This is a picture of my very first computer. It was my very first glimpse into the world of Microsoft that would soon bring interest to the brilliant career as a software developer that I am now able to fulfill. That computer, an IBM PC compatible (of some sort), is what matured my experience as a developer. I remember the days of MS Dos before we even had color and windowing systems, and this computer even booted to BASIC! I remember my Dad getting a pirated copy of Microsoft Windows version 1 on 5″ floppies (as we were living in Indonesia at the time and this was all you could get out there), and trying it out, thinking there was no way he’d ever want to use a system like that. If you notice in the picture, we didn’t even have a mouse! The closest input device was the Joystick you see, which I used to play ironically, my first glimpses of the Microsoft Brand, in the game, Flight Simulator. Back then, Microsoft was simply just another brand you saw on a piece of software. Next to the likes of Broderbund, Activision, Lotus, and Wordperfect, Microsoft was just another software manufacturer that you saw alongside the likes of games and DOS.
Over the years, we began to see the gradual creeping of Microsoft into our daily lives. My first notices of Microsoft after the gaming and DOS days that I can remember would probably be the emergence of Microsoft Office, which, ironically, would not work on the computer I picture above. I had to wait to get a new computer before I could use it at home. Most of my memories of that came from Junior High School lab computers. It was actually rare back then for students to have a computer at home, yet alone one with a Word Processor!
At some point, we ended up installing Windows 3.1. I think it was the beginning of High School. It was there that I learned what a driver was and how hard it was to get any external hardware to really work with Windows 3.1. I really gained an appreciation of DOS in those days and learned how to write my own Batch files, configure my autoexec.bat and config.sys files to get everything I needed working properly. Frankly, back then there wasn’t much to get working properly. 3.5″ floppies were the new thing, few computers had sound cards, and there was no such thing as a CD ROM drive (at least not that we could afford!).
In High School, I remember getting a summer job my Senior Year at Computer City, a Tandy company, the company that also owned Radio Shack. While there, Windows 95 launched, and I remember trying to explain to customers the differences between Windows 95 and OS 2 Warp. We also sold Mac machines and Apple software in our stores back then! I remember beta testing Windows 95 with my friend and remembering all the cool new features it brought over Windows 3.1, and thinking it was so weird I didn’t have to install DOS before installing Windows 95!
I ended up going from there to work in Tech Support for Gateway computers. It was at that time that Microsoft Bob came out and I was forced to support it. I can’t tell you the number of times I remember just encouraging users to format and reinstall – it was actually standard protocol for the company back then!
Not long after that, Windows 98 came out, and shortly before I remember the IE/Netscape wars, the Novell Wordperfect/Microsoft Office wars (that was right here in Utah!), and somehow Microsoft continued to prevail. I think it was at that time I began to use Microsoft Office over Wordperfect products regularly for the first time. It was my only choice!
When Windows 2000 came out I remember how stable it was! Finally, a version of the Microsoft OS that the average Joe could use, based on Enterprise technology! (NTFS) I think it was at that point that I started seeing Microsoft as “evil”, and began venturing towards Open Source and other technologies to break free of the Microsoft trenches. It was also at that time that Netscape was no longer the dominant browser and web developers were very quickly forced to change their ways.
Since then we’ve seen Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Me (choke!), Xbox 360, MSN, Windows Live, Windows Media Center, and even Microsoft Surface! From games and DOS to programmable furniture, Microsoft has come a long way over the years. Yet, one man has stood at the center of it all, a quiet, but very, very, rich man, Bill Gates. He has been the quiet identity behind Microsoft for probably most of my life. Friday, Bill Gates had his last day at Microsoft. He has brought me many great years, and much of the reason I am a developer today. As he leaves I feel a piece of me bidding farewell, yet, at the same time, that company that I have both loved and hated over the years will still continue on in his legacy. Mr. Gates, thanks for the Memories!