The History of Microsoft and Bill Gates [Timeline]


Love him or hate him, Bill Gates has been a venerable world-wide business icon for more than three decades, ever since the first mass-produced personal computer debuted in 1981. Gates has consistently been ranked as one of the world’s wealthiest men – as well as one of the most controversial founders and CEOs in history – and businesspeople of all stripes have taken their cues from him, using his words and business strategies to help create and grow their own companies.

After he left running the day-to-day operations f Microsoft in 2008 to devote himself full time to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a kinder, gentler side began to emerge. Here I am posting the complete timeline of a very known personality “Bill Gates” – The Machine of the Decades.


– Bill Gates born in Seattle to William H and Mary Maxwell Gates (28th October)


– Bill Gates III – nicknamed Trey because his father, Bill Gates Sr, customarily used the suffix “II” after his name – begins attending the Lakeside School, a private college preparatory school where many children from Seattle’s wealthy and elite families were enrolled, including Paul Allen.


– At age thirteen, Bill Gates writes his first Computer Program in BASIC on an old Teletype model 33 terminal at school.


– Bill gates starts a business with Paul Allen. Their main product is “Traf-o-Data“, a program to help keep tabs on traffic patterns.


– Bill Gates works as a congressional page in the United States House of Representative over the summer.


– Bill Gates graduates from Lakeside in June after scoring 1590 out of 1600 points on the SAT. Bill Gates is accepted into the pre-law program at Harvard University.


– Bill Gates takes a summer job with electronics from Honeywell joining Paul Allen, who had dropped out of college to work there.


– An article about the Altair 8800, manufactured by Micro instrumentation and Telemetry Systems – MITS – appears in “Popular Electronics”, captivating Bill Gates. He and Paul Allen write BASIC software for the computer, and the manufacturer – based in Albuquerque – hires the pair.

– Bill Gates leaves Harvard in his junior year and moves to Albuquerque with Allen; they christen their partnership Micro-Soft.


– Bill Gates and Allen officially register Microsoft – without the hyphen – as a business organization.

– Computer hobbyists had acquired copies of BASIC, which they used and passed along to others, without paying Microsoft. Bill Gates writes a scathing letter accusing the hobbyists of theft.


– Microsoft severs ties with MITS. Bill Gates writes and develops other computer languages, including FORTRAN, for various companies and contractors.

– Bill Gates is arrested in Albuquerque for speeding.


I’ve always believed in a paperless office.

– Microsoft opens its first international office, in Japan.

– Company revenues hit US$1 million.


– Microsoft moves its office to Bellevue, Washington.

– Twenty-five employees work full time for the company, which generates US$2.5 million in revenue that year.


– Microsoft strikes a deal with IBM to provide the DOS operating system software for their line of personal computers, scheduled to be produced and sold to the following year. Bill Gates retains the rights to MS-DOS, allowing Microsoft to license the operating system to other PC manufacturers.

– Steve Ballmer joins Microsoft as personal assistance to Bill Gates.


Because there aren’t enough hours in the day, it’s tempting to try to do two things at once. Right now I’m perfecting reading a newspaper and riding an exercise bike at the same time – a very practical form of multitasking.

– Microsoft officially becomes a corporation, naming Bill Gates as chairman and CEO. Steve Ballmer becomes executive vice-president of sales and support. Bill Gates receives 35 percent of Microsoft, Allen gets 31 percent and Ballmer has 8 percent.

– The IBM Personal Computer debuts. (August)

– Microsoft has 128 employees and annual revenues of US$16 million.

– Steve jobs of Apple Computer asks Bill Gates and Microsoft to develop software for their new computer, named the Macintosh.


– Instead of announcing a “Man of the Year”, Time names the personal computer as “Machine of the Year”.

– Paul Allen is diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease and leaves Microsoft.


– Apple Computer launches the Macintosh. (January)


– The first incarnation of Windows Launches, which many believe is similar to Macintosh. (20 November.)

– Annual revenue hits US$140 Million; 910 employees work at Microsoft.


There were lot of missteps in the early days; because we got in early, we got to make more mistakes than other people.

– Microsoft’s first common stock is issued. With 45 percent of the 2.7 million shares issued.

– Bill Gates earns US$234 million the first day of trading.

– Bill Gates moves Microsoft’s 1200 employees from Bellevue to new headquarters in Redmond, Washington.


The simplest thing to say about Melinda is that I fell deeply in love with her and decided to get married and have a family together.

– Forbes names Bill Gates a billionaire in its annual list of the 400 Richest People.

– At thirty-one, Bill Gates becomes the youngest billionaire in history.

– Bill Gates meets Melinda French, a Microsoft Product manager, at a Microsoft event in New York City.


– Apple sues Microsoft, accusing Bill Gates and the company of designing Windows to mimic the Macintosh design too closely.


– Bill Gates launches Corbis, a digital archive of art and photography.

– Microsoft introduces Microsoft Office, which incorporates several software programs, including Word and Excel.


– Microsoft launches Windows 3.0. As a result of its overwhelming popularity – more than 100,000 copies sell in just two weeks – annual sales at Microsoft reach US$1 billion for the year.

– Microsoft had been developing an operating system with IBM called OS/2, but pulls out in order to concentrate on Windows.

– The Federal Trade Commission starts looking into anticompetitive practices between Microsoft and IBM.


