Last Updated 08 Nov 2022

A Biography and Success of William Bill Gates, an American Businessman

Category Bill Gates
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Skinny, shy and awkward, teenaged William H. (Bill) Gates seemed an unlikely successor to his overachieving parents. His father, William H. Gates II, powerfully built and 6'6" tall, was a prominent Seattle attorney, and his outgoing mother was a schoolteacher, University of Washington regent, and chairwoman of United Way International. While he showed enormous talent for math and logic, young Bill, a middle child, was no one's idea of a natural leader, let alone a future billionaire who would reinvent American business.

Born in October 28,1955, Gates and his two sisters grew up in Seattle. His family called him "Trey," in reference to the III after his name. Gates attended public elementary school, and enrolled in the private Lakeside School at age 12. There, he discovered his interest in software and began programming computers at age 13.

In 1968, Mary Gates decided to raise money for a mathematics class project. They wanted to give their children access to the fast-emerging technology of computers, and with the $3,000 they raised they arranged to buy some time on a computer for the math class. This was a common situation called time-sharing. The school installed an old Teletype machine hooked up to a telephone, and they were able to access a DEC Minicomputer owned by General Electric located in downtown Seattle. The school dialed into this computer at a scheduled time, and they were charged for their usage.

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Bill and Paul Allen were gifted students in this math class became instantly obsessed with this amazing concept of being able to dial in to a computer located miles away, type in commands, and have the computer instantly type back the answer, right there in their classroom. In an instant 2 math class nerds turned into 2 computer nerds. They began learning how to program the computer - make it follow their instructions - in a computer language named BASIC, which had been developed at Dartmouth College in 1964. BASIC stood for Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code. The boys quickly mastered this language, and began delving deeper in the computer, getting their hands on any manuals they could find. They quickly knew more than their instructor and most of the people in charge of this computer.

The following year, Gates wrote his first computer program, at a time when computers were still room-sized machines run by scientists in white coats. Soon afterwards, he and his friend Paul Allen wrote a scheduling program for the school, which coincidentally placed the two in the same classes as the prettiest girls in school. Still in high school, Gates and Allen founded a company called Traf-OData, which analyzed city traffic data.

Computers became such a passion in their lives that they quickly depleted the $3,000 the mothers had raised for the project, but another door opened for them when another private computer timesharing company named Computer Center Corporation offered the school a similar agreement. This company had been founded by UW graduates and was located in Seattle's University district, much closer to the boy's homes.

The company immediately realized that these whiz kids could be useful to them by detecting problems in the company's software, and began giving them free computer time on the company's DEC PDP-10 computer in exchange for the kid's finding bugs in the programs that caused crashes. The boys would make notes in a log of what they had done to cause a program to crash, and the company's programmers would fix the problem. The boys also began to learn about the DEC computer's operating system. Free computer time was absolute heaven to them, and they came in contact with many interesting and talented people. One was a programmer named Gary Kildall who would later play an important part in their future.

Computer Center Corporation unfortunately went bankrupt in 1970, causing the boys to lose their free computer access, although by this time their expertise was well known enough to provide other computer time opportunities they were able to hustle up for themselves. They also got valuable experience with different languages and operating systems.

Gates set off for Harvard University intending to become a lawyer like his father. Still shy and awkward, he rarely ventured out to parties unless dragged by his friend Steve Ballmer, who lived down the hall from him. Later he repaid by naming him president of Microsoft's president and chief executive officer now. While at Harvard, Gates developed a version of the programming language BASIC for the first microcomputer - the MITS Altair.

In January 1975, Bill Gates was review by the Popular Electronics magazine's cover featured a picture of the Altair 8800 computer - the world's first microcomputer that used the new Intel 8080 processor - sold mail order by a tiny company in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This company's name was MITS - which stood for Model Instrumentation Telemetry Systems - and its owner was a fellow named Ed Roberts who had previously written some articles for the magazine.

Bill had no idea what he wanted to study, so he enrolled lawyer. Gates took the standard freshman courses with the exception of signing up for one of Harvard's toughest math courses. He did well but just as in high school, his heart was not in his studies. After locating the school's computer center, he lost himself in the world of computers once again. Gates would spend many long nights in front of the school's computer and the next days asleep in class. Paul Allen and Gates remained in close contact even with Bill away at school. They would often discuss ideas for future projects and the possibility of one day starting a business. At the end of Gates' first year at Harvard, the two decided that Allen should move closer to him so that they may be able to follow up on some of their ideas. That summer they both got jobs working for Honeywell. As the summer dragged on, Allen began to push Bill harder with the idea that they should open a software company. Gates was still not sure enough to drop out of school. The following year, however, that would all change.

