Bogus Software

Taipei 1.02 by Dave Norris in 1987 with the Bogus Software logo

Bogus Software was created in 1987 for games written by Microsoft employees.

Hans Spiller was hired by Microsoft in 19811 and Dave Norris joined in July 19842 where they both worked on XENIX language C compilers, assemblers and debuggers1,2,3. In 1987 they wrote a game in Macro-80 assembly language4 based on the solitaire game Mahjong and called it Taipei5.

"Dave Norris and I were talking about Taipei (played with Mah-Jong tiles) one day, and we decided that we really ought to have a copyright notice. We thought about crediting it to Microsoft, but we'd written it about half at MS and half at home and it was (at that time) definitely not part of the MS product line. One of us (neither of can remember which it was) suggested giving the copyright as Bogus Software. We invited a number of other people who had written recreational programs to play along."6

Other people included Ed Fries and Tom Saxton who jointly wrote the famous Fish! screensaver. Fries was a summer intern in 1985 before being hired in March 1986 to join a team of six people working on Excel 2.07,8. He had previously published the Atari games 'Princess and the Frog' (1982), 'Ant Eater' (1983) and 'Sea Chase' (1983) and years later he ended up managing Microsoft Game Studios where he released the XBox8. His boss at Microsoft was Chris Peters9 who wrote the Reversi game included in Windows 1.0. Tom Saxton was hired in 1987 to join the Macintosh Word team10. They were joined in 1988 by intern Wes Cherry who wrote Solitaire that summer.11,12

The group wrote games at work because "when you're a programmer, especially back then, you have a lot of free time, because you make changes and you compile. And for a big project, a compile would take about 10 minutes."8 Windows 2.0 was released in December 1987 and during the summer of 1988 the group created a Windows poker server and each person wrote a poker player to compete against each other8.

Fries remembers, "We were writing little poker AIs as just something fun to do on the side and we had a little front end so we could watch them play. And we needed cards."12 One anonymous member of the Excel team says, "Of course we needed a DLL to draw the cards and so one evening I wrote the 50 lines of code or so and called it cards.dll. We were programmers, not artists, so initially we did screen grabs of a DOS solitaire game's cards and used those bitmaps." He also remembers, "We had an interface so the dealer could deal hands to any set of player programs and then the AI in the individual players would bet and we'd see who wrote the best player."13 Fries states that it was Cherry who "ripped graphics from a card game for DOS" with the Bogus Software programmers using the cards.dll file for their poker programs9. Cherry writes, "At the time there was an internal 'company within a company' called Bogus software. It was really just a server where [a] bunch of guys [were] having fun hacking Windows to learn [how] the API tossed their games."11

Solitaire for Windows 3.0 (1990) by Cherry

Robert Donner was not a member of Bogus Software but remembers uploading Minesweeper to "the internal shared servers"9 and in another interview says a friend uploaded the game "to an internal server"12. This server is mentioned by Norris in an early Help file where he writes, "Taipei is not yet available in computer software stores" but "you can get it from the bogus directory in \\windex\public"3. The server was later a goldmine for Bruce Ryan when he became Product Manager for the Windows Entertainment Pack in 19906,9.

Another origin story is given in Spiller's Space War! Help file:

"Bogus Software is a little teeny division of Microsoft that was accidently founded by Dave Norris and Hans Spiller while they were trying to figure out how to avoid working on Codeview and the C Compiler, which is what they were supposed to be doing. It quickly got to be a lot of fun, and soon quite a few other people were joining up, also trying to figure out how to get out of what they were supposed to be doing, all the while thinking up clever ways to waste peoples time."14

Spiller remembers, "Todd Laney even took to putting it into the diagnostic tools he'd written"6. Laney had joined Microsoft in 1987 and in 1990 wrote a task manager program called "Windows Process Status" with Charlie Kindel and Ed Halley. WPS 1.09 survives copyright 1990-1992 and it credits Bogus Software.

Spiller wrote several games at Microsoft including a Space Invaders clone and a Space Wars clone6. Space War! 0.00 was released for Windows 1.0 on 3 March 1987 and credits Bogus Software but forgot to mention Spiller! Version 0.12 from 7 August 1990 also survives and the Help file claims the Bogus Software logo is called "the Glyph of Bogosity"14. Both games almost made it into WEP but "while space invaders was obviously a clone and the lawyers killed it right away, my spacewar/asteroids game is on much stronger legal ground, and the lawyers let me do quite a bit of work on it before killing it just a few days before we went golden on Windows Entertainment Package Version 1."6

Space War! 0.12 (1990) by Hans Spiller

The earliest surviving version of Taipei is 1.02 from 3 April 1987 copyright Bogus Software. The source code for version 2.00 credits "David Norris and Hans Spiller" and jokes that "Bogus software does not do revision histories"4. Other versions included 3.10 (May 1990) and 3.50 (August 1990) with 3.50 adding a Help file and already requiring an ABOUTWEP.DLL file to run. However, it was version 4.00 that was released by Microsoft as part of WEP 1 while 5.00 was published by Norris in 1991 as shareware. These later versions credit Norris and thank Spiller "for ideas" except in the WEP version which does not mention Spiller.

