After Dark is a series of computer screensaver software introduced in 1989 by Berkeley Systems for the Apple Macintosh, and later for Microsoft Windows.
Following the original, new editions followed including More After Dark and Before Dark, as well as editions themed around licensed properties such as Star Trek, The Simpsons, Looney Tunes and Walt Disney Company characters. The screensaver modules often referenced each other, such as the flying toasters appearing in the Fish screensaver, and the cat from Boris screensaver appearing in the Bad Dog screensaver.
As well as the included animated screensavers, it allowed third-party modules to be included since, at the time of the original release, screensaver launching functionality was not included as a part of the Macintosh or Windows operating systems.
A book was published about After Dark called Art of Darkness by Erfert Fenton (Peachpit Press, 1992).
Of the animated modules included, the most famous is the iconic Flying Toasters which featured 1940s-style chrome toasters sporting bird-like wings, flying across the screen with pieces of toast. An updated Flying Toasters Pro module added a choice of music: Richard Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries or a flying toaster anthem with optional karaoke lyrics. Yet another version called Flying Toasters! added bagels and pastries, baby toasters, and more elaborate toaster animation.
The toasters were the subject of two lawsuits, the first in 1993, Berkeley Systems vs Delrina Corporation, over a module of Delrina's Opus 'N Bill screensaver in which Opus the penguin shoots down the toasters. Delrina later changed the wings of the toasters to propellers in order to avoid infringing the trademark. The second case was brought in 1994 by 1960s rock group Jefferson Airplane who claimed that the toasters were a copy of the winged toasters featured on the cover of their 1973 album Thirty Seconds Over Winterland. The case was dismissed because the cover art had not been registered as a trademark by the group prior to Berkeley Systems' release of the screensaver.
A 3D version of the toasters featuring swarms of toasters with plane wings, rather than bird wings, is available for XScreenSaver.
After Dark Games and onward
Sierra Interactive and Berkeley Systems released After Dark Games for the Macintosh and Windows platforms, which contained several games modeled after their previously released screensavers. These games included Mowin' Maniac
clone based on the "Mowin' Man"/"Mowin' Boris" modules), Roof Rats
(similar to SameGame
and variants), "Solitaire
" (After Dark themed), Toaster Run (a 3D adventure game featuring several After Dark Characters, more notably the Flying Toaster), Zapper (a trivia game), Hula Girl (another 3D adventure game based on the "Hula Twins" module from After Dark 4.0), two word scramble games - Bad Dog 911 (based on the "Bad Dog" modules) and Fish Shtix (based on the "Fish" modules, mainly "Fish World"), Foggy Boxes (a connect the boxes type game based on the "Messages 4.0" module), MooShu tiles (a Mahjong
-like game featuring many After Dark characters throughout the years), and Rodger Dodger. "Rodger Dodger" had been a module several years back, but also a playable game inside the module. There is not much of it changed from the module aside from some of the music and most of the level's set-ups. Many fans liked the games, but some felt it lacked games based on more fitting modules, such as "Daredevil Dan", "Lunatic Fringe" (which was a game inside its module, like "Rodger Dodger"), and the After Dark re-working of "Rock, Paper Scissors" (also a game inside its module).
In fact, it was the last time Berkeley ever touched the series. In 1997, the owners sold out to the Sierra On-Line division of CUC International. Joan Blades and Wes Boyd, the founders of Berkeley Systems, went on to create MoveOn.org.
Fans have made modern versions of several of the screensavers in the years since. An official version of After Dark was released for Mac OS X by Infinisys Ltd (of Japan) in May 2003. It has yet to be converted to Universal binary, so at the current moment it can only be run on PowerPC computers with OS X.
Sierra released a Flying Toaster video game for cell phones in 2006.
- Several After Dark modules were featured in the background of interviews for the VH1 show I Love the '90s.
- A Flying Toaster appeared in the Simpsons episode The Computer Wore Menace Shoes on Homer Simpson's website full of animated GIFs, one of which was the Flying Toaster. The module "Starry Night" was also referenced in The Simpsons episode, "'Scuse Me While I Miss the Sky". At the end of the episode, while looking at the stars, Marge Simpson says "This is better than our screensaver, and I love our screensaver." The "Starry Night" module is famous for its star filled night sky. In the episode "Radioactive Man", the Flying Toasters screensaver can be seen on Comic Book Guy's computer.
- A Flying Toaster appears in the episode of Futurama titled "The Honking", where it, along with the Microsoft Windows logo and other computer icons of the 1990s, chase Bender.
- A Flying Toaster also appears in the Rugrats episode "In the Dreamtime", in which Chuckie Finster sees a Flying Toaster in his dream.
- On the television show Beverly Hills 90210, the Peach Pit After Dark Night Club used a flying toaster as its logo.
- A flying toaster is seen in The Fairly OddParents episode "What's the Difference?". Another one (previously a bird) is also seen in the episode "Nectar of the Odds".
- In the King of the Hill episode "Earthly Girls are Easy", Buck Strickland has a flying toaster screen saver that keeps him happy.