Well, here it is, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: Bill Gates is finally stepping down from Microsoft. And what is the online reaction to this news? Corporate sycophants standing in lines that stretch to the horizon, as they each take their turn to kiss The Big Bill’s butt. I haven’t seen such a send-off since Mother Teresa’s funeral. Everywhere, his worshipers are to be found, furiously screaming down anybody who dares to besmirch His Holiness.
Sickening, isn’t it? Which just makes me want to sling mud all the harder. After all, if you wanted to read some saccharine, cloying, worshipful psalm about the legacy of Sauron, you’d be reading one of those big capitalist-funded McBlogs run by soulless multinational megacorps. No, you’re kicking around here on the Z-list because you want to hear the salty, unvarnished truth about what Bill Gates meant to technology. So here it is, a time-line of Bill Gates’ legacy – like it really happened!
1955 – Born on October 28 in a rich suburb of Seattle, Washington, as William Henry Gates III. He is the child of millionaires; his father is a prominent lawyer, his mother on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem, and he even has a grandfather who is a national bank president. He is actually the fourth William Gates in the family, but his father had dropped the number after his name. In America, they call this “old money”. Bill will spend his childhood attending the nation’s most expensive prep schools.
1971 – He makes friends with Paul Allen, another spoiled rich kid, and together they found the Lakeside Programming Group, a computer “club” with the express purpose of getting as much computer time as possible from local businesses. Pictured here, Bill with his hands in his pockets watching Paul work, a pose which would be the story of Bill’s life. Bill stays up nights at the Computer Center Corporation, reading through the source code of the computer systems others worked on in order to try to learn programming. When the group finally gets a job to write a payroll program, Bill is asked to leave. Bill’s parting words to the group is “Look, if you want me to come back you have to let me be in charge, and I’m going to want to be in charge forever after” Thus, at age 16, he was already displaying open arrogance and megalomania.
1974 – Bill is accepted into Harvard, only to drop out through sheer lack of need when you’re already richer than God.
1975 – Bill is arrested on a traffic bust, blowing a red light and driving without a license. The picture shows the beaming face of a scofflaw brat who knows his daddy’s coming to bail him out any minute, so he can treat the whole thing as a joke. This same year he joins the Homebrew Computer Club (HCC), a group of hobbyist engineers and programmers who like to hack on the Altair 8800. Bill is the sole member of the club with no qualifications beyond a high school diploma, but nevertheless demands full access to everything the club does. Many members of the club share their source code with him and tutor him patiently. Bill milks this leeched knowledge into a bogus claim that he has written a BASIC interpreter, which he tries to sell to Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS). They bite, and, pressured for a product, Bill and Paul Allen simply helped themselves to the Homebrew Computer Club’s interpreter to sell to MITS. The code to this interpreter was public domain at the time; in 1975 the idea that software was a consumer commodity was ludicrous.
1976 – Dismayed that the friends at the HCC, whose software he ripped off to sell, are now sharing free copies of the software under the mistaken impression that what went around should come around, Bill writes his famous “Open Letter to Hobbyists”. It is a Narcissistic, empowered, entitled, and audacious screed that rips into his closest friends, written by a spoiled-rotten, privileged brat who believes the world must bow to him, despite the fact that all he had done in life so far was take all and give nothing. He makes up a company and calls it “Micro-Soft”.
1979 – Bill and Paul move the company to Redmond, Washington. Despite legends to the contrary, not a single line of code exists in the world written by Bill Gates, with the sole exception of “DONKEY.BAS”, a BASIC game later to be sold bundled with copies of (now re-named) Microsoft’s BASIC. His hired programmers, however, continue to release new versions of the same BASIC interpreter, which they sued MITS for the rights to re-sell.
1980 – Bill’s mom, Mary Gates, has lunch with IBM CEO John Akers, at which time Akers relates to Mrs. Gates that the company is looking for an operating system and Mrs. Gates points him at her son. Sure enough, the phone rings at Microsoft the next day and a deal to produce the operating system for the home PC market for the world’s largest computer manufacturer falls into the lap of one Bill Gates, then at the tender age of 25. There’s just one problem: he doesn’t have an operating system. Gary Kildall approaches them with CP/M, but he wants real money for his work, and is turned away after showing it to them. No sooner is he out the door than Bill hires a third-rate hack, Tim Paterson, to write a blatant rip-off of CP/M called QDOS (literally “Quick and Dirty Operating System”). Tim got his comeuppance anyway, since he basically sold what would become the world’s most famous operating system for rent money, and Bill doesn’t tell him about IBM. Bill negotiates an incredibly lucrative deal with IBM for the system, now sold as “MS-DOS”. IBM also allows him a piece of the OS/2 operating system they were building, and once again Bill has access to take advantage of other’s work.
1985 – After years of scoffing at both Xerox and Apple and the new graphical user interfaces that they had introduced, Bill leverages his familiarity with IBM’s OS/2 to have his programmers produce his own graphical desktop system on top of the quick-and-dirty DOS system. Bill originally calls it “Interface Manager”, until one of his employees, Rowland Hanson, recalls that users of the Xerox-PARC Alto had referred to a program framed in a box as a “window”. “Windows” it is, then. IBM is later quite hurt by this treachery, since Bill basically cut their throat by upstaging OS/2 with Windows. Bill Gates also manages to wrangle a spot delivering the keynote address at Comdex this year.
1986 – At 31, Bill Gates becomes the youngest billionaire in history.
1990 – The 3.0 version of Microsoft Windows tops $1 billion in sales in a single year, becoming the first software in history to have done so.
1993 – Bill Gates is presented with the National Medal of Technology by United States president George Bush, Senior.
1994 – Bill Gates becomes the richest person in the United States of America.
1995 – Bill Gates becomes the richest person in the whole freaking universe. Microsoft also licenses a copy of Spyglass Mosaic, a web browser produced externally, and turns it into Internet Explorer. Spyglass, Inc., becomes yet another company screwed over by Bill Gates. Bill uses the corpse of Spyglass to beat up Netscape, just to be mean.
1997 – The Unites States government finally wakes up to the fact that one man has become the emperor of all computers without even trying. United States v. Microsoft is filed, a case which will drag on until the year 2000 before it is at last ruled that Microsoft is “an abusive monopolist”. The conclusion happens just in time for George W. Bush to take office as president, and the leather in his seat in the Oval Office isn’t even warm before Bush dismisses all charges against Microsoft, ushering in eight years of no Federal oversight of Microsoft whatsoever. Microsoft is to become one of Bush’s biggest campaign contributors.
Ahhh, the rest is so recent you all know it. My citation is history, and every fact I cite here is concurred through numerous sites on the Internet, though here is the first place where all of the above facts have been presented in one place. Next time I’ll do a speedlink list for the history of Bill Gates and Microsoft!
- More of Bill Gates’ Legacy – a Link List
- Things We’re Tired of Hearing from Windows Users
- 7 Reasons Why Microsoft is DOOMED!
- On Founding The Cult of Microsoft
- Seven Reasons Why Google Can Never Be The Next Microsoft