Adding ZIP file support to Windows 30 years ago almost got the creator of Task Manager fired

High-res shot of the Windows ZIP file graphic sourced from a Microsoft Support answer on how to change it,
(Image credit: Microsoft)

While ZIP file support has long been a commonplace feature of Windows and other operating systems, this wasn't always the case. Once upon a time, a Microsoft engineer had to create a kernel extension called "VisualZIP" to enable standard ZIP features. This same kernel extension nearly got Microsoft engineer Dave Plummer fired due to workplace politics he was unaware of, but ultimately ended up being the basis for today's ZIP support in Windows.

While this factoid has been on the record for a while, Dave Plummer uploaded an 8-minute recounting of the life and death of VisualZIP to YouTube on April 17th, 2024, so we saw fit to take a look at both it and his prolific career in Microsoft today. The retrospective, including how it nearly got him fired— twice if one takes the worst interpretation of the latter half of the story

So, despite Dave Plummer's employment contract and verbal agreements allowing him to work on and sell software on the side while still working at Microsoft, VisualZIP's existence still caused two significant incidents. The first was when an employee in an entirely separate department, spurred by a jealous competing developer, reported Plummer's work on VisualZIP to Human Resources to get him fired.

Due to his integral role at Microsoft, this caused high alarm and anxiety for days, including among Dave's superiors. His being the creator of Task Manager for Windows NT 4.0, among other core components, while working as an intern may explain that. Fortunately, a quick email to the VP then and Dave had nothing more to worry about.

Until the second incident that VisualZIP impacted his time at Microsoft— when a woman also working there in acquisitions called to ask about acquiring VisualZIP from Dave. When he agreed to meet, he asked, "What building?" and said he could be there within thirty minutes, which highly alarmed her. She had made the call before knowing Dave was already a Microsoft employee.

In any case, Dave Plummer had a long and fruitful career at Microsoft before choosing to retire. He has a dedicated playlist to Windows War Stories on the Dave's Garage channel. It may be worth checking out if you're interested in seeing more of his specific insight on Windows development and its history, including an extended Secret History of Windows ZIP Folders.

Freelance News Writer
  • JeffreyP55
    Been using WinRAR forever and a day.
    Reply
  • ekio
    What is sad is that every time this guys says I did this stuff in 2 days, quickly and crappy, to just get it working, he ends up saying, it's still here decades later, absolutely untouched.

    That is quite concerning to see how Microsoft, despite their huge money, is lazy about true improving their OS... that also explains how the disgusting msdos concepts are still in place.
    Reply
  • parkerthon
    JeffreyP55 said:
    Been using WinRAR forever and a day.
    You have to if you download pirated things, lol.
    ekio said:
    What is sad is that every time this guys says I did this stuff in 2 days, quickly and crappy, to just get it working, he ends up saying, it's still here decades later, absolutely untouched.

    That is quite concerning to see how Microsoft, despite their huge money, is lazy about true improving their OS... that also explains how the disgusting msdos concepts are still in place.
    Pretty sure the article said it’s still “the basis”. Not the Microsoft doesn’t suck harder than a vacuum often, but not everything needs to be completely rebuilt and often they leave things as they are because some company somewhere has a billion dollar mission critical process that still requires them to support whatever lame feature it is. They have an if it ain’t broke, and ain’t core UI, don’t fix it.
    Reply
  • usertests
    JeffreyP55 said:
    Been using WinRAR forever and a day.
    7zip 5ever. Or the one built into the OS when it doesn't matter.
    Reply
  • gg83
    Dave's garage is a great channel. He loves rgb as much as I do. He is a total badass with his ability to tinker!
    Reply
  • JeffreyP55
    usertests said:
    7zip 5ever. Or the one built into the OS when it doesn't matter.
    Bought a WinRAR for ever license before 7zip ever existed. 7zip was 1999 WinRAR 1995.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    The sad thing is in those days of Windows the courts would have made Microsoft strip that functionality out in the name of "competition fairness" for WinZip.
    Reply
  • zoridon
    7 zip for me, password proteted files and folders no real issues.
    Reply
  • derekullo
    taskkill /u vpresident /p *********** /im Jealoushaters.exe
    Reply
  • 35below0
    zoridon said:
    7 zip for me, password proteted files and folders no real issues.
    Not encrypted though.
    Reply