the moon.

Week view gives you event entries for all 24 hours and for seven days in a grid-like table. Month view gives you a full month table. Click on a day of the month to enter events. A prompt asks for the time of day (hr:mm) and the event duration (hr:mm).

Calendars can be shared with other user accounts or made private.

And let's not forget ... our faithful "personal guide" is always in the lower right corner of the screen, nagging us to do something if we take too long of a break.
Microsoft Bob 1.0a - Bob Address Book 1.0a Microsoft Bob 1.0a - Bob Address Book 1.0a
This is Bob's Address Book app. Looking like a tabbed notebook binder, it features a pre-filled address database of over 500 addresses and e-mail groups (current as of Aug. 1995), alphabetized letter tabs for browsing, a search engine, forward and backward page browsing arrows, enter up to four names for a single address, fields for name, address (2 lines), city, state/ province, ZIP or postal code, country, phone numbers for home, fax, work, work 2 and two others, and a multi-line notes section. Other features include an animated birthday cake icon and an envelope icon beside each name entry. Clicking the cake icon opens a "special days" dialog that allows you to enter up to four special days and their dates. The envelope icon opens a dialog for entering an e-mail address. It only allows one e-mail address so if the person has more than one you're out of luck. You can add, edit, move, copy and delete address pages, open, create and delete address books, send address books to other Bob users, and make the book shared or private.

One especially annoying feature of this program, in addition to the nags after idle times, is that every time you browse an address book, whether its a single page or clicking a letter tab, "Rover" pants at you each time you click a browse button. It makes you want to call the dog catcher....
Microsoft Bob 1.0a - Bob Checkbook 1.00 Microsoft Bob 1.0a - Bob Checkbook 1.00
Look! A new "personal guide" for this program. Bob Checkbook is similar to a simplified edition of Microsoft Money. You can keep track of checking, savings, cash and credit card accounts, deposits, withdrawals, enter expenses and get reminded when they are due, write/print checks, pay bills on-line with Bob's Pay On-Line service, track transactions in account registers, use the dozens of income and expense categories/sub-categories to speed entering transactions or enter your own custom categories/sub-categories, reconcile accounts, void checks, list bills in the "bill basket," create, view and print reports in the "report folder" for spending, income, income vs. spending, account balances, savings, credit cards, upcoming bills, taxes and transactions, navigate between program sections using the pen menu bar and tabs at the bottom of the checkbook, open, create, rename, save to floppy, delete or back up BC files, password protect your files, export BC files to Microsoft Money, import MS Money files into BC, and more.

At least this "personal guide" isn't as annoying as "Rover." It talks to you when the program is first opened, if bills are due will tap its pen on the screen (like "Clippit" does in Microsoft Office...) and then is relatively silent throughout the program except for an occasional mumbling. That looks familiar....
Microsoft Bob 1.0a - Bob Financial Guide 1.0a Microsoft Bob 1.0a - Bob Financial Guide 1.0a
Bob Financial Guide contains serious business information about a variety of topics. They include banks, bonds, buying a car, buying a home, college and university, consumer credit, estate planning, insurance papers, life's milestones, mutual funds, retirement planning, savings strategies, stocks and your home. Many of the categories allow you to record important financial information. For example, "Your Home" provides two categories to record information; Home Equity Loans and Household Inventory. The second one alone can be a big help in keeping track of possessions for insurance and other reasons. Recorded information is automatically saved when you exit. It can be printed, shared by other Bob users or made private. Along with items to store information in is a wealth of text information in each of the 14 categories. It is broken down into relavent sub-categories and can also be printed.

You'd think Microsoft would know to make the "personal guide" quiet in a more serious program such as this. No such luck. In this case, "Rover" is just as annoying during idle time as ever. If you click on a "guide," they react. Rover will roll over, roll onto his side and pant, or scratch behind his ear. Sometimes there are little text "bubbles" with sayings such as, "Hey--was that a flea?" and "Yikes! Watch where you're clicking!" Hmm....
Microsoft Bob 1.0a - Bob Letter Writer 1.0a Microsoft Bob 1.0a - Bob Letter Writer 1.0a
Bob Letter Writer is Bob's word processor program. It is similar to Windows 3.x's Write word processor but only reads and writes TXT and RTF files. It features a toolbar, one of the most advanced features Bob allows you, which has one-click icons to change font, font pitch, bold, italic, underline, left, right, center, block justify text, spell checker (offers to check "the whole letter" or just the first word of the document...the first word?), copy, paste, cut text, and undo (the red X "eraser" of the "pencil" toolbar). Other features include redo, move highlighted text, full-page preview with browse, print the entire document or a page range down to one page, print mailing labels, send as an e-mail, embed sound (WAV) files, insert graphics from Bob's clipart collection featuring 21 categories of pictures (separate from the Bob "room" graphics collection mentioned earlier), use Bob WordArt 1.0 to give text up to 36 different shapes, 24 shaded patterns, 16 different foreground/background colors, make all letters even height, go "vertical" which actually turns all the letters on their side, rotate text left or right (to make horizontal "vertical" text actually vertical), shadow text using 8 different angles and/or 16 colors, or use your "assistant's suggestions" pre-formatted WordArt styles. You can save documents locally, to floppy, or share them with other Bob users. And, as always, your faithful "personal guide" is always there to annoy, uh, guide you.
Microsoft Bob 1.0a - Bob Household Manager 1.0a Microsoft Bob 1.0a - Bob Household Manager 1.0a
Bob Household Manager offers both text information and databases to store information similar to the Bob Financial Guide. Household topics include auto information, cleaning, collecitons, gifts, health and safety, home maintenance, household records, kitchen information, moving, personal growth, scrapbook, pets, sports and activites, and vaction. Read advice on topics ranging from emergency items to keep in your automobile, getting organized, removing stains, vacation packing tips, home safety and security, medical checkups, and more. There are a variety of databases for keeping personal records as well. From collections of books, coins, music, photos, software, stamps, videos, sports cards and wines to auto maintenance records and mileage to gift ideas, gifts given, gifts received and clothes sizes to household tools, outdoor tools, home maintenance, home projects and repairs to personal goals, ideas, kids activities, books to read and movies to watch to caring for cats and dogs (no databases for birds, fish, gerbels, frogs, or turtles...), recipies, kitchen gadgets, appliances and the all important shopping list to score databases for baseball, basketball, football, golf, tennis, fishing catches, sailor's and pilot's logs to things to do before going on vacation. These databases can be shared with other Bob users or made private. And your ever-present "personal guide" is still there, should you need the occasional helpful hint.
Microsoft Bob 1.0a - Bob E-Mail 1.0a Microsoft Bob 1.0a - Bob E-Mail 1.0a
Bob E-Mail uses the modem-based MCI Mail service to send e-mail to other Bob users, AOL, CompuServe and other e-mail users. The mail "desk" is composed of an In Box, Out Box, a Discarded Mail "slot," and five personal boxes that can be custom labeled. E-mail messages can be composed using either the Quick Note Writer (Bob's e-mail editor) or Bob Letter Writer. QNW makes it easy to send an e-mail to multiple recipients and attach documents or files. When finished, Bob asks if you want to send the message or keep it to send at a later time. When you are ready to send your message(s), Bob dials the MCI Mail service and sends your e-mail. There are options to check for new mail, change your account information, etc.

In Bob E-Mail, when you delete messages, "Rover" chews up a purple tennis shoe. He also does his usual routines during idle times. Where's a muzzle when you need one?
GeoSafari 1.0a GeoSafari 1.0a for Bob - © 1995 Educational Insights, Inc.
This third-party educational program was developed for Microsoft by Lobotomy Software, Inc. Like Bob Checkbook, they have their own "personal guide" to guide you through the program.

GeoSafari is a score-based quiz program that tests your knowledge on several geography topics. Full quizzes include geography questions on Africa, Asia, Canada, Eastern Hemisphere Capitals, Western Hemisphere Capitals, Europe, Continents and Bodies of Water, Middle America, Our Solar System, South America, USA Attractions, USA Capitals I and II, USA States I and II, World Greetings, World Flags, World Landmarks, Random Quiz, and All-Pack Random Quiz. There are also two "Quiz Pack Previews"; Animals: Predator, Pal, or Parasite, and Science: Volcanic Landscape. These previews have only a few sample questions and the concept was to order the "full" quizzes a via toll-free telephone number.

Options let you set the time to select an answer from 0-60 seconds, restart a quiz and select a new quiz. All questions are multiple-choice answer and you get three chances to select the right one. If you see your "personal guide" dancing, you're taking too much time between tasks.

Bob's application software can only be run within Microsoft Bob itself. If you try to run a Bob application program outside of Bob using Windows 3.1x itself you will get this error message:

Total bummer, dude!

Microsoft integrated Bob's application software into the Bob interface, making it dependent upon Bob in order to function. Could this have been the trial integration test paving the road to Microsoft's integration of Microsoft Internet Explorer with Windows 98 and future Windows versions?

Friends of Bob

Microsoft Bob 1.0a has 19 "personal guides" -- the "friends of Bob" -- to help you settle in and become comfortable in the "home" of Bob. These characters bring Microsoft Bob to life with animation, voices and sound effects. Each "friend" has a unique personality. Some of these "guides" are boisterous and downright obnoxious. Others are happily enthusiastic. Others still are laid back until you need something. And a few are quiet all the time.

These "guides" create the "social" atmosphere of Microsoft Bob's "social interface." They are an entertaining way to offer help and allow you to change certain configuration options. This approach to software assistance is far less intimidating to new computer users than traditional Windows help files and the "Cue Cards" Microsoft offered in other Windows 3.1x application software.

Featured below are all of the "friends of Bob" in Microsoft Bob 1.0a.

Rover "Rover"
"Rover" is the default "personal guide" to Microsoft Bob. He is also one of the most boisterous. Rover is best suited for younger children and dog lovers because his hyper personality constantly keeps you entertained.

All of Rover's antics are listed in the paragraphs above, so I won't repeat them here. My own first impression of Rover after just five minutes of using Microsoft Bob left me with the insatiable desire to have him either fixed or given up for adoption (I thought about having him put to sleep, but that seemed a little extreme). For me, there's only one way to run Microsoft Bob with "Rover" as your "guide" without being driven mad -- mute the sound system.
Lexi "Lexi"
This "personal guide" is only used with Bob Checkbook. You cannot change guides when using Bob Checkbook. When starting Bob Checkbook, "Lexi" (short for lexicon) will sometimes say, "Let's see what's up." This guide is quiet most of the time but will mumble the occasional "mmm-hmm..." now and then. If you make a mistake, he will say, "Hmm...seems to be a slight problem" then a prompt will assist you. During other tasks Lexi will pull a piece of paper out of himself and write something on it with his pen (a brief scrawling sound ensues) and hold the paper for a while. Sometimes, he'll even have a cup of coffee with you! Other times, he'll flip a coin then bat it with his pen. If you click on Lexi, he will say, "Hey there!" or "Huh!" or "Where did you spend all that money?" Sometimes, when exiting Bob Checkbook, Lexi will say, "OK!" and bounce away stage-right.
Hank "Hank"
Like Lexi, "Hank" is the only "guide" used for the GeoSafari program. This is both a demanding and at the same time intelligent guide. Hank uses voice prompts throughout the program, with the occasional elephant roar when a question is answered correctly. If you chose a wrong option, Hank will give you a look of consternation and clear his throat ... "Ah-HEM!". But at least when you take a momentary break, Hank isn't nagging you to get back with it. He'll just stand there, silently, and look around and blink his eyes -- and if he gets too bored he will start dancing, silently, to some unknown tune in his head.

If you click on Hank, he will close his eyes, tuck his head, and give an elephant roar. When exiting GeoSafari, Hank jumps off the platform with a big BOIIIIING!, his hat hovers in the air for a moment, then drops with him.
Baudelaire "Baudelaire"
If you're the quiet type that don't like people poking and prodding you to do something every ten seconds, then Baudelaire is the "guide" for you. Except for the occasional, barely audible, growl, this gargoyle is completely silent. Giving you silent ballon prompts, this guide doesn't mess around. He's pertinent with information and lets you get to your work without all the ballyhoo. And if you take a break, he will patiently wait for the next time you need him, silently. Occasionally, he'll blink his eyes slowly but that's the extent of his boisterousness.

If you click on Baudelaire, birds will take flight with a fluttering sound and quickly exit stage-right. Sometimes one bird will take flight, sometimes three. Sometimes a balloon prompt will appear saying, "Excuse me," or "Pardon." To me, this would have been a better choice for the default "personal guide."
Blythe "Blythe"
This little firefly can be the "light" of your life. When she enters the room, she says, "Hi!" or "How are you doing?" which is all very nice and polite. For the most part, "Blythe" is quiet and patient, always smiling, fluttering her wings silently every now and then, looking to and fro, and if you pause for a while, she will play "yo-yo" with a ball of light, stop, and hold it in front of her -- and sometimes it gets a Bob face on it! Blythe has a sardonic side as well. Sometimes when an option "balloon" is opened, instead of a standard cancel button, it will say "Bag it," or such. If you make a mistake, Blythe will say, "Oi," or "Oh boy" or flutter her wings with a soft sound. If you click on Blythe, she will turn into a glowing ball of light for a moment, say, "Ow!" or "Heyyyy!" Sometimes, a "balloon" will pop up saying, "Oi! Back off!" or "Hey you! Watch it!" or "Yo! Don' bother me, sweetheart." (a typo on the word "Don't") or "Get outta here!" or "Whad'ya think I am, some kind of a stool pigeon?"
Chaos "Chaos"
While not quite as annoying as Rover, "Chaos" is the feline counterpart of "Rover" in hyperness. When you pause between tasks, Chaos takes turns between purrng, meowing, and scratching the platform it stands on. As with Rover, if you leave Bob idle long enough, Chaos will lie down and go to sleep. During Chaos's slumber, she will sometimes turn and put all fours into the air. Other times "Ruby," a green parrot "friend of Bob" mentioned later, will stick her head out from the right side of the screen and yell, "AIR RAID!!!" It doesn't even wake Chaos up.

