William Henry Gates III, aka Bill Gates, remains synonymous with the tech giant Microsoft – the brainchild of the tech icon, and one of last century’s most successful entrepreneurs.
An entrepreneur, philanthropist, author and business tycoon, the ‘Gates’ name shines brightly. His contributions have re-shaped the way businesses work. Thanks to Bill Gates, it is impossible to imagine a world without gadgets and games, software and the internet.
This tech giant laid the foundation of technological revolutions that later became part of all homes and businesses. Co-founded by Bill Gates and his hometown buddy Paul Allen in 1975, Microsoft climbed the ladder of success in no time at all. By 1979, Microsoft was generating $2.5 million.
With his aptitude for software development combined with a keen business sense, Gates not only led the company but he also immersed himself in its minutiae, to the extent of reviewing every line of code the company wrote. The genius who wrote his 1st line of code at the age of 13, often spent his time rewriting the code at Microsoft that he deemed unfit.
Since its inception, the tech giant has continued to change the world in several ways:
- It paved the way for manufacturing the Smart TVs of today. The features these TVs offer were first introduced by Microsoft through its Media Center.
- By launching Xbox Live, the company familiarized the world with the idea of online gaming; a concept later followed by Sony PlayStation.
- Microsoft introduced the Pocket Personal Computer (PC) and Windows Mobile the direct precursor to tablets and smartphones. In 2001, Gates announced that he was already using a tablet, and predicted it to become the most popular form of computer in the future.
- It is a lesser known fact that in 1997 when Apple was mired in deep cash flow worries and on the brink of bankruptcy, Gates invested some $150 million into the firm. “Bill, thank you. The world’s a better place.” Jobs told Gates.
Below are some of the major technological developments attributable to Bill Gates’ vision:
1. Launching the age of home computers
“Early on, Paul Allen and I set the goal of a computer on every desk and in every home. It was a bold idea and a lot of people thought we were out of our minds to imagine it was possible.”
Thanks to his conviction, he was able to realise the fruit of the vision he held many decades ago. Because of the easy-to-use graphical operating system (GUI) introduced by Gates, the idea of personal computers grabbed people’s imagination, hence the complicated machine ultimately morphed into a personal one.
In 1975, Allen and Gates created their version of programming for a computer named Altair 8800 owned by Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS). This very computer became “the spark that ignited the microcomputer revolution” as it prepared the way for the success of personal computers.
In 1982, Time magazine awarded the title “Machine of the Year” to computers.
2. Introducing MS-DOS and Windows
If you have ever worked with commands on a black screen of a computer, you already know what Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS) is. I have used it and can recall it being part of my early computer lessons.
MS-DOS was the first operating system introduced by Microsoft in 1981 that became the leading PC operating system. It was initially offered to IBM for use in their PCs and laid the foundation for Microsoft to become a tech giant. Eventually, this led to the popularity of home-based computers.
By 1983, Microsoft had offices in countries including Great Britain and Japan, and 30% of computers globally were using software made by Microsoft, a huge success for the company. By the end of the same year, Bill Gates announced the upcoming Windows Operating System.
The GUI-based operating system, Windows, made the use of computers easier through mouse clicks (compared to MS-DOS based text commands).
A major breakthrough came in 1995 when Windows 95 was released. One million copies of this operating system were sold within just 4 days. Microsoft completely changed the world of technology, subsequently regularly introducing new features that remain part of Windows.
It is after the launch of Windows 95 that PCs became affordable for mass purchase, and sales skyrocketed. Later, introduction of Internet Explorer offered a whole new world to users where computers became a source of information and communication via the Internet, a new technology that further commercialized PCs.
As per the records of Office for National Statistics, every fourth household in Britain had a PC in 1995 and the figure doubled by 2001. Bill Gates became the face of a global technology revolution.
3. Introducing Office Management Tools
Bill Gates’ Microsoft led the charge for making businesses a paperless environment. Microsoft’s Word and Excel played an important role here. While MS Word is the very platform that popularized the idea of producing electronic documents, MS Excel took care of calculations and data analysis.
In 2012, Irish journalist and author, John Naughton, in an article for Guardian wrote about the power of MS Word:
“Suddenly, I could type away, backspace and delete and overwrite and revise as much as I liked. And no matter how much I hacked away at the draft, I always had a fresh-looking paragraph on which to build… And I could add formatting – italics, bold face type, justification, indentation and other features that began to mimic the appearance of “proper” printed text. Bliss!”
Let’s not forget Microsoft PowerPoint and its impact on presentations.
Hitherto, distant communication was dependent on snail mail via post offices. Microsoft Outlook harnessed the power of the Internet to revolutionise the way communications take place today, saving time and costs.
Introduced in 1989, today Microsoft’s office management tools have become essential support for business operations. Research by Softpedia concluded that by 2012, Microsoft Office had more than a billion users across the globe, mainly business professionals.
4. Paving the way for Development Tools
Microsoft began offering development tools in 1997 with the launch of Visual Studio, a powerful integrated development environment (IDE), bundling together its multiple programming services for the first time. Since then, it has become the preferred choice of developers because of its capability to support editing, designing, debugging and server management. Visual Studio’s evolution continues today, its latest version is set to release in 2019.
In 2002, Microsoft released .NET – a free of cost, cross-platform, open source development platform for building multiple applications. .NET framework can be operated with numerous programming languages, editors, and libraries to develop applications for the web, mobile, desktop, gaming, and the Internet of Things (IoT).
During his speech at the Professional Developers Conference 2003 in Los Angeles, Gates said:
“It’s an exciting time to be a software developer. Continuing hardware advances, powerful tools and the potential of anything on the internet to become a building block all make it a great time to do pioneering work. Microsoft is investing heavily to make Windows the optimal platform for developers who want to build on this next wave of innovation.”
His words highlight the vision of Microsoft and what the company had been anticipating to offer to the world of software development. Hence, in 2008, Microsoft launched Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing platform used for creating, testing, deploying, and handling applications and services through an international network of Microsoft-operated data centres.
Furthermore, in pursuit of empowering organizations, Microsoft acquired Xamarin in 2016. Xamarin has a huge customer base including 100+ of the Fortune 500 companies. Integrating Xamarin with Visual Studio, Visual Studio Team Services, and Azure led to a complete mobile application development solution for developers of mobile apps.
Bill Gates’ influence on technology and innovation is unsurpassed. Over half a century, his projects have repositioned and jet propelled an entire industry. Today, innovation, creativity, and design are spearheaded by his ingenuity and foresight.
From developing the first commercial GUI to establishing the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation where he radically integrates technology into medicine, Gates even today remains a transformative figure.
Continuing Gates’ legacy of innovation, Microsoft is developing holographic computing through HoloLens – a holographic computer “enabling you to engage with your digital content and interact with holograms in the world around you.” Sounds futuristic? Check out this video on Microsoft’s website and then decide.