The History of Solitaire

Victorian Woman Playing SolitaireThe origins of solitaire are unknown. Some have speculated that the fanciful layouts in solitaire originated with the layouts of tarot cards, long used for divination and fortune-telling. The first printed references appeared in the late 1700's in northern Europe, and the game arrived in France in the early 1800's. Napolean Bonaparte was reported to have spent time playing the game during his exile at St. Helena in 1816, and solitaire (or patience as it is knonw in Europe) became a popular pastime among the French population soon thereafter. Many of the terms used in solitaire (e.g. tableau) and indeed many names of solitaire games (e.g. Rouge et Noir, La Belle Lucie, Coquette, etc.) are of French origin, and many of the early books on the subject are from France.

The earliest English publications include Lady Codogan's Illustrated Games of Patience in 1874, William Dick's Games of Patience in 1883, and Professor Hoffman's Illustrated Book of Patience Games in 1892. In America, Lady Cadogan's Illustrated Games of Solitaire or Patience appeared in 1914. Among more recent publications, The Complete book of Solitaire and Patience Games by Albert Morehead and Geoffrey Mott-Smith, first published in 1949, and still in print to this day, and David Parlett's Penguin Book of Patience are the most popular and authoritative references to solitaire games.

Today, solitaire remains a beloved pastime for many people. It's requirements - a deck of cards, a flat surface, and a few rules - are simple enough that nearly anyone can play. Solitaire is a simple pleasure that harkens back to a time when the world was less complicated and hurried. Solitaire, whether played the old-fashioned way (by hand) or on the latest computer, is a great stress-reliever and mind exercise, more popular now than ever before.

The History of Computer Solitaire

When the first personal computer appeared, solitaire was a natural fit. Since the requirements for representing playing cards on a computer screen are rather modest, solitaire games proliferated. In the early days of MS-DOS, most solitaire games were text-mode, single-game programs. As the state of computer technologies advanced, graphics began to make the games look better, and larger memory capacity allowed programmers to fit more than one game into a single program, resulting in the solitaire collection.

The first commercial solitaire collection was "Solitaire Royale", written by Brad Fregger, published by Spectrum Holobyte in 1987, and available for both PC (MS-DOS) and Macintosh. It contained 8 different solitaire games, and featured 16-color EGA graphics and mouse support.

A few years later, in 1992, QQP (Quantum Quality Productions) released a commercial collection called "Solitaire's Journey", also for MS-DOS, featuring a mind-boggling 105 different games and comprehensive user statistics on each game. Players could also build their own custom "journeys" by selecting a sub-set of the games, as well as compete in "quests" to find treasure by successfully completing a sequence of solitaire games.

On the shareware front,the largest shareware MS-DOS solitaire collection of the time was Solitaire Suite by Randy Rasa, released in 1991, which featured 7 solitaire games, EGA and mouse support.

Microsoft Windows Solitaire first appeared in Windows 3.0 in 1990. This was actually an implementation of the classic "Klondike" solitaire game, though the name "Windows Solitaire" has been a source of confusion ever since. Windows 95, released to great fanfare in 1995, featured a solitaire game called Freecell, which soon became very popular, spawning a number of enhanced shareware versions of the game. Finally, Microsoft XP introduced Spider Solitaire, again inspiring a number of imitators and enhancers.

In the last few years, the size of the shareware solitaire collections for Windows has simply exploded, led by Pretty Good Solitaire, Funsol Solitaire, and SolSuite, each of which now feature hundreds and hundreds of different solitaire games. On the Macintosh side, the leading collections include Solitaire Plus and Solitaire Till Dawn.

Solitaires are also available for every conceivable computing platform, including PocketPC, PalmOS, Linux, and cell phones. Today, wherever you go, you'll find a solitaire ready and waiting to entertain you.

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Last Update: September 16th, 2012