When you click on Chaos, she will sometimes, meow and jump into the air, meow and lick her left paw, jump into the air with the sound of bells jingling, and display balloon messages saying, "Allo, (name), do you want to play?" "Oh, ecoutez! C'est pas rigolo, non?" "Arretez! C'est bein assez!" Somebody please translate!
Chaz "Chaz"
If you want to add a little spice to your session, pick "Chaz" as your "guide." This guy's a gas, if you know what I mean. He makes a cool entry, walking in with his "horn" in a blue case, sets down the case, opens it, and then attaches his horn to his face. If you make a mistake in a program, Chaz will sound a sour note, pull on his horn and then it snaps back and slaps him in the face, or says, "Oh man!" If you let Bob sit idle, Chaz will exit stage- right and come back with his blue case, set it down, lean against the front of it, take the horn off his face, pull out a cloth, and proceed to clean his horn. While he's cleaning, a hand reaches out of the right side of the screen and swipes Chaz's horn case! Chaz says, "Oh man!" and chases off after the thief. A moment later he returns with his case. If you click on Chaz he will play a few jazzy notes and they will "pop" or drop to the floor or only one flat note will appear. Sometimes a text balloon will open saying, "Absolutely," "Positively," or "Don't dent my horn."
Hopper "Hopper"
Here's one for the nursery-age kids in the family. "Hopper" is a blue stuffed bunny that squeaks like a rubber duck. This "guide" is happy and is eager to help. He bounces into the "room" and waves "hi" at you. If you move to another room, Hopper disappears in a blue swirling "POP!" then reappears in the new room the same way. If you pause for a break, Hopper is quiet and waits patiently for you. Sometimes, Hopper will take out a red lollypop and lick it on occasion. When Hopper isn't looking, the red lollypop will turn into a "BOBpop" for a brief moment. Hopper sees this out of the corner of his eye and hurries to look -- but the "Bobpop" turns back into a red lollypop before Hopper can see the "Bobpop." Hopper looks at you, slightly confused about the ordeal. If you make a mistake, Hopper will squeak at you and cover his mouth as if saying, "Oops!" If you click Hopper, he squeaks at you and smiles and sometimes a text balloon will pop up saying, "Ooooh! That tickles!" "Hee-hee!" and such.
Java "Java"
No, not an applet made by Sun Microsystems' platform-independent development tool, "Java" is a dinosaur who likes his coffee. With a cup in his hand all the time, wide-eyed Java gulps his go-juice during break time. Now and then, his nose gets stuck in his cup and he has to struggle to free it. It releases with a "pop!" Other times, he'll take a gulp, then say, "Oh dear!" and pull a sock out of his cup! Or he will kick his cup into the air, and as it twirls, it becomes a spinning Bob for a moment then changes back to a twirling coffee cup. Sometimes, "Ruby," a green parrot "guide" featured later, will fly in and circle Java's head. Java puts out his left arm and Ruby lands on it, whistles and squaks, then flies away. If you make a mistake, Java will say, "Oh!" "No!" or "!" and throw his cup away with a "clank!" Then he pulls out another one from behind himself. If you click on Java, he will giggle, say, "I like that!" or take a couple of gulps and shoot his cup away with his nose.
Lucy "Lucy"
Bursting with energy, able to swing from "room" to room with a speed matched only by a computer, "Lucy" is an alert and cheerful "personal guide." During your "non-Bob" idle time, Lucy sits quitely -- smiling all the while. She will occasionally wiggle her ears and scratch her back (barely audible), pull on her lower lip, causing her mouth to bounce up and down a couple of times, and look around for the most part. If you make a mistake, Lucy will utter a sigh of dismay or a soft moan.

When you click on Lucy she will reach behind herself, pull out a banana, squeeze the banana causing it to shoot out of the peel into the air, and then eat it. Or she will put her hands over her eyes in a "see no evil" gesture, or over her ears in a "hear no evil" pose, or over her mouth in a "say no evil" stance.
Orby "Orby"
With a dash of contemporary music as an intro (and his exit, too), "Orby" comes spinning onto your screen. Looking more like a moldy robin egg than a planet, Orby gets the job done "guiding" you through your session. When there's an intermission in your routine, Orby will wait for you -- quiet as the vacuum of space. Sometimes he will "quake" for a moment, give you a big smile, a small yellow "satellite" will "orbit" Orby 'round and 'round (presumably a Bob with his back to you because, like the moon, the face always faces the planet), juggle 3 small Bobs then drop them, and discover his girlfriend loves him ("she loves me, she loves me not..."). If you make a mistake, Orby slaps his right "hand" over his "eye" in dismay. When you click on Orby, he either spins around or jumps up and clicks his "heels."
Ruby "Ruby"
When she's not trying to awaken Chaos or not hanging out with Java, "Ruby" takes center stage. A stick comes out for her perch and she flies in shouting, "AIR RAID!" When you're not using Bob and just bird watching, Ruby will chew on her perch, saying some garbled words, raise her wings (and lose a few feathers), give a squawky laugh, wait for a floating Bob to come "bobbing" along and snatch it up with her beak -- then toss it aside, put bright red lipstick on her beak and say "Pretty bird," "Swab the deck!" or "Man overboard," squawk loudly once in a while, whistle, then finally get tired and go to sleep. If you make a mistake in Bob, Ruby konks herself in the side of the head with a big blue bottle and gives a squawky laugh. If you click on Ruby, she will fall off her perch, raise her wings and jump, and sometimes a text balloon appears with sayings such as, "How does she head? How does she head? Steady! Steady! Squawk!" Ruby makes more guest appearances than any other "guide."

