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In 1994, Bill Gates explained what makes a tech company successful: It's all about four secret ingredients

Bill Gates
Bill Gates (Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • A Microsoft employee orientation video from 1994 runs through the history of the company and Windows.
  • It covers the creation of the first language program for personal computers through the early days of the consumer-facing internet.
  • Microsoft founder Bill Gates discusses semiconductors, software development, and the evolution of Microsoft in the video.

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. It drives movie reboots, fashion, and the rebirth of the Tamagotchi. The Computer History Archives Project recently shared a Microsoft employee orientation video from 1994. The video was originally made to welcome new employees to Microsoft, but it now serves as an overview of the early days of the company.

The 90s-style video looks like it was popped into a VHS player right after an episode of Seinfeld. It's colorful, enthusiastically narrated, and has a boxed aspect ratio. It includes several segments with Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The founder and first president of Microsoft discussed himself and Paul Allen completing Basic in 1975 and the successful launch of Windows 3.1.

Here are a few highlights detailed in the video:

  • Bill Gates and Paul Allen completing Basic, the first language program for a personal computer
  • Microsoft launching the SoftCard, which could plug into an Apple II
  • IBM releasing a computer running MS-DOS
  • The introduction of the mouse
  • A demo disk for Microsoft Word appearing in PC World magazine
  • Microsoft stock going public in 1986
  • Word for Windows launching in 1989
  • Microsoft launching Windows 3.1

The orientation video is a fun look back at a company that was already large in the 90s, but that became ubiquitous in the modern age of computing.

At the end of the video, Gates outlines four keys to making a tech company succesful. His remarks were made over two decades ago, but still apply today: Making products useable, making products enjoyable, putting personality into products, and making devices worthwhile for familes.

Sean Endicott
Sean Endicott

Sean Endicott is the news writer for Windows Central. If it runs Windows, is made by Microsoft, or has anything to do with either, he's on it. Sean's been with Windows Central since 2017 and is also our resident app expert. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at

  • In 1995, Bill Gates also released his book 'The Road Ahead' where he outlines the use of the 'super information highway' (heh remember that term), aka the Internet as we know it now. It's an interesting read, but does show that he was hitting the mark on the future even back then for things that are still affecting us now.
  • Good times. My IT career started back in the early '80s, and I used most of the products in the video. Yeah... it was fun.
  • BASIC is an acronym and should be all caps in the article. Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code
  • When does he talk about the importance of abusing power imbalances to get laid? Microsoft is a better company without Bill, maybe we can stop falling over ourselves to celebrate him.