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Bill Gates

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Bill Gates

Bill Gates, cofounder of the Microsoft corporation, holds 30.7 percent of its stock making him one of the richest people in the United States. He was the marketing and sales strategist behind many of Microsoft's software deals. Their software became the industry standard in the early 1980s and has just increased in distribution as the company has grown, so much that the Federal government is suggesting that Microsoft has violated Sherman and Clayton antitrust acts.

Bill Gates' first interest in computers began at Lakeside, a private school in Seattle that Gates attended. There he wrote his "first software program when I was thirteen years old. It was for playing tic-tac-toe"(Gates 1). It was at Lakeside that Gates met Paul Allen, who later became cofounder with Gates of Microsoft. There they became friends and "began to mess around with the computer"(Gates 2). Back in the sixties and early seventies computer time was expensive. "This is what drove me to the commercial side of the software business"(Gates 12). Gates, Allen and a few others from Lakeside got entry-level software programming jobs. One of Gates early programs that he likes to brag about was written at this time. It was a program that scheduled classes for students. "I surreptitiously added a few instructions and found myself nearly the only guy in a class full of girls"(Gates 12).

In 1972 Intel released their first microprocessor chip: the 8008. Gates attempted to write a version of BASIC (Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) for the new Intel chip, but the chip did not contain enough transistors to handle it. Gates and Allen found a way to use the 8008 and "started Traf-O-Data, a computer traffic analysis company"(Clayton 452) It worked well however, marketing their new machine proved to be impossible. "No one actually wanted to buy the machine, at least not from a couple teenagers"(Gates 14). Gates and Allen had more less successful endeavors in starting a software company. In 1974 Intel announced their new chip: the 8080. The two college students sent off letters "to all the big computer companies, offering to write them a version of BASIC for the new Intel chip. We got no takers"(Gates 15).

While at Harvard, the cool thing to do was to slack off on classes for most of the semester and try and see how well the student could do at the end. Steve Ballmer and Gates "took a tough graduate- level economics course together- Economics 2010. The professor allowed you to bet your whole grade on the final if you choose"(Gates 40). They did that, did not do anything for the class all semester, and studied and got A's. During one of these slack off periods, Gates and Allen found a very small computer: the Altair 8800 "('Altair' was a destination in a Star Trek episode)"(Gates 16). It had a few switches and lights on the front that you could get to blink, but that was about all. This new chip had great potential, but there was no way to program it. After five weeks of not going to classes, not eating or sleeping regularly, their version of "BASIC was written- and the world's first microcomputer software company was born. In time we named it 'Microsoft'"(Gates 17).

Gates left Harvard on leave in 1975. Microsoft's big economic break came in 1980 when "IBM- the computer industry leader- asked Gates to develop an operating system for its new personal computer"(Clayton 452). IBM usually did not use external help in software design or hardware manufacture, but they wanted to release the first personal computer in less than a year. "IBM had elected to build its PC mainly from off-the-shelf components available to anyone. This made a platform that was fundamentally open, which made it easy to copy"(Gates 47). IBM bought the microprocessors from Intel and licensed the operating system from Microsoft. Microsoft bought some work from another company in Seattle and hired its top engineer, Tim Paterson. The system became known as the Microsoft Disk Operating System, or MS-DOS.

Now because of the licensing agreement between IBM and Microsoft, IBM had no control over Microsoft's distribution of its MS-DOS to other companies who wanted to clone the IBM machine. This decision by IBM is still under great debate. Many industry analysts argue that IBM should have waited for their own software developers to develop an operating system or that IBM should have purchased MS-DOS from Microsoft. However, from a more broad economic picture of IBM's decision, it may have just turned out for the good of Microsoft, IBM and the average computer user. Microsoft's "goal was not to make money directly from IBM, but to profit from licensing MS- DOS to computer companies that wanted to offer machines more or less compatible with the IBM PC"(Gates 49). By allowing Microsoft to sell MS-DOS to other ...

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