The real Bill Gates

Lest we get overcome by the warm bath of nostalgia engulfing Microsoft’s departing co-founder, here’s a a useful reminder of what it was like dealing with him. It’s an extended recollection by a Zilog executive for whom Gates wrote some buggy Z80 compiler code in 1979/80.

“After a couple of weeks of calling and getting the same message from Gates, I finally pulled out the listing and went through it. It was terrible code. Sloppy, poorly documented and generally not something that I would have allowed my developers to send out the door. But that was all I had, so I spent a few days going through it and finding the errors that appeared to be causing the troubles with the tests. I then called Bill again and explained what I had done and where would he like me to send a copy of the corrections.

“He didn’t want them, as he could fix it himself! I went ahead and told him the areas that needed to be modified, but he became more and more belligerent as I went through the changes. He said, again, that he’d look into it. I seem to have hit a nerve there as I believe that I mentioned, more than once, what a crappy piece of code this was.

“After that whenever I would call, Bill and I ended up shouting at one another over these modifications. After a total of about 3 months of calling at least once a week I finally gave up and went to our company lawyer. His solution was quite simple — Call Mr. Gates one last time and present him with the name and phone number of our lawyer and tell Gates that the lawyer would be calling him the next week. I did this (quite calmly as Bill began our conversation shouting at me) and told him that I wouldn’t be calling him again.

“We had the patched and working code before the lawyer ever got around to calling him the next week. Seems I was an early recipient of the Microsoft Business Model.”