Scuzz "Scuzz"
Street-wise "Scuzz" knows where it's at when it comes to Bob, dude. He's been around the block -- like, mostly in the alley. When you're not hangin' with Bob, Scuzz will bounce his basketball, loop his basketball behind his back, scratch his head and ears with his tail, scratch his side with his hand, move his belly up and down (?!?), tie his tail in a knot, dig through a big, green garbage can -- pulling Chaos out of it, over and over. Sometimes Chaos willl give a frightened meow as Scuzz quickly tosses the cat aside. Other times, Scuzz will pull a box of rat poison out of the garbage and eat some of it. This causes him to freak out, having repeated spaz attacks. If you make a mistake in Bob, Scuzz bounces his basketball and it hits him in the nose, giving him two black eyes. When you click on Scuzz he spazzes out, turning all kinds of contorted shapes and gives off an electrical "zap" sound. This dude has an attitude, calling the other guides "losers" in the text balloons. Takes one to know one.
Shelly "Shelly"
This turtle is a happy camper, complete with camping hat, walking stick and backpack. She can "guide" you through the twists and turns of Bob country. When you are resting beside the trail, "Shelly" is quiet and calm, never making a sound. At times, a butterfly or two will fly up to Shelly and land on her, then flutter away. Other times, a tiny bug will fly in and land on her walking stick. She pulls out a magnifying glass to get a better look, sometimes showing one of her eyes largely magnified, then showing a magnified view of the bug -- who waves at you. If you make a mistake in Bob, Shelly looks at you with a puzzled frown for a moment, then smiles again. If you select to delete something, she says, "Are you sure?" When you click on Shelly, she will fall backwards on her shell and can't get up. When you click again she will say, "Hey!" "Ahem!" or "Hmm!" in a voice similar to Blythe's. When you're done with Bob, she says, "Bye!" As far as I know, she hasn't come out of her shell yet....
Digger "Digger"
This worm with the blue hat will help you inch your way through Microsoft Bob. Bein' a laid-back Irish lad, ol' Digger's not too much into the song and dance. He squeaks his way in and says, "Hello 'dere." When you're restin' a wee bit from all that Bobbin' about, Digger will play catch with his hat between his tail and his head, say, "Will you look at that!" to a ladybug who comes out to meet him -- then pushes it off the screen with his nose, and finally, lies down to sleep. As Digger sleeps, little Bobs come floating out behind and above Digger and drift off to the right of the screen. If the haggis gets in the fire, Digger plays a flute toon and gets an "Oh boy" look on his face. If you click on Digger, he either jumps in the air with a high-pitched "boing" sound, turns to you, closes his eyes, dips his head and his hat flies up with a click" sound, or jumps in the air with a "wobbly" sound. When you're done Bobbin', Digger says, "Bye, bye now" and squeaks off the screen.
The Dot "The Dot"
If you have used Microsoft Office 97 or later, you will recognize this "guide." Microsoft Bob was the birthplace of "The Dot." It's the same Dot and one of only two "friends of Bob" to be included in Microsoft Office. But back to Bob's Dot. The Dot makes a hyperspeed, bouncing entrance into your Bob session, bouncing here and there then landing and saying "Hi, how're we doing?" or just "Hi!" in its distinctly synthesized voice. Hyper as it is, after some idle time, The Dot only bounces up and down a time or two but doesn't say anything. If you make a mistake in Bob, The Dot will say "Oops!" then melt into a red puddle or sound a synthetic note and expand and contract sideways. If you click on The Dot, its "nose" glows red in an expanding circle, or it "pops" and comes racing back from stage-right, sometimes saying, "Oops! Just kidding." There are a few text balloons as well. The Dot is the only "friend of Bob" to be included in all future versions of Microsoft Office up to and including Office 2003.
Will "Will"
Not William Tell nor Will Riker -- this is the one and only William Shakespeare. You know? "To be, or not to be?" He greets you by saying, "Greetings, my excellent friend," or "What's thy pleasure?" Should you take a moment to muse upon Will's infamous literature, he will take up his feather pen from the ink bottle and begin to compose yet another literate marvel. Scribing silently, Will will take a moment to look around, then resume his composition. If you make a mistake in Bob, Will will give you a look of consternation or close his eyes and bow his head. If you click on Will, he will blink his eyes, raise and lower his eyebrows, write briefly with his feather pen, frown and say, "How now," or make a "move aside" motion with his hand. When you exit Bob, Will says, "Fairwell until I meet thee next," or "And so, fairwell." Will was the only other "friend of Bob" to become an "assistant" in Microsoft Office 97. He was dropped in favor of different "assistants" in Microsoft Office 2000. Sorry, Will.
Speaker "Speaker"
This is the box that never talks. "Speaker" is a contradiciton that is right at home in the "home" of Bob. It never utters a sound, never speaks, even it's little power light doesn't blink. It doesn't even qualify as a "personal guide" because it does not offer any guidance and there is absolutely nothing "personal" about it.

Only the prompts in Bob and Bob's programs are seen. No special effects, no annoying noises. Nada. It can be a refreshing change from some of the "guides" above. If you make a mistake in Bob, it's the same -- you get only the default program prompts.

If you click on Speaker, the only reaction you get is a text balloon that says, "Please don't click on me." Sorry....
Invisible "Invisible"
"Invisible" is just that. It can't be seen. That's also why it can't be shown....

Invisible also can't be heard or clicked. No bleeping blunders, no text balloons with sarcastic witticisms or biting remarks. Just Bob...all Bob, all the time.

You can see right through invisible, and it is perfectly clear that this is actually Bob without a "guide."

Bob the Environmentalist

In the early to mid-1990's, many software companies often included sample files with their programs featuring a pro-environmental "green" theme with documents splashing pictures of trees, text talking of planting trees, "eco" this and "eco" that ad nauseum.

Strange, though -- none of this "green" propaganda actually attacked any given industry. Why? Because the software companies were trying to sell their wares to all the industries ... "green" or otherwise.

It begs the question, while those software companies were floating all those "green" sample files, what manufacturing processes were they using to make all those millions of floppy disks, CD-ROMs, user manuals, registration cards, advertisement inserts, box containers, and plastic shrinkwrap? While some of the cardboard/paper portions of their products may have been made from recycled materials, what about the rest of the package?

I am not against a cleaner world and a better environment, but I take exception to the methods some environmentalists use to try to achieve that goal -- and software companies that preach one thing and practice another.

It's interesting to note that there aren't many "green" messages being presented in software sample files these days. But, that's the present. Now, back to the mid-1990's and Microsoft Bob.

Microsoft Bob is not just a yellow, smiley-faced Pac-Man with glasses -- he's also "green" with the ecological thing. In addition to Bob's advisory information base on finances and household improvements are several tips and ideas to help you become one with your world.

Bob Calendar's "EcoTips," as mentioned earlier, offer a daily tip on how you can do your part to make the world a better place. Below are some random selections that show the true Bob mentality on conservation -- and my thoughts about them as well:
  • "Film canisters can be used to hold such items as lunch box condiments (thoroughly clean the canister first),
    a small sewing kit, or fishhooks and lures."
    My comment: How big is a 35mm canister?

  • "Resolve to 'precycle' by buying environmentally sound items. Avoid buying items with extra packaging,
    disposable items, and nonrefillable items."
    My comment: Well, that leaves out just about everything....

  • "Ask your local paint store if you can have its old wallpaper sample books after the new ones are issued. You
    can use the pieces for arts and crafts and as wrapping paper for small gifts."
    My comment: And how would your girlfriend react to receiving here engagement ring wrapped in wallpaper???

  • "If you tend to put small amounts of sugar and powdered creamer in your coffee, try to do without any kind of
    stirrer by adding the sugar and/or creamer before you pour in the coffee."
    My comment: Does that include the spoon normally associated with your settings?

  • "A stick of minty or fruity gum in the cupboard keeps the bugs away."
    My comment: And any guests, as well.

  • "An empty heavy-duty plastic barrel can be used to catch rain water from outdoor drainpipes for gardening.
    Make sure, however, that the barrel was not used to store toxic materials."
    My comment: Never mind about the tar and oil and other wastes from the roof of that aging old building....

  • "Put an aluminum reflector behind your radiator to conserve heat that otherwise would be absorbed by the wall.
    Make your own reflector by taping aluminum foil to both sides of a piece of cardboard."
    My comment: And upgrade that 1920's-era electrical wiring so your computer doesn't keep rebooting.

  • "When birds build their nests around air-conditioning units, the heat from the unit can kill the chicks. To prevent
    this, place a big-eyed stuffed animal by the unit to act as a scarecrow."
    My comment: So the heat can catch the stuffed animal on fire and burn down the building -- more room for birds.

  • "Foods will cook faster and better if you avoid opening and closing the oven door during baking."
    My comment: Now, if I could just avoid doing that with the microwave ... what are those lumps on my face?!?

  • "Save gas and avoid wear-and-tear on your car by doing several errands per car trip."
    My comment: But, won't I save gas and wear by only doing the one errand I need to?

  • "Do your ironing once or twice a week, instead of daily."
    My comment: It still takes the same amount of time and energy because I still have the same amount of clothes
    to iron. So if I do it "once or twice a week" I just have more clothes to iron at once than if I do it daily.

