Term Paper: Bill Gates if One Was to Conceive

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Bill Gates

If one was to conceive a list of the most influential individuals in the 20th century, Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect at Microsoft, would surely be one of the people on the list. With software applications such as Microsoft Windows or MS - DOS, he managed to transform the computer industry from something open only to the few connoisseurs to a wide spread industry, available to all individuals, affordable and easy to use in every day life. His transformation of computer applications also increased the way these could be applied in different economic sectors and different areas, as well as in the individual homes.

The beginnings can be traced somewhere in 1974, when MITS (Micro Instruments and Telemetry Systems) announced the launch of its revolutionary Altair 8080, a computer model that was supposed to rival large commercial models and become available to large masses of individuals as a microcomputer. The revolution would have been huge: up to then, computers were mainly large machines, processing large amount of data for different organizations or economic entities. There was no perception of the personal computer as it is known nowadays. This was the first opportunity of actually having a computer that didn't occupy half a room and that one could actually individually use at home.

The problem was that this computer, very flexible in its size and hardware capacity, needed to be paralleled with a similarly flexible and available for individuals software. Bill Gates, with partner Paul Allen, actually saw this opportunity as a mean of revolutionizing the software industry. Their offer for MITS was a software programmed in BASIC that could be operable on the Altair (Teamgates.com; 1996). At this point, it seems that the entire action was purely marketing and commercial: the program was not yet created and would not be tested on the Altair until the actual presentation, but during the next weeks, the two managed to put the whole thing together and to make it work. In 1975, Microsoft was formed.

The Altair computer had other important characteristics. First of all, it used an Intel 8080 microprocessor, which reduced its cost to just under $400 (USA Today; 1999). The revolution introduced by Intel at the beginning of the 1970s with the launch of the microprocessor also meant that companies such as the one Gates and Allen founded had discovered a new potential market. Up to that point, companies such as IBM, large computer manufacturers, would create their own software for the computers they made. With the apparition of the microprocessor, the computer manufacturers would prefer to take on the services of a third company, a software company this time, that would program basic operations for the microchip. In 1981, with the launch of an IBM PC, Microsoft was already well-known as a software producers of operating systems and was commissioned to create the IBM operating system as well.

So, the first important contribution from Bill Gates that turn the table on the computer world and its subsequent evolution was the provision of an operating system for smaller computers, powered by microchips. Despite already creating operating system for IBM PCs throughout the 1980s, these were still reasonably difficult to use. The MS - DOS, for example, still had lines of code by which you could communicate with the computer and proceed with simple operations such as changing the directory or formatting a diskette. Things that today are simply done with a couple of mouse clicks needed commands that had to be memorized in order to be functional. All this changed in 1990, when Bill Gates and Microsoft released Windows 3.0 (it Week; 2006).

The Windows operating system had already been promoted in incipient phases during the 1980s, but these versions had not moved on from the code line transmittal of information and commands. With the launch of the Windows 3.0, the graphical user interface appeared. This was a huge revolution, with immediate effect both for professionals and home users.

For home users, the launch of Windows 3.0 (and later on, Windows 3.1) was equivalent to the capacity of operating the computer without lines code. The user could input commands with simple clicks of the mouse. Further more, most of these were intuitive and easy to learn, simply because the graphic interface provided showed where you needed to click to obtain the results. If you saw an icon showing the C. drive, you would know that a double click will open that. You could also see the programs that were active on the C. drive. The help system was also much improved and, in many cases, you simply had to type in the desired operation in order to obtain the steps by which you could reach them.

For professionals, "Windows 3.0 provided better programming interfaces for software developers" (it Week; 2006). This meant that applications created began to be focused on Windows as the operating medium, shifting thus the concentration from other operating systems. Because of its enormous functionality and applicability, Windows became the main hub of software applications.

With the launch of Windows 3.11, in 1993, local area networks began to be supported and this continued with the launch of the Windows NT, during the same year, with its increased applicability for servers and workstations. The impact of these two versions was tremendous on the development of the computer world. At that point, in 1993, concepts with which everybody is used now, such as a network of computers or the World Wide Web itself, were all in the state of projects, lacking the platforms to support such developments. Microsoft, with its revolutionary Windows operating systems directed towards networks and workgroups, now provided a platform that could be fully functional and could support such novelties. It is clear that Bill Gates and Microsoft helped tremendously in launching the informational revolution everybody is talking about nowadays.

The new Windows versions, including the Windows 95, Windows 98 and the XP continued to bring extra availability and improved user interface to the Microsoft clients. More and more flexible and easy to use, they often became the norm in terms of operating systems. The Windows 95 also brought about the Internet Explorer, an interface to facilitate Web navigation. With Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, in the 21st century, Bill Gates and Microsoft seem set to continue to deliver innovative operating systems that can both change the way computer applications are perceived and encourage more and more users to go online.

It is interesting to see with the way Bill Gates progressively developed the Windows operating system how the computer world progressed not only in the home PC and individual user segment, but also in the business segment. While the first windows versions, like Windows 3.0 or 3.1, had an increased emphasis on the interface, with the aim of making this more available for users who were not necessarily active in the computer industry, but were home users, with the apparition of the Windows NT, the business sector was seriously targeted. The Windows NT created the basis premises for something extremely important in the workplace: collaboration. With the creation of the Windows NT, information could now be made available throughout the office on a single computer, in a single spot and accessible to all users in the organization. Instead of wasting time by moving information from one individual to another, the Windows NT and the creation of a network of computers in the workplace made information static on one central computer. Further more, this was the first step towards being able to actually access other computers in the workplace, leading the way for actual online collaboration in the future.

Another essential contribution from Bill Gates and Microsoft that changed the computer world and its future was the concept of integration. Integrating applications into different suites was something brought about by Microsoft and on which many companies rely today. The essential example in this sense is the Microsoft Office. The Microsoft Office suite was conceived so as to encompass applications that would be needed in a workplace (although an individual PC user would also have similar requirements) for different activities. Previous to the MS Office suite, each application integrated in this suite would have needed to be purchased from a separate producer and installed separately on the computer. Each would have obviously also operated separately, without any coordination between them. You would have needed to install Lotus for the spreadsheet applicability, Word Perfect for the word processor and a database processor for database creation processes.

The message promoting integration hasn't changed much from Microsoft in the past years and Bill Gates himself used it as far as in 2007, at the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), when he specifically pointed out that "Vista and the PC continue to have a central role. All these other devices are very, very important, but they've got to work together" (Gates, 2007)

With Microsoft Office, all of these came into the same application suite. An… [END OF PREVIEW]

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