Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Every once in a while you come across a blog post from a writer that makes you sit up and say, “Damn, I wish I had written that.” That happened today when I stumbled upon Giving Thanks to Bill Gates in David Strom’s Strominator blog. Now, if you’re like me, you might have thought that Strom in a moment of quiet reflection sat down to write a tribute to the good Mr. Gates for his years of valued service to the software industry and his skill at building a corporate juggernaut at Microsoft from humble beginnings. But you would be wrong because Strom in a humorous way without the slightest hint of malice (well, maybe a slight hint) takes Bill Gates to the cleaners.
Gates it turns out has been good for Strom’s career because as he points out his career would have been so much less exciting if Gates and Microsoft had actually made better products. Now I can see the Microsoft fan boys (and you know who you are) getting hot under the collar right about now. Gates, the folk hero to his minions, should not be trifled with in such a way, but lighten up boys. Let’s face it, Microsoft is far from perfect.
Even his most serious fans would have to admit in a quiet moment that maybe Microsoft Bob and Microsoft ME were shall we say, ill-advised. That teensy weensy persistent blue screen problem is also a matter of some aggravation to those of us who don’t bow down before Bill and Bill’s legal issues (government harassment I hear the fan boys whispering under their breath) as Strom points out are a bit dicey to explain away so easily.
But maybe we should give Gates his due. He is after all a smart man who helped develop the BASIC programming language (while a sophomore at Harvard) and had the good sense to buy DOS for 50 grand, then parlay these assets into a software empire. There are not many of us who can say we did that. Sure, he might have gotten overzealous along the way, but in the end it’s hard to say how many of us would be making a living from technology were it not for Bill Gates.
So maybe I should be really thanking Bill Gates and not just because his company’s products and business practices have given Strom, my fellow writers and me so much to write about. Gates is after all a geek who made good, and while we clearly did not like everything he did, his influence on our industry is undeniable.