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Where did the name 'Microsoft' come from?

Bill Gates
Bill Gates (Image credit: Microsoft)

It's simple really, and even if you don't know right away, it's obvious once you read the explanation. The name is actually a "blend word" of sorts, in which two other words combine to make one.

From a 1995 Forbes magazine interview with Microsoft cofounders Bill Gates and Paul Allen:

Gates: When we signed that first contract with MITS, we referred to ourselves as 'Paul Allen and Bill Gates doing business as Micro-Soft.' I don't remember why we spelled it with a hyphen and a capital 'S.' We put a credit line in the source code of our first product that said, 'Micro-Soft BASIC: Bill Gates wrote a lot of stuff; Paul Allen wrote some other stuff.''Allen: We had talked about a lot of different names back in Boston, and at some point I said, 'Well, the totally obvious name would be Microsoft.'Gates: We also had mentioned names like Outcorporated Inc. and Unlimited Ltd., but we were, you know, joking around. We talked a lot about whether we should call it Allen & Gates, but decided that was not a good idea.Allen: Yeah. Because companies like DEC and IBM weren't named after personalities, they would have a longevity and identity way beyond the founders...Gates: ...and it seemed like a law firm or like a consulting company to call it Allen & Gates. So we picked Microsoft even before we had a company to name.

So why combine "micro" and "soft?" In the 1970s, before Microsoft was a thing, Gates and Allen got their start developing MICROcomputer, or MICROprocessor, SOFTware. And it was actually Allen that originally came up with the name.

The company was originally formed in 1975, but it didn't officially incorporate until years later in 1981.

Did you know where Microsoft got its name?

So, come on, be honest, did you know the origin of the name Microsoft before you read this post? Hit the poll below and sound off. (We'll know if you're lying … )

Al Sacco is content director of Future PLC's Mobile Technology Vertical, which includes AndroidCentral.com, iMore.com and WindowsCentral.com. He is a veteran reporter, writer, reviewer and editor who has professionally covered and evaluated IT and mobile technology, and countless associated gadgets and accessories, for more than a decade. You can keep up with Al on Twitter and Instagram.

