One was the man behind Microsoft. The other founded Apple.
They both bunked college, changed the computer world as we know it, and well, made millions and millions of dollars.
And were always seen as rivals, especially in the eighties, although their relationship mellowed with the passage of time.
But well, before the mellowing, there was a fair bit of rivalry between Jobs and Gates, each of whom evidently wanted to be seen as the poster boy of Silicon Valley. And if some reports are to be believed, this did lead to a few rather interesting – and borderline embarrassing – incidents.
One of these occurred in the late eighties, a time when Bill Gates was dating Ann Winblad, a software developer. Both Gates and Winblad were spending time with one of Jobs’ friends, Heidi Rozen, a software entrepreneur. Incidentally, all four – Gates, Jobs, Winblad and Rozen – had gone out together in the past a few times. This time, however, Jobs was not part of the party.
What definitely seems to have been part of the party was alcohol. A lot of alcohol, rather. And after a decent amount had been taken by the trio, someone had the bright idea of making some prank calls in the early hours. But who could they call at that time to really annoy?
Well, why not Steve Jobs?
Evidently, Heidi Rozen (who many suspect had a crush on Jobs) gave out his home phone number and Gates swung into action. The call was switched to the answering machine, and Gates then proceeded to pretend to be Philippe Kahn, the legendary French software developer like LighSurf and Borland. He even put on a fake French accent and proceeded to criticize the Macintosh, Jobs’ favorite device (even though he was no more at Apple), in detail, concluding with a loud: “Zeee Macintosh SUCKS!”
That evidently was so much fun that they decided to have another go. And again it was Gates who decided to do the vocals, this time pretending to be an employee in Jobs’ new company, Next, and cursing Jobs to high heaven.
When more sober in the morning, Gates and his friends realized what they had done, and felt suitably embarrassed. Heidi Rozen immediately fixed an appointment with Jobs and on meeting him, explained what had happened as calmly as possible.
Jobs’ reaction was simple: “That was dumb.”
That said, Gates French accent must have been rather good because Jobs also wondered what Philippe Kahn was doing at “Bill’s house.”
Was that the end of the matter? Not quite.
A few months later, Jobs and Gates were scheduled to appear in a panel discussion at a conference. As they both arrived on stage and greeted each other, Jobs pulled something out of his pocket, and with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, said:
“That’s the tape!”
It was a tape – the kind that was used in answering machines at that time.
No, he didn’t play it. But we wager it was some time before Gates and Co. tried making prank calls after having one drink too many.
(Taken from “The Second Coming of Steve Jobs” by Alan Duetschman)