Norris had written a chess game which he ported to Windows 3.0 on 11 October 1990 as "Win Chess 1.0"15. A second release of Win Chess 1.0 and a version 1.01 added more openings moves to its library and revamped Chess was released by Microsoft in WEP 4 (1992). The original version notes "This is the first released version of my WinChess chess program for Microsoft Windows". The Help file for version 2.0 explained that "As my Taipei program proved to be very popular as a shareware program, I've decided to make WinChess shareware as well" and he thanked "fellow bogusites" Hans and Ferg. The latter was Scott Ferguson who was hired in November 1986 and later became the Development Lead for Visual Basic.16,17 Ferguson wrote QUADominoes in July 1990 and it was released as TetraVex in WEP 3 (1991).

Win Chess 1.0 (1990) by Norris

Norris also released Mines 1.0 for Windows 3.0 sometime before June 199018. The objective was to find a path from the top left corner to the bottom right corner across a sea of mines using number clues. Although similar in some respects to Minesweeper a beta version of the latter noted "WinMine bears little resemblance to the other windows Mine game" and teases Norris that Taipei "was a blatant rip-off of a Macintosh game" called Shanghai (1986)18. Norris told this site he still had the source code and that his inspiration for the game probably "had something to do with wanting to write a path-finding algorithm"19.

Mines 1.0 (1990) by Norris

A famous Bogus Software program was the Fish! screensaver. During the summer of 1985 an artist in the tutorials team, Janet Vogelzang, asked Fries to convert her ASCII text pictures of fish into a screensaver. He made the MS-DOS screensaver in a few hours then asked for more fish and released an animated screensaver called "Microsoft Fish-O-Rama".8,9 When he returned in March 1986 he joined the Excel 2.0 team and ported the program to Windows as Microsoft Fish! 1.0 with a copyright date of 19879,12. In one version he says, "I made it so the spreadsheet could control a submarine in Fish, drive it around, shoot at the fish. It showed how live data could come in and out of Excel, and all the logic for controlling a submarine was recalculated in real-time in the spreadsheet."9

Fish! 1.0 (1987) by Fries

Excel 1.0 was only a Macintosh product so Fries decided to port his new screensaver to that platform9. Saxton suggested creating a fish editor program and promptly wrote one himself8,11. The pair released the screensaver and editor for both Macintosh and Windows in 1988 and Fries says, "We had put out a version that had an address on it for people to send the fish - just send fish - and instead of sending fish they started sending money."12 He continues, "We put the name Bogus Software on that, but we didn't want to just say 'Bogus Software,' since it was just Tom and me, so we called it Tom and Ed's Bogus Software."9 Fish! 3.0 was released in August 1991 with the Help file noting that "Tom & Ed's Bogus Software was founded in 1988 to accomplish a simple goal: to put 'A Fish on Every Desktop.' Win Fish brings our efforts to the world of Microsoft Windows 3.0."20

Spiller recalls, "One day, Ed Fries came to me wanting to take the name 'Bogus Software' to use for his shareware company for his fish program. This seemed kind of cool to me, as long as the real core of Bogus Software - the occasional recreational hack - would remain intact. So he and Tom Saxon called their company 'Tom and Ed's Bogus Software'."6 In the Help file for Space War! Spiller notes, "We have already granted Tom & Ed rights to the name, which is only right, since they are part of Bogus Software."14

Fish! 3.0 (1991) by Fries and Saxton

Dave Edson joined Microsoft in August 1988 to work on product support for the Windows SDK21. He had already published several TRS-80 games such as Caterpillar (1982), Tube Frenzy (1982), Venturer (1982), Planet Raider (1982), Catch-Em (1982) and Tutankam (1983). In March 1989 he released Tetris for Windows 1.00 copyright Bogus Software and in July 1990 he added a two-player mode. One lucky person remembers, "When I came to Dave's office for my half-hour interview he was just putting the finishing touches on a two-player mode. Under the pretext of helping him test this new feature, Dave proceeded to throttle me one game after another for a good twenty minutes."22 Tetris was included in WEP 1 after Microsoft sorted out the copyright issues12. He ported Catchem to MS-DOS in 1989 but used his own label, Edson Software.

