Many of the giants that dictate the way tech-at-large rolls today had modest starts during their early days. Some attributed the success of the companies or their founders to great foresight, knowing the “right” people, and in many cases, being in the right place at the right time (aka just lucky, I guess).
In truth, many of these founders “knew” a few things very early on: they knew they were going to open their own company one day, they knew what they were doing was going to be big one day, they were very driven (nothing was going to stop them) and they took a lot of risks most of us wouldn’t be comfortable taking today.
Many of the key people from these companies are enjoying the spoils of their hardwork back then, today, and are actively fuelling, investing and mentoring many modern-day startups.
Let’s take a look at the classic pictures of these founding giants, dug up from the Internet and get a peek into how it was for them when they were starting out as nobodies.
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Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs with an Apple I, 1976
Wozniak built the Apple I (which was essentially a circuit board) by hand. Jobs helped sell the design and eventually it went on sale in July 1976 for $666.66 per piece. Apple I was replaced by Apple II a little over a year later.
Source: Computer History Museum
Apple II Team, Stevens Creek 1978
A picture of the Apple II team at their small Stevens Creek office. Jobs is seen arguing with Michael Scott (second from the right), the first president of the company, a common occurrence. The team is flanked by the Apple II computers on racks in the background.
Source: Business Insider
Steve Jobs and Woz, circa 1980
Woz works on an Apple II computer while Jobs looks on. The Apple II was designed primarily by Woz as a hobby, and was the first 8-bit home computer to be a commercial success.
Apple II sold at $1,298, offering only 4kb of RAM, color graphics, rudimentary sound support, and heat management in the form of a switched-mode power supply, a solution provided by Rod Holt.
Apple HQ in Cupertino, 1981
The rainbow Apple logo was created in 1977 and used until August 1999, before it was replaced with more modern monochromatic alternatives. We see here the early logo displayed proudly in front of the Apple’s Cupertino office, back in 1981.
Michael Scott the first CEO of Apple in February 1981 fired 40 employees abruptly, and as a consequence was replaced by Mike Markkula (who hired him), before quitting in July the same year.
Source: The History of Apple
Apple Lisa Team, 1983
Apple Lisa was the first PC to offer graphical UI to individual users. Its development by a team of more than 90 individuals, was reported to cost around $50 million to the company.
Jobs’ intention of killing the Macintosh project in favor of the Lisa project was effectively prevented by Markkula. While there was controversy surrounding the name Lisa, Jobs would later admit that it was named after his daughter.
Source: The History of Apple
Apple co-founders, Apple IIc launch 1984
Steve Jobs, John Sculley (of sugared water fame) and Steve Wozniak showing off the Apple IIc computer. It was the fourth model in the Apple computer series but the first portable computer to come from Apple.
Nonetheless, the Apple IIc computer weighed in at 7.5 lb (3.4 kg) and lacked a built-in battery and display.
With John Sculley in Central Park, 1984
Jobs with John Sculley, the youngest ever Pepsi president, during their better days. Between them lies the Macintosh.
After luring Sculley in with the infamous pitch, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want to come with me and change the world?”, Jobs and Sculley would eventually be involved in a power struggle that would change the face of Apple, and Jobs himself.
Fortune Magazine, Job’s Palo Alto home 1991
In case this is news to you, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates go way back, right up to the late 70’s when Microsoft was providing software for Apple II.
In 1991, Fortune magazine invited Gates (already a billionaire) and Jobs (still with Next, pending return to Apple) for an interview to discuss the future of PCs. Do check out the interview transcript to see how similar the two are and why they are made for each other.
Source: CNN Money
Steve Jobs & Gil Amelio at Apple Town Hall, 1996
Apple employee, Tim Holmes shared these photos of the night Steve Jobs announced his return to Apple. The images were taken with the Apple QuickTake camera which Holmes said Jobs “killed” the same year he returned. You would too if your digital camera turns black jackets, purple.
Source: Tim Holmes
Microsoft co-founders, 1975
In 1975, Bill Gates had dropped out of Harvard to start Micro-Soft (the hyphen was thankfully dropped a year later) with Paul Allen who was working with MITS.
They wrote software for MITS-owned Altair microcomputers but by late 1976 Microsoft has detached itself from MITS to write software for other systems. Despite their differences in their later years, the two recreated this old photo last year.
First 11 Microsoft members, 1978
The first 11 members of Microsoft Corporation featuring Bill Gates at the bottom left corner and Paul Allen at the bottom right corner, right before the team moved from Albuquerque to Seattle.
Steve Ballmer joined Microsoft on June 11, 1980
Ballmer dropped out of Stanford Graduate School of Business to join Microsoft where he would spend the next 33 years of his life. He became CEO of Microsoft in 2000.
Ballmer will be retiring in 2014 when a replacement has been chosen by a special committee within Microsoft.
