Seattle: Microsoft Visitor Center

I must admit. When I started my career as a programmer, I had so secretly wished I work for Microsoft and my hero was the nerdy high-pitched Bill Gates. I devoured almost every book that had been written about Microsoft and Bill Gates. I was just absolutely fascinated by how this guy who just happened to be at the right place at the right time, ended up owning the world of computing. So, I just gotta go take a drive to the Microsoft Campus and visit the Microsoft Visitor Center and Company Store.


I was somewhat disappointed having expected that when you drive into the area there would be clear demarcation that we’re on Microsoft’s holy land. I was not even sure where the campus starts and where it ends … which building belongs to Microsoft and which does not. Having read that there are tens of thousands of millionaire programmers, I also expected to see Porches all over the place but it was just like any normal street. Heck, I even saw some people cycling! Guess that busted a few myths I had of Microsoft.

The Microsoft Visitor Center is housed in a building on its own. The ground floor is the Visitor Center and Upstairs is the Company Store. It is not a big facility. A sign was posted at the entrance that Microsoft is building a bigger facility.

BTW, anyone know where is Bill Gates’ famous house. I guess it is nearby and by the waters as I had only seen pictures of it from the water. I read that he had a giant tree moved 2 feet because the tree partially blocked the view from his window or something. With the kind of money he has, he could do anything he wants.


I enjoyed the Visitor Center, not so the boys and Suanne. Suanne was bored stiff. Well, all these stuff they had on display where things from my era. Shows how old I am doesn’t it?

The Altair 8800 Computer is perhaps what started the entire personal computer age. It was the first hobby build-it-yourself computer. So, where is the keyboard and the monitor. He he he … I think the two rows of levers at the bottom is the “keyboard” and the two rows of lights is the “monitor”! OK, back then, people get the kick out of being able to program this thing and see the lights light up. Anyway, Bill Gates and Paul Allen wrote the BASIC programming language for this machine and rest they say is history. Legend had it that the first program that was ran on this machine was 2 + 2 = 4 … brilliant!

I remembered so well those days of DOS PCs … you know … the 5″ floppies, Multiplan, WordPerfect 5.1, Lotus 123, dBase IV, dot matrix printers. I still remember the commands even to these days … he he he … like “/wcs” in Lotus 123 or “Shift-F7” in WordPerfect. Looking back it was kind of fun. My first PC at home was an Apple IIe and first PC at work was a 8088 PC. I was the first one in the company to have a PC with a “turbo” switch … while everyone had their machines running at 4.77 MHz, by a push of a button, my PC leaves the others in the dust at 8MHz. I even had a dual floppy drive. Awesome! People used to come to my office and envy my PC. *rolling my eye*

There were quite a lot of displays which I wished I could share with you but the lighting was so dim that the pictures came out horrible. I spent time playing with the Zune. It was not bad but it sure is so uncool and boring. What were Microsoft thinking when they created this?


The boys just spent all the time at the XBox 360 booth. I am glad they had that booth because I don’t have to deal with their incessant “can we go now?” questions. This time it is I who asked them “can we go now?”. As for Suanne, the chair was so comfortable that, well, she had a nice nap the whole time we were there!

The Company Store is opened to the public but you gotta ask the security to let you in because you need a passcard to get in. You can buy anything in the store EXCEPT for software and games. We did not get anything there because nowadays I had switched my worship to everything Google.

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  1. ainwa

    The Microsoft Museum has moved into a new building, south of the old one. It has a lot of interactive exhibits. One thing my boys liked was playing Gears of War 2 on a TV screen as big as a bedroom wall! There were a lot of other interesting things, too. We spent about an hour there.

    The store is now right across the hall, and you don’t have to have a Microsoft ID to go in to the front part, where they sell tshirts and company merch. You do have to have an ID to go to the back part, where they sell software and xbox items heavily discounted.

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