Egyptians found a way to work with numbers way back in 4000 B.C. They invented a system of counting using the number 10, but it wasn't until 2000 years later that multiplication tables were invented. And before multiplication tables, figuring out what 12 by 12 equaled, meant spending a lot of time counting by one up to 144.
About 500 B. C., the Babylonians invented the abacus, a faster and easier way of adding and subtracting. It was the first portable counting tool and is still in use today. In fact, some abacus users are faster than many people are on their computers.
In 1642, a French mathematician named Blaise Pascal had an idea that would make his father's work a lot easier. Blaise's father was a tax collector, who had spent long hours keeping track of who owed taxes and exactly how much they owed. As there were a lot of numbers to calculate, Blaise invented a machine that could add and subtract quickly using wheels. This machine was called the Pascaline.
In 1673, the idea of binary arithmetic was invented. A German by the name of Leibniz showed that every number could be represented by using just two mathematical symbols, zero (0) and one (1). He applied binary arithmetic to the Pascaline computing machine and to make it work faster and do more. The Leibniz wheel, as it was called, could do addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Every computer from year 1679 until the present has used the binary system.
During the 19th century, Englishman Charles Babbage invented a machine called the Analytical Engine. It was the world's first fully automated calculating machine. Babbage had a woman friend named Augusta Ada, who suggested that the Analytical Engine could be programmed using a set of cards that stored information with holes punched in precise places. Every time the machine found a hole in a certain place, it stored, calculated, or printed information depending on where the hole was. Augusta was considered the world's first programmer. Augusta created the programs (holes in the cards) that gave the machines instructions in which to follow. Here idea was great, but Babbage could not get his machine to work.
As technology entered the 20th century, advances began to happen much more quickly. In 1939, a physicist named John Atanasoff took one of the first steps toward inventing the modern computers. He wanted to solve complicated equations more quickly, so with the help of a graduate student named Clifford Berry, Atanasoff used old fashioned electronics and binary arithmetic to build the ABC, or Atanasoff-Berry Computer. The ABC is considered the forerunner of today's digital computers.
During World War II, specifically 1943, the British developed a machine they named Colossus. The British used it to break Germany's secret codes. The Colossus was the correct name for this machine as the machine filled a room the size of a small warehouse and contained more than 2,400 vacuum tubes. These glass tubes had no oxygen inside of them, so that electricity could flow through them quickly carrying information. These early computers needed hundreds of vacuum tubes to manage information.
During 1945, the United States Army built ENIAC, short for Electronic Numeric Integrator and Computer. ENIAC was so fast that it could solve over 5,000 addition problems per second. The downside was that ENIAC contained over 17,000 vacuum tubes, 7,000 crystal diodes, 1,500 relays, 70,000 resistors, 10,000 capacitors and around 2 million hand-soldered joints, and weighted in excess of 30 tons, was 80 feet long by 3 feet wide and over 8 feet in height. It was the first general purpose electronic Turing complete digital computer, capable of being reprogrammed to solve a full range of computing problems. Popular Mechanics, back in 1949 predicted that one day computers would weigh no more than 1.5 tons.
Around 1960, so called mini-computers were made that cost less than $120,000. Less than 2 years later, vacuum tubes were replaced by transistors, thereby reducing the size and heat generation of those large machines. During the middle of the 60's, the cost was down to around $18,000 and the size of the mini-computer was equivalent to that of a refrigerator.
During the spring of 1968, at a prep school that Bill Gates and Paul Allen, both founders of Microsoft, first used a computer. Though their computer was still too expensive to buy, the prep school held a fundraiser to acquire computer time on a DEC PDP-10 which was owned by General Electric Company. This cost them several thousand dollars which the school expected to last a whole year, but with the enthusiasm of these 2 plus others, they used up their time in short order as they spent all day and night writing programs and reading all the material they could get their hands on.
During late 1968, a computer company offered the prep school time at a good price to provide computer time for their students. Bill and Paul and their friends wasted no time in exploring the new machine and soon started causing problems, by breaking into the security system, and changing a file that recorded how much computer time that they were using and altered those records.
During 1968, Bill and Paul formed a programming group with 2 other students and applied their new computing skills to the real world. They were able to get free unlimited computer time from Computer Centre Corporation in exchange by searching for bugs and weaknesses in their system. It was during this time, that they really got into computers, as they were addicted day and night to computers.
In March 1970 Computer Centre Corporation went out of business, so the programmers found more free time with Information Sciences Inc., who hired them to create a payroll program in exchange for free computer time and royalties from the software giving them a source of income for the first time.
Bill and Paul's next project was with Traf-O-Data Company, creating software to help measure traffic flow. They earned about $20,000 from this company which lasted them until Bill went to college.
