The story of the Home windows XP ‘Bliss’ desktop theme—and what it seems to be like at this time

Editor’s Notice: PCWorld initially printed this story in 2014. This 12 months, 2021, marks the twenty fifth anniversary of Charles O’Rear’s iconic picture in 1996, which turned the premise of the Home windows XP desktop wallpaper. The vineyards are nonetheless there at this time.

It’s not too far-fetched to consider {that a} billion individuals have seen the “Bliss” picture that defines the desktop view of Home windows XP, the seminal OS that Microsoft is retiring Tuesday. However you’d barely discover the real-world “Bliss” scene when you stepped out of your automobile and gazed at it at this time.

Driving wherever in California’s wine nation may be treacherous. Roads curve backwards and forwards, nicely, drunkenly. Bicyclists are widespread, and the following bend might conceal an entrance to one in every of Napa’s most interesting wineries, a tour group jaywalking throughout the street, or perhaps a couple on horseback, exploring the world.

windows xp bliss desktop image PCWorld

A Home windows XP desktop, with the “Bliss” picture within the background.

In 1998, photographer Charles “Chuck” O’Rear was driving from Sonoma County by means of Napa on his technique to Marin County. His mission was to satisfy Daphne, the lady who ultimately turned his spouse. In January, as most California natives know, the rains come, and the hills explode into inexperienced for just a few months earlier than the withering summer time warmth browns them as soon as once more.  

O’Rear, a 25-year veteran of National Geographic, drove down the street, then pulled over. That stretch of Freeway 12 is slender and windy, with solely a slender shoulder for stopping one’s automobile. On the backside of a steep embankment is a barbed-wire fence. And in 1998, when O’Rear took his well-known “Bliss” picture, all he might see was an emerald-green hill, a ridge behind it, and some puffy clouds. 

“I bought out, took a few footage, and saved on going,” he advised PCWorld in an interview on Monday. “And the remainder is historical past.”

Windows XP Bliss 2014 Mark Hachman

What the “Bliss” web site seems to be like, at this time.

Quick-forward to the 12 months 2000. Microsoft was about to launch Home windows XP. The corporate had designed the brand new working system with the soundness of its company OS, Home windows 2000, and the buyer options of Home windows 98 and Home windows ME. O’Rear was one of many first photographers to make use of a service known as Corbis to digitize and license his images. And Corbis was owned by Microsoft’s chief govt on the time, Invoice Gates.

“What number of footage they checked out, I don’t know,” O’Rear stated. However what he did do was hop on an airplane with the unique transparency and settle for a hefty test for his work. O’Rear can’t disclose the quantity, however he stated it might be an appropriate quantity again then—and stays so at this time.

Learn how to discover the location

Since then, the placement of the “Bliss” picture has been disclosed: about here, on Freeway 12 (overlapping with Hwy 121) in Sonoma County. For those who’re driving from Napa to Sonoma, it’s little greater than a mile or so previous the magnificent Domaine Carneros. The most secure technique to go to the spot is to discover a spot on the town to park, then hike again. However an alternate is to discover a place to show round, then park subsequent to a name field whereas driving east to Sonoma. Then rigorously stroll again 1 / 4 mile or so, crossing the freeway solely when no vehicles are coming. It’s a busy, busy street. You’ve been warned.

On the backside of the hill, you’ll have to stroll backwards and forwards till you discover the appropriate vantage level. As you’ll see in my images, I by no means fairly discovered a technique to get rid of the ridge within the background.

What you’ll shortly uncover, nonetheless, is that the verdant inexperienced hills have given technique to the area’s money crop: wine. And the grapes used to make them.The one grasses are these on the backside of a steep embankment, rising subsequent to rosebushes which are being established subsequent to the fence. Sadly, the presence of farm tools—and a home that has been constructed onto the again aspect of the hill—robs the brand new “Bliss” view of its pure magnificence. However as you already know from the drive, these inexperienced vistas are just some hundred yards away.

Sonoma County hillside Mark Hachman

If the 2014 model of “Bliss” isn’t your factor, extra verdant vistas are only a quick stroll away.

O’Rear swears the unique Bliss picture seems as his digicam caught it. “Sorry, everyone, it’s the true deal,” he stated. “Nothing was altered.”

O’Rear himself has his personal, separate know-how connections. He helped pioneer Nationwide Geographic’s know-how protection. It’s his hand, he stated, holding a Motorola 68000 chip on the duvet of the Oct. 1982 cowl of the journal. He shot images for different tales on superior supplies, in addition to a espresso desk e-book on Silicon Valley. However “Bliss” stays his most well-known work. And, almost certainly, “Bliss” will stay his most well-known work perpetually.

“I bought an e-mail from somebody at Microsoft—I believe it was the engineering division—saying, ‘We’ve a contest going about that {photograph},’” O’Rear stated. “‘Most of us assume it was Photoshopped. A few of us assume it was taken out in jap Washington within the Palouse space. Inform us about it.’ I wrote again and stated, ‘Sorry, it’s the true deal. It was all there. The clouds have been there, the inexperienced grass was there and the blue sky.”

“So the following week I bought a 100 8-by-10s from them saying ‘Please autograph them and ship them again.”

However as Microsoft continues to remodel Home windows, so, too, do the homeowners of the winery. Sixteen years later, “Bliss” is nearly unrecognizable. O’Rear stated he used to know the landowners, however they offered to a brand new proprietor a few years in the past. And time marches on.

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