Today in History – April 4, 1975 – The Microsoft Company founded.
Well actually, Microsoft’s archivist has no record of a noteworthy Microsoft event that might have happened on April 4. The closest event appears to be a hand written tax form dated on April 1 that may have reached the IRS on April 4. As a number of websites lists April 4 as the founding date for Microsoft, I thought I’d write the blog anyway. But this date may be an urban myth, possibly started with a Wikipedia error on the date. Do stay tuned to Amy Stevenson’s more informed blog on July 22, the date that Bill Gates and Paul Allen Licensed BASIC to Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS). BASIC was the first computer language program written for a personal computer. This really was what launched Gates and Allen as a viable business entity.
Bill Gates and Paul Allen grew up in Seattle and started programming while still in elementary school. Paul Allen went was a bit older and took a job at Honeywell. In 1973, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, now Microsoft’s chief executive officer, were both undergraduates at Harvard University. All three were totally blown away by the possibilities offered by the MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems) Altair 8800, based on an article they had read in the 1st January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics.
Gates had developed a preliminary version of the programming language BASIC for the MITS Altair and left during his junior year at Harvard and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico to devote his energies to continue working on BASIC. Gates and Allen are reported to have worked in marathon 24-hour sessions to complete the BASIC programming language to the level at which it could be licensed to MITS. Gates and Allen were driven by the belief that computers had the potential to be a powerful tool for everyone, not just dedicated hobbyists. It was only in later licensing agreements with MITS that the informal partnership called Micro-Soft, was formalized.
The Microsoft history website provides the following overview of significant events that shaped the company in 1975.
- Revenues: $16,005
- Employees: 3 (Allen, Gates and Ric Weiland)
- MITS promotes Altair BASIC, the computer language developed by Gates and Allen for the Altair computer. Hobbyists are ecstatic, despite the fact that, even with BASIC, there is little you can actually do with the Altair.
I love the picture above of Microsoft on December 7, 1978 (upper left photo) with Steve Wood (left), Bob Wallace, Jim Lane. Middle row: Bob O’Rear, Bob Greenberg, Marc McDonald, Gordon Letwin. Bottom row: Bill Gates, Andrea Lewis, Marla Wood, Paul Allen. Clearly they of the 70′s generation.
Check out the Engineering Pathway’s educational resources on Microsoft, the Altair and history of computing. For more educational resources, see our electrical engineering education, computer science education and computer engineering education community pages. The Engineering Pathway also hosts Engineering Education communities in all ABET-accredited disciplines.