Did You Know: The Real Story Behind Windows XP's Bliss Walpaper
Did You Know: The Real Story Behind Windows XP’s Bliss Walpaper

April 08, 2014: Microsoft officially announced that they will no longer support Windows XP from this day, which was probably the most popular and longest living operating system. Whoever, wherever, whenever used Windows XP, probably they all know about the ‘Bliss’ Wallpaper: XP’s most recognized quality that came stock on every machine. Captured by photographer Charles O’Rear, the iconic image has been deemed the most viewed image in the world, despite the exact numbers of XP sales being unknown. Recently an interview of the photographer has been published. Lets have an insightful look at the photographer behind the image, the landscape he captured, and what made this particular photo so iconic.

This is probably the most viewed image since it was the official desktop wallpaper of Windows XP from 2001. There was an ample amount of question behind this image. Was this an original photo? Was this Photoshop-ed? Or does such a beautiful place really exist out there? If yes so took it? And where it was taken?

Charles told the real story behind this and assured it was neither Photoshop-ed nor made in Art-Studio. Rather it was taken in a beautiful green valley somewhere in north of San Francisco.

“Hey Guys, Welcome to the land of Bliss!” Charles exclaimed.

This photograph was actually clicked in Napa Valley, North of San Francisco Bay. In this place during rain, the grasses turn green. “…and I know the chances of finding the beautiful hill sides are really good. I’m gonna be more prepared, I am gonna be more alert. I am gonna be more focused to paying attention to what might happen,” He cherished those time.

Every Friday afternoon Charles used to visit his girlfriend near San Francisco. During January one day while driving through the windy country road, he found the perfect landscape to capture. “… My God, The grass is perfect, its green, the sun is out, some clouds… I kind of think that may be it wasn’t just perfect just what I made the photograph. It could have been no clouds. By the time I park, by the time I set my camera up, the clouds might have come in. Because everything changed so quickly at that point…” He described.

Totally Charles clicked 4 photographs with his Mamiya RZ67 camera and developed in Fuzi Film. “The lenses of RZ67 were just remarkable….made the difference, I think it helped the ‘Bliss’ photograph standout even more.” He told.

He in fact had know idea what Microsoft guys were looking for at that moment. When Microsoft decided they wanted to use this photograph they were looking at the computer screen at about year 2001. The resolution probably was not that good. It was a CRT, colors were probably not good, when they selected that photo, they wanted to own it at once. They wanted to have that original photograph. Charles didn’t mention the actual amount what Microsoft paid for the photograph. “…So we contacted the usual kinds of courier: like Federal Express or whoever else and they said what was the value of that and when I told them, the said no we won’t accept it. We tried 2/3 ways to send it. So contacted Microsoft and said we can’t put the value on this then you put on it. They said, well we are sending you a plane ticket, please bring it to us…” He was very happy while telling this.

At that moment no body had any idea that Windows XP would have such success it had. “…It is everywhere we all know, …I have seen it in the situation room in the white house…there’s Windows XP. …I have seen it in Church of the Kremlin…The background was Windows XP. Its around us,” We noticed his joyful smile.

“…I have a theory, that anybody now from age 15 on for the rest of the life will remember this photograph. So, now I am in secondary school, I am 15 years old, that is on my computer at school. I go on through college, the work world, and now I am 50 years old, I’m 70 years old, and I have seen the image somewhere, I will not remember where I saw it, but I will remember it,” He said.

Now here the controversy came into place. Several years after Windows XP came out, Charles got an email probably from the engineering stuff that they had a survey on going about the origin of the photo and there most of the people thought it was Photoshop-ed. Another group of people thought that the photo was real and it was taken not far from Microsoft’s headquarters here in Seattle, Washington. But he later replied back to them that it was real, it was not Photoshop-ed and it was taken near his home in the north of San Francisco. WYSIWYG!

He took all the interview crew to the place where the photograph was made beside the road. “…is actually one of the most dangerous roads in all of our area. There are more accidents because the speed limit is fast, the road is windy, people are in a hurry, there is no side to pull off, there are more police patrolling in that area of the high way,” He said. He was very hopeful that it could be more dramatic at that moment: The green would be greener, the sky would be bluer.

The Photograph of the same place they clicked right after the interview with Charles

The Photograph of the same place they clicked right after the interview with Charles

Superimposing of the photograph above and the original 'Bliss'

Superimposing of the photograph above and the original ‘Bliss’

The original Bliss photograph

The original Bliss photograph

“…The XP’s gonna go away. The photograph will not be seen as much I have seen it in last 12-13 years. Do I lose sleep over there? N-o-o-o-o-o, I think it had a wonderful ride. I am just pleased to see it out there, thrilled to know that people have pleasure to look into that, to look into the photograph that I have made. No, I will not be disappointed, I will not be sad.” That’s the spirit he has got.

“…But I did call Microsoft to give them my phone number hoping they would call so that we get another photograph for Windows 8. But the phone hasn’t rang, I don’t know what happened. That’s what I was hoping for,” Now we see the disappointment in his voice.

Anyway thank you Charles O’Rear for giving us the wonderful story. Here is the full interview with him.

About the author

Scientific History Blog Writer • Art enthusiast and Illustrator • Amateur Photographer • Biker and Hiker • Beer Enthusiast • Electrical Engineer • Chicago

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