Man finds exact location of infamous Windows XP background

Man finds exact location of infamous Windows XP background

February 27, 2021

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This hill is ubiquitous but surprisingly difficult to locate in reality. 

The iconic Windows XP default desktop wallpaper of a sloped green hill beneath a bright blue sky is one of the most viewed photos in the world, but its generic pleasantness has long stumped internet denizens in regards to its real-world location — with some believing it’s not a real photograph. 

The editor-in-chief of SFGate recently set out to find the earthly subject of the computer background and discovered it covered in wine grapes, across the street from an alpaca farm and Highway 12 in Sonoma, California.

The photo even has an incredible backstory: Charles O’Rear snapped the now-legendary shot of what is known as “Bliss” hill while driving to see his now-wife on a Friday afternoon in January 1996.

“A majority of people who saw that photograph, billions of people, thought it was not a real photograph,” said O’Rear. “Driving through the Sonoma hills in January it always gets a carpet of green grass, it’s beautiful. I knew that, and it was just the perfect light, the perfect clouds.”

O’Rear, 79, uploaded the photo to a stock photo agency. When Microsoft discovered O’Rear’s shot, the company paid an unknown but reportedly six-figure sum for rights to it in perpetuity and promptly plastered it across the globe as part of a $1 billion marketing campaign. 

Despite O’Rear’s prolific photography career shooting for the Los Angeles Times, The Kansas City Star and, for over two decades, National Geographic, he is well aware that his omnipresent image of “Bliss” hill will be what he is remembered for. 

“After 25 years photographing at National Geographic, there will be no mention of Geographic on my tombstone,” he told the publication. 

Despite the ubiquity and fame the image has brought him — he says “not a week goes by that some email comes through about that photograph” — having his legacy tied to the technology company did not buy it his loyalty. 

“I got hooked on Apple,” he said. 

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