Bill Gates on his crazy early days at Microsoft: We ate powdered orange Tang instead of stopping for meals

Before there was Soylent, there was Tang.

“I would buy a bottle of Tang, which is an orange sugary drink [mix] that they took to the moon that you know, instead of going to meals, I would just pour orange Tang on my hand and lick it off my hand as I was working on things,” says Bill Gates in Netflix’s three-episode documentary series, “Inside Bill’s Brain,” out Friday.

“So my face would be covered in this orange stuff.”

The goal of licking the sugary, powdered drink mix off his fingers was to get energy without taking the time to step away from his work.

“You are supposed to put it in a cup with water and stir it around and drink it, but you can just skip the water because your body already has water in it and just lick it off your hand,” the Microsoft co-founder tells series director Davis Guggenheim, who won the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2007 for “An Inconvenient Truth.”

“And the keys [of the computer] didn’t get all orange?” Guggenheim asks Gates.

“Ah, that’s a problem, yup,” Gates says.

The vignette is illustrative of the obsessive work schedule Gates and Microsoft’s other co-founder, Paul Allen, kept in the early days of the business.

“We were just bursting with excitement. We barely slept. We would take breaks off for fast food and go back to work until three in the morning,” Allen says in an audio clip used in the documentary. (Allen passed away from cancer in 2018.)

Allen and Gates launched Microsoft in 1975 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1979, the company moved to Bellevue, Washington and in 1986, Microsoft moved to Redmond, Washington, where it is currently headquartered.

“We were hardcore about hey, if you are working on a piece of code, then just get it done, don’t worry about sleep,” Gates says. “Back then, some amount of adrenaline or something.”


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