The Pacific Northwest of America suffered its worst earthquake since 1949 yesterday. Though the quake measured 6.8 on the Richter scale, high-tech companies sustained little damage.

The University of Washington's Seismology Lab reports that the quake was so abrupt and strong that it tore the pens off the lab's seismograph.

Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft, cut short his speech to an educational conference in downtown Seattle when the quake hit. He was rushed from the building and the audience evacuated as soon as chandeliers in the hotel's ballroom began to sway.

Working on Microsoft did not, however, evacuate its premises, despite the severity of the earthquake. One employee said: "Everything was shaking off the shelves in my office and everyone marched out the building – the company didn't close as we don't have a lot of tall buildings.

One Microsoft campus building has closed since the quake pending inspections. The campus also has a gas leak in one building.

Aerospace giant Boeing did evacuate workers, based south of Seattle, reports from the region spoke of bookcases falling and computer monitors being shaken off desks by the tremors. Some structural damage may also have occurred at the plant.