A Short History of Microsoft

New Microsoft Visitor Center Displays Artifacts Of Software Giant
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Microsoft is an American corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington. Microsoft is a technology company that supports the invention of, as well as manufactured and licensed goods and services related to computing.

Who Started Microsoft?

Childhood friends, Paul Allen and Bill Gates are the co-founders of Microsoft. The pair were total computer geeks in an age when any access to computers was hard to come by. Allen and Gates skipped classes to live and breathe in their school's computer room. Eventually, they hacked the school's computer and were caught. 

But instead of expulsion, the duo was offered unlimited computer time in exchange for helping to improve the computer's performance. Bill Gates and Paul Allen even ran their own small company called Traf-O-Data and sold a computer to the city of Seattle for counting city traffic.

Bill Gates, Harvard Drop Out

In 1973, Bill 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 Paul Allen moved to Boston as well, pressuring Gates to quit Harvard so that the team could work full-time together on their projects. Bill Gates was uncertain of what to do, however, fate stepped in.

The Birth of Microsoft

In January 1975, Paul Allen read an article about the Altair 8800 microcomputer in "Popular Electronics" magazine and showed the article to Gates. Bill Gates called MITS, the makers of the Altair, and offered his and Paul Allen's services to write a version of the new BASIC programming language for the Altair.

In eight weeks, Allen and Gates were able to demonstrate their program to MITS, who agreed to distribute and market the product under the name of Altair BASIC. The Altair deal inspired Gates and Allen to form their own software company. Microsoft was started on April 4, 1975, with Bill Gates as the first CEO.

Where Did The Name Microsoft Come From?

On July 29, 1975, Bill Gates used the name "Micro-soft" in a letter to Paul Allen to refer to their partnership. The name was registered with the secretary of state of New Mexico on November 26, 1976.

In August 1977, the company opened their first international office in Japan, called ASCII Microsoft. In 1981, the company incorporated in the state of Washington and became Microsoft Inc. Bill Gates was the President of the Company and the Chairman of the Board, and Paul Allen was the Executive VP.

History of Microsoft Products

Microsoft's Operating Systems

An operating system is a fundamental software that allows a computer to operate. As a newly formed company, Microsoft's first operating system product that was 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, called Multi-Tool Word, a predecessor to Microsoft Word.

Microsoft's first wildly successful operating system was MS-DOS or Microsoft Disk Operating System, which Microsoft wrote for IBM in 1981 and was based on Tim Paterson's QDOS. In the deal of the century, Bill Gates only licensed MS-DOS to IBM. By retaining the rights to the software, Bill Gates made a fortune for Microsoft and Microsoft had become a major soft vendor.

Microsoft Mouse

Microsoft Mouse was released on May 2, 1983.


In 1983, Microsoft's crowning achievement was released. Microsoft Windows was an operating system with a novel graphical user interface and a multitasking environment for IBM computers. In 1986, the company went public, and Bill Gates became a 31-year old billionaire.

Microsoft Office

In 1989, Microsoft Office was released. Office is a software package that as the name describes is a collection of programs that you might use in the office. It includes a word possessor, spreadsheet, a mail program, business presentation software and more.

Internet Explorer

In August of 1995, Microsoft released Windows 95, which includes technologies for connecting to the Internet such as built-in support for dial-up networking, TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol), and a web browser Internet Explorer 1.0.


In 2001, Microsoft introduced their first gaming unit, the Xbox system. However, Xbox faced stiff competition from Sony's PlayStation 2 and eventually, Microsoft discontinued the Xbox. However, in 2005, Microsoft released their Xbox 360 gaming console which was a success and is still available on the market.

Microsoft Surface

In 2012, Microsoft made their first foray into the computing hardware market with the announcement of Surface tablets that ran Windows RT and Windows 8 Pro.