Coding Horror

programming and human factors

Microsoft 1978

I'm sure most of you are familiar with this famous Microsoft group photo from December 1978:

Microsoft group photo, December 1978

Groovy. In case you were wondering, the photo is authentic. It's even featured on the official Microsoft Bill Gates biography page. Of course we recognize Bill Gates in that famous photo, but I was curious about the other people in the photo. What happened to them? When did they leave Microsoft, and why? What are they doing now?

Update: Nearly 30 years later, Microsoft reshot this classic photo.

A coworker provided a link to this 2000 Time article that did most of the research for us; there's also a page on the Museum of Hoaxes that adds a bit more information on the people in the photo. I've combined the information from both sources here:

Top Row
Steve WoodProgrammer. Left Microsoft in 1980. Married to Marla Wood. Now runs a telecommunications company. EW $15 million.
Bob WallaceProduction manager-designer. Left Microsoft in 1983. Was a psychedelic-drug advocate. Died in 2002. EW $5 million.
Jim LaneProject manager. Left Microsoft in 1985. Now owns his own software company. EW $20 million.
Middle Row
Bob O'RearChief mathematician. Left Microsoft in 1993. Now a cattle rancher. EW $100 million.
Bob GreenbergProgrammer. Left Microsoft in 1981. Helped develop Cabbage Patch dolls for Coleco. Now makes software for golf courses. EW $20 million.
Marc McDonaldProgrammer. Microsoft's first employee. Left Microsoft in 1984 because it was "too big", then rejoined the company when they bought Design Intelligence, the company he was working for. Has the honor of wearing badge number 00001. EW $1 million.
Gordon LetwinProgrammer. Left Microsoft in 1993. Now an environmental philanthropist. EW $20 million.

Bottom Row

Bill GatesCo-founder. Still Microsoft chairman and chief architect. Now the richest person in the world. EW $50 billion.
Andrea LewisTechnical writer. Left Microsoft in 1983. Now a freelance journalist. EW $2 million.
Marla WoodBookkeeper. Married to Steve Wood. Left Microsoft in 1980, then sued the company for sex descrimination. Now a self-described "professional volunteer". EW $15 million.
Paul AllenCo-founder. Left Microsoft in 1983 but remains a senior strategy advisor to the company. Now sports team owner, space enthusiast, and philanthropist. EW $21 billion.

A lot of the information on the hoaxes site was cribbed directly from a 2000 article in the Albuquerque Tribune. Unfortunately, that article is no longer available on the Tribune website. I managed to pry a copy of the article out of the google cache, so I'm mirroring it locally to preserve the content.

The Microsoft logo was no less groovy in 1978:

70's era Microsoft logo

If you want to bone up on your ancient Microsoft history even further, I recommend the History of Computing project's Microsoft timeline.

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Overflow and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: