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Bill Gates Remembers 1979 310

Hugh Pickens writes "Last week Gizmodo had a special celebration of 1979, the last year before a digital tsunami hit, that put Bill Gates in a nostalgic mood this week. Bill chimed in with his own memories of that seminal year when everything changed. 'In 1979, Microsoft had 13 employees, most of whom appear in that famous picture that provides indisputable proof that your average computer geek from the late 1970s was not exactly on the cutting edge of fashion,' wrote Gates. 'By the end of the year we'd doubled in size to 28 employees. Even though we were doing pretty well, I was still kind of terrified by the rapid pace of hiring and worried that the bottom could fall out at any time.' What made Gates feel a little more confident was that he began to sense that BASIC was on the verge of becoming the standard language for microcomputers. 'By the middle of 1979, BASIC was running on more than 200,000 Z-80 and 8080 machines and we were just releasing a new version for the 8086 16-bit microprocessor. As the numbers grew, we were starting to think beyond programming languages, too, and about the possibility of creating applications that would have real mass appeal to consumers.' Gates remembers that in 1979 there were only 100 different software products that had more than $100 M in annual sales and all of them were for mainframes. 'In April, the 8080 version of BASIC became the first software product built to run on microprocessors to win an ICP Million Dollar Award. Today, I would be surprised if the number of million-dollar applications isn't in the millions itself' writes Gates. 'More important, of course, is the fact that more than a billion people around the world use computers and digital technology as an integral part of their day-to-day lives. That's something that really started to take shape in 1979.'"
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Bill Gates Remembers 1979

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 27, 2009 @10:54AM (#28837245)

    Bill Gates railed on about hobbyists stealing his software, when he in fact stole computer time from the university to build a commercial product.

    Today's magic word is queerer

  • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:11AM (#28837517) Homepage

    More on what dumpster diving meant to Bill Gates: []
    Interviewer: Is studying computer science the best way to prepare to be a programmer?
    Bill Gates: No. the best way to prepare is to write programs, and to study great programs that other people have written. In my case, I went to the garbage cans at the Computer Science Center and I fished out listings of their operating system. You got to be willing to read other people's code, then write your own, then have other people review your code. You've got to want to be in this incredible feedback loop where you get the world-class people to tell you what you're doing wrong.

  • by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd,bandrowsky&gmail,com> on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:27AM (#28837801) Homepage Journal

    Of course eventually, these guy realize that not only are they not millionaires, they're not making much progress toward that noble goal. That's when they get ugly. You see, they see themselves as capable, intelligent, hard working people - and they are for the most part - who "have what it takes" to "make

    Is that most people who are not millionaires but are working to become one would freely admit that they if they don't get there, its because they weren't good enough. You can work hard, study hard, etc, but, if you aren't good enough, you don't get to make the team millionaire. But along the way you do grow from what you do. You've tried to build a business, have made products, have made some sales, have learned about your gut and how the world really works. Those things you can only get from stepping into the ring, as Teddy Roosevelt so famously observed, and that, there's a certain thing you get just from getting in there and putting up your dukes.

    What is important to us is having the opportunity to try and chase one's goals, and, if you listen to what we say, you would hear that over and over again - the Constitution doesn't guarantee success, but the right to pursue it. Nothing in life is guaranteed. The American dream is not getting rich per se, its about having the opportunity to try. When you guys on the left ramble on about guarantees, you've missed the point of life altogether. You want to have all of these guarantees for yourselves and in doing so really undermine your own ability to say, at the end, that you lived your life yourself. You want to trade away the opportunity for order, just because, you don't think you can succeed. That's just utterly pathetic.

    So yeah, Bill Gates got rich. I didn't. Maybe I never will. I don't care and Bill Gate's wealth doesn't bother me. He got the opportunity to live his dream and I got the opportunity to live mine, and however I use my opportunity, my life, is my business, and has nothing to do with him, and has nothing to do with you.

  • Re:BASIC is good. (Score:3, Informative)

    by itsdapead ( 734413 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:30AM (#28837877)

    BASIC is good only for teaching the "programmers mindset" in how to reason and think with code. The language itself does nothing but teach you terribly bad habits that will plague your code if you use anything else.

