You have to think it’s a fun industry. You’ve got to go home at night and open your mail and find computer magazines or else you’re not going to be on the same wavelength as the people [at Microsoft].
–Bill Gates, 1983
Microsoft became the dominant company in the personal-computer industry in the 1980s, surpassing IBM in influence, and its founders became billionaires. But as the 1980s began, Microsoft and Bill Gates were known only within the tight community of personal-computer companies.
In 1981 the company’s business focused on programming languages, with some application software and a lone hardware product thrown in—Paul Allen’s brainchild, the SoftCard, which let people run CP/M programs on an Apple computer. DOS, ...