A precocious pioneer
Gates grew up in a prosperous area of Seattle, Washington, with his parents and two sisters. The son of a lawyer and a schoolteacher, Gates attended a public grade school and then the Lakeside School, a private college preparatory institution. It was at Lakeside that he first became interested in the relatively new field of computer programming, met his friend and future business partner Paul Allen, and developed his first computer software program at the age of 13.In 1968 the Lakeside School was still purchasing computer time on a machine owned by General Electric, as computers were extremely expensive in the late 1960s. Gates and his friends from Lakeside became fascinated with the machines and formed the Lakeside Programmers Group to try to make money in the computer field. The Programmers Group primarily earned its founders free computing time on machines owned by a company in Seattle. Gates and Allen then formed a company that they called Traf O Data. They put together a small computer for measuring traffic flow and made about $20,000. The company remained in business until Gates and Allen graduated from high school. Although Gates was interested in computers, he enrolled at Harvard University with the intention of becoming a lawyer like his father. By the time he was a sophomore in 1975, however, Gates was more interested in computers and electronics than in his pre law studies.
What became the Microsoft Corporation grew out of two college undergraduates bluff and bravado. Gatess old friend Allen showed him an advertisement for a kit to build a home computer. The two called the computers manufacturer, MITS, saying that Gates had taken a primary computer language called BASIC and adapted it for the machine. When MITS expressed interest, Gates and Allen ignored their studies and spent the next four weeks frantically working on turning their boast into reality. In an interview in Money, Gates later recalled, One little mistake would have meant the program wouldnt have run. The first time we tried it was at MITS, and it came home without a glitch (July 1986).
Having written the first computer language for a personal computer, Gates and Allen established the Microsoft Corporation in 1975. The name Microsoft was formed from the words microcomputer and software. Gates then dropped out of Harvard in 1976 and focused on building the new business. He believed that there was a market for computer software and that the market was going to expand rapidly as affordable computers were developed for home use.