Who is Bill Gates?
Early on in his life, Gates observed that his parents wanted him to pursue a law career. The family encouraged competition; one visitor reported that "it didn't matter whether it was hearts or pickleball or swimming to the dock ... there was always a reward for winning and there was always a penalty for losing".
At 13, he enrolled in the Lakeside School, a private preparatory school. When Gates was in the eighth grade, the Mothers' Club at the school used proceeds from Lakeside School's rummage sale to buy a Teletype Model 33 ASR terminal and a block of computer time on a General Electric (GE) computer for the school's students. Gates took an interest in programming the GE system in BASIC , and was excused from math classes to pursue his interest. He wrote his first computer program on this machine: an implementation of tic-tac-toe that allowed users to play games against the computer. Gates was fascinated by the machine and how it would always execute software code perfectly. When he reflected back on that moment, he said, "There was just something neat about the machine."
Gates was a National Merit Scholar when he graduated from Lakeside School in 1973. He scored 1590 out of 1600 on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT) and enrolled at Harvard College in the autumn of 1973. He chose a pre-law major but took mathematics and graduate level computer science courses. While at Harvard, he met fellow student Steve Ballmer. Gates left Harvard after two years while Ballmer would stay and graduate magna cum laude. Years later, Ballmer succeeded Gates as Microsoft's CEO. He maintained that position from 2000 until his resignation from the company in 2014.
Gates did not have a definite study plan while he was a student at Harvard, and he spent a lot of time using the school's computers. Gates remained in contact with Paul Allen, and he joined him at Honeywell during the summer of 1974.
The MITS Altair 8800 was released the following year. The new computer was based on the Intel 8080 CPU, and Gates and Allen saw this as the opportunity to start their own computer software company. Gates dropped out of Harvard at this time. He had talked over this decision with his parents, who were supportive of him after seeing how much their son wanted to start his own company. Gates explained his decision to leave Harvard, saying "...if things [Microsoft] hadn't worked out, I could always go back to school. I was officially on [a] leave [of absence]."
The name Microsoft
After Gates read the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics , which demonstrated the Altair 8800, he contacted Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), the creators of the new microcomputer, to inform them that he and others were working on a BASIC interpreter for the platform. In reality, Gates and Allen did not have an Altair and had not written code for it; they merely wanted to gauge MITS's interest. MITS president Ed Roberts agreed to meet them for a demo, and over the course of a few weeks they developed an Altair emulator that ran on a minicomputer, and then the BASIC interpreter. The demonstration, held at MITS's offices in Albuquerque , was a success and resulted in a deal with MITS to distribute the interpreter as Altair BASIC . Paul Allen was hired into MITS, and Gates took a leave of absence from Harvard to work with Allen at MITS in Albuquerque in November 1975. They named their partnership "Micro-Soft" and had their first office located in Albuquerque. Within a year, the hyphen was dropped, and on November 26, 1976, the trade name "Microsoft" was registered with the Office of the Secretary of the State of New Mexico . Gates never returned to Harvard to complete his studies.
Microsoft's Altair BASIC was popular with computer hobbyists, but Gates discovered that a pre-market copy had leaked into the community and was being widely copied and distributed. In February 1976, Gates wrote an Open Letter to Hobbyists in the MITS newsletter in which he asserted that more than 90 percent of the users of Microsoft Altair BASIC had not paid Microsoft for it and by doing so the Altair "hobby market" was in danger of eliminating the incentive for any professional developers to produce, distribute, and maintain high-quality software. This letter was unpopular with many computer hobbyists, but Gates persisted in his belief that software developers should be able to demand payment. Microsoft became independent of MITS in late 1976, and it continued to develop programming language software for various systems. The company moved from Albuquerque to its new home in Bellevue, Washington, on January 1, 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, according to Bill Gates' own claims, 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 in reference to an operating system for its upcoming personal computer, the IBM PC. IBM first proposed that Microsoft write the BASIC interpreter. When IBM's representatives mentioned that they needed an operating system, Gates referred them to Digital Research (DRI), makers of the widely used CP/M operating system. IBM's discussions with Digital Research went poorly, and they did not reach a licensing agreement. IBM representative Jack Sams mentioned the licensing difficulties during a subsequent meeting with Gates and told him to get an acceptable operating system. A few weeks later, Gates proposed using 86-DOS (QDOS), an operating system similar to CP/M that Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer Products (SCP) had made for hardware similar to the PC. Microsoft made a deal with SCP to become the exclusive licensing agent, and later the full owner, of 86-DOS. After adapting the operating system for the PC, Microsoft delivered it to IBM as PC DOS in exchange for a one-time fee of $50,000.
Gates did not offer to transfer the copyright on the operating system, because he believed that other hardware vendors would clone IBM's system. They did, and the sales of MS-DOS made Microsoft a major player in the industry. Despite IBM's name on the operating system, the press quickly identified Microsoft as being very influential on the new computer. PC Magazine asked if Gates were "the man behind the machine?", and InfoWorld quoted an expert as stating "it's Gates' computer". Gates oversaw Microsoft's company restructuring on June 25, 1981, which re-incorporated the company in Washington state and made Gates the president of Microsoft and its board chairman.
You don't win by sitting back......