  • "Reuse plastic wrap or aluminum foil that is still clean after initial use."
    My comment: Sure, no problem. Mold takes a few days to culture.

  • "Old water from your fishbowl or aquarium is good water for your houseplants as well."
    My comment: That smell? Oh, we must be having an inversion today.

  • "Remove unnecessary articles from your car trunk. For every extra 100 pounds that your car hauls, it consumes
    1% more fuel."
    My comment: Forget the trunk, my spouse's weight alone is eating up 50% of our fuel efficiency.

  • "Cook small amounts of food in small pans. Energy is wasted when an oversized pan is heated."
    My comment: We had to close the restaurant because it took too long to cook the food and we lost business.

  • "The wires of old Christmas lights are pliable, and rust-proof. They can be cut into 6-inch lengths and used for
    tying up plants."
    My comment: Those "old" lights still work -- cut them and you'll be the one tied up!

  • "A refrigerator or freezer 10° colder than necessary increases energy consumption by 25%. Keep the refrigerator
    between 38° and 42°F and the freezer between 0° and 5°F."
    My comment: We can decrease consumption another 1.0082745391% by unplugging them altogether. We can
    cut off the mold and use disinfectant on the food when necessary.

  • "Plastic discarded in sewage or left behind by boats can cause harm to sea animals. Whale spotters once
    discovered plastic lodged in a whale calf's mouth that prevented it from nursing."
    My comment: But what those spotters didn't tell you was that "plastic" was actually an empty nursing bottle
    that had the logo "Greenpeace" on it!!!
As if this wasn't enough, "Digger," one of Bob's "personal guide" friends, also gives out similar "eco" tips in his "Dig it, Digger" option. Digger offers advice on home insulation, recycling motor oil, dangerous garden chemicals, reducing paper and plastic waste, getting an "energy audit" from your power company, air conditioner maintenace, planting trees, controlling pesticides and such.

And Digger isn't beyond stretching things like some of the "tips" in Bob Calendar. For example, one of his "digs" says:
    "There's loads o' ways to help, ye know: Walk, ride a bike, take the bus, share a ride with a friend. Each time
    ye do, ye use less gasoline. That means better air and fewer oil spills!"
While Digger means well, this isn't all quite true. Yes, if more people walked, rode bikes, mass transited or carpooled it would reduce overall oil consumption -- by the minutest fraction of a percent, realistically. The same is true for reducing emmissions. There are so many millions of people using oil-consuming vehicles that a few doing the "green thing" are not going to reduce emmissions overall by any significant amount. And the part about "fewer oil spills"? Let's just get real here. That is an outright lie. No conservation method is going to affect oil transportation mishaps. Only Bob would believe a lie like that.

Here's another Digger dumbfounder:
    "Bet ye never realized this: Since a lot of garbage gets dumped in the ocean, six-pack ring holders can end up
    there, too. And if ye don't cut them up, ocean birds and seals can get stuck in 'em!"
Here we go again. As if six-pack holders were the only threatening piece of garbage to wildlife. There was no reference as to how many "birds and seals" have actually been discovered "stuck" in six-pack holders. It is that kind of alarmist deception that is so frustrating. And why just birds and seals? Why not all marine and animal life? What about humans?

But we're missing the point about the six-pack holders. Simply cutting them so "birds and seals" don't get stuck in them does nothing to reduce the amount of garbage waste. It only gets you, the gullible, would-be "conservationalist," to do what these "greenies" want ... anything they say. Their goal is to be able to make you jump -- when they want you to and how they want you to. It's about control, and, for them, control via misinformation, deception, and lies.

This rhetoric alone would be enough that, if I had purchased Microsoft Bob at full retail in 1995, then discovered this "green garbage" embedded within it, I would have Bob uninstalled from my computer and on its way back for a refund before you could say "misinformation."

Activist agendas have no place in mainstream application software.

Bob: In Memoriam

There were only two releases of Microsoft Bob -- 1.00 and 1.0a.

Microsoft also released a "Bob 1.0 Plus Pack" in much the same way they released Plus! for Windows 95. Like Plus! for Windows 95, Bob 1.0 Plus Pack was "the rest of Bob" -- the best features left out of Microsoft Bob 1.00 so consumers would have to spend more money on an "add-on" to get the rest of the functionality Microsoft Bob should have had in the first place.

Microsoft Bob 1.0a combined the contents of Bob 1.00 and the Bob 1.0 Plus Pack to give you "all of Bob" in one package.

Microsoft had plans for software companies to write third-party software for Bob the same way they did for Windows 3.x and Windows 95. But that was not to be. There would be no "WordPerfect for Bob," "Lotus 1-2-3 for Bob," "CorelDRAW! for Bob," "Norton Utilities for Bob," "McAfee VirusScan for Bob" or such.

To my knowledge, not a single computer virus was ever written for Microsoft Bob. Do you know of any?

Microsoft Bob was one of the most publically scorned programs Microsoft has released. Microsoft, like other companies who made software for OS/2, BeOS, and others that flopped in the retail sector, learned a hard lesson; if you try to be a smart aleck in your user interface or application software, it won't sell. You might have a few loyal users that are supportive of your wit, but will they sustain your business?

Graphical user interfaces and application software are serious business. If you want to be witty and clever, put that energy into an entertainment program -- a game, screen saver, or such. Or publish your clever musings on an Internet website.

And if you want to get the message out to "save the world" in the same spirit the environmentalists do, go sign up with a "green" group and ship off to chase oil tankers and whale barges. Or chain yourself to a tree. Or protest to let ten snails live in an area a bridge is to be built. Or try to put loggers out of work by attempting to protect a spotted owl. I don't want that activist propaganda "polluting" my word processor as an option next to the spell checker. And neither does 99.99% of the rest of the software consumer market.

Microsoft Bob was relatively unknown to most of the consumer market, in spite of a huge media promotion campaign launched by Microsoft in 1995. Today, if you ask someone what "Microsoft Bob" is, most people will look at you and say, "What?" or "Is it a game?"

The only way Microsoft was able to achieve any significant sales of Microsoft Bob was by using their infamous strongarm marketing tactics to force some computer hardware retailers to ship OEM copies of Microsoft Bob with their units.

Below are five screen shots from an OEM version of Microsoft Bob that was bundled with Gateway 2000 computers:

Microsoft Bob 1.0a OEM - "Gateway Shared Family Room"
Yeeeeeeeeeee hawwww!!! "I'm a pickin'..." "And I'm a grinnin'!" Let's go fetch Granny and have her bring along a jug of her "rhumatiz medicine." We're gonna sit around the potbelly stove for a spell and watch Jed do some "stompin'." It's Microsoft Bob gone country -- Gateway style.

The OEM version of Microsoft Bob distributed with Gateway computers in 1995 contained five extra "rooms" and an additional category of "Gateway" graphics with 27 "home on the range" clipart pictures of furniture, etc.

All the program "icons," except Bob Calendar, clocks and GeoSafari, are depictions of animals and have text titles of what they are. But if you return to Bob's "regular home," you'll find everything as it is in the default release of Bob. The icons differ from those on the "farm" -- and for a program interface that is supposed to simplify computing tasks, aren't two different sets of icons for the same program all the more confusing? This is typical "Bob mentality" -- take something simple and make it more complicated.

