back to article Gates and Allen reshoot historic 1981 Microsoft photo

One of the most iconic photos from the history of Microsoft, featuring a lanky young Bill Gates perched next to his coding mentor (the way he tells it) Paul Allen, has been recreated at Seattle's Living Computing Museum. Bill Gates and Paul Allen 1981 Stand back ladies, form a line In a 1981 publicity shot for the then …


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  1. HCV

    The one in front of Allen appears to be a Heathkit/Zenith HP-89.

    1. Snake Silver badge

      I have a soft spot for one-piece designs such the Heathkit; I preferred the Commodore 4032 more over the Commodore PET 2001 shown @ front-right due to the larger screen, full keyboard and external cassette drive over the latter.

      I remember wonderful integrated chassis stuffed with Z-80 cards on S-100 bus with a generous 16K of static RAM. Wonderful!

      I also miss 'luggables' They were fun.

      But no TRS-80 Model 1 with expansion module in the updated photo! How could you?!

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        TRS-80 Model 1 in the lower right

        I can't tell from the angle if it has the expansion box, but the monitor is elevated, so it probably does.

      2. Badvok

        Well of course the 4032 was an upgrade on the PET, but I missed that one. I learned BASIC on the PET 2001 at school and then learned Pascal on an 8032 at college, many fond memories re-ignited by this photo. Alongside this I was learning Z80 and 6502 machine code on home machines from Sinclair, Oric and Acorn (and yes I do mean machine code, I only moved from hand-coding to an actual assembler on the BBC Model B).

    2. HCV

      Proper name

      Typo -- should've been Heathkit H89 / Zenith Z-89.

      I built the "terminal only" version of this kit, the Heathkit H19, which could later be upgraded to a full-fledged CP/M computer, the H89.

  2. Chris King

    Poor Bill...

    ...all those billions in the bank, and he still can't get a decent haircut !

    1. Chris Miller

      Re: Poor Bill...

      Yes, I'm sure he lies awake at night worrying about your opinion of his hair. Actually, it looks like they've tried to sweep his fringe forward to imitate the 1981 'styling'.

      1. Arctic fox

        @Chris Miller RE:"Actually, it looks like they've tried to sweep his fringe forward........ imitate the 1981 'styling'". Well they certainly couldn't wait for Paul Allen to regrow that beard!

  3. MondoMan

    Entropy is winning...

    I'm pretty sure the MS-DOS originator's company was "Seattle Computer Products", not "Seattle Computer Company."

    The more interesting company names seemed to come from Silicon Valley: Apple, Intergalactic Digital Research, Dr. Dobb's Journal of Computer Calisthenics and Orthodontia and Cromemco to name a few.

    1. thesykes

      Re: Entropy is winning...

      Personally I thought that Springfield produced the best company name... until it was "bought out" by Bill Gates....

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: Entropy is winning...

      I used to think Cisco Systems was an imaginative company name referencing The Cisco Kid*, but then a friend told me he'd been there, and it was just the place where the company was based. Disappointing, but I should have realised that you get called "The X Kid" because X is the place you come from.

      *For our younger readers, The Cisco Kid was a TV cowboy in the 1950s. Described in the opening credits as "O Henry's Robin Hood of the old west", he was in fact amazingly camp. He wore a skin-tight black (on b/w TV) outfit with sparkly arabesques all over the front. Every week he would jump off a rock on to a bandit as he rode past on his horse. Every episode ended with the Kid and his stereotype Mexican sidekick laughing like drains at nothing in particular: "Oh Cisco!", "Oh Pancho!", "Ha ha ha ha...".

  4. LosD

    The one bottom left doesn't seem to be the same computer?

    1. B-D


      It isn't the same on used in the original, the new photo contains a Sanyo MBC-55x, my very first PC!.

      That really brought a smile to my face... awesome.

  5. Jon Green

    That first photo

    Bill Gates was Paul Allen's ventriloquist dummy. Who knew?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That first photo

      Paul: "Now Billy, what have you got to say?"

      Billy: "640K ought to be enough for anybody."

      1. Quinch

        Re: That first photo

        "I've said some stupid things and some wrong things, but not that."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That first photo

      His voice does sound like Kermit the frog after all.

  6. WhoAmI?

    I can recognise a couple...I think

    I think that next to Bill is a Superbrain

    Looks like TRS-80 Model 1 at front right

    Am I showing my age now?

