Brought simple computing to the worldby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
The richest man in the world once stated that, “Back when I was a teenager, I envisioned the impact that low-cost computers could have. ‘A computer on every desk and in every home' became Microsoft's corporate mission, and we have worked to help make that possible” (“Microsoft bio” p. 1). He has succeeded in his quest, his company Microsoft becoming the largest in the world. Few men have changed the way the entire world operates. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were just a couple of the small number of people that have met this challenge. However, when thinking of the biggest impact on the world within the last 30 years, it is hard not to credit the impact of Bill Gates and his company Microsoft with the invention of an easy accessible operating system for computers.
Bill Gates was born on October 28, 1955, in Seattle (Microsoft, p. 2). During his years at public school, Gates was not challenged and lost interest in school. He was somewhat of a troublemaker, and his parents decided to move him to a place that would be more challenging. He transferred to a private school, Lakeside Elementary. It was here that he discovered his passion for computers after trying a newly purchased computer that at this school (Personal History). A friend helped him write his first program at this age, and Gates never stopped after that. In high school, he helped the staff write programs for payroll. After this success, Bill co-founded a company with friend Steve Allen that helped the government track street traffic patterns (Britannica 2002). In 1972, after finishing up high school, both Allen and Gates went off to college Harvard University. It was here that he met Steve Ballmer, and the dream for Microsoft started becoming a reality.
Gates and his high school friend Allen started developing software for the very first microcomputer. The finished language was a form the language called Basic, MS-BASIC, and is still a programming language used today (Biography, p. 2). After finishing the language, the two sold it for about $100,000 to a company called MITS. After his sophomore year, both Gates and Allen felt they could have greater success in the business environment, so they left Harvard in 1975 and founded a small programming company called Microsoft (Lesinski 30). Gates had boasted he would become a millionaire by the age of 30, but little did he know how much money he would amass when at that young age.
1976 was an important year for Gates and his small company. The company rented their first building in Albuquerque, New Mexico and claimed the name Microsoft in the state. Other companies were also beginning to form during this time, in some part to a paper Bill had published in a magazine in 1975. He discussed software piracy and made the claim that copying programs was stealing. This speculation led to laws about intellectual property, or the fact that not paying for software was stealing. This new principle led to the formation of new companies, because now these companies could make money by selling large quantities of software, not just selling a few and having people give free copies to their friends.
The first step the new company took was acquiring the right to use the language MS-BASIC, the language they had previously sold. They acquired the rights once again, and then programmed new computers. Microsoft sold their product very cheaply, believing that their mission statement, “A computer on every desk in every home” would sell software in such great quantity that they could make a profit (Lesinski 33). The first few years in Microsoft were hard; Bill worked very long hours, handling coding, finances, and conducting business calls. As they sold more software, Bill began hiring more people, many being old school friends. People liked to work at Microsoft. Although the work was difficult, the atmosphere was relaxed, and no dress code was enforced.
In 1978, in order to make Microsoft more appealing to its employees and more accessible to customers, Bill moved the company from New Mexico to Bellevue, Washington. Microsoft’s first major contract occurred when IBM, the largest mainframe manufacturing company in the world, decided to venture into the personal computer market. They wanted Bill to create an operating system on disks that could make their company work with mice, keyboards, and monitors (Lesinski 37). The timeframe set was one year, and Bill knew he could not develop software that quickly. Bill decided to buy a pre-made operating system, Q-DOS, from another software company, and then tweak it for a year before sending it to IBM (Lee 32). He took half of Microsoft’s then 60 employees and had them work around the clock in order to be ready for IBM.
In 1981, Microsoft completed the operating system and called it MS-DOS. When negotiating the price with IBM, he decided to use the royalty payment system. A fraction of the price of every computer sold by IBM with MS-DOS installed would be sent to Microsoft. Very many people bought the operating system, and soon the royalties from IBM came pouring into Microsoft like an avalanche. As other people saw the success of IBM, they decided they wanted to use Bill’s operating system as well. Soon, Bill had royalties to the majority of PC makers everywhere. MS-DOS was on the way to becoming the standard in personal computing. Microsoft continued growing, and by 1983 had grown to over 200 people. However, this year would also see a co-founder of Microsoft leave the company. Steve Allen had been diagnosed with cancer. Although treatable, he felt it would be best if he left the stress of company work so he could recover.
