part of the Blog News Channel

Thirty Years Of Bill G. Vs. Piracy

Maybe this will help explain why Microsoft keeps trying harder to fight software piracy. Slashdot links to a letter Bill Gates wrote thirty years ago, printed in the February 3, 1976 issue of Homebrew Computer Club Newsletter, asking hobbyists to please stop stealing his software. Gates was 20 years old at the time, had just left college, and was only a year removed from his history-making Altair Basic scam.

According to Wikipedia, the letter, while unpopular with those stealing the software, was key to gaining support from businesses, and represents the cementing of closed-source software development as the primary model of the last thirty years.


… the subject of the Open Letter to Hobbyists diatribe—Altair BASIC—did not pay any royalties to John George Kemeny or Thomas Kurtz, inventors of the BASIC programming language. However, Microsoft defenders point out that reading software for understanding is probably educational “fair use” (although the company expends considerable effort to prevent its own software being so used) and that being aggressive isn’t necessarily being unethical.

So, what’s your favorite form of development? Does open source work as a business model? Do you miss shareware? Did anyone ever pay for a shareware program?

February 5th, 2006 Posted by Nathan Weinberg | Corporate, Open Source, General | one comment

1 Comment »

  1. 30 Years Since Gates’ “An Open Letter to Hobbyists”…

    It’s been 30 years (as of February 3) since the letter Bill Gates wrote as a 20 year old, critical of piracy, titled “An Open Letter to Hobbyists” was published in the Homebrew Computer Club newsletter……

    Trackback by Patrick O'Keefe ( | February 11, 2006

Leave a comment