The History of Computer Solitaire

The History of Computer Solitaire

When the first personal computer (PC) appeared in our shops, solitaire was an obvious fit. Because the technological requirements for showing playing cards on a computer screen are relatively easy, solitaire games came to the forefront. In the early days of Microsoft, nearly all solitaire games were text-mode, and were single-game programs. When the state of computer software and technology advanced, the graphics started to make the games look a whole lot better, this combined with a larger memory capacity allowed computer programmers to begin to fit more than one solitaire game into a single program, this resulted in the ‘solitaire collection’.

Of these solitaire collections, the first commercial collection was “Solitaire Royale”, written by Brad Fregger. This collection was published by Spectrum Holobyte in 1987, and it was available for both PC (Microsoft) and Macintosh. At the time, the collection contained 8 different solitaire games, and featured 16-color EGA graphics- impressive at the time, plus mouse support rather than simple text input.


We then had to wait 5 years for our second notable collection, in 1992, Quantum Quality Productions published a commercial collection that was named “Solitaire’s Journey”, this was also for Microsoft-DOS, featuring a very impressive array of 105 different games and detailed user statistics on each game played. In this collection, players could build their own custom “journeys” by selecting a sub-set of the games. As well as this, they could compete in “quests” to find “treasure” by completing a set of solitaire games successfully.


If we stop to look at the shareware front, the most extensive shareware Microsoft- DOS solitaire collection of the time was” Solitaire Suite” by Randy Rasa, which was released in 1991, this collection was compiled of 7 solitaire games, with mouse support and EGA as before.


Solitaire on Microsoft Windows first appeared in 1990 in the version Windows 3.0. This was actually an implementation of the traditional “Klondike” solitaire game, though the name it was given “Windows Solitaire” has been a topic of confusion ever since. In 1995 to great anticipation, Microsoft released Windows 95; this version featured a solitaire game called “Freecell”, which did not take long to become very popular, spanning a wide number of enhanced shareware versions of the game. A few years later Microsoft XP finally introduced Spider Solitaire, which again inspired a number of enhancers and imitators.


Looking at more recently, in the last few years, the size of the shareware solitaire collections for Microsoft Windows has in no uncertain terms exploded, being led by Pretty Good Solitaire, Funsol Solitaire, and SolSuite, all of which now feature not only a handful, but hundreds upon hundreds of different solitaire games. On the Macintosh (Apple) side, Solitaire Plus and Solitaire Till Dawn are the leading solitaire collections.


The games of solitaire are now widely available for every possible platform, including PocketPC, PalmOS, Linux, and mobile phones. Looking at the present, no matter where you go, you will find a solitaire game, ready and waiting to entertain you and your friends. Even with the introduction of smartphones with the accessibility to millions of applications and games, solitaire still proves a traditional favourite and is popular as ever.