Bill Gates' 30-year career at Microsoft has had many highs and lows. We've charted the most important developments from Microsoft's beginnings to the present day.


Bill Gates, then 19, and 22-year-old boyhood friend Paul Allen found Micro-Soft in Albuquerque, initially to create a version of the Basic programming language for the Altair 8800 personal computer.

The formation of the business continues a partnership from their school days in Seattle that several years earlier had produced a computerised traffic-counting machine, called Traf-O-Data and based on the Intel 8008 microprocessor. Gates and Allen later drop the hyphen, then move Microsoft to the Seattle area in 1979 and officially incorporate it in 1981.


Gates writes his famous 'Open Letter to Hobbyists', accusing them of pirating Micro-Soft's Altair Basic.

"As the majority of hobbyists must be aware, most of you steal your software," he writes. The letter concludes: "Nothing would please me more than being able to hire 10 programmers and deluge the hobby market with good software."


IBM introduces its first PC, an 8088-based system running Microsoft's 16-bit MS-DOS 1.0 operating system. Microsoft didn't develop the software itself; it bought the rights to the technology from a company called Seattle Computer Products, which originally marketed the OS under the name Quick and Dirty Operating System (QDOS).


Microsoft announces Windows, initially as an extension of MS-DOS giving the software a graphical operating environment. But starting something of a tradition, Windows wouldn't be ready to ship until...


The company finally releases Windows 1.0, two years and 10 days after the initial announcement. Gates initially wanted to call the product Interface Manager but was talked out of it. Even Microsoft acknowledges that neither Windows 1.0 nor Windows 2.0, which followed in 1987, really set the world on fire. But they did get the attention of executives at what was then called Apple Computer who noticed some similarities between Windows and Apple's operating systems.


Apple files Apple Computer Inc vs Microsoft Corporation, a copyright infringement lawsuit aimed at stopping Microsoft as well as HP from using graphical user interface features that Apple claimed were copied from its Lisa and Macintosh operating systems.

A federal judge threw out most of the claims four years later. But the lawsuit was a harbinger of things to come for Microsoft.


Microsoft introduces the initial version of its Office application suite ironically, for the Macintosh, with a Windows version not following until the next year. Office still dominates the desktop apps market today, but online rivals such as Google Docs and free office suites such as are starting to pose some threat to its hegemony.

NEXT PAGE: What happened in the 1990s

  1. The highs and lows of Bill Gates' time at Microsoft
  2. What happened in the 1990s
  3. From 2000 to the present day

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