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MITS, a company from Albuquerque, New Mexico, produced the world’s first commercial mini-computer, the Altair 8800. Gates, who entered Harvard in 1973 as a freshman (and lived down the hall from Steve Ballmer) and Allen read about its creation in a magazine and set about developing an interpreter of the computer language Basic to run on the machine.
The computer maker was impressed by their work after Allen flew across the country to demonstrate it. MITS promoted their computer language. Allen joined MITS, although he left in 1976 to work full time with the company he and Gates had formed, Microsoft, joining Gates who dropped out of Harvard in his junior year. Microsoft’s first registered offices were in Albuquerque, and Basic was licensed to General Electric, Citibank and NCR.
Microsoft negotiated a flat fee of $21,000 for its version of Basic to run on Apple. The machines loaded with Basic sold like hotcakes. In the end the flat fee worked out at just two cents per copy sold. It was a mistake they would not make again.
In November 1977 Microsoft shipped its second language product, Fortran.
The following year the company’s revenues topped $1m for the first time. In 1978 Microsoft launched its third language product, Cobol 80, started selling in Japan, while also up-roots and moves to Seattle, Gates and Allen’s home city.
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