April 4, 1994
Ironically, 19 years to the day after Microsoft was formed, Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark create the Mosaic Communications Corporation, which will later be renamed Netscape Communications Corporation. Andreessen had developed the Mosaic web browser while working at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois.
April 4, 1975
Microsoft is founded as a partnership between Bill Gates, age 19, and Paul Allen, age 22, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The company is founded to develop BASIC for the MITS Altair 8800. MITS is headquartered in Albuquerque so Gates and Allen move there from Boston to launch their company. Eventually they decide to move Microsoft to the Seattle, Washington area, where both men were from originally and met in high school.
April 3, 1973
Martin Cooper, considered the “father of the cellular phone”, makes the first cell phone call on a New York City street.
April 3, 1966
The Soviet space probe Luna 10 becomes the first spacecraft to orbit around the Moon. It was launched by the USSR from an Earth orbiting platform on March 31, 1966. Luna 10’s battery will operate for 460 lunar orbits before deactivating as planned on May 30, 1966.
April 2, 1980
Microsoft announces its first hardware product, the Z80 SoftCard. The SoftCard is a microprocessor that plugs into the Apple II personal computer allowing it to run programs written for the CP/M operating system. CP/M was a very popular OS for early personal computers along with much of the software written for it. In particular, the word processor WordStar is so popular that people will purchase the SoftCard and a companion “80-column card” just to run it on the Apple II. At one point, the SoftCard product will bring in about half of Microsoft’s total revenue. It will be discontinued in 1986 as CP/M’s popularity waned.
April 1, 2004
The now ubiquitous Gmail service is launched as an invitation-only beta service. At first met with skepticism due to it being launched on April Fool’s Day, the ease of use and speed that Gmail offered for a web-based e-mail service quickly won converts. The fact that Gmail was invitiation-only for a long time helped fueled a mystique that those who had a Gmail address were hip and uber-cool. Those of us who are actually hip and uber-cool didn’t mind, of course, as those types of things don’t bother hip and uber-cool people.
April 1, 1976
The Apple Computer company is formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in order to sell their personal computer kits, later known as the Apple I computer, launching the personal computer revolution. From this point on, the word “Apple” is associated as much for computers as it is for fruit.
March 31, 1999
The hugely successful motion picture, The Matrix, is released on this day. Many call it a classic (ok, that’s me), many call it influential (ok, me again), but no one can deny that the impact it had on many aspects of our society from the emerging tech culture, to the movie industry, to science-fiction, to political thinking. The Matrix won 4 Oscars, on a budget of $63 million grossed over $463 million, and was the first DVD to sell over 3 million copies. And who could forget some of the great quotes from this movie, including “Free … your … mind”, “Dodge this”, “There is no spoon”, “Don’t think you are – know you are”, “Welcome … to the real world”, “I know kung fu”, and “You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
March 31, 1995
Microsoft releases their epically ill-fated software package, “Bob“, whose name will forever live in infamy. Given the tide of popularity and visibility Microsoft was riding on the way to releasing Windows 95 later that year, Bob was the first highly visible flop from Microsoft. Future flops from Microsoft included Windows ME, the Zune, and Windows Vista to name a few. While Bob was “killed” only a year later, many of the ideas that went into Bob were salvaged by Microsoft, most notably the “Clippy” assistant, which was perhaps as equally as derided by computer users. Read this excellent write-up on the history of Bob.