April 4th, 1975, Gerald Ford was president, Richard Nixon was still casting a shadow on the American landscape, the country was reeling from the effects of the OPEC oil embargo of 1973-74, and the US presence in Vietnam was about to become a sore memory.
Two young men, aged 19 and 22, set up shop in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Bill Gates and Paul Allen left Harvard and Washington State early with an idea to put a computer in every home, on every desk. Their company: Microsoft.
When you consider that the personal computer did not exist, nor did any meaningful platform to actually put computers to use outside of commercial and industrial applications. The vision was bold, and for its time, everything about the idea was vaporware.
Over the course of four decades, with Microsoft at the center of much of it, a technological revolution would take place that would change the world forever. While some would argue that it was not always flowers and unicorn kisses (Windows Me, Microsoft Explorer to name a couple), one cannot deny that the company just does not stop.
It is easy to forget, but Microsoft was among the first have a smartphone platform. Yes, Windows Mobile had plenty of shortcomings, but it excelled in ways other devices simply could not at the time. To this day, the HTC HD2 has a bit of cult following thanks to how great the hardware is. Microsoft was a pioneer with wearable technology, the MSN connected Microsoft SPOT watch.
These devices pre-dated today's wearables by a decade. A variety of the connected watches were made from top brands, including Tissot, Suunto, and Fossil. SPOT watches received their MSN Direct updates via FM radio waves. The watches usually ran about 5 days between charges to boot.
Who can forget Windows? An operating system that changed the world, and while Microsoft is about more than Windows today, who would ever think that we would see a day when OS updates would be offered for free? Who would ever believe that Microsoft would open up its Beta builds of its operating system environment for everyone to participate? Windows is about to begin a new chapter as a platform that spans the desk, tablet, mobile, and augmented reality.
Whether you are a developer, or a consumer, there is very little technology in use today that is not touched by Microsoft in some way. Even Apple uses Windows machines to build some of its Mac computers.
Microsoft continues to remake itself, quite amazing given that in the 40 years the company has been in existence, it has only had three CEOs. Microsoft’s co-founder, Bill Gates is still an iconic figure, while having gracefully allowed future generations to carry the flame initially set in New Mexico 40 years ago. Today, Bill Gates thinks more about Microsoft’s future than the past. Below is the text of a letter he wrote to employees the day before the 40 year anniversary:
Tomorrow is a special day: Microsoft's 40th anniversary.
Early on, Paul Allen and I set the goal of a computer on every desk and in every home. It was a bold idea and a lot of people thought we were out of our minds to imagine it was possible. It is amazing to think about how far computing has come since then, and we can all be proud of the role Microsoft played in that revolution.
Today though, I am thinking much more about Microsoft's future than its past. I believe computing will evolve faster in the next 10 years than it ever has before. We already live in a multi-platform world, and computing will become even more pervasive. We are nearing the point where computers and robots will be able to see, move, and interact naturally, unlocking many new applications and empowering people even more.
Under Satya's leadership, Microsoft is better positioned than ever to lead these advances. We have the resources to drive and solve tough problems. We are engaged in every facet of modern computing and have the deepest commitment to research in the industry. In my role as technical advisor to Satya, I get to join product reviews and am impressed by the vision and talent I see. The result is evident in products like Cortana, Skype Translator, and HoloLens -- and those are just a few of the many innovations that are on the way.
In the coming years, Microsoft has the opportunity to reach even more people and organizations around the world. Technology is still out of reach for many people, because it is complex or expensive, or they simply do not have access. So I hope you will think about what you can do to make the power of technology accessible to everyone, to connect people to each other, and make personal computing available everywhere even as the very notion of what a PC delivers makes its way into all devices.
We have accomplished a lot together during our first 40 years and empowered countless businesses and people to realize their full potential. But what matters most now is what we do next. Thank you for helping make Microsoft a fantastic company now and for decades to come.