I was a mover. I was the guy who said, ‘Let’s call the real world and try to sell something to it.’

– Bill Gates hits the top of Forbes 400 Richest People list, becoming the richest person in the United States, with US$6.3 billion in personal wealth.


– Bill Gates proposes marriage to Melinda French, who accepts.

– The FTC decides to pass on the antitrust issue, instead referring in to the Department of Justice.


– Bill Gates marries Melinda French on in lanai, Hawaii. (1 January)

– Bill Gates buys Leonard da Vinci’s Codex Leicester for US$30.8 million in auction.

– Bill Gates launches the William H Gates Foundation, officially marking the start of his philanthropic career.

Mary Gates, Bill Gates’ mother, dies of breast cancer. (June)


People don’t pay for the software. Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours.

– Windows 95 launches; it incorporates the web browser Internet Explorer. (1 January)

– Bill Gates fist book is published. “The road Ahead” hits number one on The new York Times bestseller list and stays there for almost two months.

– His fortune pegged at US$12.9 billion, Bill Gates is named by Forbes as the richest man in the world.

– Despite initially understanding the internet’s potential, Bill Gates sends Microsoft executive a memo directing them to focus on developing software for the Internet.


– Bill Gates and Melinda’s first daughter, Jennifer Katharine, is born. (26th April)

– Warren Buffett replaces Bill Gates as world’s richest man as declared by Forbes Bill Gates drops to second place.

– Internet Explorer 3.0 Launches.

– Netscape, a company developing a browser, requests that the justice Department look into Microsoft for bundling Internet Explorer with Windows.


– After 7 years of construction, Bill Gates moves his family into a 66,000-square-foot huse on Lake Washington in Medina. It’s estimated that the house cost US$97 million to build.


– Microsoft launches Windows 98.

– Steve Ballmer becomes president of Microsoft.

– The US department of Justice and twenty state’s attorneys file an antitrust suit against Microsoft, accusing the company of participating in anticompetitive practices.


Take our twenty best people away, and i will tell you that Microsoft would become an unimportant company.

– Bill Gates and Melinda’s son, Rory John, is born. (23 May)

– Bill Gates’ second book, Business @ the speed of Thought, is published in twenty-five languages.


– Microsoft launches two separate versions of Windows: 2000 and Me, short for Millennium Edition.

– Bill Gates passes his title of Microsoft CEO to Steve Ballmer; Gates officially becomes known as Chief Software Architect.

– The judge in the anti-trust trial orders Microsoft to become two companies: one for Windows and one for all software. Bill Gates appeals the ruling.

– Bill Gates and Melinda gates launch the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, incorporating several other foundations, with an initial contribution of US$28 billion from personal funds.

– Global annual revenues from Microsoft hit US$229 billion; the number of employees is almost 40,000.


I don’t think that IQ is as fungible as I used to. To succeed, you also have to know how to make choices and how to think more broadly.

– The judge’s decision in the anti-trust trial is overturned. Microsoft and the department of Justice reach an agreement that keeps the company intact.

– Windows XP is introduced.

– Microsoft Launches the Xbox, a video game console.


– Bill Gates and Melinda’s second daughter, Phoebe Adele, is born. (14 September)


– Bill Gates becomes a board member at Berkshire Hathaway, friend Warren Buffett’s investment business.

– The European Commission launches an anti-trust investigation against Microsoft.


Ridiculous sums of money can be confusing.

– “Time” names Bill and Melinda gates and U2’sBono as its Person of the year because of their philanthropic work.

– Bill Gates receives an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth.


– Warren Buffett gives the bulk of his wealth, US$31 billion, to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

– Bill Gates announces that he will step down from his full-time job at Microsoft in 2008.

– Bill Gates receives the 2006 James C Morgan Global Humanitarian Award.


– Bill Gates receives an honorary doctor of law degree from Harvard; he gives the commencement speech at the ceremony.

– Microsoft introduces Windows Vista and Office 2007.


Replying to a suggestion that he’s mellowed in recent years : Bullshit

– The European Union fines Microsoft $1.4 billion, the largest fine ever levied against a European business, claiming the company has not followed through on an earlier EU ruling, ordering the company to give specific software code to its competitors.

– Bill Gates spends his last day at Microsoft. He stays on as chairman. (27 June)

– The number of Microsoft employees hits 90,000.


– Despite losing US$18 billion in net worth, Bill Gates usurps friend Warren Buffett as Forbes’ number one billionaire in the world, retaining US$40 billion in personal wealth.

– Bill Gates quits using Facebook because too many people wanted to friend him.


– Bill Gates attends the Sundance Film Festival to help promote “Waiting for Superman”, a documentary that he helped to found on America’s failing education system.

– Bill Gates rejoins Facebook, and signs up for Twitter as well.


– Bill Gates loses the top spot on Forbes’ Richest Person in the World list because he’s given away so much money, but is still second on the list, with US$53 billion; Buffett is third for the year. Bill Gates still the wealthiest American.

– Rumors swirl late in the year that Bill Gates would return to Microsoft. No dice, he says he likes his foundation work too much.

Today his life is virtually an open book, featuring regular updates on Facebook and Twitter and blog posts at

Excerpts are taken from the Book : Impatient Optimist by Lisa Rogak


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