Bill Gates

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Template:Cleanup-date Template:Otheruses Template:Infobox Celebrity William Henry Gates III KBE (born October 28, 1955) is the co-founder, chairman, and chief software architect of Microsoft Corporation, the world's largest computer software company. According to Forbes magazine, Gates is the world's wealthiest person, with a net worth of approximately US$51 billion, as of September 2005)[1].

Gates is one of the best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution and has become an iconic figure of late-20th century capitalism. While widely respected for his intelligence, foresight, and ambition, he is also sometimes accused of using ruthless, illegal or monopolistic business practices.

Since amassing his fortune, Gates has pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors, donating huge amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, founded in 2000. He, along with his wife Melinda Gates and U2's lead singer Bono, were named by Time as the 2005 Persons of the Year. That same year he was given the honour of Knight Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.


Early life

File:Bill gates-mugshot.jpg
Bill Gates' mug shot from 1977 when he was jailed for speeding.

Bill Gates was born in Seattle, Washington, to William H. Gates, Sr., a prominent lawyer, and teacher Mary Maxwell Gates. Gates was born with a million dollar trust fund set up by his grandfather (a national bank vice-president) and had access to computers from an early age.

Gates excelled in elementary school, particularly in mathematics and the sciences. His parents enrolled him at Lakeside School, a prestigious preparatory school. Lakeside rented time on a DEC PDP-10, which Bill was able to use to pursue an interest in computers.

Gates was a member of the Boy Scouts of America and attained the rank of life scout. While in high school, he and Paul Allen founded Traf-O-Data, a company which sold traffic flow data systems to state governments. He also helped computerize his school's payroll system.

Said to have scored a 1590 on his SATs [2], Gates enrolled in Harvard University as a computer science major in 1973, where he met his future business partner, Steve Ballmer. During his second year at Harvard, Gates (along with Paul Allen and Monte Davidoff) co-wrote Altair BASIC for the Altair 8800. Gates dropped out of Harvard during his third year to pursue a career in software development.

On December 13, 1977, Gates was briefly jailed in Albuquerque for racing his Porsche 911 in the New Mexico desert. [3]


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In 1984, Bill Gates was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine
Main article: Microsoft

After reading the January 1975 issue of Popular Science that demonstrated the Altair 8800, Gates called MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems), the creators of the new microcomputer, to inform them that he and others had developed a version of the programming language BASIC for the platform. Allen flew to MITS to unveil the new BASIC system. Since Gates had done all of the actual product development, Allen had never handled an Altair prior to the trip. However, the demonstration was a success and resulted in a deal with MITS to buy the rights to Allen and Gates's BASIC for the Altair platform. It was at this point that Gates left Harvard along with Allen to found Micro-Soft, which was later renamed the Microsoft Corporation.

In February 1976, Bill Gates published his often-quoted "Open Letter to Hobbyists", that claimed that most users of his software had stolen it and that this would retard the development of good software, and that no one would ever commit years of time to developing free software. This letter was deeply unpopular with many programmers who were doing just that, but was to gain significant support from Gates' business partners and allies and became part of the movement which led to closed-source becoming the dominant model of software production.

Some commentators have questioned the consistency of Gates's stance on this issue. They point out that Gates has confessed to obtaining source listings from dumpsters in order to learn how to program and they point to the way in which Microsoft quickly develops its own versions of others' interfaces and paradigms, notably features of the Macintosh GUI which appeared in Windows. Additionally, the subject of the Open Letter to Hobbyists diatribe - Altair BASIC - did not pay any royalties to John George Kemeny or Thomas Kurtz, inventors of the BASIC programming language. However, Microsoft defenders point out that reading software for understanding is probably educational "fair use" (although the company expends considerable effort to prevent its own software being so used) and that being aggressive isn't necessarily being unethical.

When IBM decided to build the hardware for a desktop personal computer in 1980, it needed to find an operating system. Microsoft did not have any operating system at this point. The most popular microcomputer operating system at the time was CP/M developed by Digital Research in Monterey. The CP/M BIOS allowed software written for the Intel 8080/Zilog Z80 family of microprocessors to run on many different models of computer from many different manufacturers. This device-independence feature was essential for the formation of the consumer software industry, as without it software had to be re-written for each different model of computer. Bill Gates referred IBM to Gary Kildall, the founder of Digital Research, but when they did not reach immediate agreement with him they went back to Gates who offered to fill their need himself. He did it by buying a CP/M clone called QDOS ("Quick and Dirty Operating System") from Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer Products for $56,000, which Microsoft renamed PC-DOS.

