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Witness the transformation! It was the theme of the day, the slogan for the biggest, splashiest software rollout yet concocted. It was emblazoned on posters, flyers, buttons. It sounded like the mantra of some bizarre religious cult which in some ways it was. When you got right down to it, this whole Windows thing had been basically an act of faith, Bill Gates's faith in this vision of the future of computers a faith that had taken him to the very top of the industry and transformed him into a national figure in the class of such inventor-promoter plutocrats as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Howard Hughes. As the throng of press, industry-watchers, analysts, and customers filed into the auditorium, the giant screen above the stage displayed only the classic C:\> prompt that signified dull old MS-DOS. That essential "operating system" software served as a sort of butler for other programs, controlled virtually every IBM PC and compatible ever made, and had long been the underpinning of the Microsoft fortune. Now Windows was designed to wipe that prompt off the screen and take DOS into the future. With Japanese long-term tenacity, Bill Gates had steered this pet project through half a dozen incarnations over seven itchy years to response that had been anything but deafening. It wasn't easy to get people excited about a program designed, like DOS, mainly to run other programs, and that was pretty much what Windows was. Yet as he waited near a loudspeaker pumping out the mindlessly hard-driving music common to porn films and business "events," the high-stakes poker player in Bill Gates knew he was about to turn up an ace.