Tetris 1.00 (1989) by Edson

Curt Johnson joined Microsoft in 1989 to maintain an OS/2 debugger program. He told this site, "I don't remember who was involved with Bogus Software, or giving them credit for my games."23 However, the earliest versions of his games PM Mine and Tic Tac Toe are copyright Bogus Software. He wrote PM Mine for OS/2 in 1989 and named it after his favourite MacIntosh game ("Mine") and the OS/2 windowing system ("Presentation Manager"). The object of the game was to cross a minefield from the bottom left corner to the top right corner using number clues. It was updated by Robert Donner in May 1990 as PM Mine 2.01 although the About box still claimed to be version 2.00. The game also credits David Shulman who joined in May 1989 for "Testing & Design"24. Johnson also released Tic Tac Toe 0.1 for Windows 3.0 on 12 June 1990 with Robert Donner. His other games included Brick, Slots, Puzzle and Bridge It in 1990 but these do not credit the software label.

PM Mine 2.01 (1990) by Johnson and Donner

Ken Sykes also joined Microsoft in 1989.25 His card games Cruel and Golf were included in WEP 1 and do not mention Bogus Software. However, Golf 1.1 (1989) thanks Bogus Software for the card deck which he also used for Cruel.

Golf 1.1 (1989) by Sykes with the "ace up the sleeve" Solitaire card

The most famous Bogus Software game was Solitaire and this was included in Windows 3.0 on 22 May 1990. Cherry used the cards.dll file and copied graphics from a DOS Solitaire game. He says, "I wrote it for Windows 2.1 in my own time while an intern at Microsoft during the summer of 1988."6 A program manager saw the game and decided it should be in Windows 3.0 so Microsoft gave him an IBM XT computer to fix bugs at university6. His girlfriend, art major Leslie Kooy, created the rainbow shell, haunted castle, beach scene, robot and hidden ace cards with Cherry writing code for the moving bats26,27. His favourite card was the hidden ace based on the line "the aces are crawling up and down your sleeve" from the Grateful Dead song, "Doin' that Rag"28. Microsoft hired the famous graphics artist Susan Kare in 1988 and she further improved the card deck while designing icons for Windows 3.029,30. Two beta versions exist from January 1990 and February 1990 which are almost identical to the final version.

Cherry also wrote Pipe Dream which was released in WEP 2 (1991).11 The game credits Kooy for graphics.

Pipe Dream (WEP 2, 1991) by Cherry

The Windows Entertainment Pack in October 1990 was the end of Bogus Software. Windows 3.0 had been released on 22 May 1990 and "A product manager thought it would be a smart idea to gather a few games together and create the Microsoft Entertainment Pack, so it became an intern's job to track down individual developers, get the source code, and ensure the apps could be shipped."9 The Product Manager was Bruce Ryan and he was "going to all the Bogus developers" to see if they were interested6. Spiller remembers, "It turned out that the state of most of the games was inadequate, so we wound up doing quite a bit of illicit development work before shipping"6. Not all games made the cut and although some Bogus Software games such as TetraVex and Chess made it into later WEP editions, programmers were suddenly more careful to use their own names and all references to Bogus Software disappeared.

Han Spiller (
Spiller jousting at Microsoft in a 1990 campus brochure
Spiller juggling on campus in 1990
Spiller biography in the IBM Systems Journal (1985)
Dave Norris in the Taipei 3.50 (1990) Help file
David Norris
David Norris (
Ed Fries with the new XBox in 2001 (
Ed Fries at Microsoft in 2020 (
Ed Fries at Microsoft in 2020 (
Scott Ferguson with the Visual Basic team in 1990
Scott Ferguson in 2020 (
Dave Edson in 1983 with his Atari game Tutankam (
Wes Cherry interviewed in 2017
Wes Cherry at his cider farm in 2016
Ken Sykes in 2017
Tom Saxton (middle) golfing in a 1990 Microsoft campus brochure
Tom Saxton in 2013
Todd Laney in 2014
Curt Johnson in 2014
Windows Excel 2.0 (1987)
Space War! 0.12 (1990) by Spiller
Taipei 1.02 (1987) by Norris
Taipei 3.10 (1990) by Norris
Taipei 3.50 (1990) by Norris
Taipei 4.00 (1990) by Norris
Taipei 5.00 (1991) by Norris
Macintosh Shanghai (1986) may have inspired Taipei
Tetris 1.00 (1989) by Edson
Tetris (WEP 1, 1990) by Edson
QUADominoes (1990) by Ferguson
TetraVex (WEP 3, 1991) by Ferguson
Win Chess 1.0 (1990) by Norris
Win Chess 1.01 (1991) by Norris
Chess (WEP 4, 1992) by Norris
Mines 1.0 (1990) by Norris
Fish! 1.0 (1987) by Fries
Macintosh Fish! 2.0 (1988) by Fries and Saxton
Fish! 3.0 (1991) by Fries and Saxton
WPS 1.09 (1992) by Laney
PM Mine 2.01 (1990) by Johnson and Donner
Tic Tac Toe 0.1 (1990) by Johnson and Donner
Cruel (WEP 1, 1990) by Sykes
Golf 1.1 (1989) by Sykes
Golf (WEP 1, 1990) by Sykes
Tetris for Windows 1.0 (1989) by Edson
Tetris (WEP 1, 1990) by Edson
Solitaire for Windows 3.0 (1990) by Cherry
Solitaire card deck from the Susan Kare portfolio on
Pipe Dream (WEP 2, 1991) by Cherry

