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Microsoft nearly fired engineer who added Windows Zip support, but it's a tricky situation

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It is always interesting when former Microsoft engineers or managers share their thoughts or stories on subject matters related to the company, mainly Windows. A couple of the most recent such incidents have not exactly been in Microsoft's favour though.

One of them called out the "comically bad" performance of Windows 11 and tried to draw the tech giant's attention towards the seemingly 'unfinished' state of the OS. Another ex-Windows head made a sarcastic comment at the company right after it started testing more ads and promos on the Start menu.

There are also instances where veterans share some interesting stories about various Windows components and how they came to be. Last month, Dave William Plummer, the author of several key Windows components and features like the Task Manager and Zip support, shared how he bought a Corvette at that time and that it was related to his work on the latter. You can read about that here.

However, the Corvette was not a coincidence as Plummer has revealed in his new post which serves as a back-story. The luxury sports car was one of those things that motivated him when he was coding during the nights. The Microsoft residential area at that time had a person owning a 3,000 sq. ft. house with a Corvette parked in the driveway, and Plummer liked that, so much so that he said he plastered the Corvette's image on his monitor as a way to drive him so that he could one day drive a Corvette too.

A young Dave Plummer during his early days at Microsoft
Dave Plummer in his early days at Microsoft (Image credit: Dave Plummer)

If you are wondering what made him work at night, the ZIPFolders project was a side hustle Plummer was working on outside of his day job at Microsoft. It was inspired by an MSJ (Microsoft Systems Journal) magazine sample "Big GAK".

If you are wondering about moonlighting clauses, Plummer says Microsoft was fine with working on the side with the manager's approval as long as it was not on a product that was competing with the company, which was standard.

The friction started when Microsoft noticed Plummer began selling this shell extension program as a shareware called "Visual Zip" and someone at Microsoft took offence over it and complained to HR.

What was funny about the situation was that Microsoft did not seem aware at that time that a Microsoft employee was doing this as a side hustle and as such the company was looking into acquiring the Visual Zip developer.

Ultimately, things resolved when Dave Plummer realized that it would be futile to refuse Microsoft's deal about adding the Zip component into Windows as that would mean he would not only have lost his job at Microsoft but also have had to compete with the company as he was working on competing products.

Hence, initial Zip support finally landed in Microsoft Plus! 95, which was an enhanced version of Windows 95, and it got better in Windows 98 and 2000.

If you find the bygone era of Windows and its apps interesting then you can read this story we covered recently wherein a talented geek painstakingly ported "thousands of apps" to Windows 95.

Source: Dave Plummer (X / Twitter)

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