The Bill Gates Video Game You've Never Played

With human beings, first matters. Roots. History. Computers are no different. And just as with most families, when you start checking out the intellectual DNA strands, the legends abound. And none of them come encased in amber.

High school computer labs are full of kids who want to emulate Bill Gates's lightning-in-a-bottle success story. His groundbreaking, visionary computer work made him a millionaire (mind you, that's in 1986 money) at 31 and still one of the wealthiest billionaires on the planet. He dropped out of college (mind you, that was Harvard) to pursue the possibilities of what became a genuine revolution in human life. Eventually he would be named an honorary Knight Commander of the British Empire and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Don't run over the donkey

Part of his legend — besides scoring 1590 out of 1600 on his SAT, per Biography — was the development of the BASIC computer language for the very earliest incarnations of personal computers. As The Independent tells it, when Gates was negotiating with IBM to provide what would become Microsoft's DOS (Disk Operating System) for its machines, the corporation also wanted Gates to provide a version of BASIC — it was a computer language often used by beginners to write simple programming. In addition, IBM wanted a game to prove the language's viability.

In 1981, Gates and a colleague, Neil Konzen, stayed up until 4 a.m. to write exactly that: a simple game for the PC. The result? DONKEY.BAS. (The BAS refers to BASIC.) Eight-bit graphics. The goal: drive a car down the road, avoiding donkeys that got in the way. That's it. Silly (but so is Minesweeper, and Gates is reportedly a fan), and probably addictive, as these things tend to be. That's it: PC Game Numero Uno. To make a point about progress, Microsoft did a 3D reboot, DONKEY.NET. Reportedly that one's tough to run on today's equipment, but you can easily purchase a compatible version of the original, according to The Verge.