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Lorin Thwaits A geek says what?

I am very impressed with everything about the MVP summit.  Never in my life have I been in attendance at an event with so much diversity.  I've met people from Honduras, Peru, Germany, Lithouania, Russia, Japan, and just a half hour ago a group of Koreans had come over to hang out here in my hotel room and see a 30-year old piece of history I brought along.  Let me explain more about that.

Over the weekend before the event my dad and I dove into the storage shed and dug up a momento we had used some 28 years ago -- the very first software product released by Microsoft (then called "Micro Soft").  That's right, MITS Altar BASIC 4K.  We had gotten an Altair with 8K of RAM from a friend, Frank Housholder, who bought it when it first came out.  After having the computer for three years, he got an amazingly well-paid job from an oil company in Saudi Arabia.  Before moving out there he gave us the Altair plus a big box of 7400-series TTL parts (old-school logic chips).  This gift was the thing that really kick-started my fascination with computers.  We still have the Altair in storage, and haven't fired it up for a couple of decades.

So here at the first morning of the summit, I went into the keynote session having the manual and cassette tape for the software in-hand.  I had heard that Bill Gates would be speaking, and also conduct a Q&A session with the audience.  Unprecedented!  And who knows, this may be his last summit since he's starting to devote much more time to philanthropy.

When the floor was opened for questions, I immediately hopped up to a microphone and waited my turn.  I got a little nervous, which was probably good since adrenaline and pressure generally causes me to speak a little better.  When it was my turn I described the origin of that copy of BASIC, and the impact it had on my life.  Based on a suggestion from my friend Scott Cate I then read this section from the introduction to the manual, on page II:

If any immediate problems with MITS software are encountered, feel free to give us a call at (505) 265-7553.  The Software Department is at Ext. 3; and the joint authors of the ALTAIR BASIC Interpreter, Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Monte Davidoff, will be glad to assist you.

Everyone in the audience had a little chuckle.  "I tried the number, but didn't get a response."  (more laughter.)  My question to Bill was simple: would he sign this copy of this historic software?  Sure enough, he did, and also explained a little of the background behind that humble start to Microsoft.

A guy from Kuwait filmed the whole thing, and I'll post a video when I get a copy from him, probably tomorrow.

I was surprised to learn later in the day that the Seattle Post Intelligencer ran a story about the summit, and had a picture of me at the microphone:

The sessions today were great, and it was definitely a good time at the evening party.  So much care and attention has been put into making this a stellar event.  I wish everyone in IT could experience it.

Posted on Wednesday, March 14, 2007 12:23 AM Trips / Vacations , Community | Back to top


Comments on this post: My three minutes with Bill Gates

# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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That's awesome!

D
Left by D'Arcy from Winnipeg on Mar 14, 2007 2:41 AM

# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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This is great...lucky you!!! I would totally be in awe of the great man.
Left by Mimi on Mar 14, 2007 7:29 AM

# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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Sweet! That's a nice piece of geek history to have :)
Left by Lou on Mar 14, 2007 8:23 AM

# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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I love the introduction you read. Perfect!
Left by Phoenix on Mar 14, 2007 4:53 PM

# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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Hey Lorin, I was at the Summit as well and I've told 20 people about this very moment. I thought it was awesome.

When you first started speaking I thought you were reading from the book in your hands but then it made sense. Very cool stuff!
Left by Keith Elder on Mar 17, 2007 7:51 AM

# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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Pretty schnazzy there Lorin!
Left by Chris Martin on Mar 17, 2007 4:48 PM

# Cosas Interesantes 19/03/2007
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Hoy en cosas interesantes: ¿Cuantas personas hay con certificaciones en el mundo?, Nueva web sobre MPs
Left by Be Geek My Friend on Mar 19, 2007 1:10 AM

# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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That is an awesome experience.

Looks like it was a pleasant surprise for Bill, too.
Left by Steve Framberger on Mar 26, 2007 1:45 PM

# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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Any chance you can upload the video?? :D
Left by www.runningrabbits.net on Jun 08, 2008 10:10 PM

# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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Hi Lorin. I was googling my family members' names, to see what all was out there on the web about them. When I googeld my dad's name, I found your link. VERY cool story about Bill Gates and my dad's old computer manual. I sent the link to him, (my dad, not Bill!!) as I'm sure he'll get a kick out of it. He's retired now and still very much involved with computer projects. Let me know if you'd like to get in touch with him. Sincerely, Laurie (Housholder) Orth
Left by Laurie Housholder Orth on Jul 08, 2008 10:02 AM

# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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My nemesis proved to be Pam Edstrom, who has been spearheading Microsoft's PR efforts since 1982. Our first talk, in January 1998, proved typical of the dozen-plus conversations we'd have over the next 12 months -- a gossipy marathon, intimate and revealing, in turns friendly and combative. Edstrom exhibited a light-hearted sarcasm as she shared blow-by-blow accounts of the missteps of Microsoft foes who had allowed themselves to be distracted by a personal animosity for Gates, but her sunny good cheer turned to an instinctive defensiveness when detecting even a whiff of a criticism of her boss -- or an imposition on his time.
Left by courseworks on May 01, 2009 10:09 PM

# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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Great post. I love the customer support contacts. I wonder if anyone actually remembers phoning through and Bill Gates answering on the other end! Have you managed to get the video of this?

Tim
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# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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My nemesis proved to be Pam Edstrom, who has been spearheading Microsoft's PR efforts since 1982. Our first talk, in January 1998, proved typical of the dozen-plus conversations we'd have over the next 12 months -- a gossipy marathon, intimate and revealing, in turns friendly and combative. Edstrom exhibited a light-hearted sarcasm as she shared blow-by-blow accounts of the missteps of Microsoft foes who had allowed themselves to be distracted by a personal animosity for Gates, but her sunny good cheer turned to an instinctive defensiveness when detecting even a whiff of a criticism of her boss -- or an imposition on his time. dollhouse season 2 episode 11 | ghost adventures season 3 episode 10
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That's really cool. Meeting a prodigy in the tech world and a real genius in his own right is a truly great thing. I want to meet him to, the master behind technology that jump started everything else. Can't say much about his handwriting though.
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Congratulations on your three minutes with Bill Gates. Every year Microsoft welcomes MVPs of 90 Nations for the Annual MVP Global Summit. It provides a chance to network with one another and with officials of the company around which many of them build their businesses and personal lives. Most of the professionals are software developers and others including computer-department staff members, consultants and computer users.
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# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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I would like to have those minutes too :)
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# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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Oh wow! That was a terrific experience with Bill Gates. I'm sure that would be one of the memorable days in your life. I'm glad to read your post. Great blog! Keep it up!
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# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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Bill is very clever and cunning man. He was at the right time in the right place
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# re: My three minutes with Bill Gates
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I'm envious as 180 seconds is a long time with such a celeb. Admire Bill, not for Microsoft but for the great charitable work he does.
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