Microsoft Corporation created history as it reached a $2 trillion market value this week, driven by its dominance in cloud computing and enterprise software. The only other member of this elite club is Apple.
Headquartered in Redmond, Washington, its products are used by hundreds of millions of people every day, and its logo is one of the most recognized around the world. The company that would eventually become Microsoft was first founded by childhood friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1975 as Micro-Soft.
Here’s a look at some of the most interesting facts about the tech titan.
Both Gates and Allen were avid computer geeks in an age when access to computers was hard to come by. They even skipped high school classes to live and breathe in their school’s computer room. Eventually, they hacked the school’s computer and were caught, but instead of being expelled, they were offered unlimited computer time in exchange for helping to improve the school computer’s performance.
In 1973, Gates left Seattle to attend Harvard University as a pre-law student. However, Gates’ first love never left him as he spent most of his time in Harvard’s computer center, where he kept improving his programming skills. Soon Allen moved to Boston as well, working as a programmer and pressuring Gates to leave Harvard so they could work together full time on their projects. Gates was uncertain of what to do, but fate stepped in.
In January 1975, Allen read an article in Popular Electronics magazine about the Altair 8800 microcomputer and showed it to Gates. Gates called MITS, makers of the Altair, and offered his and Allen’s services to write a version of the new BASIC programming language for the Altair. After eight weeks, Allen and Gates demonstrated their program to MITS, which agreed to distribute and market the product under the name Altair BASIC. The deal inspired Gates and Allen to form their own software company. Thus, Microsoft was started on April 4, 1975 in Albuquerque, New Mexico—the home of MITS—with Gates as the first CEO.
On July 29, 1975, Gates used the name “Micro-Soft”—which had been suggested by Allen—in a letter to Allen referring to their partnership. The name, a portmanteau of “microcomputer” and “software,” was registered with the New Mexico secretary of state on Nov. 26, 1976. The Hyphen in the company name, Micro-Soft, was removed after a decision was made in 1981.
In August 1977, less than a year later, the company opened its first international office. The branch, located in Japan, was called ASCII Microsoft. In 1979, the company moved to Bellevue, Washington, and two years later it incorporated under the name Microsoft Inc. Gates was president of the company and chairman of the board, and Allen was executive vice president.
Microsoft’s first major deal was with IBM for their new computer’s operating system in 1980 which the company named PC DOS, the deal was a whopping $50,000 offered to them by Tim Paterson. In the deal of the century, Gates licensed MS-DOS to IBM but retained the rights to the software. As a result, Gates made a fortune for Microsoft, which had become a major software vendor.
Microsoft’s first operating system product to be publicly released was a version of Unix called Xenix, released in 1980. Xenix was later used as the basis for Microsoft’s first word processor Multi-Tool Word, a predecessor to Microsoft Word.
Bill Gates wanted to call Windows as ‘Interface Manager’ and planned to release it under the same name. However, ‘Windows’ name prevailed because it best describes the boxes or computing ‘windows’ that were fundamental to the new operating system.
Bill Gates was officially the youngest billionaire when he reached this astounding feat in 1987 at the humble age of 31. Gates’ famous property Xanadu 2.0 is supposedly worth a staggering $123 million as of 2017.
Rolling Stones’ song was Windows 95’s theme song. Famed producer and musician Brian Eno wrote the famous Windows startup sound, which debuted in Windows 95
Microsoft employees bring M&Ms to the office to share on their work anniversaries — tradition is, one pound for every year they’ve been with the company.
Microsoft created the first smartwatch in 1994 with the Datalink 150. The watch, co-produced by Timex, required a PC running Windows 3.1 and over and was water resistant to 100 meters, much more than any PC at the time.
In 1997, Microsoft saved Apple from almost-certain bankruptcy by making a $150 million investment. Steve Jobs announced it on stage at his first appearance as Apple CEO, to boos from the audience.
Microsoft headquarters had 35 cafeterias with free candy and drinks. Microsoft employees drink 23 million free beverages from the company cafeteria every year — mostly milk and orange juice. The cafe boasts an impressive 2,000 visitors a day in the pre-Covid times.
Microsoft employee’s gender balance is at almost 3/4 male to female according to one list in 2015, the average software engineer gets $106,000.
Microsoft holds 48,313 patents, including one for its funky futuristic “HoloLens” headset.The 10000th patent Microsoft acquired was for the Microsoft Surface, the revolutionary laptop device.
Since taking the reins in 2014, India-born Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella has reshaped the Redmond, Washington-based company into the largest seller of cloud-computing software, counting both its infrastructure and Office application cloud units.
The company is focusing on innovative technologies, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing. Nadella is also credited for successfully changing the culture of the entire organization.
Microsoft is also the only one of the biggest U.S. technology companies that has so far evaded the recent wave of scrutiny from increasingly active American antitrust regulators, giving it a freer hand in both acquisitions and product expansion.