This month in tech history: 31 March 1995 - Bob is born

At CES in January 1995, Bill Gates announced Microsoft Bob. An early personal assistant, Bob was intended to help guide novice computer users through some basic Windows tasks, thanks to a virtual ‘house’ with rooms, doors, and cartoon assistants. You logged in by clicking on a door knocker, then different rooms within the house contained decorations and furniture, as well as icons representing applications, for example a clock for the calendar, pen and paper for the word processor. Bob allowed you to customise the house, with full control over decorating the rooms and changing their themes, adding or removing them, and changing the destinations of the doors.


Bob had 17 different ‘friends’ to help you out, each of which had a unique personality. The default assistant was Rover “an easygoing sort of pup” who could “dig up information and fetch whatever you need”.


Released just as the internet was getting popular, Bob also offered basic email via MCI Mail. The dial-up account cost $5.00 per month and allowed the user to send up to 15 emails per month, with additional emails charged at 45 cents. Emails were limited to 5000 characters.

Comic Sans, considered by some as the worst font of all time, was created exclusively for Bob, though not actually used in the software.

Microsoft was incredibly popular in 1995. Bob wasn’t. In fact, it was the first highly visible flop from Microsoft, though not the last. Part of the problem was the system requirements - many computers of the day just weren’t up to it. And Bob was expensive, with an initial sale price of almost $100.

Bob was “killed off” only a year after his birth, but, (unfortunately some would say), many of the ideas that went into Bob re-emerged as “Clippy”. He wasn’t popular either


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Kate Hoy

Kate Hoy is Editor of IDG Connect

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