Microsoft co-founders, 1981
1981 saw the year MS-DOS was distributed commercially with IBM PC, which took the market by storm. Since Gates held on to the operating system license, it gave him the clear to release the OS on any other IBM-PC compatibles, which as Gates had predicted, proliferated the market.
The following year Allen was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, an immune system cancer.
Bill Gates introducing Windows 1.0, 1983
The very first version of Microsoft Windows was almost named Interface Manager, but Windows was the name that stuck. IBM was hesitant to distribute their computers with Windows because they had their own OS, Top View, to release, albeit without any GUI features.
Gates was also up against lawsuits by Apple’s lawyers who claimed that he infringed copyrights and patents owned by Apple.
Source: History of Computer
Young Bill Gates, 1985
Young Gates seemed relaxed here considering he was up against lawsuits by Apple over his latest breakthrough invention, Microsoft Windows.
After the release of Windows 1.0, Gates counter lawsuits from Apple by agreeing to license some of Apple’s features and later on, by claiming that Apple stole the GUI features from Xerox.
Source: The Guardian
Bill Gates, 1985
Remember these? You could fit a whole OS in one of these babies back in 1985. Here, Gates shows off the 16-bit graphical operating environment Windows 1.0 in a 192kb floppy disk.
In 1987, Microsoft 2.0 was released for sale at $100 per copy. It featured overlapping windows and icon designs that were predecessors to the GUI we are used to today.
Windows 3.0 launch, 1990
Bill Gates showing off the newly released Windows 3.0 that came with a Windows Software Development Kit (SDK), allowing developers to focus more on writing third-party programs that can run on Windows. Three million copies were sold in the first year, and Windows became a hit.
Microsoft releasing Windows 95, 1995
Windows 95 was released to resounding success, selling 1 million copies in 4 days. Jay Leno opened for Windows 95 during its launch event.
Microsoft became mainstream and Gates became the richest man in the world and remained in the rich list every year, ever since. Two years later, he would invest $150 million in Apple.
Source: Business Insider
Founders of Adobe Systems, 1982
Academics Charles Geschke and John Warnock worked at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in the late 70’s before forming Adobe. Their goal and motivation then was to accurately translate text and images onscreen to a printed page. They would eventually develop the PostScript technology.
Adobe founders Chuck Geschke and John Warnock with Steve Jobs, 1985
Steve Jobs had urged the duo to adapt the newly written PostScript for use as the language for driving laser printers. In 1985, Apple LaserWriter was the first printer to ship with PostScript, which eventually sparked the desktop publishing (DTP) revolution.
Source: Photoshop Blog
Intel founders and its first hire, 1978
Andy Grove, Intel’s first hire (left) and the co-founders, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore (both of traitorous 8 fame) together with a design of the 8080 microprocessor in 1978.
Grove had heard that the two were leaving Fairchild Semiconductor (where the 3 of them worked) and just decided to tag along. Intel would eventually moved from the memory chip business to microprocessors and the rest is history.
Intel Santa Clara facility, 1970
Employees stand outside the Santa Clara facility in 1970 where the Intel 4004, a 4-bit CPU was manufactured. In 1972, the 8-bit microprocessor 8008 was produced.
Initially designed for use in calculators, the microprocessors would eventually work its way into the gaming console market in the 1990s and the PC market in the 2000s.
Source: Intel Free Press
IBM chairman and president with an IBM 360 computer, circa 1970
IBM had helped NASA put men on the moon and in 1971, CEO Thomas Watson Jr. (left) stepped down from his post, ending a half-century long’s worth of Watson family leadership. Thomas Vincent Learson retires as president two years later and is replaced by Frank T. Cary.
IBM 7090 computer, 1961
The IBM 7090 (also known as IBM 709-T) was a mainframe computer that was sold at $2.9 million per system (inflate that by 10 for today’s prices). It was faster than its predecessor, and relatively cheaper. The IBM 7094 was used during the Apollo moon landing in 1969.
HP founders, 1963
Here’s a picture of founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard who often visited their manufacturing floor. Hewlett-Packard started out by working on a wide variety of electronics and only focused more on computing hardware in the 1960’s.
Source: Computer History Museum
The headquarters of Samsung, 1930s
Founded by Lee Byung-chull in 1938, Samsung Sanghoe as it was known, traded groceries and made its own noodles. The company diversified to wool after the Korean War and eventually to insurance, textiles and even securities.
In the late 1960s and beyond, Samsung ventured into electronics, semiconductors, LCD screens and mobile phones (world’s largest maker in 2012).
Lee Byung-chull: founder of Samsung Group, 1976
Lee Byung-chull (center) listens to an employee explain a computer system in 1976 while his son (left) looks on.
Samsung, today, is run by many of Lee Byung-chull’s descendants and he was reported to have sat in on hiring interviews of up to 100,000 of Samsung’s employees. Lee died in 1987 at the age of 77.
