Friday, June 27, 2008

Bill Gates Last Day...A Look Back at the Beginning

Back in 1984, (not the George Orwelian one)right out of college I took a job selling PC's, although back then they were pretty much just word processors. A single disk drive, capable of running 640k diskettes would set you back about $4000. IBM was the King and MS-DOS was the new operating system of choice. My "Office" had "Windows", but not a computers.

My father had taken a job a year earlier with a company that bought Heathkit. It was a division of Zenith Electronics, and they called it Zenith Data Systems (ZDS) . ZDS was one of the original manufacturers of what was then known as "PC Clones." It was a tough industry to crack because IBM simply stated that if corporate America didn't buy IBM PC's they wouldn't be responsible for anything that went wrong with IBM Main Frames, System 36's etc.

My father quickly rose through the ranks and became President of Zenith Data Systems. Rather than fall victim to IBM's edict (and stronghold on the market) under my father's leadership, Zenith went the route of pitching their PC clones to the Federal Government. (What better way to sidestep IBM's stronghold than to go to an organization IBM couldn't control?) (Pictured below, on the right, is a Z-161 Portable Computer. Only 22 pounds I think it was, for the guy on the go!)

Anyway, ZDS won several significant and lucrative contracts with the Department of Defense (including the Army, Navy & Air Force,) the IRS, the Post Office, and landed both the CIA and the FBI with their high security "Tempest" program. Had they not been a "division" of Zenith Electronics, ZDS would have, (instead of Ron Canion's Compaq) become known as the fastest company to go from $0 to $1 Billion in annual sales.

Based on these large contracts (1 was for $242 million with the Air Force for their Z-100 line) Microsoft was brought in and became a strategic partner.

Throughout his tenure as President of ZDS, my father met with Bill Gates frequently. Microsoft and Zenith Data Systems worked very closely together for many years and my dad fondly recalls the experiences to this day. I remember several stories he shared regarding both Bill Gates and Bill's close friend, Steve Ballmer. My father tells me he formed great business relationships with both, but worked more closely, and therefore evenutally formed a closer bond with Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's current CEO.

Mr. Ballmer remains, while today is Bill Gates last day. Having said that, I thought I'd pay tribute to Bill Gates final day at Microsoft with the aforementioed story in this, the HomeATM Blog.

Here's the latest article I found with a "Bill Gates" Microsoft Google news search, the picture is from 1985, a period closer toward the time I first became familiar with the man, who today steps down...

Friday 27th June 2008 will go down in history as the day Bill Gates officially left behind his Microsoft day job.

As Bill wiped away the tears at the Redmond HQ, here's a look back at some magic Microsoft moments and mistakes...Can it really be 33 years ago that a 17 year old Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft with his friend Paul Allen? Can it really be true that, having literally changed the face of computing and becoming the world's richest man for many consecutive years, Gates has finally stepped down from the day to day business of running the company? The answer, of course, is yes on both counts.

Speaking before employees at the Microsoft headquarters within the magnificent campus in Redmond, Seattle, Gates is
reported to have wiped away the tears as he spoke with great emotion about his feelings for the company."There won't be a day in my life when I won't be thinking about Microsoft, the great things that we're doing and wanting to help" Gates said.Naturally he got a standing ovation.

Equally naturally, the ever emotional and exuberant Steve Ballmer gave one of his famously animated speeches. The Microsoft CEO applauded 'Bill the leader' and admitted that "there's no way to say thanks to Bill."Of course, the truth is that Bill has billions of thanks in the bank. Indeed, he is standing down so as to be able to concentrate on his charitable work and in what could be a remake of Brewster's Millions he will do his very best to give away most of his fortune before he dies.What's more, Gates remains the majority individual shareholder at Microsoft as well as Chairman of the board. He has not exactly got on his horse and disappeared into the sunset here. In fact, he will be spending a day a week working with Craig Mundie and Ray Ozzie at Microsoft.

Oh...If you're interested, I recommend taking a look at this self-depracating and very humorous YouTube video highlighting Bill Gates last days at Microsoft.

Bill Gates' Last Days - CES 2008 (HQ/Sound Fixed)

Interchange PAIN Can Be "A"lleviated with PIN-terchange

NACS Takes on the "PAIN" of Interchange...

Editor's Note: Online Retailers can alleviate what the NACS refers to as "That PAIN" by simply eliminating the "A" in PAIN... converting the PAIN to "PIN" as PIN-terchange costs 50% less and is up to 10 times more secure!

In a press release, the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) says that "the nation’s 115,000-plus convenience stores will communicate their outrage over devastating credit card fees via pumptoppers that will educate consumers and Congress about the problem." NACS will be making "pumptoppers" available free of charge to retailers "communicating the industry’s fight against sky-high interchange rates."

NACS is urging retailers to put these pumptoppers in their promotional signage plans from August 1 to September 6, when Congress is in recess and members will be in their home districts.

Convenience stores sell an estimated 80 percent of the country’s gasoline, and the majority of stores (56 percent) are owned by one-store operators, as opposed to the less than 2 percent that are owned and operated by major oil companies. These stores are increasingly squeezed by low margins and escalating credit card fees; most are losing money when customers pay by credit card.

In 2007, credit card fees cost convenience stores $7.6 billion, more than double the convenience store industry’s profits of $3.4 billion. It has been much worse in 2008 as credit card fees have topped 10 cents per gallon, while the markup on a gallon of gas has averaged only 11 cents for the year so far. After factoring in all operating expenses, retailers lose money on every gallon of gas they sell when a consumer uses a credit card. Both the House (H.R. 5546) and Senate (S. 3086) have introduced bipartisan legislation, the Credit Card Fair Fee Act, to examine credit card fees, specifically the interchange rate, which is the largest component of the credit card fees that retailers pay every time they accept plastic.

Credit card interchange fees are a fixed fee and a percentage of each transaction that Visa and MasterCard and their member banks collect from retailers every time a credit or debit card is used. These fees average 1.8 percent in the United States, which has the highest interchange rate of any industrialized country. The U.S. interchange rate is approximately three times the rate in Europe and four times the rate in Australia.

“The credit card fees that retailers pay are outrageous,” said NACS President and CEO Hank Armour. “Congress needs to see the pain that credit card fees are causing in their home districts,” said Armour. “In Washington, the credit card companies have used their outrageous profits at the pump to fund a massive lobbying effort to prevent fixing the broken system. It is impossible to match their virtually unlimited resources, so we need to take the message straight to where this pain is occurring – at the gas pump,” said Armour.

The pumptoppers that NACS has developed have two messages: “Tell Congress you want to know how much this fill-up cost you in credit card fees” and “That pain you are experiencing in part is caused by secret credit card fees.” Both ads encourage motorists to go to the Web site to send a message to their elected leaders. The artwork is available in a variety of sizes and can be downloaded at

For retailers who are unable to print the pumptoppers themselves, NACS has arranged a significant discount for retailers who want to order them from signage company GSP at

“The Credit Card Fair Fee Act, a bipartisan effort, would provide an opportunity for merchants to negotiate reasonable terms with the credit card companies and their member banks,” said Armour. “Right now there is no market for interchange fees. The fees are fixed by the banks, hidden from the public and forced on merchants in a take-it-or-leave-it offer. The Credit Card Fair Fee Act would create a market for interchange fees by allowing merchants and the card associations to negotiate on equal footing.”

“It is essential that Congress takes action on this legislation. Without Congressional action, they will increasingly see second- and third-generation family businesses in their districts that will have to close their doors as their livelihood gets siphoned off by the credit card companies,” stressed Armour.

Related: Visa Answers

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