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Monday, October 27, 2014

From DOS To Windows - 'Life Cycles' And The Career Of Bill Gates

This post came about because I said to myself earlier in the month :- "Hey, you're calling this series of 12 posts - 'Life Cycles' And Careers - and so far, you haven't really featured someone from the world of business." So I thought :- "Let's do a couple of household names from the business world." Now, I know it's not perfect when I say :- "I had no idea what I might find." Scientists may prefer if names are selected randomly from a computer generated list etc., but since I do this research on my own, this is as close as I can get to a 'blind analysis'. Bill Gates is very much a household name and to the best of my knowledge he hasn't been in the news/current affairs lately (or I haven't heard about it if he has).

William Henry (Bill) Gates III was born October 28th, 1955. I'm going to set up a couple of standard hypotheses.

1. Was there any evidence of a direction change/challenge during his age 19 'Year of Broken Pathways'? (ie. Oct. 1974/Oct. 1975, which is his first adult 'Life Cycles' 'significant year' - but some of you actually knew this.... well maybe.)
2. Was there any evidence of the beginning of a new age/direction during his age 24 'Year of Revolution'? (Oct. 1979/Oct. 1980)
3. What about more direction change/challenge some seven years later when he was in his age 31 'Year of Broken Pathways'? (Oct. 1986/Oct. 1987)
4. Finally, what about the important and often career-defining age 36 'Year of Revolution' (Oct. 1991/Oct. 1992)?

After this I normally run out of steam, but in any event I'm sure even the most sceptical (who couldn't conceive of anything even benignly deterministic) might be a little intrigued. That is actually all I'm after by the way. There is nothing behind these analyses unless others may wish to construe it. This makes it totally unrelated to the occult or religion, but at the same time makes it kinda mysterious, because it's based on a standard interpretation of real-world events. But, back to William, who's getting a bit twitchy backstage.

OK, during 1974, Gates (who was already doing a lot of private study on computers) joined his friend Paul Allen at Honeywell in the summer vacation. From here, in early 1975 (when Gates was 19), they contacted MICRO Instrumentation And Telemetry Systems (MITS) to say they were working on BASIC (an operational SOFTware program) for their Altair 8800 computer. Allen then joined MITS and Gates dropped out of Harvard and they formed a fledgling company called 'MICRO-SOFT'. This is demonstrably a major direction change/challenge. It all grew from this, just as Facebook grew out of Mark Zuckerberg's usurping of 'Connect U', when he was 19. Once again, it's all in THE BOOK!.

Now to Gates' first adult, age 24 'Year of Revolution' (Oct.'79/Oct.'80). What will we find? Here's a clue :- "Think about the title of the post." In July 1980 IBM approached Gates (so an element of destiny here) to use BASIC in their upcoming personal computer - the IBM PC. This gave birth to the well known MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System), which bridges the gap between the computer hardware and programs, such as a word processor. It’s the foundation on which computer programs can run. It made Microsoft a major player in the industry. This was the birth of the Disk Operating Era. Also of note during this time in June 1980, Gates and Allen hire Gates’ former Harvard classmate Steve Ballmer to help run the company. He eventually succeeds Gates as CEO.

OK, now the title of this post is "From DOS To Windows" and every computer geek can tell me that the birth of Windows was not timed to Gates next age 36 'Year of Revolution'. So what gives? Windows was publicly released in Nov. 1985 with the 1.0 version. Now, rather than typing MS‑DOS commands, you just move a mouse to point and click your way through screens, or “windows.” As Bill Gates says :-“it is unique software designed for the serious PC user.” Around the same time Microsoft struck a deal with IBM to develop a separate operating system called OS/2. OS/2 was intended as a protected mode successor of PC-DOS (in other words a disk-based second generation IBM PC). For a time the two companies ran together on OS/2, but then creative differences began to appear.

Now on to Gates' age 31 'Year of Broken Pathways' (Oct.86/Oct.87). What happened to represent a direction change/challenge at this time? Well this coincides with Gates' first appearance on Forbes' Rich List, with a personal worth of $135 mill, following the company's listing on the stock exchange. Anyone in business can tell you that this changes your focus from pleasing yourself to pleasing the stock holders and driving up profitability. The money it seems was going to be in Windows and not OS/2. In April 1987 the launch of the OS/2 1.0 was announced, but it set in train a period of delays and modifications (including trying to incorporate elements of Windows). Additionally it was only sold through IBM sales channels, restricting its profitability. This lengthy period of challenge is also quite typical of what can be expected following the direction change in a 'Year of Broken Pathways'.

The final period I will examine is Gates' major mid-life age 36 'Year of Revolution' (Oct.91/Oct.92). I grant you that largely because of Gates' early successes, this was not marked by a major career-defining breakthrough. No, I think you only get one of these years in your life and Gates had his during his age 24 'Year of Revolution'. It can also be this way for others who peak early, like entertainers/athletes etc. Interestingly, it was this way for famous writer Charles Dickens, who 'made his name' when Pickwick Papers was released at 24.

So what did happen then? Well in May 1991 (just before the start of this period) Bill Gates announced that the partnership with IBM was over and that Microsoft would henceforth focus its platform efforts on Windows. It could be said to be the genesis of the 'Windows Only' Era. However, this announcement was not well received. Some people, especially developers who had ignored Windows and committed most of their resources to OS/2, were taken by surprise, and accused Microsoft of deception. This changeover from OS/2 was frequently referred to in the industry as "the head-fake". In the ensuing years, the popularity of OS/2 declined, and Windows quickly became the favored PC platform.

Not only this, but during the transition from MS-DOS to Windows, the success of Microsoft's product Microsoft Office allowed the company to gain ground on application-software competitors, such as WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3. In the 'History of Microsoft' article I studied, it referred to 1992 as the beginning of the 'domination of the corporate market' era. Now all these events took place during Gates' 36th year. I hope I've made sufficient case for showing how Gates' successive 'Years of Revolution' at 24 and 36 ushered in two of the major eras in the history of Microsoft, thus justifying the title of this post.

OK, let me spell my findings out in letters two feet high. This is my real-world evidence gathered in support of the original hypotheses :-

1. At 19, Gates and Allen found Microsoft, using BASIC program with an Altair 8800 computer.
2. At 24, Gates is approached by IBM to use BASIC with their personal computer and the MS-DOS era of dominance is born. Steve Ballmer joins Microsoft.
3. At 31, gets on Forbes Rich List after Microsoft goes public. Unsuccessful partnership with IBM and the OS/2 begins.
4. At 36, Gates quits IBM partnership and Windows Only era leads to dominance in the corporate market.

I don't think there's a more pervasive change to people's lives in the last 20+ years than the personal computer (or its counterparts). It all began back in 1975, when a young uni dropout named Bill Gates, decided to try and convince MITS he had written a software operational code for their Altair 8800 computer called BASIC. The reality was that he hadn't quite done it at the time, but was fairly sure he could. I learn so much from my research into all these posts, that I often feel I am sitting beside you as I do them. I'm a bit like Bill Gates as well. I'm fairly sure that I can find credible evidence when I do the analysis, but before I start I don't really know.

I hope you enjoyed this look at the world of computers and Bill Gates. Till next month :- "may the cycles always bring you good fortune."

BTW don't miss the related post on my SECOND BLOG!