    1. wulliest

      Re: I can recognise a couple...I think

      Yup that's a Intertec Superbrain next to Bill, I remember lugging one of these from a skip @ Glasgow University many many moons ago

  7. redhunter

    Funny how the hair styles stayed the same—less the beard.

  8. rbanffy


    Who are they trying to fool? Did they think nobody would notice the Intertec Superbrain replacing the Datapoint 8200 or the Sanyo 555 (which didn't even exist in 1981!) taking the place of the very stylish NEC PC-8001?

    1. Cynde

      Re: Nonsense!

      Excellent observation skills!

  9. madestjohn

    Why would they go to the bother and not even attempt to match the camera angle ?

    Raise yir camera up yir idgits! ... Gee, ... They really don't have any athestic sense at all do they?

    1. MondoMan

      and ...

      What's with using color instead of black & white? :)

    2. Jim 59


      Agreed. Makes you want to climb into the photo and move the computers into the right position, get Bill semi-sitting and hands out of pockets etc.

  10. Captain DaFt

    I know it's just me

    But the new photo looks like computer donation day at the old folks home.

    1. Flywheel Silver badge

      Re: I know it's just me

      I'd heard that they're back-porting Windows 10 to run on those old devices..

    2. C 18

      Re: I know it's just me

      Or what about old folk donation at the computer home.

      Ba-doom tish.

  11. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Crime watch

      Give it a rest - it is possible to not comment and go away, you know.

      1. Ninetailed

        Re: Crime watch

        @Anonymous Coward

        Now, kids, you should know better than to feed the Eadon by now.

      2. pompurin

        Re: Crime watch

        I saw this as the highest rated comment without context and immediately knew who it was in response to.

        1. FrankAlphaXII

          Re: Crime watch

          As did I. Kind of sad really. I wonder if its employer (that is if it has a job, which I sort of doubt) knows how much time it spends trolling El Reg during business hours.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Crime watch

            I assume his paper round is finished by then.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Crime watch

      You think a dominant Apple or IBM would have been nice instead?

      The IBM PC brought affordable computing to the workplace. Before then computers were largely non-existent outside of a big mainframe building.

      The Apple Lisa was stupidly expensive and FOSS wasn't really around until the 1990s.

      Get a life.

  12. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. MrT

      Just "a" follower?

      Don't be so modest - there are more than a few with a follower or two, but I think you need to factor it up a notch though - you might be the only one with a queue of followers, a very long one at that, usually hanging around FOSS and/or MS threads waiting in anticipation for your next comment... ;-)

      1. Huw D

        Re: Just "a" follower?

        There's a difference between the queue of people lining up to see a celebrity and the queue of people lining up to throw rotten vegetables at a bloke in the stocks...

        1. C 18

          Re: Just "a" follower?

  13. All names Taken

    Did they use a professional photographer opt was it more of an informal arrangement?

  14. greensun
    Paris Hilton

    "both participants look considerably more stylish than they did 32 years ago."

    Styles were different 32 years ago.

    Paris, cos she's always fashionable.

    1. Getriebe


      And a picture of a red parrot required here. methinks

  15. polandro

    Is the Apple II deliberately out of shot in the new picture? You can just see the logo on the disk drive...

    1. Patrick R

      Optimally croppped.

      so you can't say it's been removed.

  16. Wilseus

    Who'd have guessed... 1981 that those two would go on to do so much damage to the computer industry?

    1. AE1962

      Re: Who'd have guessed...

      i disagree that they have caused damage. Whether you like it or not (and i guess not), they help bring computing to the masses. I have found Apple elitist - then and now, and most users need things to be simple so going UNIX in any way would be a no-no. Microsoft succeeded where others tried and failed, including Apple - a lot of their money comes from ipods and iphones rather than their computers. I also find those who hate Windows are often elitist in the computer industry as well, rather the masses never had them. There maybe a number of security flaws that have needed fixing over the years but that is the case for all OS's - you hear of Microsoft more Windows is used by so many, we are hearing more of the Android flaws as that gets more popular, and it's OS changes more often and rarely supports older devices - if Windows followed their model we would be on Windows 20 or so by now.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who'd have guessed...

        I would argue that the Amiga or Atari ST would have taken their place but I'm not going to. They were great machines for home use but they simply lacked the dull utilitarian aspects of the Wintel world.

