In my series of must-read geeky books, I just finished another one, Hard Drive (1993), by authors James Wallace & Jim Erickson.
The book gives a very precise exposé of the parcours of Bill Gates, one of the richest Men alive to this date. Starting from the younger years, the book traces every major event in the life of this genius who revolutionized the Computer Industry of the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
The reader comes to the realisation that the accomplishments of young genius Bill Gates were no coïncidence. Coming from a comfortable middle class background, Gates attended one of the most prestigious private schools in the state of Washington, Lakeside School, whilst his dad was an important Seattle lawyer and his mother sat on the board of directors of the First Interstate Bank. The relationships forged through the school and Bill’s parents will turn out to be highly valuable in the development of the future billion-dollar corporation.
As usual, instead of wiriting a long (and boring) summary of the book, I’ll provide with a list of the key and interesting facts I came across in the book. Here it goes:
- In 1972, Gates went to D.C. to work as a page in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he bought 5,000 McGovern-Eagleton buttons for a nickel each ($250 on total). When McGovern dropped Thomas Eagleton from the preseidential ticket, Gates sold the scarce buttons as collector’s items for $25 each, makeing several thousan dollars in profit. He was 17.
- Bill can fall asleep instantaneously. When he flies, it is said he can sleep through the whole flight by putting a blanket over his head.
- Scott Drill recalled of Bill when he went to Harvard: “My perception of Bill’s lifestyle, and it was a lot of people’s perception, was that he spent his time either playing poker or in the computer room.” (p62 in the book).
- Steve Ballmer, who would become Microsoft’s 24th employee in 1980 and first business manager for Bill Gates, lived down the hall from Bill at Currier house in Harvard. He would go on to become the Chief Executive Officer of the Microsoft Corporation in 2000. His wealth is valued at $15 billion.
- Gates’ first attempt to counteract software theft happened in 1976 with an open letter to computer hobbyists in the Altair newsletter entitled Computer Notes. In this letter he would for the first time state his position on piracy, by explaining how difficult (at the time) it was to make a living out of making software.
- Ed Roberts, founder of MITS, who commisionned Gates and Paul Allen to write the BASIC for the 8080, lost the deal of the century when he accepted to give away all the rights to the BASIC to Microsoft instead of Pertec, who was acquiring MITS at the time. If Pertec had prevailed, there might not have been a Microsoft today, as BASIC was one of the first successful products Microsoft managed to license out.
- By 1977 Microsoft was established in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the office employees wore jeans and sport shirts. Free Coca-cola was supplied by the company and still is to this day, for tens of thousands of employees Worldwide.
- Gates got his first Porsche in 1977, a Porsche 911, which had a stick gear shift. Gates and Allen having only driven automatic transmissions, they learned to drive manual gear shift in a parking lot. Shortly after buying his first Porsche, Gates went back to the dealer to complain it would only do 125 Mph.
- QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System) was developed by Seattle Computer in 1980 to compete with Microsoft’s BASIC Operating System. In 1981, Microsoft paid Seattle Computers $25,000 total for licensing QDOS and its source code. The contract stipulated that nothing in this licensing agreement shall require Microsoft to identify its customer to Seattle Computer Products”. The mystery customer Microsoft already had to sublicense QDOS was no less than IBM, with revenues at the time approaching nearly $30 billion. The licensing of QDOS would be the best move so far from Bill Gates.
- Later, Gates bought all rights to QDOS from Seattle Computer Products for $50,000. It was the bargain of the century. IBM also agreed to leave copyright on the operating system to Microsoft, which would make Microsoft a major player in the industry.
- In early 1980s, Gates predicted to a group of software developers that Microsoft expected half its revenues to come from the sale of software for the new Apple II computer. Gates was being nosy at Apple, to the extent that Steve Jobs had to tell his employees to shut up and not reveal Apple’s secrets such as the mouse that would come out soon onto the market. Jobs wanted Gates to know as little as possible about GUIs.
- When Microsoft brought Windows 3.0 out in 1990, they took a bit of the Apple. This wasn’t to the enjoyment of Apple computers, whom, in a statement by Marketing Director Jim Davis, said at the time: “Windows is simply and endorsement of what we’ve been doing all along. [...] Using Windows on a PC is like putting a Rolls Royce front on a Volkswagen Bug – a pretty face, but still a bug…”.
That’s it! Enjoy…
Any other interesting facts of the Microsoft Corporation? Don’t hesitate to share below
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