Computing in 1975 bears little semblance to the wireless, persistently interconnected world of mobile devices today.
In the days before the Personal Computer (PC), humans shared mainframes to perform calculations and run programs or using one of the new microcomputers starting to land on the scene. These computers were far more affordable than mainframes, and some could get purchased as kits assembled by hobbyists at home, including the Altair 8800. Featured on the cover of Popular Mechanics in 1975, this computer would inspire Harvard undergrads and friends Paul Allen and Bill Gates to develop a version of the BASIC programming language for the Altair, selling it to manufacturer MIPS and thus starting Microsoft.
The budding software company, founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico, needed a logo, and the first version found inspiration in its time and place. Microsoft's first wordmark, designed by Simon Daniels, uses a pleasant, rounded sans-serif font with each character made up of a series of lines that get heavier towards the outside. It’s as disco-soccer-jersey as 1975 gets, and perhaps the only time “micro” (for microcomputers) and “soft” (for software) would get set on separate lines.
Early business cards rendered the logo in earthy yellow and orange with a series of triangles along the edges, a clear nod to the New Mexican environs of the newly formed and future tech titan.
Original logo by Simon Daniels.
As the company matured, so has its logo. Now, it's a pristine and very corporate combination of a wordmark with a 4-panel graphic, a nod to Microsoft’s flagship product, Windows. But for its 46th birthday, Microsoft is feeling nostalgic and has unveiled a new logo inspired by the original 1975 wordmark, rendered in the current corporate blue, red, green, and yellow. The lines get replaced with even bars.
Overall, the throwback logo revels in its deeply 70s appeal, and it feels like you're checking out the logo for your favorite variety show from a washed-up celebrity. Or maybe in this case, Bill Gates with a long, thin microphone with the tiniest of booms on top introducing the likes of Cher.
Maybe for its 47th birthday, Microsoft will bring back its seriously metal 1981 wordmark.