At the age of twelve, I hunted for my first computer. I had experience on the Commodore PET, Commodore 64, and the Apple II. They all seemed very primitive. At the Kiwanis Club, I was introduced to the IBM PC Jr.
The PC was very different. The programming language it had (BASIC) seemed so much more comprehensive and exciting, while being easier and simpler. My heart was sold!
I ended up buying an IBM PS/2 (Model 25) and I was in love. I would spend the next several years writing all sorts of software and games.
Through my research, I understood that DOS (the PC Operating System) was actually sold to IBM by Microsoft. This intrigued me and so I bought a book called “Hard Drive” which was the biography of Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft).
Keep in mind, that I hated to read, and only had read children’s books in their entirety! Moreover, I would be so motivated, that on my way to school on public transit, I would whip out my magnifying glass and strain my eyes, so I could get several pages of the book into my system.
As Microsoft evolved, so too did I. Microsoft’s help system was so good, that I just read through mounds of documentation for all of their software. I experimented, I learned, and I had tons of fun!
Microsoft actually didn’t write DOS, but bought qDOS (which stood for Quick & Dirty Operating System) from somebody and modified it slightly. This didn’t disappoint me at the time.
Soon I uncovered that Visual Basic was created by Alan Cooper initially and then sold to Microsoft. Microsoft PowerPoint was originally designed by Forethought Inc., which Microsoft bought for $14 million and had it become Microsoft’s Graphics Business Unit. The list goes on.
This was enlightening to me as an entrepreneur. Soon I would think of Microsoft, not as a software development company, but rather as an acquisition and marketing company.
In my eager and cocky youth, I crafted a letter to Bill Gates himself. I don’t remember the exact words, but the gist of it was that I was a cool techie, and that he should call me to discuss potential ideas.
Even though I followed-up with phone calls (and actually got his secretary live on the phone at one point), that path didn’t lead anywhere.
Over the next several years, I created new things with software. It was so rewarding to build something from scratch, and witness its positive impact on productivity and entertainment.
Then, the software industry started to change for me. I found myself, not building new things, but rather, fixing old things. My job because more of maintenance than of creation.
As the software landscape became more modular and compartmentalized, programming tasks became less about logic and reason. Instead, it is about interfacing with third-party software, debugging THEIR issues, networking hiccups, security and privacy.
Those things must be interesting to some people.
Was Bill Gates really an influential person in my life?
I thought he was. But that was mostly because of my love for Microsoft, which changed over the years.
The whole world changed, and I don’t like this new world. Technology isn’t about things being better anymore. It is about capitalization, designed obsolescence, and fashion.
In my opinion, systems and infrastructure around the world are buggier than ever before, with user-interfaces more kludgy and confusing than at any point in history. Similarly, customer service doesn’t provide very good customer service for anybody anymore (if they can get to a person), even though corporate offices have beautiful vision and mission statements sprinkled across their walls.
I still think Microsoft is a great company. Unlike Apple, at least Microsoft still provides decent accessibility support/features. Apple doesn’t care that inverse video also inverses photos/videos making everyone look like aliens!
What influences me more these days, is witnessing the innovative ideas of startups on Dragons’ Den and Shark Tank.