Check out Bill Gates' first business card at Microsoft, from after he dropped out of Harvard

Matt Weinberger/Business Insider
  • The Microsoft Visitor Center has lots of Microsoft history on display – including Bill Gates’ first Microsoft business card.
  • It dates back to Microsoft’s earliest days, when it was based in Albuquerque.

Everybody, even Bill Gates, started somewhere. And Bill Gates’ very first Microsoft business card, and that of his cofounder Paul Allen shows they started as President and Vice President, respectively.

The cards are from 1975 and are on display at the Microsoft Visitor Center, the only area of its Redmond headquarters that’s open to the general public.

These cards were printed when Microsoft was the company of two childhood friends, Gates and Allen, working on a version of the BASIC programming language for the Altair 8800 microcomputer. It was Allen’s idea to name the company “Micro-Soft,” since they were working on software for the microcomputer. That got shortened to Microsoft pretty quickly.

You may also notice the Albuquerque address. This is where Microsoft was originally incorporated – MITS, the company that made the Altair, was headquartered there, and Allen and Gates wanted to stay close.

Gates’ decision to drop out of Harvard and move to New Mexico to run Microsoft was baffling to some in his life. One of his Harvard professors once recalled thinking: “Such a brilliant kid. What a waste.”

Microsoft bill gates business cardMatt Weinberger/Business InsiderBill Gates and Paul Allen, circa 1981. This photo is on display at the Microsoft Visitor Center.

During that time, Gates was known for driving around the New Mexico desert at high speeds to clear his head. In fact, a traffic violation resulted in his infamous mugshot. This was before Microsoft was making much money, and he was zooming around in borrowed cars, even once managing to total a friend’s Porsche.

In 1979, Microsoft moved from Albuquerque to Bellevue, Washington, in the Seattle area where both Gates and Allen grew up. That same year, Gates bought his first car: a Porsche 911 of his very own. As the story goes, he got three speeding tickets – two from the same cop – driving his Porsche up to Washington in the big move.

Microsoft moved from Bellevue to its current headquarters in Redmond in 1985, and is still there today. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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