Windows

Dinosaur Sighting: Microsoft Bob

If you think Vista was Microsoft's worst product ever, you've never seen Microsoft Bob. Bob was Microsoft's attempt to make computers easier to use in the 90's. Here's a look back.

If you think Vista was Microsoft's worst product ever, you've never seen Microsoft Bob. Bob was Microsoft's attempt to make computers easier to use in the 90s. Here's a look back.

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Microsoft gets a lot of abuse about Windows Vista. You'd think that Vista was the worst thing Microsoft ever created. In fact, Microsoft Bob was a much worse train wreck.

Microsoft released Bob in March 1995. It ran on both Windows 3.1 and Windows 95. Bob was an attempt by Microsoft to make Windows easier to use. The idea was that rather than confusing icons, folders, and random desktop icons, users would have a more "intuitive" desktop layout that resembled  a room in their house. Rather than cold icons, users could create custom things like chairs and computers that would refer to programs they used. Objects could be moved freely around the rooms so users could feel more at home.

To help make navigating the computer easier, Bob included "Personal Guides" who were known as Friends Of Bob. Think Clippy for your entire operating system. In reality, Personal Guides were the forerunners of Clippy and his ilk and performed the exact same function. Clippy was introduced with Office 97, but some Bob Personal Guides survived intact in other incarnations for a while. The main Personal Guide, Rover, lived on as a Search Assistant in Windows XP. The Dot survived through to Office 2003 as an Office Assistant.

Even though Microsoft Bob features lived on for a while, fortunately Bob itself died a quick and merciful death. Even though Vista might not have turned out the way many of us might have hoped, think how bad it could have been if Bob had survived as the main operating system interface!

Check out the Microsoft Bob Dinosaur Sighting Photo Gallery. You can take a look at Microsoft Bob and see exactly what it was like.

33 comments
gustheguidedog
gustheguidedog

OK enough, I've heard all the criticisms of this that I can take, I am Blind ( I use special software to help me use the computer)and I always found that Microsoft Bob was great to use with a screenreader, sure there were bits in the programme that made my screen reading software sit back and "take a short break" but essentially I found it to be great. Its a pity that the tech heads at Microsoft didn't tweak it instead of Vista which does not support my software. Can anyone provide me with a link so that I can download it for XP? bob.stoker@sky.com

BBPellet
BBPellet

Well, if it was Bill's Girlfriends project, we all know why she named it BOB! Right? (Battery Operated BoyFriend)

drdefcon
drdefcon

EEK, yes i rememnber, and i think i still have a copy ..... some place :-/ i think i also have windows 1.0 :-D

Derek Schauland
Derek Schauland

You should put up a Bob download so everyone can experience MS Bob first hand. Besides it can't be all that bad to have created Bob. I believe this project was the brainchild of Melinda French... and she went on to marry Bill G

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

It was a comic redneck takeoff of Bob that featured a shack instead of a house/room and had wonderfully rude sound effects. I still have a copy of Bob but I lost Bubba somewhere/when along the way.

seanferd
seanferd

I'm just so amused by Bob that I'm glad every time I see another article about it. There are a couple of good websites that will allow you to take an entire virtual tour of the program, otherwise I'd never have seen what Bob was all about. Even Packard Bell Navigator was better.

TCUDD
TCUDD

I still have the original CD it was so bad I saved it as a museum piece

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Microsoft has taken quite a bit of heat over Windows Vista, but is by far not the disaster that was Microsoft Bob. As I mentioned in Classics Rock http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/classic-tech/?p=152 Bob was Microsoft's attempt to make computers easier to use. Bob itself didn't last long, but many Bob features survived into Windows XP. Did you ever use Microsoft Bob? I wondered if anyone could give first hand accounts about it.

mamies
mamies

He is portrayed as a bit of a nerd isnt he, I bet he gets real nervous around women :D.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

That would be a good idea, but even though Microsoft isn't PROUD of Bob, it does still own the copyrights to it. I'm sure their lawyers would frown upon that.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

and Bill G. only supported it because it was his girlfriend's project. Just an unsubstantiated theory, you understand...

ososoftminerals
ososoftminerals

If anyone is interested in a copy of Bubba, it's available as a zip file at: www.osomin.com/bubba.zip The zip file includes a copy of VBRUN300.DLL. Put all files in a directory, then right click and drag bubba.exe to the desktop and drop it as a shortcut. The program will find its own files in the directory. It's completely harmless to your system. I've given permission for it to be hosted here, too, if the folks here want to post it. Take that, Bill! ;>}

seanferd
seanferd

I've wanted to see a working copy of Bob, but now I'd really rather see Bubba in action. Did Bubba have similar "functionality" to Bob, or was it more of a lightly coded joke?

