I got an email the other day that I thought I'd share (with permission from the author and with names removed). This is in reference to my post last year:
Hey - Don't make fun of cards.dll! I wrote it!
Back in the mid 80s (I think - it's been a while) a bunch of guys in the Excel group along with a few other miscellaneous MS employees decided to write a poker server and then we would each write a poker player. We had an interface so the dealer could deal hands to any set of player programs and then the AI in the individual players would bet and we'd see who wrote the best player. Of course we needed a DLL to draw the cards and so one evening I wrote the 50 lines of code or so and called it cards.dll. We were programmers, not artists, so initially we did screen grabs of a DOS solitaire game's cards and used those bitmaps. Later, XXX asked if he could use cards.dll for solitaire. I gave it to him, a bunch of MS artists replaced our highjacked images with the awe inspiring ones you seem very fond of and the rest is history.
They served their purpose, but you're right, they're looking a bit antiquated these days.