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  • Microsoft Bob. That name always confused me, who calls their software Bob? Mid-90s

  • Microsoft, that's who. But the question I really want to answer today though is:

  • was Microsoft Bob really that bad? I mean the response I got from people even

  • after posting one vague tweet showing Bob kind of says it all. It's one of the

  • most maligned Microsoft products ever and has been the

  • butt of so many jokes over the years that I don't know if it's deserved or if

  • it's just an easy target for hyperbole. But I do wonder how many people today

  • that are saying these things have actually used it. Heck I've never even

  • used it myself. It was introduced and discontinued so quickly that I don't

  • even remember seeing it on store shelves. All I knew going into this video was

  • that Microsoft Bob was introduced in 1995 to serve as a replacement for the

  • Windows program manager environment, mimicking the layout of a house instead

  • of the more abstract desktop concept. And I'd always heard it was the origin of

  • some of the most notorious things in tech including Clippy and Comic Sans.

  • Quite the legacy if true. And now it's finally time to find out.

  • Welcome to the Microsoft Bob experience on LGR! First off, big thanks to Jason and

  • Robert for sending several of the items you'll be seeing in this video. Heh,

  • I wonder if Robert goes by Bob, that'd be fantastic.

  • Anyway I ended up with two boxed copies of Microsoft Bob over the years and it

  • amuses me that each of them have this sticker saying it's a "promotional sample

  • not for resale." Perhaps it should have stayed that way and never hit retail in

  • the first place. Still if the box is any indication Microsoft sure was betting on

  • Bob, calling it "the hard working easygoing software everyone will use."

  • Even underlined it for good measure. Ballsy. Microsoft were so sure this was

  • going to be a hit that they planned their own Bob ecosystem with its own

  • software. Give a nice warm greetings to Great Greetings, the one and only piece

  • of software released exclusively for use with Microsoft Bob. Man this has to be

  • one of the single lowest-selling products in Microsoft history, I can't

  • imagine a more surefire death knell for a program that having Microsoft Bob as

  • the main requirement. And they even published a book authored

  • by Barbara Rowley called "At Home With Microsoft Bob: Ideas and Activities For

  • Getting the Most From Your Home PC." It's a 200-page tome filled with all the

  • features and potential uses for Bob, even though the box for the program itself

  • proudly proclaimed the software was so helpful you didn't need a manual at all.

  • Which was kind of true in a self-fulfilling prophecy kind of way,

  • because Bob didn't come with a manual inside the box. Instead you got a bunch

  • of Microsoft-y paperwork like tech support cards and product license

  • agreements, and even a sheet of Bob stickers. Hmm curiously mine were never

  • used I wonder what possible reason there

  • could be for that. You also get, wow, a copy of the premier issue of "Bob

  • Magazine!" Haha, Microsoft, jumping the gun much? As if there'd ever be a second issue. So

  • yeah while there is not a proper manual this pseudo magazine serves the same

  • purpose, letting you know the core features of Bob and how to start

  • troubleshooting when things inevitably go wrong. Alright well enough of this

  • stuff let's get Bob installed with Microsoft Windows. And I'm gonna go with

  • version 3.1 here since that is what it was initially made to work with. And

  • surprisingly there are no voodoo rituals or weird sacrifices you have to make in

  • order to get Bob installed. It's just a standard application really, and with a

  • standard application installation process. You just put in your name and

  • install away. Once that's done you just open it like

  • any other application because that's really what it is: a piece of software

  • you install to Windows that runs like any other piece of software for Windows.

  • It's just this one is meant to replace Windows in terms of the look and feel.

  • And you get that straight away with the first screen of Bob here, this red door

  • to your incoming virtual house. Knock on the door and Rover there will ask you

  • your name. So yeah the first thing that you do is input all of your information

  • one by one, like your name, your hometown, birthday, y'know whatever else you want to

  • put in there. So it will automatically fill that out as you use Bob's

  • applications. Once that's done Rover will ask you what

  • you want your default private room to be. It doesn't actually let you see them, you

  • just kind of choose whichever one sounds the best.

  • And then the rest of the rooms in the house will become shared rooms that

  • anyone using Bob can access without a password. But your private room is yours.

  • After that's done you can waltz on inside and say hello to your brand-new

  • Microsoft Bob house! It's kind of garish, very yellow, but this is your house. And Rover

  • then asks you if you want to go on the tour, and if you do you will immediately

  • start to see the problems with Microsoft Bob sort of boiling to the

  • surface. And then it really starts with these assistants like Rover. The whole

  • idea is that they're supposed to make it easier and show you what to do, step by

  • step, but it just sort of blasts you with a bunch of text and boxes. You just click

  • "next, next, next" and yeah that's not a very enjoyable interactive tutorial.

  • What's different from this and a manual? Not a whole lot.

  • Once the tutorial is over with you can really see what Bob is all about, just by

  • looking at this first room with all the labels turned on. All sorts of objects

  • that are laid out here can be clicked on and interacted with to do different

  • things that Bob has available. For instance there is the Bob Clock ,and this

  • is an alarm clock. It lets you set alarms, naturally. How intuitive. The whole point

  • is that you don't have to find the clock application somewhere in your computer,

  • you can just think "Hey look there's a clock," click on it, it looks like a clock,

  • it's a clock. That's what the Microsoft Bob philosophy is all about. And not

  • everything is going to be some interactive application-y kind of

  • thing, there are plenty of objects in here that are just objects. Like these

  • flower vases, yeah, I mean you plop those in there and put them anywhere you want.

