40 Facts You Didn’t Know About Microsoft

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Everyone knows Microsoft. Without the Redmond, Wash. company, the world of 2013 would be a different place. Windows dominates the PC space, and few people—other than Apple fanboys—can imagine school or work without the benefit of Microsoft Office applications. Founded by then-students Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975, the firm is now the world’s largest software maker by revenue and the fourth-most valuable company on Earth.

But as well-acquainted as we are with Microsoft, there’s a lot most people will never know. Following are 40 Microsoft facts you probably didn’t know:

1. Before there was Microsoft, Gates and Allen started another business, Traf-O-Data, when they were still Seattle high-school students. The business produced a computer that automatically processed traffic-counting data.

2. The company’s software engineers, known to insiders as “softies,” earn a starting salary of $106,000.

3. Bill Gates has an IQ of approximately 160, although according to his SAT scores it may be as high as 170. Genius is determined by an IQ exceeding 140 on the Stanford Binet.

4. As  the new CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella is now the most powerful Indian-born tech executive in the world, according to Reuters.

5. Kinect—Microsoft’s motion-sensing X-box controller—actually scans users’ skeletons to identify players.

6. The Microsoft Surface team worked in secret behind the company’s Studio B building in Redmond. Many MS employees didn’t even know what was going on behind doors under security guard. It’s rumored that the door leads to an underground bunker.

7. Not only does Word include the shortcut Control-U to create underlined text, but Control-Shift-D will double underline for extra emphasis.

8. After Gates and Allen cracked the security system of the Computer Center Corporation when they were still in high school, the company hired them to “find bugs and weaknesses” in its system.

9. Back in ’75 Gates and Allen actually named their company “Micro-soft,” before removing the hyphen in 1981.

10. Before marrying Microsoft’s then-CEO in 1994, Melinda Gates worked on the ill-fated software Bob, intended as a friendlier user interface for Windows 3.1. The program not only flopped, it was one of the company’s worst-ever product failures.

11. Microsoft files approximately 3,000 patents every year and owns more than 10,000.

12. Gates and Allen originally founded Microsoft to develop and sell BASIC interpreters for the Altair 8800 computer. Its first customer was Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems, which bought the Altair BASIC program.

13. The shortcut Alt-Shift-D will place the date automatically in MS Word.

14. The Flight Code for one of the planes that struck the Twin Towers on 9/11 was Q33. Type the code into a Word document and change the font to Wingdings to see a creepy sequence.

15. Windows 1.0 was originally scheduled to launch under the name “Interface Manager” until marketing stepped in claiming “Windows” was catchier.

16. Oxygen was considered as a possible name for Windows XP, as in Windows O2.

17. Microsoft’s research division employs 850 Pd.D.s who have researched and produced 5,100 peer-reviewed papers in 55 different areas of study.

18. Microsoft didn’t have its own Web site until 1993 when it took over a Compuserve forum designed for support resources.

19. Bill Gates’ favorite band is U2, and he’s anxious for Spinal Tap to go back on tour.

20. If the text “=rand.old()” is  typed into Word followed by the Enter key, it transforms into 18 stanzas of “The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog.”

21. Reinforcing his genius, Bill Gates pulled Microsoft out of a deal that would have acquired SEGA because he felt the gaming company couldn’t compete with Sony.

22. The first Windows virus, WinVer 1.4, hit machines in 1992.

23. Microsoft doesn’t sell software. The firm licenses its software, retaining full ownership rights. Buyers of the software must pay Microsoft for the right to use it, a system developed by Bill Gates in 1976.

24. Microsoft passed on the opportunity to acquire YouTube for $500 million back in 2006. Six months later Good paid $1.6 billion for the site that is now the most popular video destination on the Web.

25. In 1992 then-President George Bush presented Gates with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

26. Microsoft paid just $35,000 to musician Brian Eno to create the “Microsoft Sound,” originally used as the startup tune for Windows 95.

27. On the anniversaries of their hire dates, Microsoft employees traditionally take a pound of M&Ms to work. Each additional year with the company equals an extra pound of candy.

28. A master programmer early on, Bill Gates coded a scheduling program in high school that placed him in classes with the most female students.

29. Microsoft somewhat-regularly holds a puzzle hunt for employees. They form groups and follow clues leading to prizes hidden on the company’s Richmond campus.

30. Keying “=rand(200,99)” and hitting Enter in Word creates 407,000 words of text meticulously detailing instructions for using Word’s QuickKeys.

31. Microsoft didn’t go public until 11 years after its founding.

32. Microsoft believes artwork helps reduce stress in the workplace and increases employees’ productivity. More than 5,000 pieces of contemporary art can be found on the company’s 150 campuses.

33. When Gates was a Harvard freshman, his resume requested a starting salary of just $15,000. The next year he quit school to co-found Microsoft.

34. Microsoft Office was launched for the Macintosh in 1989 before it was released for Windows.

35. Microsoft sued high-schooler Mike Rowe for rights to the domain mikerowesoft.com on grounds of copyright infringements. The firm offered Rowe $10 to reimburse the cost of registering the domain, but Rowe stuck to his guns and ended up getting an all-expense trip to Washington, Microsoft certification training and a new X-box.

36. Microsoft began manufacturing hardware in 1983 with the introduction of the MS Mouse 1.0.

37. Contractors and temps for Microsoft are issued an email address with a dash before the @ symbol. Permanent employees call them “dash trash.”

38. Microsoft purchased the program Quirky and Dirty Operating System in 1981 for $25,000. It renamed it MS-DOS, and the program ultimately became the preferred IBM PC OS.

39. Windows 95 developers carried stuffed animals as mascots to mark the operating-system transition, thus the system function names such as BEAR35 and PIGLET12.

40. At one point, someone brought some bunnies to Microsoft’s corporate campus. One thing led to another, and soon a large group of reproducing rabbits was running amok before employees captured them to be neutered and spayed.