In the upper right of the screen shot, just to the right of the window above the door, is a black and orange license plate with "GW2K" on it (Gateway 2000).
Microsoft Bob 1.0a OEM - "Gateway Shared Attic"
To get away from it all, climb the old, rickety ladder up to the attic and close the trap door for a little bit of privacy -- just you and Rover and that chicken on the typewriter for Bob Letter Writer. Up here, you can be alone to think clearly for your "chicken scratchings" and planning the next time to go Crawdad hunting. While you're here, you might take a look through your list of friends to see who you want to take with you this time. Looks like a nice day outside....

And while you're in the attic, be sure to click on the horseshoe hangin' above the window and turn it upside down so the ends point up. That "keeps the good luck in."

Note the Gateway computer box in the far left center of the screen shot. I think Jed's warranty is up on his 1995 Gateway computer, so it's safe to assume he can take this box to the recycling bin in town -- 48¾ miles away, as the crow flies. Tell Jed to be sure to do what Bob Calendar's "EcoTip" says and break the box down before putting it in the bin. If he has trouble breaking it down, a couple of shotgun blasts ought to do the trick. Ask him to bring back some sorghum molasses, too. Granny's making Possum Pie tonight....

Microsoft Bob 1.0a OEM - "Gateway Shared Kid's Room"
Aaaaaaaaaahhh!!! Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed!!! The kids are out of their room again! How many times have I told you that little green tractor just isn't enough to keep them young'ns occupied!

That confounded contraption called GeoSafari kept them entertained for a while, but they figgerd out all the answers and then looked for somethin' else to do.

I'll bet they found the address to Jim Beam's General Store in the Address Book and took off a-runnin' to get some rock salt for their slingshots. One look at that big yellow Bob clock and I'd run, too!

I'm tellin' ya, Jed, we need to keep an eye on those little whipper-snappers 'cause I've caught them behind the wood shed peekin' at Elli Mae when she's takin' a shower in the rain barrel. Good thing I patched the holes in that old quilt we use for a shower curtain. It seems to wear out awful fast these days....

Jed? Are ya listenin' to me? Jed??? WAKE UP!!!
Microsoft Bob 1.0a OEM - "Gateway Shared Kitchen"
Granny would really appreciate it if someone besides Elli Mae would offer to help her bake her famous Possum Pie. The recipie is right there in Bob Household Manager under "C" for critters. How it got in there, I have no idea. Those young'ns must have been playin' with that newfangled computer again.

Uncle Jed forgot to bring back sorghum molasses from town. I think he forgot to drop off the Gateway computer box at the recycle bin, too. He's out back, cuttin' on his whittlin' stick again. He must have somethin' on his mind. That happens every now and then.

My rhumatizm is acting up again. I might have to go out to the still an' check on my latest batch of medicine. Sure hope the fire didn't go out....

Elli! Fetch those two young'ns an' have them pump some water from the well. Are ya still seein' that nice young man who's been courtin' you? Elli? Elli?? ELLI?!?!?
Microsoft Bob 1.0a OEM - "Gateway Shared Study"
Ah! That's why Jed kept the Gateway computer box -- to use as a computer desk. Good environmental thinking! He saved money and natrual resources by not having to buy a desk that has extra packaging or resorting to chopping down the big Oak tree in the back. Good thing about the tree -- it shades the outhouse in the afternoon. And you know how hot it gets in there in the summer. Oh, the humidity....

Ya know? That fancy computer isn't all that bad, once ya get learned on it a little. Jethro's been cipherin' on it. Knot into knot goes not.

I even had him get into that Bob Financial Guide and figger up our taxes on all that oil we found a while back. Ya know what? Them Revenuers owe us money! 'Magine that.

Now, Granny! Granny! Don't you go grabbin' for the shotgun again. You know what happens when you get your blood pressure up and all.

Well, folks, I'd love to stay and chew the fat but it's time we got our chores done. Time's a-wastin' an' we turn in at eight. Y'all come back now, y-hear?

So, bidding fairwell to the "Wichita lineman," setting our clocks ahead from "Tulsa Time" to real-time, and returning from the Ozarks, shall we continue?

Why did Microsoft Bob fail to sell? Some possible reasons could be:
1. It does nothing to prepare first-time computer users to "advance" to using "real" application software, thereby trapping them in a computer cartoon land. Imagine the transition of having to go from using Microsoft Bob on a home computer to using "real" application software on a business computer at work.
2. After spending US$3,000 or more for a computer system in 1995, to turn it on and see the "Bob home" could give the wrong first impression that all that money bought was a very expensive electronic toy -- more resembling a very expensive game system rather than a productive electronic tool.

Giving Bob his due.
Microsoft Bob was actually a marvel of programming technology in 1995. But the computer industry failed to see Bob for his true and full potential. The "home" atmosphere and "personal guides" were the first attempt to "humanize" the computer experience outside the realm of children's educational software.

In reality, Microsoft Bob could have been a very useful computer interface for:
  • Young children just beginning to use a computer
  • Children with computer skills who are not interested in contemporary application software
  • Teenagers and adults lacking interest in computers and content to do only a few limited tasks with one
  • People lacking computer skills and able to do only a few limited tasks with one
  • People with average or above average computer skills who find contemporary application software "boring" or "impersonal"
  • Anyone who liked Microsoft Bob and was willing to work with what Bob offered

    Unfortunately, in 1995 the "social interface" concept of Microsoft Bob did not catch on with the computer industry or the home consumer market. Bob died a lonely digital death from industry criticism and a lack of acceptance.

    But some dead things can find a way to come back to haunt you -- for years, and even decades....

    Microsoft Bob is dead. Long live Microsoft Bob.

    The ghost of BOB!!! -- Microsoft Greetings Workshop 1.0
    The ghost of BOB!!! -- Microsoft Greetings Workshop 1.0
    The ghost of BOB!!! -- Microsoft Greetings Workshop 1.0
    Microsoft Greetings Workshop 1.0 (1996)
    So, Microsoft Bob is dead...or is he? Not entirely....

    Microsoft Greetings Workshop 1.0 is actually the next version of Microsoft Great Greetings. Instead of requiring Microsoft Bob to run, many aspects of Bob are built into Greetings Workshop and it runs independently on Windows 95.

    This program even has a "sign in" just like Microsoft Bob's "Front Door," complete with default guest account. This program also contains the same sound effects from Microsoft Bob -- mouse clicks, error warnings, etc. There are also balloon help prompts on clickable items, and even Bob's "EXIT" sign.

    Upon starting Greetings Workshop, the program's only "personal guide," the term also used in Microsoft Bob, called "Rocky," comes bounding into the "room" interface and barks a couple of times (the filename installed on your computer, however, is named "Rover," referring to Microsoft Bob's Rover!). Rocky positions himself in the lower right corner of the screen and uses text balloons to offer bullet-listed program options -- the exact same way Microsoft Bob does. Upon exiting the program, Rocky turns stage-right and starts running, the carpet bunching up underneath him, then bounds off the screen.

    Microsoft Greetings Workshop's "Rocky" is not boisterous like Rover in Microsoft Bob. If the program sits idle for a few minutes, Rocky will yawn, point his nose into the air and sniff, pant, blink his eyes, look around every once in a while, and wags his tail -- all silently. Rocky doesn't annoy you the way Microsoft Bob's Rover does. If you click on Rocky, a gloved hand will appear and pet him a couple of times, then disappear.

    "Rocky" would later be included as one of the "assistants" in Microsoft Office 2000 and later Office versions ("Rocky" is not present in Microsoft Office 97).

    Even the text balloon is called the "Bob Balloon" in the main EXE file's code!
    Here are some items taken from a hex dump of GWORKSHP.EXE:
    61490 - 614A0: 06F.H6F.Bob Balloon.............

    "Bob" internal variable names in GWORKSHP.EXE:
    615F0 - 616F0: BobMouseEnter, BobMouseLeave, BobShowErrorTip, BobShowResumeTip, BobShowNoExitTip, BobAutoclose, BobAnimateClick, BobRecalcSnippets, BobEnableBufferedPaint, BobDraw, BobPreTranslateKey, BobGetControlVTable, BobGetControlContainer, BobSerialize, BobMinimize

    Shades of BOB!!! -- Microsoft Word 97 Microsoft Office 97 (1996)
    Microsoft Bob lives on in Microsoft Office as animated assistants.

    In 1996, the concept of Microsoft Bob's "The Dot" and "Will" personal guides were incorporated into Microsoft Office 97. The style of Microsoft Office 97's "assistant" help interface is pure Microsoft Bob -- right down to the yellow, bulleted text balloons and bold title questions. A search engine is added to the interface.

    But instead of being transparent over the Office 97 application in use (Word, Excel, etc.), the "assistants" are enclosed in a small window with a textured background. The window enclosure is unique to Office 97. Later Office versions have the "assistants" transparent against the active program -- like they are with Bob.
    There are nine "assistants" in Microsoft Office 97:

    Microsoft Office 97 assistants

    "Clippit" -- the default "assistant." An animated paper clip. Taps the screen like Lexi does in Bob.
    "The Dot" -- as described earlier in "Friends of Bob."
    "The Genius" -- an animated Albert Einstein, theoretically....
    "Hoverbot" -- looking like something out of a "Jetsons" cartoon, it is a silver pod with an electronic cyclops (Cylon?) eye.
    "Office Logo" -- Microsoft just had to throw in their Office logo to act as an animated help icon.
    "Mother Nature" -- a spinning Earth globe than can change into other shapes; a flower, dove, volcano, etc.
    "Power Pup" -- this isn't Rover reincarnated, it's a cartoonish dog with a red cape ("There's no need to fear, Underdog is here!").
    "Scribble" -- a cat comprised of scraps of paper. Hopefully, it will not bring "chaos" to your productivity.
    "Will" -- as described earlier in "Friends of Bob." Will still has his brown "platform" from Bob!

    Microsoft learned a bruising lesson with Bob's over-zealous "friends." They toned down the activity, and annoyance factor, of their "assistants" and gave the user the options to mute their sounds and toggle on or off their animation and other features.

    Shades of BOB!!! -- Microsoft Home Publishing 99
    Shades of BOB!!! -- Microsoft Home Publishing 99
    Microsoft Home Publishing 99 (1998)
    Not to be confused with Microsoft Publisher, Home Publishing 99 is a newer version of the "Hallmark connections" software series -- two versions after Microsoft Greetings Workshop 1.0. Now called a desktop publisher instead of a greeting card maker, Home Publishing 99 gives the impression that Microsoft ended the Bob interface in these programs. In reality, Microsoft Bob still "lives" inside Home Publishing 99 -- the only major difference is there is no "personal guide" in this version.

    Many aspects of the Microsoft Bob interface are evident in this program. The familiar yellow, bulleted option windows with features not available in the main menu replace the "text balloons" associated with Microsoft Bob's "personal guides." Not quite Bob, but still Bob, nonetheless.

    Also present are automatic help "tips" that pop up every time you open a new feature or type text out of its printable area. These tips automatically appear and there is no option to disable them. They pop up repeatedly during the creation of a project and actually prolong the time it takes to make a project. And when you click to save a project, a little yellow tip box appears in the lower left corner of the screen while the file is writing that says, "Hold on a moment..." This is typical Microsoft "Bobbitizing" of a product.

    As evidenced in Microsoft Greetings Workshop 1.0 above, Microsoft Home Publishing 99's main executable program file also contains a wealth of "Bob" variable names visible by doing a hex dump of the file HOMEPUB.EXE. Here are some examples:
    C4600-C47F0: BobShowModalTip, BobRegisterDialog, BobHideTip, BobGetPalette, BobShowTip, BobLoadCursor, BobSetModalControlCallback, BobCreateImageFromFile, BobShowActiveModalWindowTip, BobSetAppName, BobFindApptCollection, BobFindAppt, BobLoadUserTracking, BobGetInitInfo,
    C4AB0-C4BC0: BobGetGuideWindowRect, BobModalControlGetHWND, BobCreateHalftoneBrush, BobModalControlCallMe, BobGetClientRect, BobShowModalTipIndirect, BobOpenAnimation, BobOnIdle, BobInitialize, BobUnitialize, BobGetResultString
    C7B20-C7B40: CBobControlContainer, CBobDialog
    11E530-11E5A0: BobButton1, BobButton2
    1AE670-1AE680: BobCheckBox1

    Internal program name:
    Microsoft Graphics Studio Home Publishing & Greetings
    Microsoft Home Publishing 99 is still "Bob" through and through. "Personal guides" may come and "personal guides" may go, but Bob goes on and on...

    More shades of BOB!!! -- Microsoft Excel 2000 Microsoft Office 2000 (1999)
    Bob's legacy lives on in Microsoft Office 2000. After four years, "The Dot" is the only original survivor from Microsoft Bob.

    In addition to certain options retaining the blue bullet lists, the Bob interface changed slightly in Office 2000. Other options in the yellow text balloons have "idea" light bulbs for bullets. "Assistants" are no longer confined in a window. They are transparently superimposed upon the active program.

    Microsoft cut one more "assistant" from Office 2000, leaving a total of eight. "Will" was cut from the lineup. Of the remaining eight, three were replaced with similar looking characters.
    These are the eight "assistants" in Microsoft Office 2000:

    Microsoft Office 2000 assistants

    "Clippit" -- the default "assistant." Now sits on a legal-sized paper sheet and has different eyes.
    "The Dot" -- as described earlier in "Friends of Bob."
    "F1" -- a more personalized robotic "assistant." Replaces "Hoverbot."
    "The Genius" -- relatively the same "Einstein" as in Microsoft Office 97.
    "Office Logo" -- same as in Microsoft Office 97. Note that the four colors are in a different order from the Office 97 logo.
    "Mother Nature" -- same as in Microsoft Office 97.
    "Links" -- a more appealing feline looking a lot less "chaotic" than its former nemesis, "Scribble."
    "Rocky" -- closer to Rover in looks, this dog replaces "Power Pup."

    Bob actually makes a comeback in the Microsoft "XP generation," appearing in both Microsoft Office XP and the Microsoft Windows XP operating system. Microsoft must have thought computer veterans had forgotten or had never heard of Bob and new users would think these "assistants" are "new" features.

    BOB in Windows XP!!! Microsoft Windows XP Professional (2001)
    Six years after Bob's release, Microsoft introduced the "assistant" into the graphical shell of the Windows XP operating system.

