Pioneers of Microsoft

On Aug. 24, 1995, Microsoft launched Windows 95, which would become the most widely used operating system in the world. Today we look back at some of the scientists and others who helped make Microsoft one of the most influential tech companies.

Ric Weiland, who was the fifth employee hired by Microsoft, died by suicide in 2006 at the age of 53. A friend of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Weiland was hired in 1975 as a lead programmer and developer. He left Microsoft in 1998 and donated much of his fortune to local Seattle organizations such as the Pride Foundation, the Lifelong AIDS Alliance, and the United Way of King County. An active member of the gay community, he was survived by his partner, Mike Schaefer, and several nieces and nephews.




Employee number six, Miriam Lubow, worked on and off for Microsoft for 10 years as an office manager. While Paul Allen and Bill Gates were in their 20s, Lubow was in her 40s and found herself taking on a motherly role around the office. She was initially uncomfortable with computers, and had only a typewriter and a telephone at her desk. A native of Italy who spoke five languages, she attended interpreter school in Switzerland. Lubow died in August 2008 at the age of 72. Two of her children would also go on to work for Microsoft.



Craig Watjen, the first head of the Microsoft accounting department beginning in 1981, died Aug. 13, 2010, in Seattle, at the age of 74. Watjen had retired from the company in 1990, and used much of his stockholder fortune to become a minority owner of the Seattle Mariners. A talented musician who'd attended Juilliard and occasionally played clarinet with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, he also donated time, money, and a 4,490-pipe organ to the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. After being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1992, he'd donated $50 million to cancer research.



H. Edward RobertsThough never an employee of Microsoft, computer pioneer H. Edward Roberts had a strong influence on the young Bill Gates. Roberts is widely cited as one of the inventors of the personal computer for his creation of the MITS Altair 8800 microcomputer in 1974. While still a student at Harvard, Gates was hired to write software for the machine and was soon joined in New Mexico by Paul Allen. In 1976, Roberts sold MITS to the Pertec Computer Corporation in a deal that personally netted him $2 million. He then retired from the computer business and moved to Georgia, where he farmed and established a medical practice.

"Ed was willing to take a chance on us – two young guys interested in computers long before they were commonplace – and we have always been grateful to him," read a joint statement by Gates and Allen when Roberts died in April 2010 at the age of 68.