eM DuBYaH
eM DuBYaH

It bummed me out when it disappeared, because I always wanted to have laughable bragging rights that I was an MCP in BOB. It died, and the exam was never created. ((sniffle))

seanferd
seanferd

http://winhistory.de/more/boblern/01.htm Learn Bob now. Actually, http://winhistory.de/ has a lot of good visuals of MS operating systems of yesteryear, and a whole lot more. It's German. but Bob isn't. Bob Lernprogramm! (I've just found another thing that has survived, or been resurrected from Bob. The language of the UAC prompt. "Are you sure you want to exit Bob calendar?")

mamies
mamies

You may say that vista is one of the worst things that microsoft has ever created along with Bob but who knows what these programs have (or in bobs case had) to offer. Look at 3.1, 95, 98, ME, NT and XP when they were first created they were all resource sucking, clumbsy operating systems. Look at the bad points about Vista, they are much the same. You wont hear people complain about XP to much anymore because microsoft redeemed themself their to make it a rather tough OS. Who know maybe the same will happen for the dreaded Vista. Also I dont think Vista is such a bad operating system as i have it dual booted at home with Kubuntu and it seems to run fine, although i have the machine to run it. Sorry Bob, cant stick up for you, theres not many good points for you except you tried

Jessie
Jessie

And we had to actually SUPPORT BoB. SUCH an annoying program... And so very very very very SILLY.

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

It was fully functional but I could be wrong. I'm going to try and find a copy.

seanferd
seanferd

As it wasn't installed on my system. As long as I don't click on the phone, cards, or typewriter and papers, it's just dandy. As Bubba sez: Don't poke yerself in the eye. I just had to click on everything the first time through, as the results are quite amusing. I also quite like the way the Bubba window zips off the desktop when exited. Overall, very cool. :)

ososoftminerals
ososoftminerals

Yeah, but I could have kept it from crashing on those errors with one line of code: On Error Resume Next I didn't do it, because those accessories would be, I thought, always in Windows. The code is gone forever, or I'd fire up an old Windows 3.1 machine and fix it. But, never mind. Bubba served its purpose just fine. I just went back into my copy, and added regedit.exe, and a couple of other useful utilities to the bookshelf in Bubba. Saves me a couple of seconds now and then.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

George Campbell dropped me an email about Bubba over the weekend. Im glad to see that he also responded to the thread in here as well. Thanks for dropping by George! If you'd like to host the code or make the program available for download on TechRepublic, we can make the space for you. :)

seanferd
seanferd

Pretty good for something that was written for Win 3.1, and as you say, over a 12 hour period. I had fully expected it to hang or crash, but it only does so when trying the broken shortcuts. That's pretty amazing, I think. Thanks for stopping by TR to comment. Your program and your comments are both appreciated. Take care. :)

seanferd
seanferd

I really enjoyed Bubba, especially after having a look at Bob. Thanks for that little gem of computer entertainment. It is a really cool bit of "joke code". I'm glad you still had it available on your site. Thanks again. :)

ososoftminerals
ososoftminerals

Well, I went up and installed Bubba on a Vista machine. Runs just as well as it does in XP. Still crashes on the telephone and the stack of papers, though. One thing it still does very well, though, is go to a DOS prompt, something that's not so easy to do in Vista these days. It also has a book in the bookshelf that calls the Control Panel instantly. Since all the blank books can be assigned to run whatever you like, I can see where accessing some hard to get to Windows functions might be worth doing in Bubba. Anyhow, thanks for resurrecting Bubba, you guys! George Campbell, Bubba author.

ososoftminerals
ososoftminerals

Well, since Bubba was written for Windows 3.1, in Visual Basic (3.0, I think), and written in just 12 hours, I didn't spend a lot of time in error handling. The Windows Communications application is gone, so clicking that link crashes, since it made a direct call to the program. At the time, I didn't care. Heck...I still don't. Still, you could create a shortcut to IE or whatever, and give it the name of the old Communications app, I suppose. Bubba was my poke at Bill Gates and the arrogance of Microsoft trying to sell something that was on the freeware level. Bob died, may he rest in peace. George Campbell, OsoSoft

seanferd
seanferd

Whenever I click on a "link" to a non-existent app, Bubba crashes. Somehow, that just adds something to the experience for me. :)

seanferd
seanferd

Although I have found a copy of MS Bob, and it does run under XP (*shudder* is right), some of the preset links to no-longer-extant Windows apps fail, of course. Sadly, Bob Email is unavailable, as I cannot sign up for the Bob Email service. :( So, in the interest of excess:

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Now there's a scary thought. I guess there's no reason why it wouldn't work. It's just basically a shell, but still.... *shudder*

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

Boy do I feel stupid. Only AFTER going to the site and downloading the file did I think to check my own archives. Sure enough, I still have the ORIGINAL zip file. Anyway, I 'installed' it and ran it under XP and it did indeed work. Fun stuff!

