As you probably know, Bill Gates is leaving the employment of Microsoft the company he founded in 1975. Bill and I have had overlapping lives. I actually started working on computers a few years before Bill (being 10 years older then Bill helped). And while I am not Bill Gates I can imagine what it must mean for him to leave the computer industry in which he was so much a part in shaping. While most of you are thinking of Gates the Billionaire, Gates the Entrepreneur, Gates the competitive businessperson etc, right now I am thinking of the Gates the boy programmer. A man that knew what a bit really was. Who could not only hold the code for a program in his head but the entire memory of the computer (the was not much difference then).
I first meet Bill Gates in 1981 when he visits Digital Computer (the then number two computer company) to meet with Ken Olsen, the CEO. The meeting was set up by Barry Folsom who was responsible for the Rainbow one of Digitals three failed attempts to enter what became the PC market. I was busy with my own failure, the Professional Series. By that time, Bill had pretty much figure out the business strategy of Microsoft (I wont explain here). A year later, I attended a speakers dinner at PC Forum (when Ben Rosen still ran it) with Bill, Steve Jobs, and many of the 20 something’s that would create the PC business ( I was 37 at the time and feeling pretty old). That was when I first learned about Compaq and Lotus and began to understand myself how the computer industry would develop.
Later in my role as Vice President Business Development at Intel, I would often attend meeting with Bill (quarterly executive meetings between Intel and Microsoft, other company meetings and industry events). Bill was not one of my favorite people. The company he built is not one of my favorite companies either. But the software they developed which at that time always needed more processor power did put my kids through school. Later when Bill set up his foundation, I was a bit conflicted. Now I had to admire someone I did not really like.
So Bill is now moving on or rather leaving something behind. But the foundation must be such a different experience for him for he will never be in the position he was when he first started programming computers.
I know myself that I never knew such joy in my professional life as when I would late a night, program my first computer bit by bit. I wonder as Bill get older, if he will miss those days more than his days at the helm of Microsoft and as the worlds richest man.