AUSTIN, TX—After 18 years of striving, Dell Computer finally reached its long-stated goal to be the worldwide leader in computing systems Monday and promptly ceased operations.

A proud Michael Dell announces the shutdown to stockholders.

"We did it," founder and CEO Michael Dell said. "Back when I started this company, I vowed that I would not rest until we revolutionized the way computers are sold. Well, at long last, that day is here. Bye."

When he launched the company in 1984, Dell drew up a lengthy list of longterm corporate goals. These included making Dell Computer the world's most trusted name in computer systems, the industry leader for customer service and technical support, and a model for direct-order retail in the 21st century and beyond.

"There were a lot of goals I wanted to accomplish, but those three were probably the biggest," said Dell, clearing out his desk at the company's Austin headquarters. "Done, done, and done."

Dell said he made the decision to shut down after learning that the company had passed Cisco Systems as the premier provider of products and services required for customers worldwide to build their information-technology and Internet infrastructures.

"Kevin Rollins, my president and COO, was the one who delivered the news," Dell said. "You should have seen the smile on his face. He walked into my office and said, 'We did it, Mike. We finally did it.' Everything we'd worked so hard to attain had finally come to fruition. Time to close up shop."

Upon receiving the news, Dell called a meeting of his top executives. After standing silently in front of the confused throng for nearly a minute, Dell calmly put a check mark in the remaining empty box on a large board listing the company's goals. A loud cheer went up and, after much handshaking and backslapping, a beaming Dell told the executives to clean out their offices and go home.

Though Dell said he is proud and thrilled that his company reached its goals so quickly, he "can't help but feel a little disappointed" that it's all over.

"We were so focused on getting where we wanted to go that we didn't always step back and take a moment to savor the ride," Dell said. "We knew that last day would eventually come, but I guess we always imagined it being somewhere off in the distant future."

News of the Dell shutdown spread quickly through the computer industry. Within hours, more than two dozen major rival companies had phoned to express interest in purchasing Dell. All offers were declined.

"Some of the bids to buy the company were extremely attractive," Dell said. "But after thinking about it, I decided it would just be too weird having the company go on without me. Besides, what would there be for the new owners to do?"

Though he is the guiding light and creative force behind Dell Computer, Dell stressed that he is not solely responsible for the company's success.

"We had an incredible staff of people without whom we would never have reached our destination," Dell said. "To the great people of Austin, who helped make the corporate office feel like a home; to the 32,000 employees that were like a family to me; and, of course, to our many loyal customers, I'd just like to express my unending gratitude and appreciation for your support. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some golf to play."