In 1975, two men formed a new tech company in a rather unlikely location. One founder was just 19 years old and had dropped out of Harvard University. The other founder actually convinced his friend to drop out of Harvard, just as he left Washington State University. The two men moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and started their new business.
Those two men were Bill Gates and the late Paul Allen. On April 4, 1975, they officially formed Micro-Soft. Neither one likely had any idea that their company would become one of the biggest and most influential companies ever created.
Today is, of course, the 48th birthday of Microsoft. The company is not celebrating the event with a lot of fanfare, but it is noting the day on its official Twitter account with a retro-style logo.
Here are a few more interesting tidbits about the founding of Microsoft.
The proto-Microsoft: Traf-O-Data
Before the launch of Microsoft, Gates and Allen, along with another person, Paul Gilbert, founded a company called Traf-O-Data in Seattle, Washington. Gates and Allen developed software for the company, and Gilbert built a computer for it. In a 1993 interview, Gates talked about the idea behind the company:
Traf-O-Data was taking road volume data and converting it into reports where you have actually just a 16-channel paper tape on the side of the road. The pressure sensitive hose that you drive over has a counter in there clicking out a count every five, ten, or fifteen minutes. Those have to be processed for the State Road Departments, to give out money for repairs, and decide how to do traffic lights, etc. Anyway, it was data that needed to be processed. So, we got involved in that.
Gates said in the same interview that they "made a little bit of money and had some fun with it." However, that business came to a fairly quick end after the state of Washington started processing this traffic data for free for the state's cities.
Why was Microsoft founded?
Both Gates and Allen learned about the world's first microcomputer, the Altair 8800, in late 1974 by reading an article about it in Popular Electronics magazine. It was made by a company called Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Gates and Allen thought they could create a version of BASIC that would work on the Altair 8800. They moved to Albuquerque in 1975 to officially form Micro-Soft.
Where did the name come from?
The name Microsoft was Allen's idea, as he thought it was a good mashup of "microcomputer" and "software".
Where was the company founded?
Gates and Allen formed Microsoft in a room at the Sundowner Hotel, off the legendary Route 66. The Sundowner Hotel is still there, although it was converted to low-cost apartments in 2014.
Later in 1975, Gates and Allen moved the business to a proper office building in Albuquerque. In 2006, a plaque was put in place to commemorate that location, although it's been ripped off from its stone base at least once.
Why did Microsoft leave Albuquerque?
In short, Albuquerque was not the best location for recruiting people to join a growing tech company, so Gates and Allen decided to go back close to their hometown in Redmond, Washington, in 1979.
Happy 48th birthday, Microsoft! You have certainly come a very long way from Traf-O-Data and that room at the Sundowner Hotel. Here's to many more celebrations, including your milestone 50th anniversary in two years' time.