Nowadays, it’s hard to meet a person that has never heard or in some capacity, used Microsoft. Whether you rely on the Microsoft Office package to get you through your daily personal or work life or you simply use Microsoft Windows as your operating system, the Microsoft logo is almost as well recognised as windows themselves! But that wasn’t always the case. For many of us that grew up in a world where we were supported and helped by Microsoft and their subsidiaries, it’s hard to imagine a world without or before Microsoft. But of course, that world certainly existed and I’m almost certain it would have been significantly more difficult to navigate than it is today. Many of us know and recognise Microsoft, but very few people know the history of how it came to be. How did the world look before Microsoft? Well, that’s exactly what we’re here today to tell you.
Where Did It All Begin?
Before Microsoft became the global phenomenon it is today, its founder, computer nerd turned billionaire, Bill Gates, was just a normal kid, living a pretty normal life. That is, until he turned 7 years old. At a time when many of us were discovering a new love for microwaveable foods and playing outside until the streetlamps came on, young Bill was helping his family pick up the pieces after a tornado destroyed his family’s home in Seattle. Sadly, for Bill, that may have been the first, but certainly wasn’t the last tragedy that would strike him in his younger life. At 17 years old, Gates lost his best friend and who could be classed as his first real business partner, Kent Evans. Bill was understandably heartbroken and still mourns the loss of his dear friend to this day.
But in between those two tragic events, something special was beginning in Bill. He instantly took a shine to programming and had programmed his first software while he was still a teenager. From the first time he ever got onto a computer, Bill wanted to work with technology every chance he got, even if it meant working for his school. For a year or so, Gates was unofficially hired as a makeshift IT support engineer to help his school sort out a scheduling problem they’d been having. If you’re wondering what exactly does a tech support engineer do, then don’t worry, because you certainly wouldn’t be the only one. Like most engineers, their specialities tend to cover a wide range of things, in this case, Bill was helping to make scheduling an automatic action that could allow teachers to focus on teaching rather than organising schedules.
With his knack for programming and his very apparent intelligence, it probably isn’t surprising for most that he got into Harvard. But what might be surprising is that Gates got a nearly perfect score in his SATs, which many of us know is no small feat. However, after a couple of years, Gates dropped out of Harvard and in 1975, he and his buddy, Paul Allen, decided to go out on their own and try their hand at starting their own computer company. That company, as some of you might have already guessed, turned out to be Microsoft. Microsoft sought to make computing easier for the average person and devised various software and programming tools designed to do just that.
What Happened Next?
Microsoft launched its first piece of hardware in 1980 called the soft card, which allowed the operating system CPM, which later evolved into dos, to run on apple computers. However, what truly shout Microsoft to superstardom as the leading computer software company was when they agreed to produce dos for IBM in 1981. Although it wasn’t a very lucrative contract in terms of initial payment the prestige that came with IBM utilising their operating system was the first step in making Microsoft into the software giant we know and see it as today. Their yearly revenue raised from 16 million in 1981 to over 97 million only three years.
In 1985, Microsoft released the first version of Microsoft Office and as far as we’re concerned, the rest was history. Even today, Microsoft Office is still used in every office and classroom with a computer. Many of us are taught literacy on their operating systems and many of the letters and pieces of writing we craft throughout our lives are started on Microsoft Word. Even now, I have written the first draft of this article on Microsoft Word. Its grasp has gotten so large, that at times, we aren’t always even aware we’re using a Microsoft product. We’ve gotten so used to using Microsoft that it tends to fade into the background, which brings to mind a quote from ‘god’ in an episode of Futurama – “When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all”.