Gates and Jobs, Then and Now

If you didn't get a chance to watch today's historic interview between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, you should. Finally seeing these two computer industry giants on stage interacting with each other was fascinating and at times even a little touching.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

“while Linux takes over the world”

Please. I’m as much a Linux geek as the next guy, but take over the world? It’s been “taking over the world” for 10-12 years now. And, what’s the desktop market share today? 3%. Granted, that may change now that Dell is selling Ubuntu systems but I don’t see it taking over the entire desktop industry! Dignify, indeed! However, the embedded world is another matter! Servers, too, but it’s been a LONG time since I’ve lived in that world.

Back on target, er, topic. I grew up with computers. From my VIC20 to the Apple IIe to the Apple IIgs (sprinkle the Coleco ADAM in there, along a Tandy or two) to the PC (and I never went back to Apple). I couldn’t imagine my life without computers. I hardly remember it since I started using the VIC20 in 6th grade.

I, owe a lot to Gates and Jobs – much more than just respect.

You guys make me feel so much better!
People around me think I’m strange because I work on a computer all day, go home and play on a computer until night.

I too grew up with computers, I started with an IBM 286. I still remember seeing QBASIC on a computer in the JR. High Computer Lab and it changed my life.

/me too. :slight_smile:

What always seems incredible is that the whole microcomputer history has occured during our lifetimes. Can you imagine a world without computers? Yet most of us can remember a world without computers. We’ve played with Pong, with the VCS 2600, with the Ataris and Amigas and Apples. We’ve seen DOS, System 1, Windows 3.11, System 7, Mac OS 9, Windows 95, Mac OS X, Linux… This has all happened during our lifetimes. It’s not like cars or airplanes or trains, which took a long time to get to where they are now.

Jeff, this is one fantastic post. Your feelings echo mine with more accuracy than you could imagine. I have so much respect for those 2 men and how they both have fundamentally altered my life…all of our lives. It’s staggering.

And LKM, that is also a very profound thought. Computers have changed the way I do so many things, and you are right, I remember clearly a time without computers.

How cool is that?

I don’t get it man… it’s always Gates and Jobs that shaped the industry and do these historic stage parades… why is Woz always left out ? I mean, it’s not just you, Jeff, but the whole industry seems to put Jobs and Gates on a different level than Woz. Granted, Woz was the tech guy (geek, we’d say, and he’d be proud of it), while Steve (and Bill) were (primarily) the businessmen.

Does that imply that the world of computing as we know it today was shaped by the business-oriented people ? I don’t mean to minimize or deny their impact, but I just wonder if, without them, computing would have been much different…


Well said, Jeff.

My reaction was largely the same. My first language was Apple BASIC on a IIe, and I’ve scarcely let go of the keyboard since. It’s amazing to look back on how much we’ve all been through, collectively, and a bit humbling to see the grace and camaraderie of both Jobs and Gates as they interacted and shared their thoughts and memories on some of the same topics.

I’ve seen a lot of references to Jobs’ Beatles quote, but I found Gates’ comments about how much he admires Job’s innate creative vision to be at least as disarming.

‘Fascinating’ was a word I used to describe it elsewhere as well.


(P.S. LKM, please don’t forget OS/2!)

I’m sorry, I guess I’m going to have to be the downer on this one.

I’m far too young (24) to really remember ‘the long road’ for these guys. Don’t get me wrong, whether or not I enjoy their product, I’m not the least bit disillusioned as to what these guys meant (and mean) to the industry, and to the fact that I have a job right now to be neglecting to post this right now.

That being said, I have /never/ owned any Apple hardware, nor any Microsoft software.

I was also incredibly happy to see these two together, I’m planning on finding time to sit through the whole thing this weekend.
For those who aren’t familiar about the history of these two and some of the industry back story, I suggest checking out Triumph of the Nerds as Jeff had pointed out a few months ago. (

Its a bit cheesy at parts but for a young guy like myself, it cleared up a lot of the history (even if it does stop mid-90’s).

How nice, you almost make me cry. I grew with a Macintosh so there’s my Apple in my story. This guys are the ones that created the industry, is not what the mean to it. It definitely was something that was going to happen eventually, a computer in every home, this guys just were there at the right time and had great ideas, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t know how far it would go, they were just thinking about money.

Anyway, history could have been very different if, for example, Apple released MacOS as free, or SunOS was free and Sparcs would be sold as personal computers, not only as workstations. So many things could have happened, but I think that there are more important people to the influence of computers the way we know them today, like Wozniak. But it’s nice to see these two guys wasting time while Linux takes over the world :slight_smile:

BIG respect :slight_smile:


One of my early memories at school is of playing olympic decathlon which was a game by microsoft on my Apple IIe.

And here is what happened off-camera:

(not for the easily offended)

Jobs was always the Marketing man, not the programmer …
Gates was a bad programmer and a middling marketing person

Woz was the programmer, hardware tech etc …
IBM designed the PC that Dos and Windows (and OS/2) run on …

Gates and Jobs got lucky, kudos to them for selling us other peoples ideas but …


So, if the two most important people in computing history are marketing men, does that make them less important, or does it mean you made the wrong career choice?

I met Bill Gates and shook his hand at a meeting of the Baltimore Computer Club way back in 1979(?). He had flown there (coach–all Microsoft employees flew coach then) just to give a presentation. He seemed little different than anyone else at that meeting…


Quoted for emphasis.

There is no doubt they made monumental strategic maneuvers that kept their companies on top of the business game they were in. But when it comes to all the influences on the microcomputer as we know it today, I see them more as scrambling to adapt and take advantage of the changing technological landscape rather than singlehandedly driving it through some mystical vision.

It’s very funny to see the term “marketing” misused when “visionary” is the correct term. Neither of them is a “marketing” guy, but they are both “visionary leaders.” And for those that want to argue about the term visionary in the context of Gates and Jobs, here’s the Oxford definition:

“thinking about or planning the future with imagination or wisdom”

Being a visionary isn’t entirely about coming up with grand ideas. A key component is being able to see an opportunity and know that it’s one to focus on because of its ability to shape the future. Wisdom is as or more important than imagination to a visionary.

Anyone who studies the history of the PC industry objectively will come to the conclusion that Gates and Jobs are visionaries. People like Wozniak and Allen, while extremely talented, lacked the driving vision to succeed on their own. Woz himself has admitted that on more than one occasion, including where he describes how he had to be convinced to leave the safety of HP for the startup that became Apple.

Without intending to spark a fanboy debate, Jobs is clearly the more visionary of the two. While both he and Gates stand on the backs of many talented people (and they acknowledge that in the video), a second act like the one Jobs has orchestrated since returning to Apple takes a visionary leader to achieve. Gates was never put into the position of having to reinvent himself for a 2nd act and has been able to ride his early success to this day.

I’ve been an Apple guy all my life, since the days programs were loaded onto Apple II computers from casettes (my first ‘tecnhical’ experimentation was sneaking a casette home in 1st grade to listen to how it ‘told’ the computer what to do). There was a ‘dark’ period where I didn’t own a Mac when it no longer seemed a viable platform and my programming job required Windows. But since the release of Mac OS X 10.0, I have been using a Mac nearly 100% at both home and work. Now I only occasionally start Windows within Parallels on my Intel Macs when something work related requires it.