Now, I’m not going to pretend that Bill and I are best mates or just friends or even that he vaguely remembers me, but we have met and shaken hands and conversed. This was back in 1983/4, so that probably explains it. Besides, he’s a very busy man, as I would be if I were building a huge global business.
The encounter occurred one evening in Sydney at a computer exhibition. I had taken my 12-year-old son along, as he was a computer nerd like his dad, and we found plenty to take our interest, when came across Gates standing alone at the Microsoft exhibit like a shag on a rock.
Microsoft at that time had one product of its own: MS-DOS, a text-based PC operating system. It wasn’t then the market leader, but IBM had licensed it for their personal computer, which proved to be hugely popular, and so it was clearly heading in that direction.
Microsoft also licensed a relational database system known as R:Base, for which they had an agency agreement. This was the vehicle for a question I could ask Gates. So I approached him, asked my dumb question, which I’ve since forgotten, received an answer, also forgotten, and thanked him. Afterwards, I told my son that we’d just spoken to a Very Important Computer Person. I think he was impressed. It's difficult to tell with twelve-year-olds.
One other thing I remember about that evening. When we returned to the Exhibition Centre carpark, I discovered our car had been stolen.