Tag: computer

Bill Gates and The Guy Who Could Have Been Him (Part 9 of 10)

Appreciate more the story, read the previous post:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6Part 7, and Part 8.

 

When IBM’s programmers tried to run MS DOS on their prototype IBM PCs, they could hardly believe how buggy it was. By one count Microsoft had left at least 300 bugs in the software, and IBM eventually chose to rewrite the entire program. But Gates delivered on time, which kept the entire IBM PC project on schedule. The new IBM PC made its debut in August 1981, accompanied by a massive computer industry had never seen.

It took only a few years for Big Blue’s new desktop machines to take over the entire PC market. By 1983, two out of every three new home computers were made by IBM and were running the MS DOS operating system.

When Kildall got his first look at the IBM PC, he was enraged. He felt that MS DOS was nothing more than a crude clone of CP/M and that Gates stabbed him in the back. But he never sue IBM and Microsoft, partly because software copyrights were a hazy area of the law, but also he was so confident of CP/M-86’s superiority.

Once that CP/M-86 was ready for release in early 1982, Kildall was certain that most computer users would switch over from MS DOS. That’s not what happened. CP/M-86 did prove to be a better and more reliable operating system, but it was also more expensive.

Then IBM cautioned PC buyers that it would only offer technical support for computers running MS DOS. In no time at all, Microsoft displaced Digital Research as maker of the industry standard in operating systems. Software companies responded to IBM’s growing market dominance by pouring their resources into new applications for subsequent revisions of MS DOS. They also stopped bothering to upgrade their existing CP/M-compatible products.

 

Continue reading the last part here.

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Bill Gates and The Guy Who Could Have Been Him (Part 7 of 10)

Appreciate more the story, read the previous post:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.

 

Once they got pass the hurdle, Kildall was cold to IBM’s insistence that Digital Research negotiate a flat licensing fee for CP/M and forgo Digital Research’s usual per unit royalty rate. It didn’t help matters that Kildall was generally disapproving of IBM because so many IBM products struck him as slow, unimaginative and clumsily designed.

But the biggest stumbling block preventing a deal was Kildall’s timing, or rather, his utter disregard for timing. IBM planned to build its personal computer around a new, faster Intel Chip called the 8086, but CP/M would need an upgrade in order to run on it.

Kildall already had such an upgrade in the works, called CP/M-86. But Kildall either wouldn’t guarantee to Sams that it would be delivered enough to meet IBM’s development deadlines.

Sams tried to explain that IBM needed a schedule and a commitment by October 1980, but Kildall resisted. Perhaps Kildall assumed that IBM would bend to his schedule, since it appeared that IBM needed him and CP/M’s 90% market share more than he needed IBM.

But what Sams gathered from Kildall’s attitude was that Kildall would never be a reliable partner and that the IBM PC project needed an alternative plan for an operating system.

Not long after, he stopped returning Kildall’s calls. Kildall’s fate was sealed forever as “the man who could have been Bill Gates.”

By giving up on Kildall and CP/M, Sams put himself in a tight spot. But Sams also knew that Gates, more than anyone, would be highly motivated to help him find a way out. During the time that Kildall was giving Sams a runaround over royalties and deadlines, Gates was back in Seattle bending over backward to accommodate IBM’s development schedule.

He had put almost Microsoft’s personnel to work on the IBM effort, shoving other projects to the side. Now Gates needed IBM PC project to succeed, if only out of a sense of survival of Microsoft.

 

Continue reading Part 8Part 9, and Part 10.

Bill Gates and The Guy Who Could Have Been Him (Part 4 of 10)

Do not miss out this great story, I recommend reading these first:

Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

 

Gates and Kildall had a lot of common. Both hailed from the Seattle area. They had even bumped into each other at a Seattle computer center years when Kildall was still a graduate student at the University of Washington and Gates was a high school hacker sneaking some computer time.

Both loved talking about software code as much as they enjoyed writing it. They also shared a passion for driving dangerously fast. When they weren’t talking software, they swapped stories about speed traps, comparing the size of their most recent speeding tickets.