    "The more things change, the more they stay the same." The text balloon interface changes color to match the current color scheme, has multiple styles of bullets for options, list item show/hide buttons, and a vertical scroll bar when the window is too short to hold all the option items. "Rover," the default "guide" for Bob, is now the default "assistant" for the Files and Folders Search feature of Windows XP Professional and Home. Better rendered in textured 3D, Microsoft must have had Rover "fixed." He is much more docile than in his earlier years. But if you leave the search idle for a few minutes, Rover will scratch himself with an audible sound -- prompting you, just like he did in Microsoft Bob!

    There are four "assistants" in Microsoft Windows XP Professional.
    These are the "assistants" in Microsoft Windows XP Professional:

    Microsoft Windows XP Professional assistants

    "Rover" -- same original "friend of Bob," much calmer attitude, no Bob for a dog tag.
    "Merlin" -- bringing an aura of mysticism to XP, Merlin will find your files like magic.
    "Courtney" -- New to the "assistant" crew. The "you go girl!" of the 21st. century, complete with hovercar.
    "Earl" -- surfing your computer to find what you need, this dude's mouth looks like a sideways banana.

    How many versions of Microsoft Windows will carry Bob's legacy? Only Bob's creator knows for sure....

    Rover -- from Microsoft Bob to Windows XP "Rover": 1995-2001
    "Rover," that mangey little mutt, went from "old yeller" to "new feller" and took on a whole new look. Microsoft Bob's 1995 Rover is a 2-D sprite graphic with a cartoonish "flat" look. Windows XP's Rover is a 3-D rendered model with textured "skin" and more realistic motion.

    In 2001, Microsoft gave Rover a new life in Windows XP -- six years after being introduced in Microsoft Bob. I wonder how many people who see Rover in Windows XP know his true origin?

    Even more shades of BOB!!! -- Microsoft PowerPoint XP Microsoft Office XP (2002)
    Bob's presence continues in Microsoft Office XP -- six years later.

    The yellow, bulleted text balloon interface lives on.

    "The Genius," present in both Office 97 and 2000, is dropped from the roster, making the total number of "assistants" seven -- down from eight in Office 2000 and nine in Office 97.

    The venerable old diehard, "The Dot," survives in yet another version of Microsoft Office.
    These are the seven "assistants" in Microsoft Office XP (2002):

    Microsoft Office XP assistants

    "Clippit" -- the default "assistant." Same as in Microsoft Office 97 and 2000.
    "The Dot" -- as described earlier in "Friends of Bob."
    "F1" -- same as in Microsoft Office 2000.
    "Office Logo" -- same as in Microsoft Office 97 and 2000.
    "Mother Nature" -- same as in Microsoft Office 97 and 2000.
    "Links" -- same as in Microsoft Office 2000.
    "Rocky" -- same as in Microsoft Office 2000.

    How many more versions of Microsoft Office will carry Bob's legacy? Only Bob's creator knows for sure....

    BOB in Microsoft Visio 2002 Professional? Microsoft Visio 2002 Professional
    Close, but not quite. Yet close enough to scare any BOBophobe.

    This, Microsoft's second version of Visio to carry its name, but the first fully released by Microsoft, has a subtle hint of Bob included in the form of a help "search." In place of a Microsoft Office animated "assistant," is a search field that offers options in the form of a drop-down list. This list has the same blue-bulleted hyperlink options and same font style as the "Bob-style" text in MS Office.

    Apparently, even Microsoft knew not to "Bobbitize" Visio too much. Giving it animated "assistants" and balloon-text captions would have changed its perception from a serious diagramming system to a Romper Room "Etch-a-Sketch" toy.

    BOB in MSN Messenger 6.0! MSN Messenger 6.0 (2003)
    This is the first version of MSN Messenger to have "emoticons" -- little pictures expressing emotions for use in instant message correspondence.

    One of these "emoticons" goes by the name of "Nerd smiley." It is actually BOB operating under an alias!

    Once again, Microsoft sneaks Bob into a new program's features.

    * Brought to the attention of Dan's 20th. Century Abandonware by "Szajd."
    Thank you!
    How many future versions of MSN Messenger will continue to carry Bob's legacy? Only Bob's creator knows for sure....

    Kris Dancer -- an 'assistant' relative of BOB??? Kris Dancer (2003)
    While looking a lot like the textured 3-D "wizards" in Microsoft Windows Me's startup process, Windows XP, and Microsoft Office, "Kris Dancer" is not a "wizard" or "assistant" that is part of a process to help in a program like Bob's "friends" or Microsoft Office's or Windows XP's "assistants."

    Kris Dancer is more closely related to the Internet-famous "Dancing Baby" program because, like the Dancing Baby program, it is merely an animated audio/visual entertainment program. Like Dancing Baby, Kris Dancer dances to music and that's all.

    The original Dancing Baby program was created in 1996 with 3DStudio Max and Character Studio with demo files that shipped with the product and has animation by Michael Girard, Robert Lurye & Ron Lussier. Dancing Baby is Copyright © 1996 Burning Pixel Productions & Ron Lussier.

    Microsoft saw a popular program and had to create "dancers" of their own. In addition to dancing to music, Microsoft adds special effects such as costume changes and extra visual aids.
    Will "dancers" like Kris Dancer ever be incorporated into Microsoft application software? Only Bob's creator knows for sure....

    In his image...
    And speaking of Bob's "creator," a lady named Melinda French was the Project Manager for Microsoft Bob and also came up with the concept of Bob's "personal guides" (and Microsoft Office has never been the same since 1996...). Ms. French went on to become none other than Mrs. Bill Gates.

    Taking a decades-old smiley face image and putting "nerd" glasses on it conjures up an image resembling another familiar face, as does putting glasses and facial features on an animated lexicon book, as the picture "line-up" below demonstrates.

    Bob, Bill, Lexi...

    Were Bob and Lexi modeled after the man in the middle? I'll leave it up to you to decide.

    Microsoft Bob will live on.
    Microsoft has been determined not to let Bob "die." Since 1996 they have kept the concepts of Microsoft Bob "alive" by including them in several of their successful products -- Microsoft Office, Microsoft Windows XP, MSN Messenger, etc.

    Microsoft has profited handsomely from Bob's concepts. While many consumers may not have purchased Microsoft Bob, if they purchased any 1996 version or later of Microsoft Office or are using a computer running Windows XP Home or Professional, they are, in fact, using "BOBitized" Microsoft products.

    From 1996 on, as new users came into Microsoft's customer base, many of them not being familiar with Microsoft Bob would not know these "new" features in Microsoft Office and other Microsoft products evolved from Microsoft Bob. This did, in fact, happen. Many people did not know that these "assistants" were not truly "new" concepts for these products.

    That is why this Web page is here. To tell the world about Microsoft Bob, and of how Microsoft refused to let Bob "die" by incorporating his legacy into several of their more successful software products and operating systems.

    Regardless of the new product Microsoft may slip Bob's concepts into, may we always remember where these "new" features truly originate from.

    Questions? Comments? Contact me.

    Other Related Abandonware I Own
    - Microsoft Bob 1.00 (1.68MB DMF floppies)
    - Microsoft Bob 1.00 (CD-ROM -- OEM build 1329)
    - Microsoft Bob 1.00 (CD-ROM -- Retail build 1329)