In his junior year, Gates dropped out of Harvard to devote his energies to Microsoft, a company he had begun in one day in December 1974 with Paul Allen, who was working at Honeywell outside of Boston, showed Gates a Popular Mechanics cover featuring the Altair 8800, a $397 computer from M.I.T.S. computing that any hobbyist could build. The only thing the computer lacked, besides a keyboard and monitor, was software. Gates and Allen contacted the head of M.I.T.S. and said they could provide a version of BASIC for the Altair. Guided by a belief that the computer would be a valuable tool on every office desktop and in every home, they began developing software for personal computers. Gates' foresight and his vision for personal computing have been central to the success of Microsoft and the software industry.

Ed Roberts' company built electronic equipment, but his company had fallen onto hard times and was a 1/4 million dollars in debt to his bank. His company had sold electronics kits, calculators and the like, but he realized that the new Intel chip could have the capability to be used in an actual computer. Faced with looming financial ruin, Roberts decided he would make a last ditch attempt to save his business by selling a complete computer in kit form, based on the new Intel 8080. He contacted Popular Electronics magazine, and they agreed to do the cover story on it. Roberts didn't even have a name for his computer. He asked his daughter what would be a good high-tech sounding name, and she suggested Altair - which was the name of a star in the popular TV series Star Trek.

Through shrewd negotiations, he was able to offer the kit for $ 397. Intel agreed to sell him cosmetically blemished chips for $ 75 each, instead of the going price of $ 360. This price was somewhat of an in-house joke at Intel, because they decided to price their new microprocessors at $360 to poke fun at the IBM 360 Mainframe computers, which cost millions of dollars.

Roberts estimated if he got lucky he would sell enough computer kits to keep his business afloat while he looked for other revenue sources, possibly 200 kits in a year. Like many things, which have happened in the microcomputer industry since, he had absolutely no idea what impact his computer kit would have on the future of the world. Once the article appeared, the phones started ringing, and Ed Roberts and the rest of the world was soon amazed at how many people wanted to have their own computer. Things never settled down - in one day they sold 200 computers over the phone. People sent checks in sight unseen - completely on the faith they would some day receive their kit in the mail. MITS's cash flow flip-flopped virtually over night - and over time they would receive thousands of orders for the Altair 8800. Some fanatics even drove to Albuquerque and camped out in the parking lot to wait for their kits.

And what were people waiting for? Quite literally for a computer in absolutely completely disassembled bare bones kit form. To build this thing you'd have to be an electronics technician - it would take hundreds of hours - and after it was built it only had 256 characters of memory, no keyboard, no monitor, no permanent memory, and then you had to be a computer programmer to program it in machine language; zeros and ones. What could you do with it? Hardly anything. But it was a real computer, a personal computer that people could own - and they loved it.

You see, people looked past the limitations of this first computer kit, and realized that someday things would get a lot better. Bill Gate realized the limitations of his kit, and worked hard at creating other peripherals, which would make the Altair a more usable computer. This included making boards with more memory, the capability to hook it up to a teletypewriter, and the ability to store programs permanently on paper tape, and hopefully on cassettes and maybe even floppy disks. But he and the others knew that software - not hardware - was the solution to making things really better. With usable software, people could write their own programs to do really useful things.

After a successful demonstration at the company's Albuquerque headquarters, M.I.T.S. contracted with Gates and Allen for programming languages. The pair moved to New Mexico and started Microsoft (they dropped the hyphen later). Although the company's first five clients went bankrupt, the company struggled on, moving to Seattle in 1979. The following year, IBM asked Gates to provide an operating system for its first personal computer. Gates purchased a system called QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System) for $50,000 from another company, changed the name to MS-DOS, and licensed it to IBM. The IBM PC took the market by storm when it was introduced in 1981 and licensing fees streamed into Microsoft, ensuring the company's survival over the next several years.

Microsoft continued concentrating on the software market, adding consumer applications like Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. Through Gates' company Corbis, Microsoft acquired the vast Bettmann photo archives and other collections for use in electronic distribution. In 1986, when the company went public, Gates became a paper billionaire at the age of 31. The following year, the company introduced its first version of Windows, and by 1993 was selling a million copies a month. When Windows 95 was introduced in August 1995, seven million copies were sold in the first six weeks alone. Microsoft's software became so ubiquitous that the U.S. Justice Department began a series of long-lasting antitrust investigations against the company, bogging it down in protracted legal battles.

In 1995, Gates dramatically changed the direction of the entire company and focused on the Internet. While some of his efforts, including the much-hyped Microsoft Network and its highly touted Web shows, fizzled, the company quickly gained ground on Netscape with its popular Internet Explorer browser.

Meanwhile, Gates built a 40,000-square-foot technological showcase of a home on Lake Washington and in 1994, married Melinda French, a marketing executive at Microsoft. At the same time, Gates increased his charitable giving: He earmarked $1 billion over 20 years to establish the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program, which will support promising minority students through college and some kinds of graduate school; and $750 million over five years to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, which includes the World Health Organization, the Rockefeller Foundation, Unicef, pharmaceutical companies, and the World Bank.

