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The Windows XP Screensavers

Although my favorite individual Windows screensaver is 3D Maze, my favorite set of screensavers, and the one which I am able to remember the most clearly, is the one that comes included with Windows XP. Of the 11 bundled with the OS, my two favorites are definitely 3D FlowerBox and 3D Pipes—I found them especially cool, and have distinct memories of staring at my computer monitor with complete attention, watching with wonder as the behavior of both, rather than being predetermined, instead appeared to be randomly generated on-the-fly each time they played. During various points of the 2000s I had one or the other set as my computer's screensaver, though I also vaguely recall changing it on occasion to some others amongst the remaining nine.

I had definitely become acquainted with this specific group of screensavers by 2003, which is the year I got my first Windows XP desktop computer, but it's pretty unlikely that I did not once come across any of these 11 screensavers before then. Windows XP was released in 2001, and hence it is entirely possible that I could have seen one or more of these screensavers prior to my acquisition of my Windows XP computer—e.g., while it was playing on the screen of some computer monitor in a public place. In fact, a great number of my memories concerning these screensavers are not of viewing them on my own computer, but rather on the screens of other computers in whatever place outside of my house that I happened to be in at the time.

Throughout the 2000s—and even into the early 2010s—I would see these screensavers (especially 3D FlowerBox, 3D Pipes, Starfield, and Windows XP) playing on the monitors of the computers at the library, at the doctor's and dentist's office, throughout my school (which, for some reason, seemed quite fond of Starfield in particular), and at the houses of my friends and extended family, to name a few locations. That I encountered them so frequently was simply a reminder of the ubiquity of Windows XP during this time, back when nearly every PC, whether in a home, office, or school environment, ran the same Microsoft OS with the same collection of screensavers. Windows XP drove the PC world in those days, and seeing its screensavers playing on nearly every computer monitor I came across was merely one indicator among many of its dominance during the 2000s, and was, in a way, quite calming and reassuring for me, for it meant that most of the rest of the world was running the same operating system that I myself used at home. Alas, these days, as I notice more and more individuals, organizations, and places using Mac and Linux—even on their PCs—I cannot help but feel even stronger nostalgia for a time when Microsoft's grasp on personal computing, via Windows XP, was almost absolute.

When in September/October 2009 I upgraded to Windows 7, I was quite disappointed to learn that most of the screensavers which had been included with Windows XP (including 3D FlowerBox and 3D Pipes) had been removed, and replaced with far less interesting options. Though initially I tried out one or two of these new screensavers, pretty soon I grew bored of them—I found them unspectacular and forgettable when compared to some of the ones that had been bundled with Windows XP—and for some years thereafter had screensavers disabled entirely on my computer. (Unfortunately, during those years it never occurred to me to try to download screensavers that had not been already pre-installed on my computer; at that time I was under the mistaken impression that it was not possible to download an old screensaver and configure it so that it would run properly on a newer version of Windows.) It felt to me like Microsoft had devoted far less effort, care, and imagination towards the screensavers included with Windows 7 than they had with those included in Windows XP, and that in the former case they had been an afterthought (which, to some degree, they probably were; by 2009 there was little practical use for screensavers, CRT monitors having declined in use considerably) rather than an important component of the OS; as I doubt that any set of screensavers pre-installed in subsequent versions of Windows received the same level of attention as those included with Windows XP, it seems that the ones bundled with that OS were the last good collection ever produced by Microsoft.

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This page last modified on 10 May 2021.