This Day in Tech History

On This Day . . .

So It Begins

gatesAllenMS

April 4, 1975: Microsoft Established

Bill Gates and Paul Allen were childhood friends with a passion for computer programming. While the rest of us were out riding our bikes and playing inside empty refrigerator boxes, these guys were programing rudimentary computers.

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They were seeking to make a successful business utilizing their shared skills when they founded their first company, Traf-O-Data. Traf-O-Data offered a basic computer that tracked and analyzed automobile traffic data. Allen went on to pursue a degree in computer science at the University of Washington, later dropping out of school to work at Honeywell. Gates began studies at Harvard.

MITS Altair 8800

MITS Altair 8800

It really got serious in January of 1975 when Popular Electronics magazine published an article featuring a Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), Altair 8800 microcomputer. The MITS Altair was the first “personal computer” offered as a “build it yourself kit” for hobbyists.

Problem was, the Altair needed software, a programming language, that could make it perform useful tasks. This was Gates and Allen’s opportunity.

Allen noticed that they could program a BASIC interpreter for the device. Gate gives MITS a call and tells them they have a working interpreter for the Altair; MITS requested a demonstration. One small caveat, they didn’t actually have one.

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Allen worked on a simulator for the Altair while Gates developed the interpreter.  Although they developed the interpreter on a simulator and not the actual device, the interpreter worked flawlessly when they demonstrated it to MITS in Albuquerque, NM on March 1975. MITS agreed to distribute it, marketing it as Altair BASIC.

1978 photo of early Microsoft employees

1978 photo of early Microsoft employees

They officially established Microsoft on April 4, 1975, with Gates as the CEO. Allen came up with the original name of “Micro-Soft,” the combination of the words microcomputer and software, as recounted in a 1995 Fortune magazine article. In August 1977 the company formed an agreement with ASCII Magazine in Japan, resulting in its first international office, “ASCII Microsoft”. The company moved to a new home in Bellevue, Washington in January 1979. And the rest as they say…

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