Sunday, November 26, 2006

Roots

American Heritage looks at the roots of Microsoft:

Gates already stood out at Lakeside, his Seattle private school. The son of a wealthy, high-powered lawyer, he was the smartest kid in class, and he knew it. Obsessive and fiercely competitive, he had a photographic memory and a knack for math and science and would chortle at students who failed to master physics concepts in one try. But he didn’t understand true passion until he started eighth grade in 1968. Over the summer Lakeside had bought a teletype machine linked by a phone line to a mainframe computer downtown. Gates soon became one of a cluster of proto-techies who jostled to spend all their free time punching BASIC commands onto rolls of yellow paper tape.

Frequently a chubby sophomore stood at the teletype breathing down Gates’s neck. His name was Paul Allen. He and Gates became fast friends in the newly christened “computer room.” “We both were fascinated with the different possibilities of what you could do with computers,” Allen recalled. “It was a vast area of knowledge we were trying to absorb.” But as much fun as he had programming ticktacktoe and lunar landing games, Gates, a born capitalist, saw more lucrative possibilities. He, Allen, and two other classmates formed the Lakeside Programmers Group in the fall of 1970. Their sole mission: to make money. “I was the mover,” Gates later said. “I was the guy who said, ‘Let’s call the real world and try to sell something to it.’”

The first opportunity came while he was still in eighth grade.

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