William Henry Gates III (born October 28, 1955), commonly known as Bill Gates, is the co-founder and current Chairman and Chief Software Architect of Microsoft. As of 2004, Gates is the wealthiest person in the world.
Bill Gates was born in Seattle, Washington to William Henry Gates, Jr., a corporate lawyer, and Mary Maxwell, board member of First Interstate Bank, Pacific Northwest Bell and the national board of United Way. Gates went to Lakeside School, Seattle's most exclusive prep school, and later on went to study at Harvard University, but dropped out without graduating.
While he was a student at Harvard, he co-authored with Paul Allen the original Altair BASIC interpreter for the Altair 8800 (the first commercially successful personal computer) 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 (1996), Rory John Gates (1999) and Phoebe Adele Gates (2002). They live in a very large earth sheltered home in the side of a hill overlooking Lake Washington. It is a very modern 21st century house in the "Pacific lodge" style, with advanced electrical and 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.
Also in 1994, he acquired the Codex Leicester, a collection of writings by Leonardo da Vinci; as of 2003 it was on display at the Seattle Art Museum.
In 1975, Gates and Allen co-founded Microsoft Corporation to market their version of BASIC, called Microsoft BASIC. It was the primary interpreted computer language of the MS-DOS operating system, and was key to Microsoft's early commercial success.
Microsoft BASIC evolved into Microsoft QuickBasic and QBasic, Visual Basic, and later still, Visual Basic .NET.
Aged 21, police photo for a minor traffic violation. Microsoft used this photo in a German advertisement with the slogan "Good that there are no speed limits for software"In February 1976, Gates wrote the Open Letter to Hobbyists, which shocked 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's 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.
In the process, Gates developed a debatably unsavory reputation for his business practices. A case in point concerns the origins of MS-DOS. In the late 1970s, IBM was planning to enter the personal computer market with its IBM Personal Computer (PC), which was released in 1981. IBM needed an operating system for its new computer, which was based on the newly developed, 16-bit architecture of the Intel x86 processor family. After briefly negotiating with another company (the Digital Research Corporation in California), IBM approached Microsoft. Without revealing their ties with IBM, Microsoft executives in turn approached Seattle Computer, which had developed an x86-based operating system, and purchased the operating system for a reported sum of $50,000. (In Microsoft's defense, they may have been under agreement not to discuss their talks with IBM, so they really couldn't have revealed their ties.) Microsoft subsequently licensed the operating system to IBM (which released it under the PC-DOS name) and worked with computer manufacturers to include its own version, called MS-DOS, with every computer system sold.
Spectacularly successful, this deal was challenged in court by Seattle Computer on the grounds that Microsoft had concealed its relationship with IBM in order to purchase the operating system cheaply; subsequently, there was a settlement, but no admission of duplicity or guilt. Gates' reputation was further sullied by a series of major antitrust actions brought both by the U.S. Department of Justice and individual companies against Microsoft in the late 1990s.
In the mid-1980s Gates became excited about the possibilities of compact disc for storage, and sponsored the publication of the book CD-ROM: The New Papyrus that promoted the idea of CD-ROM.
It is incontestable that Gates has played hardball in the software industry. It has also been established in a court of law, and unanimously affirmed on appeal by a pro-business appellate court, that his company, under his leadership, repeatedly and egregiously engaged in business practices that violated U.S. laws.
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".
Along with his wife, Gates founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a charitable organization. Critics have called this a response to negative public outcry over the seemingly monopolistic and anti-competitive practices of his company, but those close to Gates say that he had long expressed his plan to eventually give away most (in 1997 the Washington Post reported 90%) of his large fortune. The foundation's grants have provided funds for underrepresented minority college scholarships, AIDS prevention, diseases that strike mainly in the third world, and other causes. In June 1999, Gates and his wife donated $5 billion to their foundation, the largest single donation ever by living individuals.
Honorary KBE from the United Kingdom announced, 2004
Top 100 influential people in media, the Guardian, 2001
The Sunday Times power list, 1999
Upside Elite 100, Ranked 2nd, 1999
Top 50 Cyber Elite, TIME magazine, Ranked 1st, 1998
Top 100 most powerful people in sports, The Sporting News, Ranked 28th, 1997
CEO of the year, Chief Executive Officers magazine, 1994
Entomologists have named the Bill Gates flower fly, Eristalis gatesi, in his honor.
According to Forbes list of the World's Wealthiest People
Several films and television shows have portrayed fictionalized versions of Bill Gates. Among them:
The Simpsons (February 15, 1998) (Season 9, Episode 5F11) — Bill Gates comes to "buy" Homer Simpson's Internet company CompuGlobalHyperMegaNet.
South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (1999) — an army general complains that his new Windows 98 upgrade is no faster than his previous copy of Windows 95, and demands to see Bill Gates. When an animated Gates begins to explain just how much faster Windows 98 actually is using technobabble, the general shoots him.
Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999) — a dramatized film about the history of Apple and Microsoft.
AntiTrust (2001) — a film about a programmer in a fictional software company. Tim Robbins plays Gary Winston, the corporate head, whose characteristics are believed by some to be derived from Gates.
Nothing So Strange (2002) — a film about a fictional assassination of Gates in 1999.
Books by Gates
Business @ The Speed of Thought (1999) ISBN 0446675962
The Road Ahead (1996) ISBN 0140260404