William Henry Gates III, KBE, commonly known as Bill Gates, is an American businessman and a microcomputer pioneer. Along with others, he wrote the original Altair BASIC interpreter for the Altair 8800 . With Paul Allen, he co-founded Microsoft Corporation, and is now its chairman and «Chief Software Architect».
According to Forbes magazine, Gates is the wealthiest person in the world, even including heads of state whose wealth is tied to their position.
Bill Gates was born in Seattle, Washington, on October 28, 1955, to William H. Gates, Sr., a corporate lawyer, and Mary Maxwell Gates, board member of Berkshire Hathaway, First Interstate Bank, Pacific Northwest Bell and the national board of United Way. He is William Henry Gates III, his great-grandfather being the true William Henry Gates Sr.
Gates attended Lakeside School, Seattle’s most exclusive prep school, where he was able to develop his programming skills on the school’s minicomputer. In need of more computing power, Gates and his computer buddy, Paul Allen, sneaked into the University of Washington computer labs. They were later caught but struck an agreement with lab administrators by providing free computer help to students. He later went on to study at Harvard University but dropped out without graduating to pursue what would become a lifelong career in software development. It was while he was at Harvard that he met the current CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer. They were roommates during their freshman year.
While he was a student at Harvard, he co-wrote with Paul Allen the original Altair BASIC interpreter for the Altair 8800 in the mid 1970s. It was inspired by BASIC, an easy-to-learn programming language developed at Dartmouth College for teaching purposes.
Gates married Melinda French on January 1, 1994. They have three children, Jennifer Katharine Gates, Rory John Gates and Phoebe Adele Gates.
In 1994, Gates acquired the Codex Leicester, a collection of writings by Leonardo da Vinci; as of 2003 it was on display at the Seattle Art Museum.
On the cover of Time
Again on the cover of Time promoting the Xbox 360.In 1997, Gates was the victim of a bizarre extortion plot by Chicago resident Adam Quinn Pletcher. Gates testified at the subsequent trial. Pletcher was convicted and sentenced in July 1998 to six years in prison. In February 1998 Gates was attacked by Noël Godin with a cream pie.
According to Forbes, Gates donated money to the 2004 presidential campaign of George W. Bush. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Gates is cited as having donated at least $33,335 to over 50 political campaigns during the 2004 election cycle.
On December 14, 2004, Bill Gates joined Berkshire Hathaway’s board, formalizing the relationship between him and Warren Buffett. Berkshire Hathaway is a conglomerate that includes Geico, Benjamin Moore and Fruit of the Loom. Gates also serves on the board of Icos, a Bothell biotech company.
On March 2, 2005, the Foreign Office of the United Kingdom announced that Gates would receive the title of Knight of the British Empire for his contribution to enterprise in the United Kingdom and his efforts in poverty reduction around the world. Because he is not a Commonwealth citizen, he cannot use the title of «Sir» but he may put the letters «KBE» after his name.
The Gates family lives in the exclusive suburb of Medina, Washington, in a huge earth-sheltered home in the side of a hill overlooking Lake Washington. The Gates home is a very modern 21st century house in the «Pacific Lodge» style, with advanced electronic systems everywhere. In one respect though it is more like an 18th or 19th century mansion: it has a large private library with a domed reading room. While it does have a classic flavour, the home has many unique qualities. Visitors are surveyed and given a microchip upon entrance. This small chip sends signals throughout the house, and a given room’s temperature and other conditions will change according to preset user preferences. According to King County public records, as of 2002, the total assessed value of the property is $113 million, and the annual property tax is just over $1 million.
In 1975, Gates...
and Allen co-founded Micro-Soft, later Microsoft Corporation, to market their version of BASIC, called Microsoft BASIC. Microsoft BASIC became the foundation of a successful software licensing business, being bundled with most home and personal computers of the 1970s and 1980s.
In February 1976, Bill Gates wrote the Open Letter to Hobbyists, which annoyed the computer hobbyist community by asserting that a commercial market existed for computer software. Gates stated in the letter that software should not be copied without the publisher’s permission, which he equated to piracy. While legally correct, Gates’ proposal was unprecedented in a community that was influenced by its ham radio legacy and hacker ethic, in which innovations and knowledge were freely shared in the community. Nevertheless, Gates was right about the market prospects, and his efforts paid off: Microsoft Corporation became one of the world’s most successful commercial enterprises and a key player in the creation of a retail software industry.
Microsoft’s key moment came when IBM was planning to enter the personal computer market with its IBM Personal Computer, which was released in 1981. IBM approached Microsoft for an operating system, but Microsoft did not have one to sell and referred IBM to Digital Research. At Digital Research, IBM representatives spoke to Gary Kildall’s wife Dorothy, but she declined to sign their standard non-disclosure agreement, which she considered overly burdensome. IBM then returned to talk to Microsoft. Gates obtained rights to a cloned design of CP/M, QDOS, from Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer products for $50,000 and licensed it to IBM for «about $80,000», according to Gates, and MS-DOS/PC-DOS was born. Later, IBM discovered that Gates’ operating system could have infringement problems with CP/M, contacted Kildall, and in exchange for a promise not to sue, made an agreement that CP/M would be sold along with PC-DOS when the IBM PC was released. The price set by IBM for CP/M was $250, and for MS-DOS/PC-DOS it was $40. MS-DOS/PC-DOS outsold CP/M many times over, becoming the standard. Microsoft’s licensing deal with IBM was not particularly lucrative in itself, but critically, Microsoft retained the right to sell MS-DOS to other computer manufacturers. By marketing MS-DOS aggressively to manufacturers of IBM-PC clones, Microsoft gained unprecedented visibility in the microcomputer industry, even rivalling IBM.
In the mid-1980s Gates became excited about the possibilities of compact disc technology for storage and sponsored the publication of the book CD-ROM: The New Papyrus that promoted the idea of CD-ROM.
In the late 1980s, Microsoft and IBM partnered in the development of a more advanced operating system, OS/2. The operating system was marketed in connection with a new hardware design, the PS/2, that was proprietary to IBM. As the project progressed, Gates oversaw continuing friction with IBM over the system’s design, hardware support, and user interface. Ultimately he came to believe that IBM wanted to marginalize Microsoft from having any input in OS/2’s development. On May 16, 1991, Gates announced to Microsoft employees that the OS/2 partnership was over and Microsoft would henceforth focus its platform efforts on Windows and the NT kernel. In the ensuing years OS/2 fell to the side, and Windows became the favored PC platform.
During the transition from MS-DOS to Windows, Microsoft gained ground on application software competitors such as WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3.
Nearly a decade later, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser displaced Netscape’s Navigator, which many attributed to Microsoft’s inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows at no extra charge. An opposing view is that the inclusion in Windows was less important in Internet Explorer’s adoption than Microsoft’s improvement of the browser’s features to a level comparable with Navigator.
As the architect of Microsoft’s product strategy, Gates has aggressively broadened the company’s range of products and, once it has obtained a leading position in a category, has vigorously defended that position. His and other Microsoft executives’ strategic decisions have more than once drawn the concern of competition regulators and in some cases have been ruled illegal.
In 2000, Gates promoted long-time friend and Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer to the role of Chief Executive Officer and took on the role of «Chief Software Architect».