Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Flying Toasters and Lawsuits!

Berkeley Systems' After Dark is the name of a screen saver program that became immensely popular in the early 1990s. Back in he day, we would actually pay for screen savers! Although, initially designed for the Macintosh, it was soon ported for Windows use as well. Porting is the process of converting a piece of software for use on a foreign computer platform. There were many different screen savers incorporated into After Dark, but one particular module became an icon of the period: The Flying Toaster. This famous screen saver was known for its winged 1940s style toasters that zipped around the screen. To induce a flashback, check out the video.

OpusThe diminutive Flying Toaster became the focus of two lawsuits in the 1990s. In 1993, Delrina Corp designed a screen saver starring Opus the Penguin, called Opus N' Bill. In one of the modules, Opus can be seen shooting down Flying Toasters. After Dark quickly sued. Delrina defended itself on the grounds that they were simply making a parody. The Court ruled that the Flying Toasters in the Opus N' Bill version were too similar to those in the After Dark screen saver. Delrina was forced to change the "angel wings" on the toasters to airplane wings with propellers. Opus didn't seem to mind the change and continued to shoot them down, too. If anyone can find a pre-lawsuit copy of Opus N' Bill, please give me a shout!

Then in 1994, the tables were turned when After Dark was sued by Jefferson Airplane. Back in 1973, the band had released their second live album called Thirty Seconds Over Winterland and (you guessed it) the cover was full of Flying Toasters. After Dark claimed that they had no knowledge of the album artwork. Just when it looked liked they were in very serious trouble for violating a copyright, it was discovered that Jefferson Airplane never bothered to trademark the cover art. Case dismissed.

Where are they Now?

The Flying Toasters were last seen buzzing around an episode of VH1's We Love The 90s.

Opus the Penguin can still be found in the Sunday paper.

And, Jefferson Airplane? Well, they are probably still chasing down the White Rabbit...