After Dark Revived: a free plugin to celebrate the ’90s screen savers



May 25, 2024

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There's something undeniably nostalgic about the tech aesthetics of the 1990s, especially for those of us who remember the early days of personal computing. Back then, Macintosh computers introduced many users to graphical interfaces, multimedia, and, of course, the quirky screensavers that became iconic in their own right. Among these, the After Dark screensaver series truly stood out, famous for its iconic Flying Toasters and Starry Night animations that charmed and amused in equal measure.

Why do these retro digital artifacts hold such a special place in our hearts? Perhaps it's the simplicity and creativity they represented in an era where the possibilities of digital technology were just beginning to unfold. Or maybe they remind us of a time when software had a certain playful personality, a stark contrast to today's ultra-sleek, minimalist design paradigms.

Or maybe we were just young and strong.

A Brief History of After Dark

After Dark was originally released in 1989 by Berkeley Systems, quickly becoming one of the most popular screensaver programs of its time. Notable for its graphical ingenuity, After Dark offered a variety of animated sequences that were both whimsical and innovative, becoming a cultural icon in the software world.

The most famous of these animations was undoubtedly the "Flying Toasters," a surreal parade of winged toasters gliding across the screen, complete with pieces of toast. Other memorable modules included "Starry Night," which filled the screen with a peaceful moving night sky, and "Fish World," an animated aquarium.

The appeal of After Dark lay in its ability to turn a mundane utility—the screensaver—into an expression of playfulness and creativity. It wasn’t just about saving the screen; it was about adding a touch of fun to the computing experience. This inventiveness made After Dark a beloved part of early personal computing, remembered fondly by those who experienced it during its heyday.

With a resurgence of '90s nostalgia in today's culture, here is a WordPress plugin that revives these beloved screensavers utilizing the After Dark CSS project by Bryan Braun. (demo link)

Download After Dark for WordPress

Enjoy this piece of digital nostalgia 🙂