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Twenty years after a rolling green hill and blue sky showed up as the default desktop wallpaper image for Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system, the search for “Bliss” is still an intriguing one.
For those who haven’t previously geeked out on a photograph that’s probably been viewed by a billion people, Bliss hill is a real place in California’s wine country north of San Francisco. And the location and story behind it has been tracked down before in the years since XP was released in October 2001 and retired in 2014.
But SFGate Editor Grant Marek is the latest to run to the hills — located here on Google Maps — and get a glimpse of the location today and speak to the man who captured the iconic, unedited stock photo.
Turns out Windows XP’s iconic default desktop wallpaper is actually a photo of a real life hill in the Bay Area. I went and found the hill, plus the amazing 79-year-old man who took the photo. My latest for @SFGate: https://t.co/D1gohQAYO0
In a story this week, Marek spoke to onetime National Geographic photographer Charles O’Rear, who stopped on a drive along a two-lane roadway to snap the green hillside back in 1996. Some of the fun details include how Marek uploaded the photo at the time to a stock photo agency he helped co-found. Two years later the agency was acquired by another stock photo agency that was regularly used by Microsoft, Marek wrote. The software giant found O’Rear’s hill shot, reportedly paid in the low six figures for all rights to it, and then made it Windows XP’s default desktop wallpaper.
More than 400 million copies of Windows XP were sold globally in the first five years of its release, according to TechRadar.
O’Rear told Marek he doesn’t use Windows and hasn’t for a long time because he “got hooked on Apple.” And the grassy hillside became a vineyard a couple years after he shot it.
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News – Search for software ‘Bliss’: Iconic desktop image from Microsoft’s Windows XP still lures hill seekers