History of Solitaire: A Fascinating Look at this Classic Card Game

Solitaire is one of the most-played games in the world, and there are over 35 million people who play the version on Microsoft Windows each month. To put that into context, that’s as many people as blockbuster video games like “Overwatch”, “Sea of Thieves”, and “FIFA” just to name a few. One of the big reasons why people love Solitaire is the access, as it comes for free with any Microsoft operating system, and has for quite some time.

You’ve probably had an instance where the internet went out and didn’t know how to kill time, so you booted up Solitaire until the internet came back on. Solitaire is a game that all of us are familiar with, but not many know the history of it. Let’s take a deeper look into the world of Solitaire to see how it developed into the game we know and love today.

The Unknown Start

Some historians believe that the origins of Solitaire date back hundreds of years into the past, though nobody can quite agree on the first version of the game or who came up with it. To this day, even after Solitaire became popular, nobody is sure who it was that created Solitaire. What historians do know, however, is when and where it became popular.

During the late 18th century, parts of Scandinavia saw the rise of a popular game that’s similar to modern Canfield, laying the groundwork for Solitaire. By the end of the 1700s, the more modern version of Solitaire with multiple decks of cards had become more popular but was played with more than one player.

Learning Patience

As the single-player version of Solitaire became more popular throughout Europe, books were published in the early 19th century showing newcomers how to play the game. In places like Russia, France, Germany, and Sweden, Solitaire was booming, but it went under a different name. Back then, it was simply referred to as Patience, which is still what it’s called throughout most of Europe to this day.

In the same way that Americans and Canadians changed the name of football to soccer after adopting the sport, they did the same with Patience when it was brought to North America in the late 19th century. When the game first arrived, it maintained the Patience name, and there was even an American book written on how to play the game, referring to it as Patience.

The word Solitaire comes from the Latin word solitarius which means alone and/or isolated, which typically referred to a widow. While this meaning wouldn’t refer to anything that has to do with the cards as you’re making four separate decks, it refers to the person playing the game by themself. People tend to play Solitaire when they’re alone and can’t think of much else to do, so the name is a fitting one.

Going Digital

Throughout most of the 20th century, a good portion of the population knew what Solitaire was and how to play the game. By the time the 1990s started, though, it was seen as a game that was more known by the older generation. Members of Generation X had been introduced to video games during the 1980s and were leaving traditional board games and card games behind.

That all changed when Microsoft decided to include Solitaire as part of the operating system beginning with Windows 3.0 in 1990. An intern named Wes Cherry developed the computer version of the game, and it was released on May 22, 1990. Within a matter of months, Solitaire was one of the most-used programs in the Windows system, even ahead of the likes of Excel and Word.

The type of game that was packaged with the original Windows version was Klondike, the most popular in the United States. Spider, Freecell, Tripeaks, and Pyramid were also included with Microsoft Solitaire, and even after 30 years, there were more than 100 million hands of Solitaire dealt on a daily basis across all game types and Microsoft programs.

The Types of Solitaire

We’ve already touched on some of the different types of Solitaire which have been included with the Microsoft version of the game, with Klondike being considered the “classic” version. This is the version of the game that features four foundations that you must build from the unbalanced tableaus, using the stockpile to help build them.

Freecell is the next most popular type of Solitaire, allowing players to move cards back and forth from the tableaus. Pyramid and Golf Solitaire kick things up a notch in terms of difficulty, while Yukon, Forty Thieves, Spider, and Canfield make up the other most popular forms of Solitaire. 

Solitaire may be shrouded in mystery when it comes to the game’s origins, but there’s no doubt that it has made a huge impact. Whether your internet or electricity are out and you need something to do to pass the time, Solitaire has been there for most of us over the years, and it’s not going anywhere.

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