Samsung 5 millionth TV (most in the world) produced, 1978
Today, Samsung continues breaking records and limits with its many feats in a variety of industries. It comprises of 80 companies and has around 427,000 employees. Its revenue is equivalent to 17% of South Korea’s total GDP.
Source: Samsung Tomorrow
Oracle Founders celebrate Oracle’s first anniversary, 1978
In this photo, Oracle co-founders, Ed Oates, Bob Miner and Larry Ellison celebrate Oracle’s first year with the company’s first employee, Bruce Scott.
Ed Oates and Bruce Scott would eventually leave the company, and in 1993 Bob Miner passed away from lung cancer. Oracle would eventually be the second-largest software maker after Microsoft, making CEO Larry Ellison one of the richest person on the planet.
Michael Dell, circa 1987
Michael Dell started assembling and selling IBM PC-compatible computers in 1984 from his dorm room in the University of Texas and eventually dropped out to continue making computers.
In 1985, the “Turbo PC” was invented, which made the company $73 million in the span of a year. The company became Dell, only in 1988.
DELL production facility, circa 1989
Michael Dell is seen here at the company’s production facility in Austin circa 1989. The company had gone public in 1988 and was expanding, growing into a billion-dollar enterprise.
Having started the company at the tender age of 19, Michael Dell would eventually become the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company in 1992.
Google co-founders, California 1999
Larry Page’s parents were both computer science professors at Michigan State University so it was no surprise that he would follow in their footsteps in earning a PhD in Computer Science.
Together with Sergey Brin, a fellow PhD student, they worked on “BackRub”, a research project to “count and quality each backlink in the Web”. The photo shows the duo at Menlo Park where they set up their first office, before they moved out to Palo Alto in early 1999.
Source: CNN Money
The original Google platform, 1998
Here is where Google started – unassuming, lowkey – within the confines of Stanford University. Brin and Page had developed the PageRank algorithm to give importance to a web page based on backlink data. This eventually became the fundamentals of their search engine. In 1998, Google was formed.
First Google Team, California 1999
Google’s early employees at the company’s first Palo Alto office numbered in at 34. Marissa Mayer said that she and Paul Buchheit hung that Google poster.
Of the group only 7 remained with the company, co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Omid Kordestani, Joan Braddi, Susan Wojcicki, Urs Hölzle and Salar Kamangar who all hold senior management positions within Google.
Source: Business Insider
Mayer joined Google in June 1999
Marissa Mayer was with Google for 13 years before going on to become President and CEO of Yahoo!. She has since been busy transforming Yahoo internally (telecommuting controversy) and acquiring new web property for the company, such as Tumblr for $1.1 billion and Summly for $30 million.
Marissa Mayer is listed as one of the most powerful women in business by Forbes and Fortune. Marissa Mayer is 38.
Source: Creative Intelligence
Yahoo! founders, circa 1994
“Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle”, was far from an attempt to change the world. “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web” was essentially a web directory, rather than a search engine. But it gained popularity fast and soon everyone was using Yahoo! as a starting page to the Internet.
In 2008, Microsoft offered to acquire Yahoo at $44.6 billion, an offer which was declined. Today, Yahoo has a stock market value of $34 billion and is set to profit from Alibaba’s pending IPO.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder, 1994
In 1994, Jeff Bezos left his VP job at a Wall Street firm to try to sell things online. He narrowed a list of what could be sold online from 20 to the big 5: CD, computer hardware, software, videos and books.
In 1995 Amazon.com started selling books. Much to chagrin of the stakeholders, the company would not see profit until the 4th quarter of 2011. Today, Amazon rakes in more than $60 billion in revenue per year and employs more than 100,000 staff all over the world.
Source: CNN Money
eBay Founder with CEO, circa 1998
Originally AuctionWeb, eBay was part of a personal site by Iranian-American Pierre Omidyar. By the time his service provider asked him to upgrade to a business account because of the high incoming traffic, Omidyar had to hire someone just to handle the incoming checks.
In 1998 the company went public; then in 2002, bought Paypal, and later Skype in 2005. The company pulls in $14 billion in revenue (2012) and has around 27,000 employees.
Source: Academy of Achievement
Facebook co-founders, 2004
Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes & Mark Zuckerberg were Harvard University roommates who created Facebook in their dorm room. The site initially designed for Harvard students eventually was opened to everyone in September 26, 2006.
As of September 2012, Facebook is reported to have 1 billion active users. Moskovitz has since left Facebook to co-found Asana while Hughes is current publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The New Republic.
YouTube Founders, 2005
Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, were early employees of PayPal before coming out and creating the most popular video-sharing site on the Web, YouTube.com.
The first ever YouTube video, Me at the Zoo, was uploaded by Jawed Karim on April 23, 2005. By July the following year, the site was getting 100 million page views per day. Four months later, Google acquired Youtube at the sum of $1.65 billion.