You Can Now Enjoy the Best Screensaver of All Time in Your Web Browser

You Can Now Enjoy the Best Screensaver of All Time in Your Web Browser

On the pre-internet PCs of yesteryear you had two primary tools for procrastination: you could either play games like Solitaire, or you could simply stare at a mesmerising screensaver. None were as captivating as Windows’ 3D pipes, which you can now enjoy in your browser with some welcome upgrades.

Screensavers are now mostly a novelty, or a handy reminder that the computer you walked away from a half hour ago is still running, but decades ago they served a very valid purpose besides mindless entertainment. When computer monitors were big heavy boxes they used an electron gun at the back to fire beams of electrons which would hit a phosphorescent screen on the front and glow, creating individual pixels. Powerful magnets would redirect the path of the beam so it scanned back and forth to fill an entire screen with moving images.

The technology worked great for watching TV where images were constantly changing frame by frame, but when drafted into service for personal computers with interfaces that often remained static in some areas for hours at a time, CRTs exhibited an issue called burn-in where the phosphors would degrade and leave a ghostly image of an interface behind that wouldn’t go away. To solve the problem, operating systems like Windows and Mac OS added screensavers that were nothing more than random animations always in motion that came on after a set of amount of time to help prevent CRTs from developing burn-in.

On the Mac side of things, a random animation of flying toasters with flapping wings became one of the most popular screensaver options, but on the Windows side of things, it didn’t get much better than 3D Pipes which generated an ever-growing tangled web of pipes, zig-zagging in every direction, but never colliding with each other. If you disagree, I regret to inform you you’re wrong.

Tragically, 3D Pipes made its last appearance with Windows XP Service Pack 3, but you can thankfully relive the screensaver in all its glory in a modern web browser thanks to Isaiah Odhner who’s recreated the screensaver using the Three.js JavaScript library. It’s not only a satisfyingly accurate recreation of the original screensaver, complete with Easter Eggs like using the Utah teapot (a 3D model of a teapot originally used for tests but has since become a long running inside joke) as pipe joints, but the browser version lets you actually rotate the rat’s nest of pipes, and zoom in and out on it, all while it still animates. Put your work on hold for ten minutes (or the rest of the day, you do you) and trip the pipe fantastic.