It’s one of the most iconic photos in American business.
A ragtag group of bearded weirdos assembled for a family portrait in Albuquerque.
If you see it on Facebook or LinkedIn, there’s usually a question above the photo: “Would you have invested?”
It’s a trick question. You’re supposed to answer no — because well, look at those people — but then you learn it’s a company portrait of Microsoft from 1978.
Early employee Bob Greenberg, pictured in the middle, won the free portrait after calling in a radio show and guessing the name of an assassinated president. The gang reluctantly gathered together in some of their finest attire, and an American business legend was made.
We all know what happened with the two guys in the bottom left and bottom right corners — Bill Gates, and Paul Allen. But what about the rest, many of whom became millionaires?
With Microsoft’s stock hitting an all-time high after earnings on Thursday — higher than its previous peak in 1999, at the height of the dot-com boom — we thought it would be a good time to take another look back.
This is an update of a post originally written by Jay Yarow in 2011.
We all know what happened with this guy. Bill Gates founded and built Microsoft from nothing into the most valuable technology company in the world. Along the way he became the richest man in the world, and is now giving is fortune away to all kinds of good causes.
Andrea Lewis was the only person at the company that was from Albuquerque. She was a technical writer for Microsoft, which meant she wrote documents explaining Microsoft's software. She left Microsoft in 1983, eventually becoming a freelance journalist and fiction writer. She co-owns the Hugo House, a literary center in Seattle.
Maria Wood was a book keeper for Microsoft, and married to another one of the early Microsofties in the picture. She left the company just two years later, suing it for sexual discrimination. Microsoft settled the case. After that, she vanished from the public eye, raising her children and volunteering for good causes.
After Bill Gates, Paul Allen is the most famous guy in the group. Allen, the other Microsoft cofounder, is the 40th richest person in the world according to Forbes. He's the owner of the Portland Trailblazers, the Seattle Seahawks, one of the biggest yachts in the world, and much more.
Bob O'Rear was one of the oldest employees at Microsoft. He was at NASA in Mission Control when we landed on the moon. At Microsoft he was a chief mathematician, and is credited with reworking code in DOS, and getting it onto IBM PCs. He left the company in 1983, moved back to his home state of Texas, and got into cattle ranching.
Bob Greenberg was the guy that won a radio call-in contest to get the photo. He left Microsoft in 1981, after helping the company develop a new version of BASIC. When he left he went on to help his family's company, Coleco, develop the Cabbage Patch Kid dolls, which became a huge hit. As of 2008, he's said to have been working on golf course software.
Marc McDonald was the first salaried employee, and when he left in 1984, it was because he didn't like how big the company was getting. After leaving Microsoft he went to another Paul Allen-led company, Asymetrix. He then went to Seattle design company Design Intelligence, which was acquired by Microsoft in 2000. So, he ended up back at Microsoft! In 2011, he left Microsoft for the second time, and is now working at marketing software startup Thunder.
Gordon Letwin was with the company until 1993, the second longest run of all the employees pictured (Gates is first). He was a programmer at Microsoft, and quit when he wanted a break from the grind of the company. He was a millionaire by the time he left Microsoft. Now, Letwin has a ranch in Arizona, and runs the environmental charity Wilburforce Foundation with his wife, Rose.
Steve Wood is the husband of Maria Wood, who eventually left Microsoft under bad circumstances. Steve left in 1980, but worked with Paul Allen on a few companies afterwards. He's a serial entrepreneur, and currently owns a software consulting firm called Airnote and volunteers as a firefighter.
Bob Wallace seems like he was one of the most far out early Microsoft employees. He spent time and money researching psychedelic drugs after leaving the company. He also founded a software company called Quicksoft. He died in 2002 from pneumonia.
Jim Lane was a project manager who left in 1985. Legend has it that he announced his departure by saying that Microsoft 'beat the enthusiasm out of me' He went on to start his own software company. At Microsoft he helped create the company's crucial partnership with Intel, which played a huge role in the company's ability to dominate the PC industry.
... And here's a photo of the group from 2008 that Microsoft put together when Bill Gates was leaving the company.
Since then, Gates gave up the CEO job to Microsoft's 30th employee, Steve Ballmer, who joined in 1980, well after this picture was taken. Ballmer turned the reins over to Satya Nadella in 2014. Of the original employees, only Gates is still at Microsoft, acting as Executive Chairman and an advisor to Nadella.
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