Bill Gates, The idea that inspired the birth of Microsoft

My friend Paul knew a lot more about the machines than I did. I was more interested in the programs. But I learnt from him. One day in 1972, when I was sixteen and he was nineteen, he showed me something that he was reading. It was about a company called Intel that had a new microprocessor chip.

A microprocessor chip is the part of the computer that thinks. This new one wasn’t very smart, but we wanted to see if we could write a program for it. In the end, we made a program for it, but we didn’t make much money from it. The next microprocessor from Intel came out in the spring of 1974. It was much smarter than the earlier one. When we read about it, I told Paul that the days of the big computers were finished.

But it was another new idea that excited us more. In December of that year, we saw a picture of the Altair 8800. The Altair was a microcomputer (a small computer) with the new Intel microprocessor chip. When we saw that, we thought “Oh no! People are going to write real programs for this chip!” I was sure of this, and I wanted to be part of it.

It took us five weeks of hard work, but in the end we did it. We had a program for the Altair and we had something more. We had the world’s first company that wrote programs for microcomputers. In time we named it “Microsoft.”

Starting a company isn’t easy. Sometimes it means that you can’t do other things that you like. I loved college. I liked having conversations and sharing ideas with so many smart people. But I knew that I had to choose. That spring, Paul decided to leave his job and I decided to leave college. I was nineteen years old.

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