Many an office worker has quietly finished a round of computer solitaire. Although seemingly a waste of time, this game actually had a secret purpose.
An long article from Slate magazine about the addictive nature of the electronic pasttime also explains its origin:
Microsoft executives wanted Windows Solitaire “to soothe people intimidated by the operating system.” Solitaire proved particularly useful in teaching neophytes how to use the mouse. When Microsoft first preloaded solitaire as part of 1990′s Windows 3.0, clicking and pointing weren’t yet second nature. By dragging and dropping cards, newbies developed the mousing fluency required to use every other Windows program. (The game’s pedagogical elements were also a handy cover story. When a Minnesota state legislator got caught playing during a 1995 debate on education funding, she claimed she was merely doing “homework to improve her mouse dexterity.”)
Solitaire helped acquaint users with Windows.
You thought you were burning away years of your life pointing, clicking and dragging. But in truth, you were training. You were mastering how to use the mouse in an era where most people thought “scrollwork” was what artisans did when carving tiny designs into ivory.
Failure is the secret to success. Like The Karate Kid, computer solitaire was a version of “wax on, wax off” that taught us all skills we didn’t know we needed. But in this case, the sneaky trick was seemingly less productive and lots more fun. Sometimes, we need to be tricked in order to master a new technique. Sometimes, there’s a secret purpose to something innocuous. Sometimes, we need to do what seems like wasting time in order to save time later.