Nori Sarel
Nori Sarel

I wish I could have Bill look at me and then sigh... lol

seanferd
seanferd

Found the file, a story, creator's website. http://www.osomin.com/bubba.zip Found here under the Immortal Brigadier's posts http://forum.darwincentral.org/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=8268&p=211506 George Campbell's site: http://www.osomin.com Yup. Which leads me to tell about my largest prank, ever. When Microsoft Bob was about to be introduced, I was a software reviewer, and had my own shareware company, OsoSoft, with several useful products. Bob was a cosmic joke among reviewers, and it was beyond useless. The concept was an interface that looked like an office. You could click on objects on the interface to run software. Microsoft called it a "social interface." It was definitely Melinda's idea, and it was a really, really bad one. The only thing left of it is the little paperclip character in recent versions of Office. Well, I was on a trip with my wife to Comdex, and my brother-in-law, a commercial illustrator came along to the computer show. We started laughing about Microsoft Bob, and I came up with the idea of creating a satirical spoof of the program that was fully functional but a huge joke. I talked my brother-in-law into doing the interface image. Instead of a neat, tidy office space with objects to click on, I envisioned a sharecropper's cabin somewhere in the south. Once I had the image (which is shown below), I wrote the software than turned it into a Microsoft Bob workalike, with every bit of functionality buillt into Bob. Clicking on the funky typewriter started Word or Notepad. Clicking on the old telephone ran the Windows communications software, and so on. The broken TV, if clicked on, had an animated bicyclist that rode across the screen. Click on the cards to run Solitaire, or the calendar to run whatever scheduling program Microsoft had at the time. The user could even program books in the bookshelf to run other programs. It was a fully functional user interface. It even had a mascot, like Bob, but mine was an armadillo (seen in the lower right corner). Clicking on it brought up a box with a bit of homespun advice. Clicking on another object brought up a voice, saying another bit of advice, spoken in a deep Southern accent. Everything on the screen did something...even the blank parts. The name of this interface? OsoSoft Bubba, of course. The whole thing took my BIL about 12 hours to design, and me about 12 hours to code. That's how simple Microsoft Bob was. Instead of a "social interface," Bubba was a "sociable interface." Now, I had a lot of friends in the computer journalism field. So, I quickly emailed copies of Bubba to all of them, about two weeks after that Comdex. I also posted the program, as freeware, on BBS systems and on Compuserve and Genie. This was 1994 or 1995...I can't remember. Well, Dan Gillmor, of the San Jose Mercury News, ran an article with a color screen shot of Bubba on the front page of the Saturday Business Section of the paper. Other writers pimped the parody...all over the world. Before the program aged out of existance, it had hundreds of thousands of downloads, and Microsoft Bob just disappeared into oblivion. Best of all, the program found its way to Microsoft's interal computer system, and I heard from several sources that it was running as the desktop shell on many employee computers in Redmond. When Windows 95 was about to appear, Microsoft tested a whole raft of applications for compatibility, and had a published list of them. Among them, and the only free program listed, was OsoSoft Bubba. I still have a copy of it on my Windows XP machine, and it still mostly works, but it's long gone from the Internet. I did find a copy a couple of years ago, but haven't been able to locate one since, and that's OK, since it isn't really completely compatible with current versions of Windows. A search for OsoSoft Bubba still brings up a few hits. Truly, it was my biggest prank, and one of my last big ones. I continued to review Microsoft products for several years after that, and never once got any flak from Microsoft for pulling that prank, even though they knew exactly who did it. At a press event at a later Comdex, Bill Gates ran into me at a sushi table. He just looked at me, sighed, and shook his head. Here's Bubba's Interface: OK, I put BUBBA.ZIP up, just in case anyone wants to look at it. Go to: http://www.osomin.com/bubba.zip Save the file, then unzip it into a directory of its own. Right click and drag BUBBA.EXE to the desktop, then drop it as a shortcut. The program will find its own files in the directory...no problem. It will run in any version of Windows, but is limited to a 640x480 window. It was written for Windows 3.1. Some features no longer work, and the program will simply exit on the error, but most of the stuff still works OK. The program is harmless, I guarantee, to all Windows versions. Have fun, if it interests you. Bubba is the program that ate Microsoft Bob. _________________ Natura non facit saltum, and neither do I. I'm too darned old. __________________________________________ Pretty cool. Thanks for the lead. It was a PITA to find, but worth it, even just for the story. :)