In November 1999, the U.S. District Court issued a preliminary decision that the software giant was a monopoly, signaling continued trouble for both Gates and the Microsoft Corporation. Shortly after the ruling, Gates stepped down as Microsoft s CEO and assumed the position of chairman and chief software architect.

Under the 1999 ruling, Microsoft was required to release the Windows 2000 operating code to manufacturers. In April 2000, the Justice Department proposed that Microsoft should be divided into two companies. One company would develop software mainstays like Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer, while the other would solely concentrate on the Windows operating systems (which currently run on 85% of the world s computers).

Gates holds that it is functionally impossible to sever the Windows operating system from other Microsoft applications. Currently, the Microsoft Corporation has plans to appeal the historic court ruling. In the meantime, no immediate restrictions have been implemented on the company.

Under Gates' leadership, Microsoft's mission has been to continually advance and improve software technology, and to make it easier, more cost-effective and more enjoyable for people to use computers. The company is committed to a long-term view, reflected in its investment of more than $4 billion on research and development in the current fiscal year.

In 1999, Gates wrote Business @ the speed of Thought, a book that shows how computer technology can solve business problems in fundamentally new ways. The book was published in 25 languages and is available in more than 60 countries. Business @ the Speed of Thought has received wide critical acclaim, and was listed on the best-seller lists of the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and Amazon.com. Gates' previous book, The Road Ahead, published in 1995, held the No. 1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list for seven weeks.

Gates has donated the proceeds of both books to non-profit organizations that support the use of technology in education and skills development. In addition to his love of computers and software, Gates is interested in biotechnology. He sits on the board of ICOS, a company that specializes in proteinbased and small-molecule therapeutics, and he is an investor in a number of other biotechnology companies. Gates also founded Corbis, which is developing one of the world's largest resources of visual information a comprehensive digital archive of art and photography from public and private collections around the globe. In addition, Gates has invested with cellular telephone pioneer Craig McCaw in Teledesic, which is working on an ambitious plan to employ hundreds of low-orbit satellites to provide a worldwide two way broadband telecommunications service.

Largely on the strength of Microsoft's success, Gates amassed a huge paper fortune as the company's largest individual shareholder. He became a paper billionaire in 1986, and within a decade his net worth had reached into the tens of billions of dollars making him by some estimates the world's richest private individual. Acquisition of immense wealth before the age of 40 seemed to have little outward effect on Gates, whose greatest personal expenditures may have been a collection of expensive sports cars and the construction of a $50 million computer-controlled private complex on a bluff overlooking Lake Washington, a short daily commute from Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

With few interests beyond software and the potential of information technology, Gates at first preferred to stay out of the public eye, handling civic and philanthropic affairs indirectly through one of his foundations. Nevertheless, as Microsoft's power and reputation grew, and especially as it attracted the attention of the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust division, Gates, with some reluctance, became a more public figure. Rivals (particularly in competing companies in Silicon Valley) portrayed him as driven, duplicitous, and determined to profit from virtually every electronic transaction in the world. His supporters, on the other hand, celebrated his uncanny business acumen, his flexibility, and his boundless appetite for finding new ways to make computers and electronics more useful through software.

Gates was married on Jan. 1, 1994, to Melinda French Gates. The couple has two children: a daughter, Jennifer Katharine Gates, born in 1996, and a son, Rory John Gates, born in 1999. Gates is an avid reader, charity, and enjoys playing golf and bridge. He donated $6 billion to his charitable foundation in August 1999, the largest bequest ever by a living individual.

Charity is also important to Gates. He and his wife, Melinda, have endowed a foundation with more than $21 billion to support charity initiatives in the areas of global health and learning, with the hope that as we move into the 21st century, advances in these critical areas will be available for all people. To date, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed more than $2 billion to organizations working in global health, more than $500 million to improve learning opportunities, including the Gates Library Initiative to bring computers, Internet Access and training to public libraries in lowincome communities in the United States and Canada; more than $200 million to community projects in the Pacific Northwest, and more than $29 million to special projects and annual giving campaigns.

Now William H. Gates is chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft Corporation, the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. Microsoft had revenues of $22.96 billion for the fiscal year ending June 2000, and employs more than 39,000 people in 60 countries.

I believe that Bill Gate should be one of the men of great sciences. Why should he be one? He invented the first microcomputer. A personal computer for everyone to afford and used. Software that changed everything in the world. This invention solves many economic, social, and political problems for example stocks and data. Technologies and discoveries are developing faster. Intelligence of the free world is developing more rapidly.

All of these qualities were evident in Gates' nimble response to the sudden public interest in the Internet. Beginning in 1995 and 1996, Gates feverishly refocused Microsoft on the development of consumer and enterprise software solutions for the Internet, developed the Windows CE operating system platform for networking non-computer devices such as home televisions and personal digital assistants, created the Microsoft Network to compete with America Online and other Internet providers, and, through Gates' company Corbis, acquired the huge Bettmann photo archives and other collections for use in electronic distribution.

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