Gates' first product demo: 'Mom! Come and tell them it worked!'

Book by the father of the Microsoft co-founder recounts an early gaffe by the budding entrepreneur

Having delivered hundreds, perhaps thousands, of live product demonstrations during his career at Microsoft Corp., Bill Gates has experienced his share of on-stage gaffes.

But the memory of his first demo, when he was still a teenaged high school student in Seattle and a budding entrepreneur, probably still stings, a little.

According to an excerpt from an upcoming book, Showing Up for Life, written by his father, William H. Gates Sr., and excerpted in Fortune magazine Thursday, the first demo by the young Bill Gates, who was called "Trey" by his family, took place in 1972, when he was a 17-year-old prep schooler developing a hardware gadget with future Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and a third partner, Paul Gilbert.

The mini-computer was called the "Traf-o-Data" and it was meant to automate the processing of data collected by traffic counters, those black hoses we drive over on roads, according to the Startup Web site about Microsoft and Gates created by the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (Microsoft early on was based in Albuquerque for several years in the mid-1970s).

"After many successful kitchen-table practice sessions, my son persuaded some employees of the city of Seattle to come to the house for a demonstration," wrote Gates Sr. "Well, things that day at the Gates home didn't go according to plan. The Traf-O-Data did not perform."

"How did Trey react when the first live demonstration of his system failed?" continued Gates Sr., who called his son Trey. "He went running into the kitchen, shouting on the way, 'Mom! Mom! Come and tell them that it worked!'"

The trio eventually got the device to work, according to Startup, though only one was ever sold. But Gates and Allen were already turning their attention to Microsoft, which Gates helped start after dropping out of Harvard in 1975.

Gates' product demonstrations have since improved, and he has even starred in a number of tongue-in-cheek videos shown at Microsoft technical conferences (we'll ignore the baffling TV commercials with Jerry Seinfeld last year).

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Microsoftbill gates

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Eric Lai

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?