Bill started at Harvard University during the fall of 1973, and later dropped out during 1975 and formed Microsoft. This came about as both Bill and Paul, noticed an article in Popular Electronics, January 1975 issue, featuring Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) Altair 8800 microcomputer. Allen noticed that they could program a basic interpreter for the device and after a call from Gates, who claimed to have a working interpreter, MITS requested a demonstration. Well, they didn't have a working interpreter, so Allen worked on a simulator for the Altair while Gates developed the interpreter. Even thought the interpreter was developed on a simulator and not the actual device, it worked perfectly when they demonstrated the interpreter to MITS in March 1975. MITS then agreed to distribute it and market it as Altair BASIC. Hence, they established Microsoft (Microcomputer and Software, which became Microsoft) on April 4, 1975 with Gates as CEO. In August 1977 Microsoft signed an agreement with ASCII Magazine in Japan, which resulted in its first international office. They then moved the company to its new home in Bellevue Washington, in January 1979.
Microsoft staff photo from December 7, 1978
During 1980, Microsoft entered the Operating System (OS) business with its own version of UNIX called Xenix. However, it was their Disk Operating System (DOS) which solidified the company's dominance. They attempted to negotiate a contract with Digital Research which failed; they were awarded a contract with International Business Machines (IBM) to provide a version of CP/M OS (Control Program for Microcomputers) which was set to be used in the upcoming IBM Personal Computer (IBM PC). For this deal, Microsoft purchased an unauthorized clone named 86-DOS from Seattle Software Works, branding it as MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System), which IBM rebranded as PC-DOS. Since IBM copyrighted the IBM PC BIOS (Basic Input/Output System), other companies had to reverse engineer it in order for non-IBM hardware to run as IBM compatibles, but no such restriction applied to its operating system. Due to various factors, such as MS-DOS's available software selection, Microsoft eventually became the leading PC OS vendor. Microsoft expanded into new markets with the release of the Microsoft Mouse in 1983, as well as a publishing division named Microsoft Press. Paul Allen resigned from Microsoft in February of 1983 after developing Hodgkin's disease.
While jointly working on a new OS with IBM in 1984, Microsoft released Microsoft Windows on November 20. Microsoft moved its headquarters to Redmond Oregon on February 26, 1986 and on March 13th, 1986 they went public; resulting in the rise of the stock making an estimated 4 billionaires and 12,000 millionaires from Microsoft employees. During 1990, the Federal Trade Commission set its eye on Microsoft due to their partnership with IBM for possible collusion. This set the beginning of over a decade of legal clashes between Microsoft and the US Government.
Microsoft announced the release of its version of OS/2 to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) on April 2. 1987, while the company was still working on a 32-bit OS, named Microsoft Windows NT, using ideas from OS-2. NT shipped on July 21, 1993 with a Win32 application programming interface (API) making going from a 16-bit MS-DOS based Windows easier. Once Microsoft informed IBM of NT, the OS/2 partnership collapsed. Microsoft introduced its office suite, Microsoft Office in 1990. The software bundled separate program in a productivity application, such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access. On May 22, Microsoft launched Windows 3 with a streamlined user interface graphics (GUI) and improved protected virtual address mode, which was designed to increase an operating systems control over application software. Both Office and Windows became dominant in their respective areas. Novell, a competitor from 1984-1986, filed a lawsuit claiming that Microsoft left part of its API's (Application programming interface) undocumented in order to gain a competitive edge.
During the middle 1990's, Microsoft expanded its product line into computer networking and the World Wide Web. They released Windows 95 on August 25, 1995 featuring pre-emptive (the act of temporarily interrupting a task being carried out by a computer system, without requiring its cooperation, and able to resume it later) multitasking, a new user interface and a new novel start button with 32-+bit compatibility, similar to NT. This software came bundled with an online service called MSN and for OEM's, a web browser called Internet Explorer. The browser was not bundled with Windows 95 because the cartons with the retail Windows 95 were printed before the team finished the web browser. In 1996, Microsoft team with NBC Universal and created a new 24-7 cable news station called MSNBC. Microsoft created Windows CE 1.0, a new designed OS for devices (PDA) with low memory and other similar constraints. In 1997, the US Justice Department filed a motion in Federal District Court stating that Microsoft violated an agreement signed in 1994 and asked the court to stop the bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows.
Bill Gates handed over the reins of the company on January 13, 2000 to Steve Ballmer, an old college friend of Gates and an employee of Microsoft since 1980. When this happened, Bill created a new position for himself, calling himself Chief Software Architect. Various companies including Microsoft formed the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance in late 1999 to help increase security and protect intellectual property through identifying changes in hardware and software. Critics decry the alliance as a way to enforce indiscriminate restrictions over how consumers use software and over how computers behave; a form of digital rights management. On April 3, 2000 a judgment was handed down in the case of the United States vs. Microsoft, and called the company an abusive monopoly. It settled with the Justice Department in 2004 and moved on. During late 2001, Microsoft released Windows XP, unifying its base OS code with its NT code base. XP is still used by many still today, as it is considered the most stable platform of all operating systems released to date. Also that year, Microsoft went into the game console business dominated by Sony and Nintendo, by releasing its version called Xbox. During March 2004, the European Union brought an antitrust suit against the company, citing is monopoly with the Windows OS, resulting in a hefty fine of over 500 Million US dollars, so as to produce newer versions of Windows XP without Windows Media Player. Microsoft also released other version of XP, called XP home edition and XP Professional.