Later, after Compaq licensed Phoenix Technologies' clone of the IBM BIOS, the market saw a flood of IBM PC clones. Microsoft was quick to use its position to dominate the home computer operating system market. Microsoft began licensing its OS for use on non-IBM PC clones, and called that version MS-DOS (for Microsoft Disk Operating System). By marketing MS-DOS aggressively to manufacturers of IBM-PC clones, Microsoft went from a small player to one of the major software vendors in the home computer industry. Microsoft continued to develop operating systems as well as software applications. In the early 1980's they created Microsoft Windows which was similar to Apple Computer's Macintosh OS graphical user interface (GUI), both based on the human interface work at Xerox PARC. The first versions of the Windows OS did not sell well as stand-alone applications but started to be shipped pre-installed on many systems. Because of this, by the late-1980s Microsoft Windows had begun to make serious headway into the IBM-compatible PC software market. The release of Windows 3.0 in 1990 was a tremendous success, selling around 10 million copies in the first two years and cementing Microsoft's dominance in operating systems. (See History of Microsoft Windows for more details)

Microsoft eventually went on to be the largest software company in the world, earning Gates enough money to make him the wealthiest person in the world (according to Forbes Magazine) for several years. Gates served as the CEO of the company until 2000 when Steve Ballmer took the position. Gates continues to serve as a chairman of the board at the company and also as a position he created for himself entitled "Chief Software Architect". Microsoft has thousands of patents and Bill Gates himself is a co-inventor of nine patents.

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Bill Gates giving a presentation.

Under Gates's leadership, Microsoft has frequently been accused of aggressive business practices. In 1998, this culminated in a lawsuit, United States v. Microsoft, which alleged that Microsoft abused monopoly power in its handling of operating system sales and web browser sales. Gates was summoned to testify in the case as the chairman of Microsoft. He was called "evasive and non-responsive" by a source present at a session in which Gates was questioned on his deposition. [4] He argued over the definitions of words such as "compete", "jihad", "concerned", "ask", and "we". [5] BusinessWeek reported, "early rounds of his deposition show him offering obfuscatory answers and saying 'I don't recall' so many times that even the presiding judge had to chuckle. Worse, many of the technology chief's denials and pleas of ignorance have been directly refuted by prosecutors with snippets of e-mail Gates both sent and received." [6] Intel Vice-President Steven McGeady, called as a witness, quoted Paul Maritz, a senior Microsoft vice president as having stated an intention to "extinguish" and "smother" rival Netscape Communications Corporation and to "cut off Netscape's air supply" by giving away a clone of Netscape's flagship product for free. The Microsoft executive denied the allegations. [7]

Personal life

Gates married Melinda French of Dallas, Texas on January 1, 1994. They have three children, Jennifer Katharine Gates (1996), Rory John Gates (1999) and Phoebe Adele Gates (2002).

Bill Gates lives in a huge earth-sheltered home in the side of a hill overlooking Lake Washington in Medina, Washington together with his family. The Gates home, one of the most expensive houses in the world, is a modern 21st century house in the "Pacific Lodge" style, with classic features such as a large private library with a domed reading room. Electronics are used abundantly; visitors are surveyed upon entrance and given a microchip that sends signals throughout the house to adjust temperature and other conditions according to preset user preferences. According to King County public records, as of 2002, the total assessed value of the property (land and house) is $113 million, and the annual property tax is just over $1 million. Also among Gates's private acquisitions is the Codex Leicester, a collection of writings by Leonardo da Vinci which Gates bought for $30.8 million at an auction in 1994.

File:TIME cover Persons of the Year 2005.jpg
Bill and Melinda Gates on the cover of TIME, with Bono, as Persons of the Year 2005.

In 1994, Gates founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a charitable organization, with his wife. The foundation's grants have provided funds for college scholarships for under-represented minorities, AIDS prevention, diseases prevalent in third world countries, and other causes. In 2000, the Gates Foundation endowed the University of Cambridge with $210 million for the Gates Cambridge Scholarships. The Foundation has also pledged over $7 billion to its various causes, including $1 billion to the United Negro College Fund; and as of 2005, had an estimated endowment of $29.0 billion. He has spent about a third of his lifetime income on charity, although some question his intentions. Journalist Greg Palast suggests that the Gates Foundation is used to make tactical donations to hide media sensitive humanitarian side effects of treaties, such as the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which Gates has supported. TRIPS requires countries to agree to respect drug and other patents, therefore preventing the local manufacture of existing pharmaceuticals still under patent such as AIDS drugs in Africa. [8]

Gates has received two honorary doctorates, from the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden in 2002 and Waseda University in 2005. Gates was also given an Honorary KBE (Knighthood) from the Queen of United Kingdom in 2005 [9], in addition to having entomologists name the Bill Gates flower fly, Eristalis gatesi, in his honor. [10]

Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer has stated that Gates is probably the most "spammed" person in the world, receiving as many as 4,000,000 emails per day in 2004, most of which were junk. Gates has almost an entire department devoted to filtering out junk emails. [11]

Influence and wealth

Gates is widely considered worldwide as being one of the most influential people. He was listed in the Sunday Times power list in 1999, named CEO of the year by Chief Executive Officers magazine in 1994, ranked number one in the "Top 50 Cyber Elite" by Time in 1998, ranked number two in the Upside Elite 100 in 1999 and was included in The Guardian as one of the "Top 100 influential people in media" in 2001. Gates has been number one on the "Forbes 400" list through 1993-2005 and number one on Forbes list of "The World's Richest People" in 1996-2005, except for 1997 when the Sultan of Brunei was included despite Forbes' usual policy of excluding heads of state.

