Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1999/01/18

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Subject: [Leica] Re: Leica, off topic, microsoft, history
From: Pete Su <>
Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999 09:39:46 -0500

If you are going to blather about the history of the PC industry, at least get
the facts straight. My recollection is as follows:

About the time I hit Junior High Microsoft started with a product called BASIC,
which was a small computer language invented at Dartmouth College as a
"friendlier" environment for basic computing than the fortran compilers of the
time. This was in the early to mid 70s. Microsoft went on to license BASIC as
the primary OS and environment for many of the small microcomptuers (apple,
tandy trs-80, commodore) of the time.

Microsoft didn't start to gain a power base in the industry until IBM got into
the PC business around 1982, and gave MS the contract for the OS to that
machine, which MS bought from a small company in Seattle for a few tens of
thousands of dollars. They leveraged this, and the commodity nature of future
PCs to pretty much own the market for PC operating systems from the late 80s
until now. Before this, the dominant OS, if there was one, for Intel type
machines (actually Zilog Z80s) was called CP/M, written by a guy in Boston, I
think. The story goes that this guy  missed a meeting with the big boys from
IBM, so they went to talk to Bill instead. 

After dominating with DOS, MS finally got the industry to switch to Windows
after several tries, while Apple frittered away an almost 10 year technological
head start and is now at best a bit player (no flames please. i love macs as
much as anyone, and used and wrote code for them for a long time, but they are
not really a meaningful market player. just go to your local egghead or
whatever and see how big the apple software shelf is).

Microsoft didn't really have a spreadsheet product worth talking about until
they developed Excel for the *Macintosh* and then later on for Windows. Before
that the dominant player was Lotus 1-2-3, which took over the market for PCs.
Before that, the dominant player was Visicalc, which ran primarily on Apple II
computers, and was a large factor in building a user base for the Apple
machines, until the IBM machines came around.

Anyway, Excel for windows pretty much killed off Lotus, which didn't react fast
enough to the market shift (just like Word killed off Wordperfect, for similar
reasons). But, the point is that Microsoft's dominance has always a result of
the licensing of the operating system to the PC vendors, and not their