Bill Gates and BASIC Easter Eggs

I found this article on comp.sys.apple2. What do you think?


Nice article! It’s from 2008, so has had time to accumulate some choice comments - see below. For interest, it has a family tree of some of Microsoft’s Basic offerings for various machines:


I see Gates himself (apparently) commented in 2010 and confirmed

I put the WAIT command in.

Also in the comments we see this anecdote:

Having spent a lot of time using Altair BASIC, it was pretty clear to me that CompuColor had either licensed or simply copied it for their own use.

One day, believe it or not, Bill Gates himself walked in to the store! I happened to show him the CompuColor and he was quite intrigued. In fact, he restarted it and when the interpreter asked “Memory Size?” on startup, he entered a magic key sequence (I think it was Control-A) and the system printed out something like “Written by Paul Allen, Bill Gates, and Monte Davidoff.”

followed by this claim by Lorin Thwaits:

@Jeff Barr — you witnessed a formative piece of history! After Bill Gates realized the CompuColor was running code derived from ALTAIR BASIC, from there he tracked down Greg Whitten, who had re-vamped the code for the CompuColor. Instead of suing them, he felt that the enhancements were significant enough that he just wanted the rights to use it. So that became the basis of GW-BASIC in DOS. For years people had thought it stood for “Gee Whiz” basic, but really it was Greg Whitten’s version of BASIC.

A commentator John Feagans seems to know something about the garbage collection bug:

The temporary string/garbage collection design became a big deal at Commodore when an 8k PET could become unresponsive for up to 30 seconds. Commodore paid Microsoft $500 for Bill Gates to spend the day with me and work out an algorithm which I implemented successfully. Bill had just gotten his purple Porshe and we went out to lunch at Shakeys’s pizza! We met in the first Microsoft Bellevue, Washington headquarters.

Also on Microsoft Basic, nearby on Michael Steil’s pagetable site:
Create your own Version of Microsoft BASIC for 6502 (HN discussion here)
Microsoft BASIC for 6502 – Original Source Code (1978) (HN discussion here)


The GW BASIC note is interesting (and was new to me).
I always thought that the new features deviated a bit in style from the more traditional flowers if MS BASIC – and this may provide a reson for this.