Plummer talks to us about spending Microsoft's money on a red Corvette

A secret message or just random characters on a license plate?

Microsoft veteran Dave Plummer has shared a photo of the Corvette bought by Zip folder support work in Windows and reminded us that, 30 years later, some of the code is probably still running in the operating system.

Corvette (pic: Dave Plummer)

Well, FQU too: Dave Plummer's corvette (Pic: courtesy Dave Plummer)

In a post on social media, Plummer set the Wayback machine to 1993, and his time working at Microsoft on a framework guaranteed to set developer eyelids twitching: the Component Object Model (COM). By day, Plummer would work on COM – the OLE presentation cache specifically – but at home, he would work on his own fun projects. In this case, a shell extension for the then-new Windows 95 user interface that would make Zip files appear like folders.

He said: "That grew into a shareware product call[ed] VisualZIP."

VisualZIP caught Microsoft's attention, and in a classic case of the company's left arm not knowing what the right was doing, a representative called Plummer to ask if Microsoft might buy it.

"Sure!" he said, "What's your office number? I'll stop by!"

The representative was a bit nonplussed and began talking about dealing with the legal team, sorting out transport, and so on before Plummer realized what had happened: "She didn't know that I already worked for Microsoft, and I didn't know that she didn't know. So that was a bit awkward.

"But we worked it out."

Plummer was given a choice: quit his job and compete with Microsoft or accept its offer and hand over the software. That offer was enough to buy him a nearly new red Corvette LT1, the C4 version, by our reckoning.

Plummer told The Register, "The license plate was just random, but already read kind of interesting, and it did prompt a lot of questions!"

We can only imagine the reaction it got in the Microsoft parking lot.

In his tweet, Plummer explained that the performance of the zip folder functionality was limited by being single-threaded and more than 25 years old. It also worked by extracting files to a temporary location and handing that location back to the shell.

Plenty has changed in Windows since then, but perhaps not as much as you might think. Plummer told us: "The code has certainly been touched, but not a lot, and remains largely as I left it in '95 or so!

"Same for task manager... you can add frosting on top, but it's still my cake :-)"

If dipping into X is not for you, Plummer's history of Windows ZipFolders – and a good deal more technical detail – can also be found on his YouTube channel. ®

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