  • Move them, resize them, change where they are in terms of layers. It works almost

  • exactly the same as any contemporary paint, or print, or image manipulation

  • program. And it doesn't just stop with objects, you can also place completely

  • different rooms in the house. Inside, outside, attics, kids rooms, kitchens

  • mouse holes, safe rooms, all sorts of things. Each one of them with four

  • different design styles and aesthetics. Ya got castle, contemporary, postmodern, and

  • retro. And functionally every single one of these are identical but if you want

  • to customize the aesthetic of your Microsoft Bob house you can do that. And you

  • know what I really like this! And that's now, I certainly would have enjoyed this

  • back then. As someone who enjoys games like The Sims or pretty much

  • anything that lets you customize a home or a virtual space -- and even those

  • architectural programs that were so popular in the 90s -- I enjoy this kind of

  • stuff. And the fact that Microsoft Bob has so many different objects and rooms

  • that you can customize, I mean. I know they're all effectively the same and it

  • doesn't really do anything, but it just gets my imagination going and I like

  • this kind of thing. And look at all the chairs,

  • Maxis would approve! And in terms of what the Microsoft Bob competitors were doing

  • at the time -- and yes there were quite a few of these overlays and user

  • interfaces for things to make your computer not look like a computer --

  • Microsoft Bob does it pretty darn well. There's a lot of customization here, not

  • just the rooms and the objects and all that stuff, but you can even customize

  • your assistant, each of them with their own personalities and such. Like Blythe

  • the firefly, Chaos the cat, Hopper the rabbit, Java the lizard thing, Orby the

  • planet, Rover the rover dog. And yeah that is by the way the same Rover that is in

  • Windows XP search function. Microsoft held on to some of these guys for a long

  • time. Anyway you also got Ruby the pirate parrot, Scuzz the rabid rat -- he's pretty

  • much my favorite one, he's just a sarcastic jerk, not very helpful at all.

  • He's just like "yeah maybe I'll help you I don't know, give me five bucks." Much

  • more interesting than Shelly the turtle or Digger the worm. Certainly more so

  • than the Speaker, it's just a guide that doesn't have any personality at all. And

  • if you want no guide and kind of defeat half the point of Microsoft Bob then you

  • can just choose the invisible one and figure things out yourself. But yeah

  • other than the customization of all this stuff the main point of Microsoft Bob is

  • that it has a ton of built-in applications. We'll start here with the

  • Bob Household Manager and this is, well. It's really just a list program. You

  • choose a category of what kind of list you want to keep track of and it will

  • set up a bunch of different things for you in terms of whatever you've chosen.

  • Shopping lists, gift lists, vacation itineraries, personal growth goal lists,

  • it's all here and they're all pretty much the same. Next up is the Bob

  • Financial Guide and this one-- oh. It has an error, something's wrong with the

  • database, can't be opened... Yeah, blue screens of death are not

  • uncommon with Microsoft Bob, at least in my experience. Maybe the some of this has

  • to do with the systems I was running it on but yeah. I had to reinstall Bob every

  • time it happened, the internal database just kept corrupting itself and I had to

  • go through this process three or four times.

  • Pretty darn annoying but anyway, once I got it working again yeah, let's get back

  • to that Bob Financial Guide we were trying to open. And this is uh, well it's

  • pretty much just another list program. It gives you a bunch of ideas and it fills

  • in some stuff for you automatically but yeah, you're just typing in lists. Pretty

  • darn handy for getting out my thoughts regarding what I'm doing with my life

  • with this video. A much more useful program that it came with was Bob Email.

  • This not only let you have an @Bob.com email domain, oh my how desirable...

  • But it was also just a dedicated email product at a time before Microsoft

  • Outlook was a thing. I mean it *was* a thing, it just wasn't included in Office

  • yet. Unfortunately it relied on you having an MCI service ID in order to use

  • it so I can't do anything with it here. But yeah it's an email program and it

  • worked with all the other Microsoft Bob stuff so that was probably convenient.

  • Also quite convenient and useful is the Letter Writer for Bob. Are you seeing a

  • pattern here? This is pretty much all like, dumbed-down Microsoft Office,

  • Microsoft Works kind of stuff. But yeah anyway, the letter writer wasn't just

  • about writing letters but it also helps you automate a lot of the process

  • depending on what you want to do. Especially if you wanted to make a mass

  • amount of letters or stationery or cards or whatever. You select the type of thing

  • that you want and the basic content of it and it will fill out a whole lot of

  • things. In fact it will also give you a massive amount of addresses that it has

  • built in, for companies and services, and magazines, and politicians and all

  • sorts of people. So if you wanted to send out a mass letter about "the truth of

  • Microsoft Bob" in 1994 this was a great way to do it. And when you're done you

  • can print it out yourself or send it over email. Another program that it comes

  • with, uh, "program..." is the Microsoft Bob Balloon. It just sort of floats around

  • and you can pop it. That's a thing. Next up is the Bob Address Book and this is

  • pretty self-explanatory. You type in your addresses and it works with all of the

  • other programs in Bob and keeps track of the people that

  • you know and your contacts and whatnot. So that you can access them directly

  • through here or you can access them through the other built-in programs like

  • your letters and such. There's also the Bob Checkbook program and this is one

  • of those programs that gets rid of your chosen assistant and brings in a