Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

The story of the Windows XP 'Bliss' desktop theme — and what it looks like today

Mark Hachman | April 9, 2014
It's not too far-fetched to believe that a billion people have viewed the "Bliss" image that defines the desktop view of Windows XP, the seminal OS that Microsoft is retiring Tuesday. But you'd barely notice the real-world "Bliss" scene if you stepped out of your car, and gazed at it today.

At the bottom of the hill, you'll need to walk back and forth until you find the right vantage point. As you'll see in my photos, I never quite found a way to eliminate the ridge in the background.

What you'll quickly discover, however, is that the verdant green hills have given way to the region's cash crop: wine. And the grapes used to make them.The only grasses are those at the bottom of a steep embankment, growing next to rosebushes that are being established next to the fence. Unfortunately, the presence of farm equipment — and a house that has been built onto the back side of the hill — robs the new "Bliss" view of its natural beauty. But as you already know from the drive, those green vistas are just a few hundred yards away.

O'Rear swears the original Bliss photo appears as his camera caught it. "Sorry, everybody, it's the real deal," he said. "Nothing was altered."

O'Rear himself has his own, separate technology connections. He helped pioneer National Geographic's technology coverage. It's his hand, he said, holding a Motorola 68000 chip on the cover of the Oct. 1982 cover of the magazine. He shot photos for other stories on advanced materials, as well as a coffee table book on Silicon Valley. But "Bliss" remains his most famous work. And, most likely, "Bliss" will remain his most famous work forever.

"I got an email from someone at Microsoft — I suspect it was the engineering department — saying, We have a contest going about that photograph,'" O'Rear said. "Most of us think it was Photoshopped. Some of us think it was taken out in eastern Washington in the Palouse area. Tell us about it.' I wrote back and said, Sorry, it's the real deal. It was all there. The clouds were there, the green grass was there and the blue sky."

"So the next week I got a 100 8-by-10s from them saying Please autograph them and send them back."

But as Microsoft continues to rework Windows, so too do the owners of the vineyard. A dozen years on, "Bliss" is almost unrecognizable. O'Rear said he used to know the landowners, but they sold to a new owner a couple of years ago. And time marches on.


Previous Page  1  2 

Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.