Since 2000, Gates's wealth has declined due to a fall in Microsoft's share price and the multi-billion dollar donations he has made to his charitable foundations. According to a 2004 Forbes magazine article, Gates gave away over $28 billion to charities from 2000 onwards. Additionally, Gates has not engaged in conspicuous consumption beyond his lavish home, with its gardens and art collection. Contrast this with his former associate Paul Allen, who has followed a perhaps more typical path, owning sports teams, vintage airplanes, and multiple residences. Gates also claimed, in 2005, that he has gone to work every work day since 1975, which in recent years includes both his role at Microsoft, and his leadership position at the Gates Foundation.

Popular culture

Main article: List of portrayals and references of Bill Gates

Bill Gates has been the subject of numerous parodies in film, television, and video games, often serving as an archetype for fictional megalomaniacal leaders of powerful corporations. Examples include The Simpsons episode "Das Bus" and the films Tomorrow Never Dies and Antitrust. Alternatively, but less frequently, these references portray a hacker genius. Gates is often characterized as the quintessential example of a super-intelligent "nerd" with immense power. This has in turn led to pop culture stereotypes of Gates as a tyrant or evil genius, often resorting to ruthless business techniques. He was also shown on South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, and was shot in the forehead in the movie. He returned later in the South Park episode "The Entity", complete with a bullet hole in his forehead. Several films and television shows have portrayed either the real Bill Gates or a fictionalized version of him, often according to these clichés.


Gates has published several essays throughout the years based on his theories, predications and visions of the computing industry. In this publications he often expresses his personal views on current topics, and discusses Microsoft's plans. His writings have been published by BusinessWeek, NewsWeek, USA Today and Time. His publications since 1997 include:

  • Person of The Year, Time, December 2, 2005
  • The New World of Work, Executive E-mail, May 19, 2005
  • The PC Era Is Just Beginning, Business Week, March 22, 2005
  • Building Software That Is Interoperable By Design, Executive E-Mail, February 3, 2005
  • The Enduring Magic of Software, InformationWeek, October 18, 2004
  • Preserving and Enhancing the Benefits of E-mail: A Progress Report, Executive E-mail, June 28, 2004
  • Microsoft Progress Report: Security, Executive E-mail, March 31, 2004
  • Losing Ground in the Innovation Race?, CNET, February 25, 2004
  • A Spam-Free Future, The Washington Post, November 24, 2003
  • Why I Hate Spam, The Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2003
  • Building Trust in Technology, Global Agenda 2003 (World Economic Forum), January 23, 2003
  • Security in a Connected World, Executive E-Mail, January 23, 2003
  • The Disappearing Computer, The World in 2003 (The Economist), December 2002
  • Slowing the Spread of AIDS in India, The New York Times, November 9, 2002
  • Trustworthy Computing, Executive E-Mail, July 18, 2002
  • Computing You Can Count On, April, 2002
  • Tech in a Time of Trouble, The World in 2002 (The Economist), December 2001
  • Moving Into the Digital Decade, October 29, 2001
  • The PC: 20 Years Young, August 12, 2001
  • Why We’re Building .NET Technology, June 18, 2001
  • Shaping the Internet Age, Internet Policy Institute, December 2000
  • Now for an Intelligent Internet, The World in 2001 (The Economist), November 2000
  • Will Frankenfood Feed The World?, Time, June 19, 2000
  • Yes, More Trade With China, Washington Post, May 23, 2000
  • The Case for Microsoft, Time, May 7, 2000
  • Enter "Generation i", Instructor, March 2000
  • Product Distribution Goes Digital, IEEE Internet Computing, January 2000
  • Beyond Gutenberg, The World in 2000 (The Economist), November 1999
  • Everyone, Anytime, Anywhere, Forbes ASAP, October 4, 1999
  • The Second Wave, IEEE Internet Computing Magazine, August 18, 1999
  • Microprocessors Upgraded the Way We Live, USA Today, June 22, 1999
  • Why the PC Will Not Die, Newsweek, May 31, 1999
  • The Wright Brothers: The 100 Most Important People of the Century, Time, March 29, 1999
  • Compete, Don't Delete, The Economist, June 13, 1998
  • Who Decides What Innovations Go Into Your PC?, 1997

See also


References and further reading

External links


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