When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Here’s how it works.

We now know how and why Microsoft added the popular 3D Pipes screensaver to Windows

3d pipes

Back in the 1990s, Microsoft released a number of screen savers for its Windows operating systems. One of the most popular was 3D Pipes. It generated a random series of 3D pipes, all interconnected with each other, in various colors that filled the screen when it wasn't in use.

This week, we finally got some info on how 3D Pipes and other Windows screen savers were created. Former Microsoft developer Raymond Chen wrote a new entry in his The Old New Thing blog, which explained the origins of the screen saver.

Chen says an unnamed friend of his who worked on the Windows OpenGL team in the mid-1990s told him they had put in hardware acceleration support for the API. Unfortunately, they didn't have a way to show off what that support could do for graphics at that time.

The problem was that Microsoft was getting close to releasing Windows NT 3.5. The OpenGL team wanted to have a way for OS users to see the hardware acceleration demoed, but at the same time, they didn't want to risk the stability of Windows NT 3.5 at that stage of development.

Chen said his friend came up with the idea of showing off OpenGL effects with a screensaver. That way, if there were any problems with the product after Windows NT 3.5 shipped, Microsoft could simply tell users not to use that OpenGL screensaver.

The team members decided to make it a contest among the OpenGL team. Members could create a screensaver and then vote on their favorites. The winning one would be put into Windows NT 3.5. There's no word from Chen's blog on which developer or developers on the team came up with 3D Pipes, but it had to compete with other screensavers like 3D Text, 3D Maze, and 3D Flying Objects.

Chen then writes:

By a stroke of luck, one of the people to see these new screen savers was a member of the marketing team who tried them out the night before an already-scheduled visit in New York City with a major computer industry magazine. He loved them and wrote back, “You can call off the vote. We’re adding all of them to the product!”

The rest is history. While the other screensaver made it into Windows NT 3.5, 3D Pipes became the clear favorite among office workers who used the OS on the PC. It was later added to Windows 95, and it was included in every major Windows operating system for a number of years. However, the company decided to remove it for the release of Windows Vista. Despite that, 3D Pipes remain one of the most iconic Windows bits.

Report a problem with article
Galaxy Z Fold6 leaked hero
Next Article

Leaked Samsung Galaxy Z Fold6 US pricing suggests a $100 price hike over its predecessors

geekom xt12 pro screenshots
Previous Article

GEEKOM XT12 Pro with Intel Core i9 is down $150 in the U.S. and £150 off in the U.K.

Join the conversation!

Login or Sign Up to read and post a comment.

26 Comments - Add comment