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Think Retro: Bring back the Flying Toasters

Christopher Phin | Feb. 4, 2015
No, really. Everyone's favorite '90s screensaver can soar onto your Mac again.

"I went upstairs and drew some animation frames--I used the development system's icon editor. Little white outline toasters on a black background with little stubby plucked-chicken wings, speed lines and a flapping electrical cord."

That would appear to be that--a surreal flight of fancy brought on by sleep deprivation. We've all done it. In 1994, though, the band Jefferson Airplane sued After Dark's company, Berkeley Systems, claiming that the flying toasters were a copy of those featured on the cover of its 1973 album Thirty Seconds Over Winterland. The band lost the case, though, because although there's no argument the album came out long before the screensaver, Berkeley claimed it wasn't aware of it--and the judge noted that the band hadn't trademarked the album artwork.

Regardless of the inspiration, there's no doubt that the Flying Toasters screensaver is iconic, and if you want to run it on your Mac today, it's actually really easy. If you just want a quick hit of nostalgia, click here for a faithful reconstruction that runs (albeit far too smoothly!) in your browser, complete with Eastman's toast done-ness slider, or you can marvel at many of the After Dark modules (including Flying Toasters, of course) reconstructed in CSS here.

Alternatively, for the princely sum of four bucks, you can buy a version that actually runs as a proper OS X screen saver module, and it works fine even in Yosemite. It might not have the specific retro look of those web reconstructions, but it's nevertheless terrific fun--even if not quite as much fun as this line from its original 2002 press release suggests: "The Flying Toaster module in particular will provide hours of enjoyment, with the toasters going through more than 55 different routines against the backdrop of the space."

Hours of enjoyment. Ah, it wasn't just computers that were simpler back then!

What was your favorite screensaver? Let us know in the comments below!


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