After the loss of Allen, Bill brought Steve Ballmer, his friend from Harvard, to help manage the company. After a failed operating system joint-devolvement with IBM, Bill decided to concentrate on his plan for Microsoft: the Windows operating system. Bill was convinced that people wanted a GUI (Graphical User Interface) operating system instead of a plain text system like MS-DOS. A GUI would allow people to understand the computer much easier, and allow the complex code to work in the background without being seen by the user, who would just see the effects of the code.
Early in 1985, Windows was released. However, not many companies wrote software for this new operating system, and many analysts wondered if Windows would succeed. Bill however was convinced that GUI was the new direction for computers. Although Windows may not have been making much money, MS-DOS was still creating a lot of revenue, and his company continued growing. By the end of 1985, Microsoft had grown to over 1,000 employees (Lesinski 48).
In 1986 Microsoft moved to Redmond, Washington to provide more room for the exponential company growth. However, Microsoft still maintained its casual atmosphere. Employees played instruments and participated in games on the grass of Microsoft’s fields. Beverages were provided freely, and everyone was kept comfortable. Complaints, comments, and suggestions could still be e-mailed directly to Bill. Even though Bill was not able to have a personal relationship with his employees, he felt that letting them be in direct contact with him would help them relieve frustrations and feel more important in their work.
Bill made the decision to let Microsoft be publicly traded in the stock market in 1986.. This decision allowed every single employee in the company to have great financial opportunities. Each of them now owned a small piece of Microsoft, and could either sell it for a profit or keep it to see it the ownership increased in value. Within a few months, Bill Gates became a millionaire from his shares in the company alone. Although he had tremendous wealth, he still lived moderately. He didn’t hire drivers, he didn’t east at fancy restaurants, and he traveled very economically.
Bill continued to keep up the frantic pace, even after becoming a billionaire. He released the next version of Windows, which, like the pervious edition, was still not a big hit. He continued developing the company, building a support center where customers could call for help. Bill continued to look ahead, and in 1987, Microsoft released its first product on CD-ROM. He saw the advantage to the cheaply made, high density storage of CD-ROM, and when CD-ROM drives went mainstream, his operating systems were able to work with them. As part of his strategy, he bought a large picture collection, the Corbis collection, so that he would be ready for the digital media revelation the popularity of pictures on computers) (Lesinski 52).
Bill finally got the world excited about Windows when he released his third version, Windows 3.0, in 1990. In less than 2 weeks, more than 100,000 copies had been sold, and more than 4 million copies had been sold before then end of 1991. Windows 3.0 supported 12 different languages and was sold in 24 countries, marking Windows 3.0 an international success.
Meanwhile, Bill had met someone in his company in 1987. This very special someone was a Microsoft programmer by the name of Melinda French. She was very talented and rose to a supervisor position shortly after joining the company. Bill dated her for six years before his concerned family asked him when he was finally going to get married. In March of 1993, Bill asked Melinda to marry him. She accepted, and their engagement was announced two days later. Melinda decided to resign from Microsoft since her personal connection to the boss made the people around her nervous and instead sat on the boards of other companies. In January of 1994, Bill and Melinda were married on Lanai, Hawaii. Bill and his wife currently reside in Seattle, Washington with their two children Rory John and Jennifer (Lee 41).
Bill continues his relentless work today. Through his efforts, he is getting closer and closer to his goal of “A computer on every desk and in every home” every year. Eventually, he will hit that mark, and most of the computers will be running his operating system. He currently holds over 85% operating system sales in the world. Bill has been involved in court cases due to his dominance of the computer market, but no serious penalties have resulted. His business practices, after much examination, were found to be legal. After 3.1, Bill went on to release Windows 95, Windows NT, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, and his most recent operating system, Windows XP. He plans to release his next project, code named Longhorn, around the year 2005.
Bill Gates was and still is a pioneer of the computer field, and achieved levels of unimaginable wealth. However, he is still very generous, and as of writing, has given over $26,000,000,000 ($26 billion) to various charities and foundations though his own foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Although no longer the CEO of Microsoft (he turned those duties to Steve Ballmer), Bill still shows up to work everyday and is a critical part of Microsoft. Bill has truly influenced the entire world in the way of communication and everyday business is preformed.
"Gates, William." Britannica 2002 Deluxe Edition CD-ROM. December
Lee, Lauren. “Bill Gates.” World Almanac Library: Milwaukee, 2002.
Lesinski, Jeanne M. “Bill Gates.” Lerner Publications Company: Minneapolis, 2000
“Microsoft Bio.” Microsoft Corporation. December 28, 2003. <Bill Gates>