The next version of Windows was released in January 2007 and was called Vista, and also had multiple versions of it. This version focused on features, security, and a redesigned user interface. Later that year, Microsoft also released a new version of its Office product line called, Microsoft Office 2007 which also had a changed user interface. While these new products helped produce record profits for Microsoft, the European Union imposed another fine on Microsoft totaling upwards of $1.4 billion US dollars charging Microsoft with lack of compliance with its March 2004 judgment and on February 2008, saying that the company charged rival companies unreasonable prices for key information about its workgroup and backoffice servers. Microsoft countered by saying that these new fines are about past issues that it had already resolved.
Bill Gates retired from his role as Chief Software Architect during June 2008, while retaining his other positions with the company, while still being an advisor for the company on key projects. The company also went into cloud computing (shared internet based servers provide resources, software and data on demand, creating virtualization). During 2009, opened up its first retail Microsoft retail store in Scottsdale Arizona, the same day that it announced the official release of its Windows 7 OS to the public. This version focused on refining Vista with the ease of use features and significant performance enhancements, rather than a large reworking of Windows.
1975 Microsoft Basic completed
Revenue $16+k employees 3
1976 Enhanced Basic released
Revenue $22+k employees 7
1977 FORTRAN, COBOL and Assembler released
Revenue $381+k employees 13
1978 Release Applesoft Basic, M/S COBOL and Assembler,
Revenue $1.3+M employees 13
1979 Released MS 8080 for Basic
Revenue $2.39+M employees 28
1980 MS Card, MS Xenix OS, Pascal Language
Revenue $7.5+M employees 40
1981 Release of MS-DOS
Revenue $16M employees 128
1982 MS Local Area Network
Revenue $24.4+M employees 220
1983 MS Flight simulator, Multiplan spreadsheet, Word for MS-DOS, Mouse released
Revenue $50+M employees 476
1984 MS Word, Chart, File, Excel, Press released
Revenue $94+M employees 608
1985 GUI released along with MS-DOS Executive et al
Revenue $140+M employees 910
1986 MS Works, CD-ROM technology introduced
Revenue $197+M employees 1442
1987 MS Windows 2, OS/2, Bookshelf, Excel and LAN Manager released
Revenue $345+M employees 1816
1988 Becomes the #1 software vendor in the world, MS SQL server released
Revenue $590+M employees 2793
1989 Starts up Multimedia division
Revenue $804+M employees 4037
1990 15th YR Anniversary Windows 2.0 & 3.0 released
Revenue $1.18+B employees 5635
1991 Notebook PC's were being built, Virtual Basic released
Revenue $1.8+B employees 8226
1992 Windows 3.1, Windows for Workgroups 3.1, NT Beta
Revenue $2.7+B employees 11,542
1993 10th Anniversary of Word, Encarta, Mouse 2.0, and Home released
Revenue $3.7+B employees 14,430
1994 Office for Mac, Plus, Windows 95 released
Revenue $4.6+B employees 15,257
1995 Internet Explorer, Project, MSN launched
Revenue $5.9+B employees 17,801
1996 Windows NT, Front Page, Active X released
Revenue $8.6+B employees 20,561
1997 Office 97 ships, Internet Explorer 4.0 launches
Revenue $11.3+B employees 22,232
1998 Windows CE launches
Revenue $14.4+B employees 27,055
1999 Internet Explorer 5.0 and Office 2000 released
Revenue $19.75+B employees 31,575
2000 Purchase Visio Corp., Windows 2000, Project 2000 released
Revenue $22.9+B employees 39,170
2001 Released XP and X-Box
Revenue $25.3+B employees 48,030
2002 Launches Tablet PC and MSN 8
Revenue $28.3+B employees 50,621
2003 Windows server system and Windows Mobile released
Revenue $32.19+B employees 54,468
2004 XP starter edition released
Revenue $36.8+B employees 57,081
2005 XP Professional released
Revenue $39.8+B employees 61,000
2006 Vista released
Revenue $44.5+B employees 71,172
2007 Office 2007 released
Revenue $51.1+B employees 78,565
2008 Windows Server 2008, SQL server 2008, Visual Studio released
Revenue $60.4+B employees 91,259
2009 Windows 7 released
Revenue $58.4+B employees 92,736
2010 Office 2010 and Share Point 2010 released
Revenue 62.4+B employees 88,596
Microsoft through the eyes of Bill Gates and Paul Allen has risen to the greatest empire in the computer industry that will never be matched. They have lived their dreams to own a successful computer company, as they worked long and hard hours from their high school years from working on computer terminals in its infancy, to starting their own company, to owning the most powerful company that the computer industry depends on.