What new and exciting opportunity did Bill Gates get when he was a senior in high school? What did he learn there?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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While Bill Gates was in high school at Lakeside, he and other young men, especially Paul Allen, worked on the computer of Computer Center Corporation, searching for ways to rid it of problems, but the company eventually failed. A couple of years later, a company called TRW was offered a contract to build the Bonneville Power Administration’s power grid for the Northwest. Once this was constructed, the power needs of the region would be analyzed by computers which would regulate the amount of electricity generated by hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River. The system that TRW would use to monitor the power grid would be composed of PDP-10 computers, and the software would be written by TRW. However, TRW was faced with a terrible problem: the software was infested with bugs. And, if this software could not get cleared of the infections, there would be massive penalties assigned to TRW because in the agreement it was supposed to have a control system that was 99.9% reliable.

So, when TRW scrambled to solve their problems, the representatives followed a lead to the issues of the bankrupt Computer Center Corporation in Seattle. There the names of two "bug hunters" were on nearly every page--Paul Allen and Bill Gates. A representative from TRW telephoned Bill Gates to invite him and Paul Allen to Vancouver for a job interview. Bill and Paul were hired at $165 a week to restore the system when it crashed, not to crash it as they had at C-Cubed. Bill was granted a leave from school and Paul dropped out of Washington University. While there at TRW, the two young men were under the tutelage of John Norton, a superior programmer who showed Bill the errors he had made and offered him help and books. From Norton, Bill learned much; one thing he does today he learned from Norton: he sends endless memos to his programmers.