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Barclays PLC (ADR) (BCS), General Electric (GE)- Today in History: A Business Legend Steps Down, the ATM Is Born, and Russia Pioneers Nuclear Power

On this day in economic and business history…

Bill Gates founded Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) in 1975. After 33 years at the helm — including eight in which he officially reported to current CEO Steve Ballmer — Gates finally stepped down from his full-time duties on June 27, 2008. Microsoft’s employees gave Gates a standing ovation on his last day at the office as he reflected at a farewell event, where he promised, “There won’t be a day in my life that I’m not thinking about Microsoft and the great things that it’s doing and wanting to help.”

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)

During his time with Microsoft, Gates had become the John D. Rockefeller of the computer age, a man who built an industry-defining company before stepping down to devote his life to charitable causes. Like Rockefeller, Gates also had to contend with fierce government antitrust efforts, but Gates’ company wound up victorious in its defense. It’s interesting to consider what might have happened if Microsoft had lost its case. The “Baby Standards” wound up making Rockefeller into the world’s first billionaire as their aggregate market cap quadrupled in the decade after the breakup. Had it lost its case, however, Microsoft might not have joined the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) in two parts, as the two largest Baby Standards did during the 1920s. It’s easier to justify a place for the world’s largest software company than it is for, say, the world’s largest operating-systems company.

Gates still maintains his position as Microsoft’s chairman, much as Rockefeller remained the president of Standard Oil until its breakup in 1911, but his attention has long been focused on active management of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world.

Gotta get some cash
British actor Reg Varney became the first person in history to withdraw money from an automated teller machine on June 27, 1967. The event was a publicity stunt to promote the use of the world’s first ATM outside a Barclays PLC (ADR) (NYSE:BCS) at the northern edge of London. The machine (and others just like it at five other London branches) was a bit less useful than modern ATMs. Before magnetic-stripe debit cards became the default option, some ATMs (like these) accepted single-use paper vouchers in exchange for a fixed amount of cash. Imagine having to deposit 20 checks, one after the other, to take $200 out of your account — that’s how the London ATMs worked.