Bill Gates, along with Paul Allen, co-founded Microsoft. The two men had met at Seattle's Lakeside Prep School and got their start in the technology business while students at Harvard. The pair wrote a version of the BASIC computer language in 1975 for the Altair, one of the first personal computers made by Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), of Albuquerque, N.M. [source: Microsoft]. The partners' success eventually led them to establish their own computer software company first named Micro-Soft. Later, of course, they dropped the dash; the company famously headquartered today outside Seattle first registered its trade name with the Secretary of State in New Mexico and had about 16 employees in its time there -- through 1978. In 1979, Microsoft moved operations up to Seattle and in 1986, the company moved to Redmond, Washington. In 2011, the company employed more than 40,000 people in Washington State and 89,000 worldwide [source: Microsoft Facts].
At the end of the first year, Microsoft's sales totaled about $16,000. It only took about two years for Microsoft to surpass $1 million in sales. At first, Paul Allen went to work for MITS, but he resigned in November 1976 to join his partner full-time at Microsoft, shortly after the first advertisement for the company's products appeared in a magazine. The founders formalized their partnership with an official agreement in 1977; that agreement held until Allen left the company in 1983 [source: Reuters].
In 2011, Allen was writing a book called "Idea Man" that spoke somewhat unfavorably of his last few years with Microsoft, accusing Gates of low-balling him on some company shares. Regardless of the true nature of their partnership, the Microsoft founders have fared well: Allen is ranked the 57th richest person in the world by "Forbes" with an estimated $13 billion fortune and Gates is ranked second with $56 billion [source: Reuters]. Allen now runs an investment firm and Gates has handed over the CEO reins of Microsoft to his friend Steve Ballmer but remains Chairman of the Board. Both Gates and Allen are heavily involved in philanthropy.
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