Twenty years ago, two graduates of Seattle's Lakeside School decided to move their 13-employee company back home from Albuquerque, N.M.
The returning grads were Bill Gates and Paul Allen, and their move has made Puget Sound the software capital of the world.
Microsoft Corp., their brainchild, became the wellspring of a regional software and information technology industry that now employs more than 46,000 people with a combined payroll of $3.1 billion. Microsoft alone has more than 14,000 workers on twin campuses in Redmond, Wash.
Microsoft and Nintendo of America attracted thousands of programmers, game developers, marketers and others to the information gold rush. Thousands became multimillionaires, and their riches helped seed the 2,500 high-tech companies now calling the region home.
It didn't hurt that until recently, before home prices skyrocketed and traffic froze the freeways, Seattle often was named the country's most livable city. Seattle also was nerdy before nerdy was cool, with engineers, scientists and researchers working for The Boeing Co. and other institutions that bank on their intellectual capital.
Software and Internet-related companies in the area, among them Amazon.com, now account for $20 billion a year in sales, according to the Washington Software Alliance.
Does the area's high-tech cluster have a nickname?
No, says Kathy Wilcox of the Software Alliance. "If we call ourselves 'silicon anything,' we look like wannabes."
Written By George Tibbits