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Microsoft History

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Microsoft History

Historians categorize blocks of time with the discovery of certain raw materials

that humans utilized. The Bronze Age and the Iron Age were two periods in human

history that proved through the discovery of artifacts that humans learned to

harness these raw materials ingeniously. The Industrial Revolution of the late

nineteenth century brought the discoveries of the Bronze and Iron Ages to new

heights, and the advent of the locomotive, automobiles, cargo ships and

airplanes were the most evident by-products of such raw materials. Use of these

by-products from the earth's raw materials dramatically changed the world of

business and trade. With the subsequent invention of wire communications (i.e.,

tapping out Morse code and speaking over telephone lines), business and trade

grew exponentially. Wireless communications via the inventions of radio,

television, and motion pictures contributed greatly to the advances of the

Industrial Revolution. The need to find better ways of doing business to keep

the marketplace fresh and innovative has driven the human race toward the brink

of a new era the Information Age. Unlike more tangible qualities of prior ages,

the Information Age offers less defined qualities. At the heart of this new age

is the advent of the personal home computer. Pumping life into this otherwise

material home appliance is software that incorporates the necessary commands to

access information stored within the computer's memory. The company that

offered the world its first software manufacturing company was Microsoft

Corporation (MSFT on the NASDAQ exchange). At the helm of this young, innovative

company are William Gates and Paul Allen, a pair of former high school chums who

envisioned a world of home computer technology years before such a dream became

even remotely possible.

Early Influences

Their story begins at Lakeside High, a private high school in Seattle,

Washington. The Mothers' Club at Lakeside decided to purchase a computer

terminal for the kids with proceeds from bake sales and rummage sales. Students

at Lakeside became enthralled with this new toy. True to their innate curiosity,

Gates and Allen began to dabble farther into the workings of the computer; Gates,

for example, wrote his first computer program at the age of thirteenCa version

of Tic, Tac, Toe. Because the computer terminal was so slow, one game of Tic,

Tac, Toe took up most of a lunch break; if played on paper, a full 30 seconds

might have been required. Despite the simplicity of the program, it spawned the

creative genius in both young men to tackle more challenging programs in the

years ahead. Because the Mothers' Club was unable to afford continued use of

computer time at $40 per hour, they decided to make it students' responsibility

to purchase their own computer time. Most students complied by getting jobs

outside school. Gates and Allen became programmers in the summers for

compensation of computer time and $5000 in cash. In his 1995 book The Road

Ahead, Gates describes the mainframe computers of the early >70's as A. . .

temperamental monsters that resided in climate-controlled cocoons . . .

connected by phone lines to clackety teletype terminals. . . .@ (11) He went

on to explain that a personal home computer called the DPD-8 was actually

available from Digital Equipment Corporation. According to Gates it was A. . .

an $18,000 personal computer which occupied a rack two feet square and six feet

high and had about as much computing capacity as a wristwatch does today . . .

Despite its limitations, it inspired us to indulge in the dream that one day

millions of individuals could possess their own computers.@ (11-12)

In the summer of 1973, Paul Allen, who knew more about computer hardware than

Bill Gates, shared an article with Gates buried on page 143 in Electronics

Magazine. The article described the invention of the 8008 micro-processor chip

by a young company called Intel. Paul was surprised to receive the technical

manual for the chip in the mail simply upon request. Immediately, he went to

work analyzing its capabilities. Due to the lack of transistors, the 8008 chip

was very limited in its use, but Allen discovered despite the limitations, the

chip was good for repetitive tasks and mathematical data.

First Business Venture

When Paul Allen entered college at Pullman, Washington, a town on the east side

of the state, sixteen-year-old Bill Gates traveled frequently by bus to visit

him. On these long trips across the state, Gates wrote a program that

facilitated

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