Ten years ago Melinda French Gates was a manager on Microsoft Home products such as Bob, Encarta and Expedia. Some reporters even claim that Bob was her baby. Because bloggers are being hyped to the gills by the mainstream media, I figured it was a good time to start making interview requests of people who are ordinarily far too important to talk with the likes of me. I began with Melinda Gates, hoping to clarify her role on social interface software like Bob. I even prepared a Mike Wallace question for the end of ... read more

An e-mailer asks Workbench for relationship advice: ... it's me and my boyfriends anniversary coming up and he always seems to somehow mention it and say how he wants it and I thought it would be a great thing to give him, no matter how weird it sounds. But I think it would be something he would enjoy, or like at least. I've looked around in all shops that could have a chance of selling older software but there aren't many where I live, I've looked around on eBay too but have had no luck, do you know where I could ... read more

Clippy, the hated Microsoft Office Assistant, is a direct descendant of Microsoft Bob. The latter software was the company's infamous foray into agents, avatars who add personality to the help process, answering questions and responding to your commands until you get aggravated and tell them to go away. Microsoft continues to do limited work in the area, offering a free agent developer's kit and character editor on the Microsoft Agent site. The original Clippy was stored as an .ACT file, the same extension as all ... read more

If Microsoft Bob wasn't dead, he'd be friends with Ted, the new discount airlines announced by United Airlines. The company has been guerrilla marketing the service for weeks with odd Ted appearances in Colorado, as described by weblogger Mike Slone: I've heard about Ted Sightings at a Denver Nuggets game, a Broncos game, and I've personally seen people wearing Ted signs on street corners in Boulder, and stickers on a multitude of products that were given away for free. ... read more

Dan Rose's 20th Century Abandonware site remembers commercial software "from a time not quite forgotten," offering descriptions, screen shots, and other details on 1,400 programs. The encyclopedic Microsoft Bob page includes a list of programs where Bob's "social interface" lives on in spite of the program's ignominious demise: Microsoft appears determined to make sure we never forget Bob. Since 1996, Microsoft has taken every opportunity to include Bob's legacy into their successful products -- Microsoft Office, ... read more

Hewlett-Packard has announced that it is discontinuing the Jornada line and will no longer support the Pocket PC devices three years after purchase. I love the News.Com headline, which makes this sound like something positive: "HP to support discontinued Jornadas." Thanks, HP! It's extremely heartening to know that the Jornada 540 I bought in April 2001 for $550 is the Microsoft Bob of PDAs. I was beginning to worry that I might someday make use of the device, which doesn't support the only thing I bought it for: ... read more