You know it from the first MacBook you bought, or from your school library’s computers, or from the backdrop of a film you recently watched. The Flurry screensaver, shipped with every Mac since 2002, has become an acquainted digital surface in movies, offices and homes.
But screensavers are a thing from the past: We all remember the infamous flying toasters, the virtual fish tanks and mesmerizing labyrinths that covered our grey CRT monitors when our dads entered the room. Flurry was different: it moved away from trashy aesthetics and added a soothing, ambient quality to computer screens. And since its release, it hasn’t changed: A variety of light streams gently move around the black screen, spreading colored particles at different speeds and magnitudes.
Flurry was created by software developer Calum Robinson as a side project in 2002. Briefly after he published it online (you can still find it on Github!), Apple contacted him to include it in their new operating system, Mac OS X “Jaguar”. It complemented the eccentric Aqua interface with a dark and subtle appearance, still colorful enough to catch your eye.
Screensavers were made to protect CRT monitors from phosphor burn-in. If the phosphors glowed at a constant rate for too long, they left traces on the monitor’s glass surface. But we’ve moved away from that technology years ago. Today, it makes much more sense to simply switch off your display. No one would download and install a screensaver anymore, not even for fun. But Flurry is still there, moving its tentacles around empty offices, libraries, accidentally being activated through your Mac’s hot corners.
For me, Flurry is also a steady component of the creative work space. When Macs were not ubiquitous, but mainly a tool for the creative industry, a creator’s desk was immediately recognized by the light-stream covered monitor. Of course, Apple computers also had their outstanding Y2K hardware design back then, but Flurry was that one recognizable software component that said: This desk is a creator’s desk. They might be on a break right now, but they’re still around. Just like Flurry is today.