Are screensavers even a thing in 2020? I don’t recall seeing any these days; mostly a computer just automatically powers down into sleep mode if it’s being unused. And modern screens are much more resilient to having screen burn… or so I hear.
But back in the ’80s and ’90s, getting images burned onto a CRT screen was a real problem, especially if you had a static image up for too long. To solve that, screensavers were introduced to come on after a set amount of inactive time and feature motion so that your somewhat expensive monitor would be safe.
Screensavers were pretty boring at first, but some companies really put some effort into creating products with personality. Of these, Berkley Systems’ After Dark became the most famous by 1991. It featured a lot of options, but it was its absurd flying toasters that everyone loved and paid good money to put on their screens.
After Dark had a lot more than just flying toasters, of course, and you could set the program to randomly pull one up or cycle through them. There were flying stars (my favorite, since I was a Star Trek fan), aquariums with fish, cans of worms, and all sorts of ridiculous visuals.
Even though they were “just” screensavers, Berkley gave users a crazy amount of customization options, and it was kind of fun to experiment with all of them.
Speaking of being a Star Trek fan, I was overjoyed when Berkley released a Trek-themed screensaver package in 1993. This edition included 14 different modes, such as dropping tribbles, starships flying around, and Tholians spinning webs across the screen.
There were two screensavers in particular that stand out in my mind. The first was one in which Hortas — rock eating monsters from “Devil in the Dark” — tunneled through the screen and chased around red shirted security guards.
Then there was an option to bring Spock onto the screen and have him putter about doing all sorts of Spocky things, like taking tricorder readings, playing the harp, and shooting phasers. As a kid madly in love with Star Trek, I dearly loved having Spock hang out with me in this way.