From Microsoft’s mail room to the board room


In the early 1980's, Microsoft moved its headquarters from downtown Bellevue to Northup Way in Bellevue, a building which later served as a training center (Microsoft University) and is now the North Campus of Bellevue Community College. This is the building in which the infamous Bill Gates Tiger Beat-style photo was taken, and the one I told a story about some years ago.

At the time, the company was still very small, and the task of managing the relocation was shared among all the employees. After everybody settled in at the new building, it became apparent that the mail volume was barely a trickle. In particular, checks were not coming in, which is kind of an important part of running a business.

In the excitement of moving, nobody remembered to file a Change of Address form with the Post Office. A visit to the old Bellevue offices revealed a huge mound of mail at the old location.

A Change of Address was quickly filed, but in the meantime, Steve Ballmer became the company mailman. Every day, he would drive to the old offices, pick up the mail that had accumulated, dump it in the trunk of his car, then deliver it to the Northup offices.

(Today's story is in recognition of the 238th birthday of the United States Postal Service.)

Comments (14)
  1. Joshua says:

    Well that's one way to handle it. I recall having to drive to the post office every week because they would not change the lock on the box (I had just moved in).

    FYI: Needs a preemptive snarky comment except you might get in trouble for that one.

  2. Vilx- says:

    I believe the link to the photo has rotted. :(

    [I'm sure you can use your mad internet skillz to find another copy. -Raymond]
  3. Nobody says:

    I can only hope he dropped the mail off shouting "DELIVERIES DELIVERIES DELIVERIES!"

  4. Rick C says:

    Yeah, the photo link is gone.  OTOH here is a good link to what appears to be the same photo:

    http://www.corbisimages.com/…/bill-gates-tossing-floppy-disk  I tracked this down by searching for "corbus" and the photo ID listed in the update.  Raymond, if this is the same one, you should probably get the MS Jobs Blog article updated, too.

  5. alegr1 says:

    Too bad The Steve got promoted from a mailman. Microsoft would have been better.

  6. Joshua says:

    Snarky comment posted. Now can we please be polite and cut that subtopic now?

  7. Using a famous search engine whose logo has letters in four different colors, you can find the original image. The surprise is that, if you search there for "Bill Gates Tiger Beat" (without quotes), in the second row you get a picture of Raymond doing a parody/homage (which is in the article listed by himself, by the way). I like more the homage than the original one :-) .

  8. neko2k says:

    Perhaps this image is also from that same tiger-beat Gates photo set? http://www.corbisimages.com/…/bill-gates-

  9. Rick C says:

    Nice find, @neko2k, but I think mine is funnier.

  10. Harald van Dijk says:

    For completeness, the images in the first link are still available from that source by fixing up the URLs. They should go to cache.gizmodo.com instead of http://www.gizmodo.com. cache.gizmodo.com/…/billg_playful.jpg and cache.gizmodo.com/…/billg_casual.jpg both still work for me. They're the same as what's already mentioned in the other comments, but it's nice to be able to confirm that they're the same.

  11. cheong00 says:

    @Joshua: I'd have told the boss to arrange courier service from the old location to the new one. Developer manhours are more expensive than that.

  12. Zinc666 says:

    Nice 'Ynos' monitor you're using in your homage Raymond!

  13. kog999 says:

    "I'd have told the boss to arrange courier service from the old location to the new one. Developer manhours are more expensive than that."

    True, but if Microsoft is anything like many other big corps arranging a courier service would require at least 3 competitive bids, sign off from 2 different executives (which are never around), 2 weeks of nagging compliance who needs to review all new contracts, the filling of TPS reports in triplicate, and a vile of fresh blood. much easier to just waste a little bit of a developers time each day then a lot of everyone's time getting the proper approval.

    [This story was when Microsoft was still a small company. Small enough that Steve Ballmer said, "I'll go get the mail." -Raymond]

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