Year
1975

Microsoft founded

On this day in 1975, at a time when most Americans use typewriters, childhood friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft, a company that makes computer software. Originally based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Microsoft relocated to Washington State in 1979 and eventually grew into a major multinational technology corporation. In 1987, the year after Microsoft went public, 31-year-old Gates became the world’s youngest billionaire.

Gates and Allen started Microsoft—originally called Micro-Soft, for microprocessors and software—in order to produce software for the Altair 8800, an early personal computer. Allen quit his job as a programmer in Boston and Gates left Harvard University, where he was a student, to focus on their new company, which was based in Albuquerque because the city was home to electronics firm MITS, maker of the Altair 8800. By the end of 1978, Microsoft’s sales topped more than $1 million and in 1979 the business moved its headquarters to Bellevue, Washington, a suburb of Seattle, where Gates and Allen grew up. The company went on to license its MS-DOS operating system to IBM for its first personal computer, which debuted in 1981. Afterward, other computer companies started licensing MS-DOS, which had no graphical interface and required users to type in commands in order to open a program. In 1983, Allen departed Microsoft after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma; he was successfully treated for the disease and went on to pursue a variety of other business ventures.

In 1985, Microsoft released a new operating system, Windows, with a graphical user interface that included drop-down menus, scroll bars and other features. The following year, the company moved its headquarters to Redmond, Washington, and went public at $21 a share, raising $61 million. By the late 1980s, Microsoft had become the world’s biggest personal-computer software company, based on sales. In 1995, amidst skyrocketing purchases of personal computers for home and office use, Windows 95 made its debut. It included such innovations as the Start menu (TV commercials for Windows 95 featured the Rolling Stones singing “Start Me Up”) and 7 million copies of the new product were sold in the first five weeks. During the second half of the 1990s, Internet usage took off, and Microsoft introduced its web browser, Internet Explorer, in 1995.

In 1998, the U.S. Department of Justice and 20 state attorneys general charged Microsoft with violating antitrust laws by using its dominance to drive competitors out of business; in 2001, the company reached a settlement with the government that imposed restrictions on its corporate practices. Also in 2001, Microsoft joined the video-game market with the launch of its Xbox console, which proved to be a hit. However, in the first decade of the 21st century Microsoft fell behind companies such as Apple in the mobile-phone market and Google in the search-engine market.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Legendary movie critic Roger Ebert dies

On this day in 2013, one of America’s best-known and most influential movie critics, Roger Ebert, who reviewed movies for The Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, dies at age 70 after a battling cancer. In 1975, Ebert started co-hosting a movie review program on ...read more

Man who took NASCAR mainstream is born

Bill France Jr., the leading force behind the transformation of the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) from a regional sport into a multibillion-dollar industry with fans worldwide, is born on this day in 1933 in Washington, D.C. France’s father, William ...read more

Second Battle of the Somme ends

During World War I, the Second Battle of the Somme, the first major German offensive in more than a year, ends on the western front.On March 21, 1918, a major offensive against Allied positions in the Somme River region of France began with five hours of bombardment from more ...read more

NATO established

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is established by 12 Western nations: the United States, Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Iceland, Canada, and Portugal. The military alliance, which provided for a collective ...read more

Dr. King is assassinated

Just after 6 p.m. on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. is fatally shot while standing on the balcony outside his second-story room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The civil rights leader was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers’ strike and was on his way to ...read more

Operation Baby Lift aircraft crashes

A major U.S. airlift of South Vietnamese orphans begins with disaster when an Air Force cargo jet crashes shortly after departing from Tan Son Nhut airbase in Saigon. More than 138 passengers, mostly children, were killed. Operation Baby Lift was designed to bring 2,000 South ...read more

Gretzky finishes season with 212 points

On this day in 1982, hockey sensation Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers finishes the NHL season with 212 points, the first and only player in NHL history to break the 200-point barrier.A hockey prodigy, Gretzky turned pro at 17 and joined the Indianapolis Racers of the World ...read more

Harrison dies of pneumonia

President William Henry Harrison dies after serving only 32 days in office on this day in 1841. Harrison holds the unfortunate presidential record of shortest term in office. Ironically, the man with the shortest White House tenure delivered the longest inaugural address in ...read more

Muddy Waters is born

When Bob Dylan picked up an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, he permanently alienated a portion of his passionate fan base. When Muddy Waters went electric roughly 20 years earlier, he didn’t have a fan base to be concerned about, and those who did go to his ...read more

Maya Angelou is born

Poet and novelist Maya Angelou-born Marguerite Johnson-is born in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents divorced when she was three, and she and her brother went to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. When she was eight, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. When she ...read more

Ben-Hur wins 11 Academy Awards

Clocking in at three hours and 32 minutes, William Wyler’s Technicolor epic Ben-Hur is the behemoth entry at the 32nd annual Academy Awards ceremony, held on this day in 1960, at the RKO Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. Setting an Oscar record, the film swept 11 of the 12 ...read more

Dirigible crash kills 73

On this day in 1933, a dirigible crashes in New Jersey, killing 73 people in one of the first air disasters in history. The Akron was the largest airship built in the United States when it took its first flight in August 1931. In its short life of less than two years, it was ...read more

Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated

Martin Luther King Jr. is shot to death at a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. A single shot fired by James Earl Ray from over 200 feet away at a nearby motel struck King in the neck. He died an hour later at St. Joseph’s Hospital. The death of America’s leading civil rights advocate ...read more