Microsoft Fast Facts: 1975

Microsoft was formed soon after the introduction of the Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) Altair, the first
“personal computer,”
a build-it-yourself kit for hobbyists. Bill Gates and Paul Allen seized the opportunity to transform this early PC into a breakthrough — the Altair needed software, a programming language that could make it perform useful computing tasks. That’s when it all began.

Allen, employed by Honeywell, and his friend, Gates, a sophomore at Harvard, immediately set out to adapt the first personal computer language for the Altair, called BASIC. They worked in marathon 24-hour sessions to complete a working product, which was then licensed to MITS. Soon thereafter, Allen accepted a position with MITS as director of Software Development, and Gates followed him later that year to form an informal partnership called Micro-Soft, complete with hyphen.

Over the years, the PC has transformed from a hobbyist’s toy to an indispensable tool that continues to change the world. It has revolutionized how we deal with information, how we communicate, and how we work, learn and play.

Following is an overview of significant events that shaped the company in 1975.

The Year in Summary

  • Revenues: $16,005

  • Employees: 3 (Allen, Gates and Ric Weiland)

  • MITS promotes Altair BASIC, the computer language developed by Gates and Allen for the Altair computer. Hobbyists are ecstatic, despite the fact that, even with BASIC, there is little you can actually do with the Altair.

Company Events

  • The MITS Altair 8800 appears on the cover of Popular Electronics. The article inspires Paul Allen and Bill Gates to develop a BASIC Interpreter for the Altair.

  • Bill Gates and Paul Allen complete BASIC and license it to their first customer, MITS of Albuquerque, N.M., the manufacturer of the Altair 8800 personal computer. This is the first computer language program written for a personal computer.

  • Paul Allen joins MITS as director of Software Development.

  • The MITS Altair newsletter, Computer Notes, declares,
    “Altair BASIC — Up and Running.”

  • Gates and Allen’s BASIC officially ships as version 2.0 in both 4K and 8K editions.

  • Allen and Gates sign a licensing agreement with MITS regarding the BASIC Interpreter.

  • In a letter to Allen, Gates uses the name
    to refer to their partnership.

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