March 27, 1976
Bill Gates gives the opening address at the First Annual World Altair Computer Convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Gates was still a student at Harvard but along with Paul Allen helped develop the version of the BASIC language sold with the Altair computer.
March 17, 1988
Apple Computer famously sues Microsoft Corporation for copyright infringement in its Windows operating system. Apple eventually lost the lawsuit in 1995.
March 13, 1986
Ten years after the company’s founding, Microsoft Corporation stock goes public at $21 per share. The stock, which eventually closed at $27.75 a share, peaked at $29.25 a share shortly after the opening. It is said that the rising value of Microsoft stock has made an estimated 4 billionaires and 12,000 millionaires of Microsoft employees.
February 17, 2000
Microsoft introduces the latest version of the Windows NT line of operating systems, Windows 2000. While Windows 2000 did bring plug and play to the Windows NT line, it was targeted to the business market and not the consumer. It was not until Windows XP that Microsoft merged the NT line with the Windows 95/98 line. Unfortunately, Microsoft unleashed Windows ME upon unsuspecting consumers in the meantime. Sigh.
February 3, 1986
The term “vaporware” is first used by Philip Elmer-DeWitt in a TIME magazine article. The term is now commonly used to describe software that has been long announced but hasn’t actually been released. At the time, many experts believed Microsoft was guilty of using vaporware announcements to keep customers from purchasing software from other companies (by convincing them that a Microsoft version was just around the corner).
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates steps aside as chief executive and promotes company president Steve Ballmer to the position. Gates would stay on as “chief software architect” until June of 2008 before finally giving up day-to-day responsibilities at Microsoft. Gates is still Microsoft’s chairman of the board.
The “Friday the 13th” virus strikes hundreds of IBM computers in Britain. This is one of the most famous early examples of a computer virus making headlines. Over twenty years later, while other companies have systems that are practically immune to virues, Microsoft still hasn’t been able to develop a solution to prevent viruses from infecting their systems.
Playfully nicknamed “Zune 2K” day after Y2K day, owners of Microsoft Zune devices began reporting that their devices had malfunctioned and refused to boot up. The problem turned out to be a “a bug in the internal clock driver related to the way the device handles a leap year,” as described by Microsoft. The problem would fix itself on Jan 1, 2009 if users let the battery run down and then reset the device on that day. Certainly, the publicity from this gaffe couldn’t have helped the perception of the Zune in the marketplace, as by this time Apple’s iPhone had started its dominant rise. Microsoft said it would issue a bugfix for the device so that this problem wouldn’t re-occur in 2012, but by that time, Microsoft had already killed the Zune line of devices so I’m not sure if the problem was ever actually fixed.
Microsoft releases version 2.0 of Windows. The most notable feature of Windows 2.0 was that application windows could overlap each other, unlike in Windows 1.0. The terminology of “Minimize” and “Maximize” was also introduced in Windows 2.0. Windows 2.0 was a relatively obscure operating system, as the popularity of Windows did not really take off until version 3 in the 1990’s. Interestingly, Microsoft officially supported Windows 2.0 until December 31, 2001, a span of 14 years.