WEP 1 (1990) - The original Windows Entertainment Pack.
WEP 2 (1991) - The second Windows Entertainment Pack.
WEP 3 (1991) - The third Windows Entertainment Pack.
WEP 4 (1992) - The fourth Windows Entertainment Pack.
Space War! 0.00 (1987) - Original Windows 1.0 version by Spiller.
Space War! 0.12 (1990) - A Windows 3.0 version by Spiller.
Taipei 1.02 (1987) - Earliest known version by Norris.
Taipei 3.10 (1990) - Added colour to the Mahjong tiles.
Taipei 3.50 (1991) - Minor updates.
Taipei 5.00 (1991) - Shareware version released after WEP 1.
Win Chess 1.0 (1990) - Original Windows version by Norris.
Win Chess 1.0 (1990) - Updated version with more openings added to the library.
Win Chess 1.01 (1991) - Updated version with more openings added to the library.
Mines 1.0 (1990) - Only release of Mines by Norris.
QUADominoes (1990) - Later renamed TetraVex and included in WEP 3.
Fish! 1.0 (1987) - The original Windows version based on the MS-DOS version.
Fish! 2.0 (1989) - Released for the Macintosh.
Fish! 3.0 (1991) - Released for Windows 3.0.
Tetris 1.00 (1989) - A different version was later included in WEP 1.
WPS 1.09 (1992) - Task manager by Todd Laney.
PM Mine 2.01 (1990) - OS/2 game by Johnson updated by Donner.
Tic Tac Toe 0.1 (1990) - Written by Johnson and Donner.
Golf 1.1 (1989) - Golf by Sykes credits the Bogus Software card deck.
Solitaire 3.0 (1990) - Same as Windows 3.0 but with different error messages.
Solitaire 3.0 (1990) - Same as Windows 3.0 except for three bytes.

1 - Hans Spiller profile.
2 - Dave Norris profile.
3 Hans Spiller biography in "The C Programming Language and a C Compiler" in IBM Systems Journal Vol 24 No 1, 1985.
4 Code for Taipei 4.00 from the leaked Windows NT 4.0 source code.
5 Help file for Taipei 2.00 from the leaked Windows NT 4.0 source code.
6 - Hans Spiller homepage with stories about his time at Microsoft.
7 - Ed Fries profile.
8 - Detailed interview in July 2014 with Ed Fries.
9 - Interviews with Ed Fries and Robert Donner in 2020.
10 - Blog post in October 2011 by Tom Saxton.
11 - Post by Wes Cherry on 14 Jan 2016.
12 Game of X: The Long Road to XBox - Book includes interviews with Donner and Fries in 2019.
13 - The anonymous author of cards.dll emailed Adam Nathan's blog in December 2006.
14 Help file for Space Wars! 0.12 from 1990.
15 Help file for Win Chess 1.0 from 1990.
16 - Scott Ferguson profile.
17 - Scott Ferguson blogs about his career at Microsoft.
18 Help file for Win Mine 2.8 from 1990.
19 Email from Dave Norris on 28 May 2013 with the author of this article.
20 Help file for Win Fish! 3.0 from 1990.
21 - Dave Edson profile.
22 Mystic Microsoft - Kraig Brockschmidt describes his interview with Dave Edson.
23 Email from Curt Johnson on 2 October 2013 with the author of this article.
24 - David Shulman profile.
25 - Ken Sykes profile.
26 - Post by Leslie Kooy on 5 Jan 2016.
27 - Post by Leslie Kooy on 18 March 2016.
28 - Interview with Wes Cherry in January 2004 (Issue #118).
29 - Archived version of site from 2001 with screenshots of the original Solitaire graphics.
30 - Archived San Jose Mercury News interview with Susan Kare on 28 May 1990

Article created 4 October 2021 by Damien Moore.