Happy 37th anniversary, Microsoft

4 Apr 2012

Personal computers surround Microsoft co-founders Paul Allen (left) and Bill Gates on 19 October 1981, shortly they signed a major contract with IBM to write software for their upcoming line of PCs. Photo by Microsoft

Childhood buddies Paul Allen and Bill Gates took their passion for computer programming and paired it with their hopes of building a successful business with their shared skills. They succeeded – 37 years ago today, on 4 April 1975, tech giant Microsoft was born.

Gates, a Harvard University dropout, was 19 at the time. Allen was 22. The duo had been working for Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, building BASIC for the company’s Altair 8800 microcomputer, when they founded Microsoft.

Gates took the helm as CEO, and Allen came up with the name ‘Microsoft’, as recounted in a 1995 Fortune magazine article.

“Be nice to nerds. Chances are, you’ll end up working for one.”
– Bill Gates

Microsoft product launches – a timeline:

1 August 1989: Earliest version of Office suite of productivity applications

22 May 1990: Windows 3.0

24 August 1995: Windows 95

25 June 1998: Windows 98

17 February 2000: Windows 2000

31 May 2001: Office XP

25 October 2001: Windows XP

15 November 2001: Xbox

7 November 2002: Microsoft and partners launch Tablet PC

24 April 2003: Windows Server 2003

21 October 2003: Microsoft Office System

22 November 2005: Xbox 360

30 January 2007: Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office System

27 February 2008: Windows Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008

3 June 2009: Bing

22 October 2009: Windows 7

15 June 2010: General availability of Office 2012

4 November 2010: Kinect for Xbox 360

10 November 2010: Windows Phone 7

17 November 2010: Availability of Microsoft Lync

28 June 2011: Office 365

Source: Microsoft

Today, Gates serves as Microsoft’s chairman. Allen officially left the company in November 2000 and since then has served as a senior strategy adviser to the company’s executives and served as chairman of investment and project management company Vulcan Inc, a firm he founded in 1986.

Microsoft has come a long way since its beginning, as well, both literally and figuratively. From Albuquerque, the company moved to Bellevue, Washington, in January 1979, and then established a corporate campus in Redmond, Washington, in February 1986, where it remains today. A month later, Microsoft stock went public.

“In junior high and high school is when Bill (Gates) and I gravitated towards high technology, and I don’t think there’s enough being done to expose young people to the fascination and excitement of it.”
– Paul Allen

The company introduced the earliest version of its Office suite of productivity applications on 1 August 1989 and launched Windows 3.0 nine months later.

The year 2000 began with new leadership at the company, with the appointment of Steve Ballmer as president and chief executive officer for Microsoft.

Gates made a transition in his day-to-day role at Microsoft in June 2008 to spend more time on his work at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Microsoft made headlines again just this past October, when it closed its acquisition of Skype, the software application that allows users to make voice calls over the internet.

Microsoft group

The “Albuquerque Group”, the original 11 members of Microsoft that worked at the company in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before Microsoft relocated to Washington state. (Back row, from left) Steve Wood, Bob Wallace, Jim Lane; (second row, from left) Bob O’ Rear, Bob Greenberg, Marc McDonald, Gordon Letwin; (front row, from left) Bill Gates, Andrea Lewis, Marla Wood, Paul Allen, 7 December 1978. Photo by Microsoft

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic