EACH TIME I BOUGHT AN IDEA to Bill Gates, he would pop my balloon. ''That would take a bunch of people and a lot of money,'' he'd say. OR....

''That sounds really complicated. We're not hardware gurus, Paul,'' he'd remind me.

''What we know is software.'' And he was right. My ideas were ahead of their time or beyond our scope or both.

It was ridiculous to think that two young guys in Boston could beat IBM on its own turf. Bill's reality checks stopped us from wasting time areas where we had scant chance of success.

So when the right opportunity surfaced, as it did that December, it got my full attention: an open invitation by the MITS company, in Albuquerque, to build a programming language for their  New Altair microcomputer,  intended for the hobbyist market.

Some have suggested that our Altair  BASIC was remarkable because we created it without even seeing an Altair or even sample Intel 8080, the microprocessor it would run on.

What we did was unprecedented, but what is less well understood is that we had no choice. The Altair was little more than a bare-bones box with C.P.U on-a-chip inside. It had no hard drive, no floppy disk, no place to edit or store programs

We moved into Harvard's Aiken Computation Lab, on Oxford Street, a one-story concrete building with an under utilized time sharing system. The clock was ticking on us from the start.

Bill had told Ed Roberts, MITS co-founder and C.E.O, that our BASIC was nearly complete, and Ed said he'd like to see it in a month or so, when in point of fact we didn't have an 8080 instruction manual.

In building our homegrown BASIC, we borrowed bits and pieces of our design from previous versions, a long-standing software tradition.

Languages evolve; ideas blend together; in computer technology we all stand on others' shoulders. As the weeks passed, we got immersed in the mission  -as far as we knew, we we're building the first native, high-level programming language for a microprocessor.

Occasionally, we wondered if some group at M.I.T or Stanford might beat us, but we'd quickly regain focus. Could we pull it off?  Could we finish this thing and close the deal in Albuquerque? .......  Yeah, we could!

We had the energy and the skill, and we were hell-bent on seizing the opportunity.

We worked till all hours, with double shifts on weekends. Bill Basically stopped going to class.

Monte Davidoff, a Harvard freshman studying advanced math who had joined us, overslept his one-o'clock French section. I neglected my job at Honeywell, dragging into the office at noon.

I'd stay until 5:30, and then it was back to Aiken until three or so in the morning. I'd save my files, crash for five or six hours, and start over.

We'd break for dinner at Harvard House of Pizza or get the pupu platter at Aku Aku, a local version of Trader Vic's. I had a weakness for their egg rolls and butterflied shrimp.

I'd occasionally catch Bill grabbing naps at the terminal during our late-nighters. He'd be in the middle of a line of code when he'd gradually tilt forward until his nose touched the keyboard.

After dozing for an hour or two, he'd open his eyes, squint at the screen, blink twice, and resume precisely where he'd left off-   a prodigious feat of concentration.

Working so closely together, the three of us developed  strong camaraderie. Because our programs ran on top of a the multi-user TOPS-10 operating system, we could all work simultaneously.

We staged nightly competitions to squeeze a sub-routine  - a small portion of a code within a program that performed a specific task   -into the fewest instructions, taking notepads to separate corners of the room and scrawling away.

Then someone would say, ''I can do it in nine.'' And someone else will call out, ''Well, I can do it in five!''

A few years ago, when I reminisced with Monte about those days, he compared programming to writing a novel   -a good analogy, I thought, for our  approach to Altair BASIC.

At the beginning we outlined our plot, the conceptual phase of the coding. Then we took the big problem and carved it into its component chapters, from the hundred of sub-routines to their related data structures-

Before putting all the parts back together.

The Honour and Serving of the  ''operational research''  continues. Thank You for reading,  and maybe learning. And see you all on the next outing.

With respectful dedication to all Microsoft Honours and to all its fans, users, and critics. See Ya all on !WOW!   -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' WORLD 2.1 '''

'''Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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