The historical significance of the Burgermaster drive-in restaurant

Raymond Chen

From 1981 to 1986, Microsoft was headquartered at what was then known as the Northup Building, 10700 Northup Way in Bellevue. A long time ago, I told a story about the La Quinta Inn next to that building. The building on the other side also plays a significant role in the history of Microsoft. That building is the Burgermaster restaurant.

In Windows 3.0, the data segment that recorded the locations of all the other data segments was named the BurgerMaster.¹ Why?

According to one story, the developer couldn’t think of a good name, so he looked out his window, saw the big sign that said BURGERMASTER, and decided to name it BurgerMaster.

Although the capitalization of the restaurant name is Burgermaster, the sign is printed in all-caps, and the developer erroneously capitalized it as BurgerMaster with a capital M.

Another story is that the segment is named BurgerMaster because it is the most important segment in Windows, just like how the Burgermaster restaurant is the most important restaurant for Windows developers.

The Burgermaster restaurant was so important that Bill Gates’s secretary kept it on speed dial. In fact, it wasn’t just on speed dial for Bill Gates’s secretary. It was a company-wide speed dial number. You could call them to order a burger, walk next door, and your order would be ready and waiting for you. This was a novelty back in the 1980s, though nowadays it sounds so old-fashioned to phone in a take-out order instead of using an app.

¹ At some point, it was given a much less whimsical name: The global master handle. But the comments in the code still call it the BurgerMaster.



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  • Александр Алексеев 0

    The “Bill Gates’s secretary kept it on speed dial” link seems to be non-functional. It says “This request was blocked by the security rules”. Same for web archive.

    • Chris Crowther 0

      I think that’s probably a local problem for you and your IT policy.

  • Matt Sayar 0

    La Quinta? The sign in the background of Bill’s photo looks like it says Ramada Inn

    • Raymond ChenMicrosoft employee Author 0

      It’s a La Quinta now.

  • John McCormick 0

    I told the owner of that burger master this about 20 or so years ago. He had never heard it before. I love that place and miss it now that I live far away in Texas. I make sure to go to burger master anytime I’m back in the area.

  • cheong00 0

    Once upon a time, I have a colleague that call and buy the same set of set lunch everyday from the canteen on ground floor (except on leave, of course).

    Listen him dial the number then say 「照舊吖, 唔該」(roughly translates to “Just as usual, thank you.”) then cut the call, without saying what he order and what the address to send the meal to always amuse me.

    • Chris Crowther 0

      We can basically do that with our regular Chinese restaurant; they recognise everyone in our family’s voice (we’ve been going there for over 30 years). Even when we go through the whole order they can tell us when we’ve forgotten something.

    • James Sutherland 0

      Did that phone system identify the caller to them? Our office VoIP system shows the caller’s name and department.

      For a while I was impressed that my local Chinese restaurant had a slick Caller ID system that enabled them to identify my calls and know the delivery address without me telling them – until one day, the landline was busy so I called them for the first time on my cellphone instead. They still knew the address… it turns out the owner knew my voice well enough. Probably a sign I eat too much of their food!

      • cheong00 0

        Probably not. I think the cashier (who take note of phone orders there) recognized his voice since he ordered food there almost everyday at roughly the same time.

  • Jeremy Richards 0

    Interesting, I would have guessed the name was a corruption of the German word Bürgermeister (mayor, or literally “master of the citizens”). The name seems to fit the role of the segment nicely.

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