42 Comments
  • Hmmm... "no Googles"... Why not "no Bings"? (Somehow that just doesn't come immediately to mind.) Just goes to show how entrenched the G-word has become in our vocabularies. 😒 (this emoji used because Windows doesn't have a decent poop emoji)
  • 💩 You're welcome
  • It's just the way people use language. If I say 'I will DHL you', and you understand. That is fine.
  • For we normal people it's just technology, not a religion. We use whatever works best for us, regardless of what company makes it.
  • I generically say 'search engine' it, as everyone has their favorite.  I also say facial tissue. incidentally, there's a new search engine that offers up a portion of its profits to reforest deforested areas. search engine it.  
  • I say "I'll ask Cortana" and if there are stupid question i use "let me bing that for you".
  • Ummm, Microchip? Software?..... Really?
    Is this a serious question? 😆
  • Now, SUPERCALFRAGALISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS?.... That's a word to wonder about. 🙄
  • Rodney, come back ;)
  • I never left!!!!🤪🤪🤪🤪🤪
  • Say that in emojis!  I will be impressed!
  • Software for Microcomputers. 
  • It's named after Bill Gates's dick.
  • did yo mamma tell you that?
  • That's what happens when 9gagers are done browsing the hot page....
  • hot is 24 hours too late to post, gotta get them while they're fresh
  • My god.  Look how young Bill looked when they started...time flys!
  • as a further note,  I can remember getting my first windows based computer it was a 286 "IBM-compatable".   Imagine IBM owned the hardware world back then.   It was miles better than my Commadore vic 20 or Tandy TRS-80.   WILD!  
  • SOFTware for MICROcomputers? It's not that hard. 😑
  • JUST BING IT!
  • I distinctly remember the very first time I saw a product from "Micro-Soft".
    I was in the first "personal computer" store I had ever seen in 1979. It was filled with parts for Altair 8080 and other homegrown systems and had a good selection of stuff for the Apple II systems (don't remember the name of the store now.)
    My friend and I were looking at a Joystick for his brand new Apple II plus (he had just gotten a job as a programmer and had "splurged" on a new computer for himself.)
    Hanging on the wall in ziplock sandwich bags were lots of cassettes containing various software, one of which was "Applesoft BASIC" by a company called "Micro-Soft". He said he didn't need that as it was included in the Apple II plus ROM.
    I was more interested in the astronomical price of RAM over in the locked glass counter, so I paid it no heed.
    Floppy Disk Drives were way out of his price range at the time, so he had to buy everything on cassettes.
    Eventually he bought a copy of "subLOGIC FS1 Flight Simulator for the Apple II".
    It was amazing (for the time) to watch that wire-frame flight simulator chug along on the green screen and it was one of the things that made me decide to move from being an Bio-Med electronics tech to becoming a computer geek.
    How far we have come.
  • That computer store was probably a Computerland.   They were one of the first nationwide chains.   But there were lots of independent stores too in those days. 
  • I also bought the subLOGIC FS1 Flight Simulator for the TRS-80 Model III.  It actually ran in BASIC, which was the default OS before adding a floppy drive and TRS-DOS.  I found that I could edit the program and lengthen the runway, which was the only way I could find to land safely.  From what I recall, Microsoft bought the rights to the program and developed it into Microsoft Flight Simulator. My first 'IBM compatible' was a Tandy 1000 HX.  I later built a 286 out of discarded parts and thought I had a workstation when I added the math coprocessor.
  • Grover,  I did the same.  I had the tape recorder for my TRS tho!  ha ha.  the math co processor was a big deal back in the day!
  • There is always a story to tell.
  • Microsoft: the most confusing company in the world
  • As one who was there at the very beginning, yes of course I knew this.   Microcomputer Software.  Before they were called PCs, they were called microcomputers.  This was to separate them from minicomputers, which were much larger and MUCH more expensive.  
  • It wasnt a no brainer but I figured that "soft" had to do with software and I guessed that "micro" probably had something to do with small form factor computers.
  • Yahoo it! LOL!
  • webcrawler IT!
  • ask Jeeves LOL
  • Bill Gates' girlfriend tried to describe her boy's pee-wee: Micro+Soft
  • In an interview with Boot magazine, Gabe Newell, when he worked at Microsoft, asked Bill Gates why they weren't named "Huge-and-Hard"
  • I didn't "know", per se, but rather inferred based on the two words, especially since there are different processor types other than the desktop PC. (Think Intel Xeon Processors used in supercomputers.) Man, I'm a crazy geek. And I wouldn't have it any other way ;)
  • Nice arcticle for younger people. :)
  • I had the words micro computer and software in my head because I read about it somewhere many years ago and somehow I did know there was a hyphen in it originally. I think it was in a big hard hardback book sometime after Windows 95 was launched. Was it called The Road Ahead or something like that? But realistically it's pretty obvious because. Another name from that book that remains in my head is something like Simonen. I recall the book stating that nobody knew their way around the serious depths of a hard drive like this guy. Maybe it wasn't the same book! I remember using MS-DOS until Windows 3.0 came a long. But then I'm a grumpy old guy 3 years older than Bill.
  • I've read "Gates" and "Hard Drive" multiple times, so yes, I knew all of that, and a lot more.
  • Why not bring out a high-end smartphone christening it MISO or MICSOF or MicroS .
  • I didn't know but suspected that it was some such.
  • Allen was right - its totally obvious to a tech back then. My company back then made add-in motherboard cards using on board machine code to get things done with microchip hardware. We replaced them in a weekend with compiled code that people nicknamed 'software'. Microsoft would be the perfect 'brangelina' for that. PD
  • Its probably a reference to their genitals.
  • I'd expected it to indicate some special type of cloth they were cleaning their windows with....