WATCH: The strange but true story behind the Windows XP background wallpaper

One of the world’s most ubiquitous images

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Windows XP was officially retired on Tuesday, the end of the road for what was arguably Microsoft’s most successful version of its still-dominant operating system. (Despite Microsoft ending support for XP, it’s still in widespread use, from home computers to banking machines.)

For the millions of us who stared at Windows XP desktops for hours every day for work and school, there’s a certain nostalgia now for the old Windows user interface, before the flat design ethos of Windows 8 squashed everything into neat little boxes that are multicoloured without being that, well, colourful.

The short documentary above (made by a Microsoft team from the Netherlands) is a conversation with photographer Charles O’Rear, who in 1996 took the photograph “Bliss,” which became the default desktop wallpaper of Windows XP, and as a result is one of the most-viewed photographs in history. It’s a slight but charming little story; O’Rear took the photo in 1996 in Sonoma, California, not far from his home. He shot on film—Fuji, for the record, because he liked the way it made colours pop more—and says it was never Photoshopped. When he sold the original photograph to Microsoft, he didn’t know what they were going to do with it. He seems quite happy to have created a quietly iconic image, that eventually became nearly invisible through ubiquity.

“Bliss” by Charles O’Rear

“Bliss” by Charles O’Rear

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