Steve Ballmer's Glide Path to Normal

Rebecca Greenfield
Steve Ballmer's Glide Path to Normal

The Microsoft CEO has come a long way from his screaming "monkey boy" days. So far that Bloomberg Businessweek's Ashlee Vance ventures to call him ordinary. "In an industry dominated by eccentric introverts, Ballmer is out of place in that he’s pretty normal," he writes in this month's Businessweek cover story. Ballmer never fell into the "eccentric introvert" computer nerd category, but he definitely had a weird side, receiving his "monkey boy" nickname for jumping up and down and screaming on stage -- it's even in Urban Dictionary. But, as he has climbed Microsoft's ranks, Ballmer has calmed down the persona.

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The crazy goes all the way back to before Ballmer took over as CEO of Microsoft. Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980, as the company's 30th employee and was Bill Gates's first business manager. It didn't take long for us to get the first glimpse of Ballmer's wacky side. In the mid-80s Ballmer was Microsoft's TV spokesman. Below, we have one of the Ballmer's commercials. He's far from normal, especially the part at the end when he discusses the super-low price of Windows, which would become his tag-line for the many Windows commercials he did.

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Over the year, Ballmer climbed the ranks, from Executive Vice President in February 1992, to President in 1998 to CEO in 2000. But he didn't tone down the antics. Take this spoof Ballmer did with Gates. We see a total goofball.

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And even as he stepped into the CEO roll, he still maintained that effusive personality, which takes us to the 2006 monkey boy moment that YouTube has immortalized. Pit-stained and horse-voiced, Ballmer screams developers at the audience until they clap along with his maniacal act:

But then something changed. "People might have missed this fact, but I got a new job three and a half years ago," Ballmer told Vance, referring to Gates’s total retirement from the company. After Gates's departure perhaps Ballmer decided it would be a good idea to start acting like a real CEO? We definitely see a more subdued Ballmer. Take his keynote CES speech -- the last Microsoft will give -- where he hearkens back to his infamous "developers, developers, developers" rant, but the crazy's no longer there. You can hear it in his voice.