Headline Mar 31, 2015/ MICROSOFT : '''-MAGIC- MONEY-MUSINGS- '''



FROM THE TIME we'd started together in Massachusetts, I'd assumed that our partnership would be a  50-50  proposition. But Bill had another idea:

''It's not right for you to get half,'' he said. ''You had your salary at  MITS  while I did almost everything on BASIC without one back in Boston. I should get more. I think it should be  60-40.

At first I was taken aback. But as I pondered it, Bill's position didn't seem unreasonable. I'd been coding what I could in my spare time, and feeling guilty that I couldn't do more-

But Bill had been instrumental in packing our software with  ''more features  per byte of memory than any other BASIC  we know,''  as I'd written for Computer Notes. All in all, I thought, a 60-40 split might be fair.

A short time later, we licensed BASIC to NCR for $175,000. Even with half the proceeds going to Ed Roberts, that single fee would pay five or six programmers for a year.

Bill's intensity was nonstop and when he asked me for a walk-and-talk one day, I knew something was up. We'd gone a block when he cut to the chase:
''I've done most of the work on BASIC, and I gave up a lot to leave Harvard,'' he said. ''I deserve more than 60%.''

''How much more?''

''I was thinking  64 - 36 .''

Again I had that moment of surprise. But I'm a stubbornly logical person, and I tried to consider Bill's argument objectively. His intellectual horsepower had been critical to BASIC, and he would be central to our success moving forward  -that much was obvious.

But how to calculate the value of my Big Idea  -the mating of high level language with a microprocessor  -or my persistence in bringing Bill to see it? What were my development tools worth to the  ''property''  of the partnership. 

Or my stewardship of our product line, or my day-to-day brainstorming with our programmers? I might have haggled and offered Bill two points instead of four, but my heart wasn't in it. So I agreed. At least now we can put this to bed I thought.

Our formal partnership agreement, signed on February 3, 1977, had two other provisions of note. Paragraph 8 allowed an exemption from business duties for   ''a partner who is a full-time student,''  a classic geared to the possibility that Bill might go back for his degree.

And in the event of  ''irreconcilable differences,'' paragraph 12 stated, Bill could demand that I withdraw from the partnership.

Later, after our relationship changed, I wondered how Bill had arrived at the numbers he'd proposed that day. I tried to put myself in his shoes and reconstruct his thinking, and I concluded that it was just this simple: ''What's the most I can get?'' 

I think Bill knew that I would balk at a two--to-one split, and 64 percent was as far as he could go. He might have argued that the numbers reflected our contributions, but they also exposed the differences-

Between the son of a  librarian and the son of a lawyer. I'd been taught that a deal was deal and your word was your bond. Bill was more flexible, he felt free to renegotiate agreements until they were signed and sealed.

There's a degree of elasticity in any business dealing, a range for what might seem fair, and Bill pushed within that range as hard and as far as he could.

Microsoft was a high-stress environment because Bill; drove others as hard as he drove himself. He was growing into the taskmaster who would prowl the parking lot on weekends to see who'd made it in.

People were already busting their tails, and it got under their skin when Bill hectored them into doing more. Bob Greenberg, a Harvard classmate of Bill's whom we'd hired, once put in 81 hours in four days.

Monday through Thursday. to finish part of the  Texas Instruments BASIC. When Bill touched base toward the end of Bob's marathon, he asked him, ''What are you working on tomorrow?''

Bob said, I was planning to take the day off.''
And Bill said, ''Why would you want to do that?''
He genuinely couldn't understand it, he never seemed to need to recharge.

Our company was still small in 1978, and Bill and I worked hand in glove as the decision-making team. My style was to absorb all the data I could to make the best-informed decision possible, some times to the point of over-analysis.

Bill liked to hash things out in intense, one-on-one discussions; he thrived on conflicts and wasn't shy about instigating it.

Some of us cringed at the way he'd demean people and force them to defend their positions. If what he hear displeased him, he'd shake his head and say sarcastically:

''Oh, I suppose that means we'll lose the contract, and then what?'' When someone ran late on a job, he had a stock response.
''I could do that in a weekend.''

And if you hadn't thought through your position or Bill was just in a lousy mood, he'd resort to his classic put-down.
''That's the stupidest [           ] thing I I've ever heard!''

Good programmers take positions and stick to them, and it was common to see them square off in some heated disagreement over coding architecture. But it was tough not to back-off against Bill-

With his intellect and foot tapping and body rocking, he came on like force of nature. The irony was that Bill liked it when someone pushed back and drilled down with him to get to the best solution.

He wouldn't pull rank to end an argument. He wanted you to overcome his skepticism, and respected those who did.

Even relatively passive people learned to stand their ground and match their boss decibel for decibel. They'd get right into his face.''What are you saying, Bill? I've got to write a compiler for a language we've never done before-

And it needs a whole new set of run-time routines, and you think I can do it over the week-end?..........Are you kidding me?'' 

The Honour and Serving of the  ''operational research''  continues.

With respectful dedication to all the past and present employees of Microsoft Corporation. See Ya all on !WOW!   -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' The Archive '''

'''Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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