Bill Gates is an American entrepreneur, software developer, investor, and philanthropist. Gates founded Microsoft in 1975 along with his childhood friend, Paul Allen. Microsoft’s first big success came in 1980, when they licensed an operating system called MS-DOS to IBM for their personal computers. This led to a boom in the personal computer market, and Microsoft became the dominant player in the industry.
Born in Seattle, Washington on October 28, 1955, Bill Gates is the son of William H. Gates Sr. and Mary Maxwell Gates. His family’s lineage can be traced back to English, German, and Irish/Scots-Irish ancestry.
Gates grew up with his two sisters, Kristianne and Libby, in a family where his father was a prominent lawyer, and his mother served on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem and the United Way of America.
His maternal grandfather was J. W. Maxwell, a national bank president. Gates is the fourth with his name in his family but is famously known as William Gates III or “Trey” because his father was the “II” in the family. When Gates was seven years old, a rare tornado damaged their family home in the Sand Point area of Seattle.
As a child, Gates was small and often bullied. His parents wanted him to become a lawyer, but he found a passion for programming while attending the private Lakeside prep school. Thanks to a donation from the Mothers’ Club, Gates had access to a computer and wrote his first program in eighth grade. He later became fascinated with the machine’s ability to execute software code perfectly.
Gates and his friends sought out computer time on various systems, including a PDP-10 belonging to Computer Center Corporation, which they were banned from after exploiting bugs in the operating system to obtain free computer time.
In 1975, Bill Gates saw a demonstration of the Altair 8800 in Popular Electronics magazine and contacted the manufacturer, MITS, saying that he and others were working on a BASIC interpreter for the platform. This was not true, but MITS was interested, so Gates and Paul Allen quickly developed an Altair emulator and BASIC interpreter.
The demonstration was a success and MITS hired Allen, and Gates took a leave of absence from Harvard to work with him at MITS. They formed a company called “Micro-Soft” and later officially registered the name “Microsoft”. The company continued to develop programming language software for various systems and moved to Bellevue, Washington, in 1979.
Gates reviewed and often rewrote every line of code the company produced in its first five years, and he transitioned into a managerial role as the company grew. Gates also wrote a popular driving game called “DONKEY.BAS” with Neil Konzen in 1981.
In 1980, IBM asked Microsoft to provide an operating system for their upcoming personal computer, the IBM PC. Initially, Microsoft referred IBM to Digital Research, but the discussions were unsuccessful. Later, Microsoft proposed using an operating system called 86-DOS, developed by Seattle Computer Products, for the PC. Microsoft made a deal with SCP to be the exclusive licensing agent of 86-DOS, and later the full owner.
Microsoft adapted the operating system for the PC and delivered it to IBM as PC DOS for a one-time fee of $50,000. Although Microsoft did not transfer the copyright on the operating system to IBM, the IBM-compatible PC, running DOS, became a de facto standard, making Microsoft a major player in the industry. This contract with IBM, along with the sales of MS-DOS, gave Microsoft the prestige and influence to become the leading software company in the world.
To compete with Apple’s user-friendly Macintosh GUI, Microsoft and Gates released the first version of Windows on November 20, 1985. They later teamed up with IBM to create an operating system called OS/2, but the partnership fell apart due to creative differences. Over a decade of development, Windows evolved from DOS until Windows 95, which concealed the DOS prompt by default. Windows XP was the first version not based on DOS, and Windows 8.1 was the last version released before Gates stepped down as Microsoft’s CEO on February 5, 2014.
In addition to his business success, Gates is also known for his philanthropic work. Along with his wife, Melinda Gates, he founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, which is one of the largest charitable foundations in the world. The foundation focuses on global health and development, education, and poverty reduction.
Gates has received numerous awards and honors for his work, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Order of the British Empire, and the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. He has also been named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” multiple times.
Despite retiring from his role at Microsoft in 2008, Gates remains a prominent figure in the technology industry and is involved in many philanthropic initiatives around the world.
According to Gates, climate change and global energy access are interrelated issues that require immediate attention. He has encouraged governments and the private sector to invest in research and development to make sustainable, reliable energy more affordable.
Gates believes that developing innovative sustainable energy technology could reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and poverty and provide economic benefits by stabilizing energy prices. In 2011, he stated that given the option between selecting the next 10 presidents or ensuring environmentally friendly and cost-effective energy, he would choose the latter.
Gates’ net worth is an estimated $106 billion as of March of 2023.
Bill Gates has received numerous awards and honors throughout his career, including:
In addition to these awards, Gates has also been recognized for his philanthropic efforts through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has donated billions of dollars to support health and education initiatives around the world.