Bill Gates Retires as Microsoft Chief Software Architect

I’m long overdue for a technology article. This item affected me more than I thought, so I had to write about it. I know this article looks long, but if you stick with me, I have some fun videos and stuff linked at the end.

Last week Bill Gates announced his retirement from day-to-day duties at Microsoft. He’s stepping down as Chief Software Architect, but remaining as the company’s Chairman. This will end Bill’s day-to-day running of Microsoft and keep him in the upper executive role. Cutting back on his daily work will allow him to pursue more philanthropic ventures with the charitable foundation he started with his wife.

I would have written this article earlier but I had to sit on it for a week to decide how I feel about it. Overall, for Microsoft, I think it might be a good thing that he steps down from overseeing Microsoft’s day-to-day activity as it might open up other creative outlets for the company. With that in mind, I’ll be sad to see him go.

I had early exposure to Microsoft and their products. My dad procured a laptop from work in the mid ’80s when it was still rare for anyone to have a personal computer, much less a laptop computer. We had a couple laptops before we even got a desktop computer. I took over playing on the laptop as my dad thought it was cool, but he really just got it for me to play on. Windows was not in full release at this time so the laptop’s operating system was MS-DOS. It did have an early version of Microsoft Works (word processor, spreadsheet and relational database). I was writing school papers on Microsoft Works’ word processor, printing them and turning in typed copies when most students were still hand writing them. Pretty soon, Dad had Windows 3.0 installed on the laptop and it took up so much memory that you couldn’t open anything else. He had several other business laptops after that. I used one with Windows 95 on it until, in my last year of college, he got me my own desktop. At Auburn I majored in Mangement Information Systems and it just made everything easier to have my own computer. I learned so much on that computer. When I was finally interviewing during my last Winter at Auburn, I admit, I put in for an interview with Microsoft. I was not initially accepted, but I could have scheduled one anyway during one of their open slots. I decided not to. I really wanted to go for it, but I also was a little nervous about working for them and moving to Redmond, Washington for the job.

I’ve always loved learning new technologies and that led me to IT consulting and application development after graduation. A lot of that desire and love of technology came from playing on those old laptops and my first desktop. And because of that early exposure I’ve always had a soft spot for Microsoft. They weren’t always the world crushing superpower they are now. They were once the plucky upstart. No one thought Windows would work. When Windows 3.1 for Workgroups was released, things started happening and that was the beginning of their ascension. And that ascension was spear-headed by Bill Gates.

I am by no means a Microsoft apologizer, nor do I believe that they are evil incarnate. Neither am I an “Apple is God” Mac Addict. I recognize the wonderful technologies both companies have brought to the electronic marketplace, but I also am aware of many missteps by both companies. I grew up on Microsoft Windows and that is why I prefer it. Microsoft revolutionized the PC with it’s operating system. It’s on easily 95% of the computers made today. Windows, overall, is a great operating system. Like I said, I’ve used it since Windows 3.0 back in the ’80s. Microsoft did make some bad decisions with the OS including Microsoft Bob in 98-99 and Windows ME in 2000. Windows has steadily improved since Windows 95, and Windows XP Service Pack 2 is the best Windows ever. I applaud Gates’ achievements and wish him the best of luck. He, undeniably, was the technical vision and focus behind Microsoft’s achievements and that has been what has led them to the forfront of technology. He is a man with an incredible forward thinking mindset and someone who may be misunderstood on the whole. If you get a chance, read his book, The Road Ahead (pictured to the right). I read it in college and his ideas and philosophies on technology and how we will use it in the future are fascinating.

I know there are many Mac enthusiasts who bemoan Gates saying he “stole” Apple’s operating system and used it for Microsoft Windows. The operating systems are similar, and Apple may have released theirs first, but Apple did not invent the graphical user interface (GUI). Apple itself took the initial idea of a clickable GUI from the labs at Xerox-PARC. Back in the ’70s Xerox had an R&D lab filled with fringe computer scientists cooking up all these crazy ideas. The clickable GUI was one of them, among numerous other advances that led to the personal computer and Internet as we know it today. Apple took what Xerox-PARC pioneered and modified it to suit their computer systems. Apple does have a spectacular interface that may work smoother and better than Windows, but Windows has to interface with thousands of completely different peripherals and software. Macs can’t work with any software, and because Apple’s system is so locked down, everything works on it smoothly and without incident. Apple definately has a great product, but I stand firmly entrenched in the PC/Microsoft world and look forward to the company’s progress now that “King Bill” has moved on.

Some fun stuff on Bill Gates:

1. One of my favorite mass emails about the on-going war between Jocks and Nerds

2. Funny pics of Bill Gates at 30 right before Windows 1.0 was released

3. Picture of 11 of Microsoft’s first employees (they look like hippies) right before they moved to Seattle from New Mexico

4. Bill Gates getting a pie to the face while leaving a building

5. Bill Gates and Napoleon Dynamite in college – This video was done for a Microsoft Conference. It is HILARIOUS.

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3 Responses to “Bill Gates Retires as Microsoft Chief Software Architect”

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