by R. Cringly, Pages 264-267    Buy this book.

The suits first appeared at Microsoft in 1980, right around the time of the IBM deal.

Bill Gates knew that to achieve his goals, Microsoft would have to become a much larger company, with attendant big company systems. He didn’t know how to go about creating those systems, so he hired a president, Robert Towne, from an electronics company in Oregon called Tektronix, and a marketing communications whiz, Rowland Hanson, who had been instrumental in the success of Neutrogena soap.

Towne lasted just over a year. The programmers quickly identified him as a dweeb, and ignored him. Gates continually countermanded his orders.

Hanson’s was a different story. He dealt in the black magic of image and quickly realized that the franchise at Microsoft was Bill Gates. Hanson’s main job would be to make Gates into an industry figure and then national figure if Microsoft was to become the company its founder imagined it would be. The alternative to Gates was Paul Allen, but the co-founder was too painfully shy to handle the pressure of being in the public spotlight, while Gates looked forward to such encounters. Paul Allen’s idea of a public persona is sitting with his mother in front-row seats for home games of his favorite possession, the Portland Trailblazers of the NBA.

Even with Gates, Hanson’s work was cut out for him. It would be a challenge to promote a nerd with few social skills, who was only marginally controllable in public situations and sometimes went weeks without bathing. Maybe Neutrogena soap was a fitting precedent.

To his credit, by 1983 Hanson managed to get Gates’s face on the cover of Time magazine, though Gates was irked that Steve Jobs of Apple had made the cover before he did.