        It was really easy to crash an Amiga or ST due to their lack of memory protection. The 68000s didn't have an MMU unlike the 80286.

        1. Wilseus

          Re: Who'd have guessed...

          "The 68000s didn't have an MMU unlike the 80286."

          The ARM in the Acorn Archimedes did though :)

      2. Nuke
        Thumb Down

        @ AE1962 - Re: Who'd have guessed...

        AE1962 wrote :- "Whether you like it or not (and i guess not), they help bring computing to the masses. "

        Rubbish. I remember the IBM PC with DOS coming out. Before that there were many small home and business "personal computers" around, cheap and rapidly gaining in popularity. All the other young techies I knew already had a home computer before the PC came along, and others (non-tech), were taking a keen interest. Even after the IBM PC came out, those others continued alongside for quite a while (Apple being a survivor). The Amstrad PCW (running CP/M) was aimed at business for example, and was cheaper than the PC.

        Computing would have "reached the masses" with or without Microsoft.

  17. Jo 5

    "both participants look considerably more stylish than they did 32 years ago." Not sure about that Iain!!

    Bill now looks like one of those perma-unemployed blokes that hangs out in the public library all day long for the free heating and newspapers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Either that or he's just finished cleaning the local church.

  18. Chris007

    Sat further apart in new photo

    Is it telling that they are sat further apart in the new photo - perhaps some bridges can't be repaired.

  19. Bigg Phill

    I better now and then shot would've been...

    ... Brand new computers with windows 8 touchscreen monitors - would've doubled as a marketing opportunity too.

    Surely by the "then" picture being them as they were with the computers of the day then the same should be true of the "now"?

    ... I appreciate they were in a museum of old tech at the time and there was an opportunity to try and recreate it but generally "now" and "then" photos aren't "now with bits of then" and "then with all of then".

  20. Amorous Cowherder

    Didn't have much time for Mr Gates until I saw Pirates of Silicon Valley, where both Gates and Allen are painted a rather tragic, put-upon figures fighting injustice ans Jobs set as a as a manical psychotic!

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Love that film, although I thought it portrayed Gates as someone who would fuck anyone over to get the result he wanted, Steve Jobs as the crazy maniacal business genius - all sharp suits and smooth talk - who shouts at people until he gets what he wants - the scene where he reams out a developer at 3 in the morning is class - and Woz as a out of his depth techy slowly going mad under Job's thumb.

  21. Jim 59

    Stand back ladies, form a line

    Right on dude. What woman could possibly be attracted to these billionaires.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Allen felt Gates was trying to dilute shareholding?

    "In December 1982, when Allen was sick with cancer, he overheard Gates and Ballmer discussing his lack of contributions and how to dilute his equity by offering stock options to other employees and shareholders. Allen confronted them and quit a little bit later." link

  23. Cynde

    Computers in the recreated photograph

    Back row, L-R : Apple II (Serial no. A252-223242) with two Apple disk II (Serial nos. 663608 and 1028507) and TMC S9 Picture Monitor (Serial no. 1098) ; Intertec Superbrain (Serial no. 355129) [Replacing the original photograph's Datapoint 8200].

    Front row, L-R : Sanyo MBC-550 (Serial no. 18221141) with Panasonic RGB monitor (Serial no. EC3430061) and keyboard (Serial no. 18221149) [Replacing the original photograph's NEC PC-8001] ; Zenith Data Systems Z-19 (Serial no. J128P106) ; Commodore Pet (Serial no. 0010850) ; and TRS-80 I (Serial no. 355129) with monitor and expansion unit.

    I'm fascinated by how interested and even emotional people are about this recreated photograph. The substituted computers are of the same era and also ran Microsoft software.


  24. dbernhar

    is that a Z89?

    The terminal in front of Allen looks like a Zenith Z89 CPM machine.

  25. Mark Major

    Quite similar?

  26. SocratesMentor


    Nothing like making people from 1981 feel old before their time. AS FOR 2013 PHOTO WE ARE NO LONGER USING KODACHROME FILM...WE HAVE 20MP COLOUR NOW!!!

  27. SocratesMentor

    32 years, $100 Billion+ paycheques...and STILL NO HAIR COMB! $100 Billion+ between them, and neither one of them own a hair brush or comb.

    The No #1 Reason to be a billionaire... you can finally be you...anyway you like... you just have to spend most of that money getting any privacy.


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