As a general rule, someone by the name of William Henry Gates III It must be a good cradle. There are exceptions, of course, but normally someone with that name was born into a renowned family. The founder of Microsoft He was born in Seattle, Washington, on October 28, 1955. His father was a renowned attorney and has lived much of his life as a philanthropist. Her mother was an entrepreneur, becoming the first woman on the board of directors of the First Interstate Bank of Washington. And if we go back to his grandparents, his maternal grandfather had been president of the National City Bank from Seattle.
No wonder, then, that someone born into a renowned family in Washington state I ended up doing great things. For better or worse. Oddly, his family wanted him to study law. But the second of three brothers, with an older sister and a younger sister, had other ideas in mind. And is that at the age of 13Bill Gates wrote his first computer program.
It is not necessary to remember that with 19 years He founded Microsoft with his friend Paul Allen and what happened next. Back then I was a sophomore at Harvard University. But between the ages of 13 and 19, Bill Gates took his first steps in programming, founded his own group of programmers, and even started his first company, two years before launching Microsoft.
Young William likes to program
From the age of 13, Bill Gates studied at the private school Lakeside from Seattle, his hometown. There young William discovered his passion for computing. When Lakeside bought a computer General Electric and terminals Teletype Model 33 ASRGates was interested in that hulk and in the possibilities it presented. It was with that machine that programmed his first software, a type three online game where you could play by yourself against the computer.
Back then, the Bill Gates gang included Paul Allen (Microsoft co-founder), Ric Weiland (second Microsoft employee) and Kent Evans, who would die in a climbing accident on his stage at Lakeside. The four founded what was called Lakeside Programmers Club, your own group of programmers. The idea came from Allen, who was interested in Gates for his good mathematical grades. Or so the legend tells.
Paul Allen (17) and Bill Gates (15) at Lakeside School (1970)
The passion of the four for computing reached such a point that they spent a summer without being able to use the minicomputers PDP-10 who lent the Computer Center Corporation, founded in 1968. The price of computers at the time was so high that many users preferred to pay to use them for a certain time. This also benefited the owner of the computers, since he obtained revenue from his devices while not using them. As well. The reason for CCC ban it was because the four members of the Lakeside Programmers Club They were caught looking for vulnerabilities in the computers operating system to be able to use them for longer for free.
But the anecdote ended well. Or not. Following that temporary punishment, Gates’s group offered that company to find bugs and vulnerabilities in their software in exchange for using their computers. Thanks to that agreement, Bill Gates was able to immerse himself in programming languages of the time such as Fortran, Lisp or machine language. As in similar Hollywood stories, everything would have pointed out that Gates and his friends would have entered to work at the Computer Center Corporation after finishing their studies. However, the company closed in 1970 after two years of life.
Knowing the skills of young Bill to program, in 1971 a professor of Lakeside, the institute where Gates studied, asked him if he could automate the class organization system. Gates collaboratively performed the task his great friend Kent Evans. In exchange, they would get time to use the institute’s computers and the benefits derived from their copyrights. The task was quite a challenge, since Lakeside It had merged with a local women’s institute and, in total, there were about 400 students.
An untimely accident would end the friendship of Gates and Evans. Surely they would have continued together in business projects like Microsoft or the one that preceded it. However, Evans made the bad decision to sign up for a climbing course and died after a fall in one of his practices.
William’s first company
Although Bill Gates’ first job adventure was his task of finding errors in the software of the Computer Center Corporation, its first company will arrive in 1972, three years before the official foundation of Microsoft, the company for which it is known worldwide.
After the death of Kent Evans, his great friend from youth, Gates decides to create a business with his also friend Paul Allen, member of the Lakeside Programmers Club. A third party will join this tandem, Paul Gilbert. The three will create in 1972 Traf-O-Data, a Seattle-based company. Back then, Gates was 17 and Allen was 19.
The company’s purpose was ambitious: to read raw data from highway traffic counters and create reports for traffic engineers. For this they would use computers with processors Intel 8008 and CP / M as an operating system.
The counting method was curious. They were placed pneumatic counters on the roads, rubber hoses that created a blow of air when passing over the wheels of vehicles. Those blows of air were recorded on a roll of paper tape. Or so it was done in the 70s. The time and the number of counted axes perforated the paper in 16 bit patterns. These data were then translated by specialized companies. Thus, traffic engineers could know where it was necessary make a road improvement.
Traf-O-Data 8008 with its tape reader, instruction manual and company business card. Source: Wikipedia
Neither short nor lazy, the three employees of Traf-O-Data, by then students from LakesideThey considered starting a machine that would automatically read perforated paper tapes. For the project, they took advantage of the free time to access computers that they obtained by writing programs and recruited classmates to manually transcribe the data obtained from the perforated traffic paper. They even used a computer from the University of Washington thanks to Paul Allen’s father.
The result was a machine that used a microprocessor Intel 8008 and a tape reader. But to assemble the device, they had to resort to Paul Gilbert, whom they met through various contacts. The reason is that neither Gates nor Allen knew about hardware. His was the code. The complexity of the project was such that Allen had to emulate the 8008 processor in a IBM System / 360 of the University of Washington, where Allen was just starting out as a student, to test the software they would install on their own machine.
Little information is available regarding the success or failure of Traf-O-Data. It is true that the company was short-lived. Founded in 1972, it closed in 1975. Partly, because the Washington state, where they lived, decided to do free of charge the traffic tasks that were previously contracted through private companies. This made the existence of Traf-O-Data it made no sense. There was no business possible.
In the words of Paul AllenAlthough it was not a resounding success, it did prepare them to later implement what we will know as Microsoft. Allen also adds that with this first business project they learned to emulate microprocessors and create software for machines that had not yet been created. For his part, Bill gates summarizes the journey of Traf-O-Data with the phrase “we make a little money and have fun”.
Photograph of Bill Gates’ arrest in 1977 for driving without a license
Two curiosities to close this article. The first is that there is currently a company also called Traf-O-Data. On its website we can see that it was founded in 1999 and that it is based in Tampa, Florida, very far from the Seattle, Washington, Traf-O-Data original.
The second curiosity has to do with a fairly famous photograph of Bill Gates. And it is that on December 13, 1977, a 22-year-old Gates was arrested in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for driving without a license. As I said at the beginning of this article, in 1978 Microsoft earned more than $ 1.3 million. Hence Gates bought a Porsche 911 with whom, apparently, he liked to run at high speed through the desert. No wonder, they say, he was repeatedly ticketed for speeding on his trips to Seattle.
The article Before Microsoft: Bill Gates created his first company at age 17 was published in Explica.co.
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