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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Freecell - The Game that Baker Built...

In the June 1968 edition of Scientific American, Martin Gardner wrote an article in his “Mathematical Games” column about a card game by C. L. Baker called Baker’s Game. His game is built by suit and is considered the father of Freecell.

Paul Alfille changed Baker’s Game by making the cards build according to alternating color (not suit), thus creating Freecell. He implemented the first computer version of it on the PLATO educational computer system in 1978.

Alfille’s game gained worldwide popularity thanks to Jim Horne who created a version with color graphics for the Windows environment. It was first included with Microsoft Win32s as a test program, and was made a part of the Windows 95 operating system and has been included with every version of Windows since.

Today, there are FreeCell versions for every modern platform, including some as part of commercial solitaire suites. However, it is estimated that as of 2003, the Microsoft version remains the most popular, despite the fact of its limited features such as retraction of moves.

The original Microsoft package included 32,000 games generated by a 15-bit random number seed. These games are known as the "Microsoft 32,000". Later versions of Microsoft FreeCell include more games, of which the original 32,000 are a subset.

While it is believed that every game is winnable, there are approximately 2.00x1063 possible games. Some games maybe similar to others because suits assigned to cards are arbitrary. When a card is black, for example, it may be assigned to clubs or spades.

In later implementations of FreeCell for Microsoft Windows, there are 1,000,000 games. Of these, 8 have been found to be unsolvable. They are games No. 11,982, No. 146,692, No. 186,216, No. 455,889, No. 495,505, No. 512,118, No. 517,776, and No. 781,948.

One way to "win" at any Microsoft FreeCell game was added as a way to help the original software testers; one must push the following key combination of Ctrl-Shift-F10 at any time during the game. When the dialog box appears on screen click 'Abort' to win, 'Retry' to lose, or 'Ignore' to cancel and continue playing the game as originally intended. Double-click any card for the results. However, this does not actually provide a correct solution to the game.

Try your luck and see if you can win…

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