17 Apr Fun Monday : Business Success Stories continued
Bill Gates & the Microsoft Story
Gates had an interest in computer programming from a young age, and pursued his passion throughout college. In 1975, together with his childhood friend Paul Allen, Gates developed a version of the programming language BASIC for the first microcomputer – the MITS Altair 8800.
Gates and Allen approached MITS with their creation, and the company agreed to distribute it as ‘Altair BASIC’. Paul Allen was hired into MITS, and Gates took a leave of absence from Harvard to work with him in Albuquerque in November 1975. They officially established Microsoft’ on 4 April 1975, with Gates as the CEO. Gates never returned to Harvard.
Microsoft became independent of MITS in late 1976, but continued to develop programming language software for various systems. The company moved from Albuquerque to Bellevue, Washington, on 1 January 1979.
During Microsoft’s early years, all employees had broad responsibility for the company’s business. Gates oversaw the business details, but continued to write code as well. In the first five years, he personally reviewed every line of code the company shipped, and often rewrote parts of it as he saw fit.
IBM approached Microsoft in July 1980 to provide the operating system for its upcoming personal computer. For this deal, Microsoft bought a system called 86-DOS from a company called Seattle Computer Products and, after adapting it for the PC, delivered it to IBM as ‘PC DOS’ in exchange for a one-time fee of $50,000.
However, Gates did not offer to transfer the copyright on the operating system, because he believed that other hardware companies would clone IBM’s system. He was right, and the sales of PC DOS made Microsoft a major player in the industry. Despite IBM’s name on the operating system, Gates was quickly identified as ‘the man behind the machine’.