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Bill Gates' 10 big moments... and what might have been

Forks in the road for Microsoft's main man

As Bill Gates prepares to step down, we've taken a look back at his 10 most memorable moments at Microsoft. And we've taken the opportunity to ponder what might have been if Bill had taken a different path at each of these forks in the road. How different things could have been...

After entering the computer industry in 1975, some 33 years ago, Microsoft head honcho Bill Gates has certainly left an indelible mark on everything digital.

As Bill Gates prepares to step down and concentrate his efforts of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we've taken a look back at his 10 most memorable moments. From the launch of Windows 95 to his stand in the 1998 Antitrust case, our favourite memories are guaranteed to elicit tears, smiles and even the odd grimace from you.

And we've also taken the opportunity to ponder what might have been if Bill had taken a different role at each of these forks in the road. How different things could have been...

Bill Gates and Ballmer

Keep up with Bill: get the latest Microsoft news at PC Advisor's Microsoft News Spotlight

Windows 95 starts up

24 August, 1995

We'll probably never see another product launch like the one that propelled Windows 95 into the world (and that's surely a good thing).

Even the pomp and circumstance surrounding the iPhone's debut last year blanched in comparison. The millions of dollars that Microsoft paid for the rights to the Rolling Stones' 'Start Me Up' was only the beginning of the estimated £150 million marketing juggernaut that accompanied this launch.

Among other excesses, the Empire State Building was bathed in Microsoft corporate colours and playing fields in Britain were painted with the Windows 95 logo to make it visible from the air.

Microsoft's Redmond Research Lab in Washington was transformed into a carnival for the day, with food, jugglers, clowns, hot air balloons, a ferris wheel, and circus tents.

And at the centre of it all was Bill, grinning awkwardly in his blue Microsoft polo shirt and trying to sound casual as he engaged in teleprompter banter with Jay Leno, host of US TV programme The Tonight Show.

Bill's best line: "Windows 95 is so easy even a talk-show host can figure it out." Good thing he didn't quit his day job (until now).

What might have been: Perhaps Bill could have chosen this moment to try out as a stand-up comic? Er... don't call us, we'll call you.

Windows 95

Turn On, drop out, hack code

January 1975

It was a photo of the MITS Altair 8800 on the cover of Popular Electronics magazine that started it all. After Harvard classmate Paul Allen showed him the issue, Bill Gates called MITS president Ed Roberts and convinced him that he and Allen had created a BASIC program for the Altair, even though neither had written a single line of code.

After Roberts expressed interest, they worked feverishly to create the program in eight weeks.

Later that year, Gates dropped out of Harvard and moved to Albuquerque, where he took a job writing software for Roberts at $10 an hour. Eventually he made enough money from his BASIC royalties to buy himself a Porsche 911, with which he racked up multiple arrests for speeding and driving without a licence.

What might have been: Bill Gates, driving instructor? Only on the racetrack. Stick to the software. And stay out of jail.

Bill Gates mug shot

NEXT PAGE: Taking the stand in the Microsoft vs US antitrust case

  1. Our favourite memories of Microsoft's CEO
  2. Taking the stand in the Microsoft vs US antitrust case
  3. That cream pie incident
  4. Avoiding separating Microsoft into two companies


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