Long-winded query ends on a high note
In the extensive question-and-answer session Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates held last week at a conference of the company's "Most Valued...
In the extensive question-and-answer session Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates held last week at a conference of the company's "Most Valued Professionals," one man's rambling introduction to his question was getting tedious.
As murmurs of "get on with it" rose from the crowd in the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, the questioner revealed a piece of ancient Microsoft history that was about to become much more valuable.
The man, who never identified himself, brandished a copy of Altair BASIC, Microsoft's first product developed in 1975 for MITS, the maker of what is widely regarded as the first personal computer.
He said his father bought the software, rather than copying it — a problem that prompted Gates to pen his famous "Open Letter to Hobbyists."
"I mean, there was a lot of software piracy back then of this product," the man said. "But we looked back through the garage over this past weekend and we found the original."
Then, to the delight of the audience, he read a bit of literature that came with this early piece of software.
"If any problems with MITS software are encountered, feel free to give us a call — and the phone number is listed," he said. "The software department is extension 3, the joint authors of Altair Basic Interpreter — Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Monte Davidoff — would be glad to assist you."
On top of TV
Global shipments of cable set-top boxes reached 27.5 million units in 2006, a 76 percent increase from 15.6 million units the year before.
The crowd roared with laughter.
The man finally got to his question: He asked for an autograph, and Gates obliged.
Later, another questioner joked, "I actually brought my copy of Microsoft Bob for you to sign."
Gates replied, "I'm glad people know to laugh."
A report last week put some economic implications of the "information-technology revolution" in perspective.
"Digital Prosperity," published by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (www.itif.org), looks at IT's impact on productivity, employment, efficient markets, goods and services, and innovation.
The authors conclude that investments in IT have "an impact on worker productivity three to five times that of non-IT capital," such as buildings and machines.
Further, they report that IT was responsible for two-thirds of total productivity growth in the United States from 1995 to 2002 and "virtually all of the growth in labor productivity."
While IT is a great enabler of economic growth, the authors conclude that the sector's own job-creation prospects are limited:
"IT jobs reached their peak in 2000 and as of March 2006 accounted for 3.76 million jobs, or 3.36 percent of total private sector employment. IT jobs have rebounded, but are not growing faster than the overall economy. Moreover, going forward, it is unlikely that the IT industry will be producing job gains out of line with its size."
On the record
Investments: HaloSource, a Bothell company focused on antimicrobial technologies for safe water and infection control, announced last week a $6 million funding round from Unilever Technology Ventures, the investing arm of United Kingdom-based consumer giant Unilever.
New products: Redmond-based Noetix, which develops business-intelligence software, has introduced Noetix Generator for Cognos BI, which works with Oracle E-Business Suite.
Download, a column of news bits, observations and miscellany, is gathered by The Seattle Times technology staff. We can be reached at 206-464-2265 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.