June 25, 1981
Founded six years earlier by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Microsoft officially incorporated as a company. The timing of the incorporation was about 2 months ahead of the release of the IBM PC, which would soon change the fortune of Microsoft and the entire technology industry.
June 18, 1979
In use at the time by over 200,000 computers with the Z80 and 8080 processors, Microsoft BASIC is introduced for the 8086 16-bit microprocessor. By being one of the first to offer a version of the BASIC programming language for a 16-bit processor and making it compatible with their 8-bit versions of BASIC, Microsoft helped move forward 16-bit computing. But perhaps more importantly, by developing for the 8086 processor, they soon formed a relationship with Seattle Computer Products, one of the first companies building computers with an 8086 processor.
As fate would have it, in 1980 Seattle Computer Products was forced to develop an operating system for their computers because a version of the very popular CP/M operating system was delayed for the 8086. It was this 8086 operating system, which SCP called QDOS (for Quick and Dirty Operating System), that Microsoft soon bought the rights for and licensed to IBM for their new PC. And Microsoft thus began their transformation from a simple software development company in the early history of personal computing to one of the most dominant technology companies in history.
June 15, 2006
Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft (Steve Ballmer was CEO at this point) announces that he will transition out of his day-to-day role at Microsoft by July 2008 in order to dedicate more time to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
June 7, 2000
United States District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson orders the breakup of Microsoft into two companies: one that will develop operating systems and one that will develop other applications. Microsoft immediately announces that it will file an appeal of the judgment. What would have been a monumental event in the history of the technology industry never actually happens, however. The ruling is overturned just over a year later. Microsoft will be sanctioned, but it stays one company.
May 27, 1988
Microsoft releases 2 versions of Windows 2.1 – One for 286 computers and one for 386 computers. Do you remember this version of Windows? No? Not many people do. It wasn’t until version 3 that Windows had any sort of appreciable user base.
May 26, 1995
Realizing his company had missed the boat in estimating the impact and popularity of the Internet, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates issues a memo titled, “The Internet Tidal Wave,” which signaled the company’s focus on the global network. In the memo, Gates declared that the Internet was the “most important single development” since the IBM personal computer — a development that he was assigning “the highest level of importance.” Still, it is curious why it took someone who was regarded as a technology “innovator” so long to realize this.
May 18, 1998
The United States Justice Department and the Attorneys Generals of twenty states plus the District of Columbia file an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft. The case focuses on Microsoft’s integration of the Internet Explorer web browser into its Windows 98 operating system. The trial becomes one of the most famous events in tech history, eventually resulting in a settlement between the DOJ and Microsoft. In fact, the sanctions levied against Microsoft only recently ended in May of 2011, almost exactly 13 years after the suit was filed.
May 2, 1983
Microsoft introduces the Microsoft Mouse for IBM and IBM-compatible PCs. The mouse featured two buttons and is available by itself or will later be bundled with the new Microsoft Word software, which Microsoft would release in September. Microsoft will manufacture nearly one hundred thousand units of the device, but will only sell five thousand before introducing a second, more popular version of the device in 1985.
April 20, 1998
During the COMDEX Spring ’98 and Windows World shows in Chicago, a public demonstration of the soon-to-be released Windows 98 goes awry when Bill Gates’ assistant causes the operating system to crash after plugging in a scanner. Instead of showing the plug-and-play capabilities they were trying to demonstrate, a “Blue Screen of Death” is visible by the entire audience which immediately erupts in laughter. After several seconds, Bill Gates famously responded, “That must be why we’re not shipping Windows 98 yet.”
Ironically, the assistant, Chris Capossela, has moved up the executive ranks at Microsoft, recently being promoted to the position of Senior Vice President, Consumer Channels and Central Marketing Group. For Microsoft’s sake, hopefully he’ll present a much better marketing image then he did that fateful day!
April 6, 1992
Microsoft releases Windows 3.1, priced at $149.00, selling three million copies over the next two months. Windows 3.1 added multimedia extensions allowing support for sound cards, MIDI, and CD Audio, Super VGA (800 x 600) monitors, and increased the speed of modem it would support to 9600 bps. For many of us that were into computers back in the day, it was the first version of Windows we actually used, as previous versions were still gaining consumer acceptance and Windows 95 wasn’t released until 3 years later.