    A point of view which, in 1979, was widely held by people at university who had easy access to minis and mainframes with the grunt to run Pascal or Algol compilers.

    Meanwhile, those of us using $300 6502 or Z80 systems with 4K of RAM and a only domestic cassette tape recorder as mass storage found that BASIC wasn't so bad when the only practical alternative was lovingly hand-crafted machine code.

    Speaking of which, when I tried to learn 6502 machine code from someone else's handwritten notes which didn't cover indirect addressing properly, I used self-modifying code instead. By your logic, I should have been stuck writing self-modifying code hell for the rest of my life, but for some strange reason as soon as I discovered the "proper" way of doing it I recognised that it was much better and switched. Likewise, the urge to occasionally throw in a GOTO for the hell of it wore off pretty quick (and with proper execption handling in most decent languages the last, vestigial excuse for using it has now gone).

  • Ah, the late 70's (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mesa MIke ( 1193721 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @11:57AM (#28838433) Homepage

    The Imsai 8080 that my dad built from a kit. The TV Typewriter terminal. The Pickles & Trout video interface. Loading an ill-gotten copy of 4k BASIC by pulling punched tape through a reader, later loading Extended BASIC via a Kansas City standard cassette tape interface. Building wire harnesses in the garage for Synetic Designs' FDS-1 dual 8-inch floppy disk drive system (and getting paid $20 per!). Hunt the Wumpus, Hammurabi, even Star Trek!

    Those were the days.
    Now get offa my lawn, you damn kids!

  • by uglyduckling ( 103926 ) on Monday July 27, 2009 @12:30PM (#28839085) Homepage
    Actually, 'decimate' means to reduce by a tenth. At least, that is the archaic meaning - when the Roman army was instructed to decimate a population, they would kill one in ten people (or one in ten men), which was usually sufficient to make a population choose subservience without reducing them to a level where they were practically useless to the empire.
  • Wealth is a zero sum game. Not everyone can be wealthy. Period.
    I'll agree that not everyone can be wealthy, but that doesn't make it zero sum. If it was a zero sum game, we could not have far more wealthy people than the world has seen before, and we could not have a vast majority of western countries with citizens who enjoy material wealth not even possible 100 years ago.

    That wealth was generated by human activity. It was not taken from someone else, because there was no one to take it from.

  • Let's say we're both in line at Fortune 500 company for a VP promotion. We can't both have our candles lit, can we?

    Implicit in your question is the assumption that the VP promotion is the only way for that individual to generate wealth beyond what he already posesses. It also implies a fixation on working for someone else to generate wealth, but someone has to start all these companies that grow into fortune 500 companies and employ thousands of people and a few VP's.

    "Poisoned soul" doesn't mean anything. You should make an argument to everyone also to convince also them that people have souls prior to making any assertation towards the condition of that soul.

    There is an over-reliance on slashdot on academic-style articulated rationality, as if words drove reality, and weren't merely a best-efforts attempt to reflect reality. 'Soul' can be taken as shorthand for the collection of attitudes and philosophies one operates from, with the 'poisoned soul' to mean holding a set of ideas that lead to a stagnant or decreasing quality of life.

    This is of course part of what I spoke of- a thousand underlying premises that make these discussions difficult at best.

    Wealth is a zero sum game, a game where the wealthy get the sum and everybody else gets as close to zero as possible without revolting against the wealthy class.

    Considering that the wealthy, the middle class, and much of the poor (who still drive cars, have air conditioning, and posses multiple TV's in the US) posess material wealth of a manner and quantity that didn't exist 100 years ago, who did they steal all that wealth from?

    Wealth is a limited sum game, but the limit is constantly increasing as human effort is added into the pool of wealth. Limited, increasing sum != zero.

    I'm terribly sorry to do this point-by-point response, as I generally find it tiresome and cosntantly spiraling, but there it is.

  • Re:Dr. Who (Score:3, Informative)

    by dave87656 ( 1179347 ) on Tuesday July 28, 2009 @02:25AM (#28848305)

    It was also the second OS with the ability to do preemptive multitasking (the first being the Amiga ten years earlier).

    Xenix had been around since the 1980. Coherent since 1980. These were true preemtive multi-tasking operating systems that ran on PC hardware.

Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this-- no dog exchanges bones with another. -- Adam Smith