While they have similarities, they have more differences as well. Kildall was older, a family man, and much more accomplished programmer. At heart he was academic, a computer scientist with a Ph.D. Though he was nominally the head of Digital Research, he disdained making business decisions and preferred spending his time on complicated programming tasks that most CEOs would leave to their employees.

Gates was the exact opposite. He was a businessman first and a programmer second. He started Microsoft while still being a student at Harvard, and then he dropped out before finishing because his interest is getting his business going.

At the age of 25, he was still living like a college student in a messy one-bedroom apartment.

Gates and Kildall shared a capacity for getting lost in the days-long bonus of obsessive programming, their motivations were completely different. Gates would never have spent a year building a microcomputer from scratch as Kildall did, merely out of intellectual curiosity.

Gates’ all-nighters were always driven by practical business objectives and deadlines, while Kildall had more of an artistic temperament. Some said that Kildall designed computer code the way Mozart composed symphonies.

 

Continue reading Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9, and Part 10.

Bill Gates and The Guy Who Could Have Been Him (Part 3 of 10)

Do not miss out Part 1 and Part 2.

 

With virtually no competition, CP/M earned Digital Research $85cents of profit on every dollar of revenue that came in. Officials at Digital Research’s bank once called to double-check some figures because they didn’t think it was possible for every company to have such high profit margins.

By mid-1980s, Kildall and Digital Research were both on the road to oblivion and today Kildall ranks as a mere footnote in computer history. The reason lies with a few crucial miscalculations he made in 1980, part of a cautionary tale about how imitation often trumps innovation.

One of the first computer entrepreneurs to hitch his wagon to CP/M’s rising start in the late 1970’s was a precocious young programmer named Bill Gates.

In 1979, when Gates was just 24y/o, he was running a software company called Micro-Soft. The company had secured an early, profitable niche in the personal computer industry by creating popular versions of BASIC and other programming languages that communicate between a computer’s hardware and its operating system software.

Gates and his partner, a high school friend named Paul Allen, didn’t stumble into the software industry the way Kildall had with Digital Research. Since their teenage years, Gates and Allen had been looking for ways to turn their passion for code-writing into cash. They originally wrote the Microsoft version of BASIC in 1976 because they saw a chance to get into the ground floor with one of the earliest makers of homebuilt personal computer kits.

After that, Gates often sought licensing deals that would pair Microsoft’s BASIC with Kildall’s CP/M, to the hope that Microsoft BASIC could ride CP/M’s coattails and become an industry standard of its own.

 

Continue reading Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8, Part 9, and Part 10.

 

Bill Gates and The Guy Who Could Have Been Him (Part 2 of 10)

 

Miss out the first part? Read it here.

 

However, patching together the computer’s software wasn’t Kildall’s greatest accomplishment. It was what he had done with writing new software code. Out of absolute necessity, and with no thought of the commercial possibilities, he developed a master program so that his unique little computer could adapt itself to run a useful software applications designed for much larger stand-alone machines. That’s how Kildall developed the first operating system software for personal computers.

After revising it further so it could run on the newer and faster Intel 8080 microchip, Kildall would call his operating system CP/M (Control Program for Microcomputers).

When hobbyist strated building their own 8080-based home computers, Kildall realized he had created something of value. He put a small ad in a computer trade magazine and began selling copies of CP/M for $70, first to hobbyist then to other small computer makers.

Within the next six years, hundreds of thousands of personal computers had been sold with CP/M running inside them. Kildall and his wife Dorothy made millions of dollars without essentially trying.

When the personal computer revolution took off in the late 1970’s. it launched on the wings of Kildall’s CP/M operating system. Prior to CP/M, every computer manufacturer had to deal with the headaches of writing machine-specific software for word processing, database management, and all the other things that people use computers for. But thanks to Kildall, these companies could now simply license copies of the CP/M operating system and their customers could buy whatever CP/M-compatible software they liked.

In 1980, there were an estimated 600,000 PCs in the entire United States and about 90% of them were running on CP/M and using CP/M compatible software. Popular software programs that time like dBase and Wordstar worked only with CP/M. Kildall created the bedrock and subsoil out of which the PC software industry would grow, according to Harold Evans.

 

Continue reading Part 3Part 4, Part 5Part 6, Part 7Part 8, Part 9, and Part 10.