Hey, you work for Microsoft. Do you know...?


Windows 10 for Phone comes with a variety of wallpaper images, and the timestamp for all of the images is April 4, 1975. What's the story behind that?

Originally, the wallpaper images didn't have a date-taken in their EXIF metadata. This meant that they were treated as taken on the file's creation date, which is the date you installed the operating system. The problem is that if you upgrade your phone, then the wallpaper image timestamps will be sorted after the pictures you took with the old operating system and before the pictures you took with the new operating system.

This is rather unsightly, so Windows 10 added EXIF metadata to sort all of those images before any pictures you may have taken yourself with that phone. Any date prior to 2007 would probably have sufficed (assuming people don't backdate pictures in their Camera Roll), but the developer who fixed the bug decided to be a bit clever: He chose April 4, 1975, the date of Microsoft's founding.

Okay, that's the end of that story. What about the question in the title?

Last year, I was visiting Canada and paid a visit to some very distant relatives. (Distance measured in terms of blood relationship, not geographic distance.) They had other relatives visiting at the time, and in the course of conversation, those other relatives mentioned that their son worked for Microsoft.

Everybody who works at Microsoft has gone through the "Hey, you work for Microsoft. Do you know...?" ritual. And the answer is always "Nope, no idea who you're talking about." Because it turns out Microsoft employs over 100,000 people worldwide,¹ so the odds of a hit are pretty low.

I guess the relative had gone through the ritual before, because he never bothered to ask.

After we returned home, my wife told me, "In case you were wondering, their son's name is X. But I'm sure you've never met him."

Oh wait, X? Why yes, actually I know him. He's the developer who set the timestamp on the wallpapers to April 4, 1975. Works just down the hall from me.

The next day, I paid him a visit. "Just letting you know, your parents say Hi."

¹ I like how that page has a footnote to the breakdown of employees by role.

Role Percentage
Engineering 46.5%
Sales & Marketing Support Group  47.0%
Finance, HR & Legal 4.3%
Business Functions 2.1%
Functional breakout does not include CEO in total.

Yeah, because adding the CEO would change those percentages by less than 0.001%, two orders of magnitude lower than the rounding error in the table itself.

Comments (24)
  1. Boris says:

    While I can probably find out (or wait for someone to comment on it), the obvious question is why Windows 10 for Phone mixes photos with Microsoft wallpaper. I see on my iPhone that Apple keeps theirs in a separate section of wallpaper settings.

    1. Nick says:

      The photo chooser wants to surface your photos, no matter where they're stored. At least that's my experience using the OS.

      1. Boris says:

        My wallpaper is almost always something I snapped myself or saved from the web, so Apple was right to downplay theirs by stashing it away under Settings.

      2. exchange development blog team says:

        Which is really annoying, because it'll happily include folders with names like "My Porn Stash".

  2. Brian says:

    I worked for Microsoft for about a dozen years (ending about 4 years ago). I'm surprised at the number of times that I do know the person I get asked about in these situations. Often, however, it's distant knowledge - knowing that someone is the go-to person for some technology, perhaps having exchanged a handful of emails, etc. Hey, I even exchanged emails with Raymond several times (I was one of those "customer representatives" that he mentions in this blog occasionally).

    1. Alex Cohn says:

      Being a customer liaison you probably had a better chance to interact with many employees, more than 97.8% of the employees listed above

  3. EduardoS says:

    Maybe someone had to explain to his manager why the percentages didn't sum up to 100%, not including CEO was the accepted answer.

    BTW, once I had to explain to a customer why the percentages didn't sum up to 100%, it is vexing...

    1. smf says:

      Add them all up, subtract from 100 and hide the error in one of the results. It saves having to explain and the customer is happy. There are various strategies for picking which entry the error should be included in, I'd probably go for the middle one.

    2. Bob says:

      My wild guess is that when people were officially categorizing roles, they were unsure what role to assign to the CEO since a CEO should be touching all of those areas of the business. (Yes, both Bill and Satya could credibly claim "Engineering"...Satya does have a CS degree)

      So, that poor flunky created a separate CEO role with only one member. That's why they didn't want to include the CEO in the table. They would have to add a separate "CEO" line with either 0.001% (forcing the other percentages to an absurd precision) or rounded to 0.0% which would be silly.

  4. Henri Hein says:

    Great story. I can confirm the prevalence of the "do you know...?" question.

    I'm from Denmark, and on a few occasions, I have even gotten the question in relation to that. "Oh, I was there once, and I met Finn Larseks, or something like that. Do you know him?" I have to look at the questioner to see if they are serious, and at least a couple of times, they actually were. Sure, Denmark is a small country, but it's not *that* small.

    1. exchange development blog team says:

      >I’m from Denmark, and on a few occasions, I have even gotten the question in relation to that. “Oh, I was there once,
      >and I met Finn Larseks, or something like that. Do you know him?”

      You should tell them "oh, I know him, he lives in Smeerenburg. You should go visit some time".

    2. DWalker says:

      How many Finn Larseks are there in Denmark? You also have to see if you are talking about the same one!

    3. Tom West says:

      When I visited India, I did get a "Oh, you're Canadian, my cousin..."

      Oddly enough, it turned out that his cousin worked in a nearby store that I frequented. I didn't know him by name, but his description matched my memory of someone working there, so I went in, told him his cousin says hi, and amused us both.

  5. Yuhong Bao says:

    I remember when Scott Hanselman's blog suggested abusing rundll32 for example.

    1. Not sure what this has to do with picture timestamps or "Hey, do you know...?"

      1. Yuhong Bao says:

        I am talking about why, obviously.

        1. Why what? Why you work for Microsoft?

          1. Yuhong Bao says:

            Why they suggested abusing rundll32.

        2. What does rundll32 have to do with picture timestamps or “Hey, do you know…?”

          1. Yuhong Bao says:

            Whether they know why abusing rundll32 is a bad idea.

        3. I cannot make sense of any of your answers. There is no mention of rundll32 anywhere in this article. Maybe you're commenting on the wrong article?

  6. mvadu says:

    oh, btw the official name is "Windows 10 Mobile", not Windows 10 for Phone. I know I am nitpicking, but since there was a version of OS called Windows Phone, and had 8.1 version, wanted to call it out.

    1. Joop says:

      Let me guess, you're part of the 47.0%, who spend their time renaming Windows Mobile, to Windows Phone, to Windows 10 Mobile. ;) Pretty shocking that almost half of Microsoft is Sales and Marketing. Curious what the numbers are for other big tech companies.

  7. James Sutherland says:

    It's funny when that does happen. Back in 2000, on my first visit to Houston, I was introduced to some people from NASA and got talking. At some point, one of them mentioned that one of the cleaners from my old high school (in Scotland, six time zones away) had died that summer. (It turned out he was Scottish, and this was actually his own old home town, so he kept in touch with people back there too.) A few years later, I bumped into one of those Americans back in Scotland - she'd just emigrated, and ended up working for the same university as me, in the building next door.

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