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Bill Henry Gates

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Bill Henry Gates's Social Links

Profile

Entrepreneur Bill Gates, born on October 28, 1955, in Seattle, Washington, began to show an interest in computer programming at the age of 13. Through technological innovation, keen business strategy, and aggressive competitive tactics, he and his partner Paul Allen built the world's largest software business, Microsoft. In the process, Bill Gates became one of the richest men in the world.

Born William Henry Gates III, on October 28, 1955, in Seattle, Washington. Gates began to show an interest in computer programming at the age of 13 at the Lakeside School. He pursued his passion through college. Striking out on his own with his friend and business partner Paul Allen, Gates found himself at the right place at the right time. Through technological innovation, keen business strategy, and aggressive competitive tactics he built the world's largest software business, Microsoft. In the process he became one of the richest men in the world.

Bill was a voracious reader as a child, spending many hours pouring over reference books such as the encyclopedia. Around the age of 11 or 12, Bill's parents began to have concerns about his behavior. He was doing well in school, but he seemed bored and withdrawn at times. His parents worried he might become a loner. Though they were strong believers in public education, when Bill turned 13 they enrolled him in Seattle's Lakeside School, an exclusive preparatory school. He blossomed in nearly all his subjects, excelling in math and science, but also doing very well in drama and English.

While at Lakeside School, a Seattle computer company offered to provide computer time for the students. The Mother's Club used proceeds from the school's rummage sale to purchase a teletype terminal for students to use. Bill Gates became entranced with what a computer could do and spent much of his free time working on the terminal. He wrote a tic-tac-toe program in BASIC computer language that allowed users to play against the computer.

In 1970, at the age of 15, Bill Gates went into business with his pal, Paul Allen. They developed "Traf-o-Data," a computer program that monitored traffic patterns in Seattle, and netted $20,000 for their efforts. Gates and Allen wanted to start their own company, but Gates' parents wanted him to finish school and go on to college where they hoped he would work to become a lawyer.

Bill Gates graduated from Lakeside in 1973. He scored 1590 out of 1600 on the college SAT test, a feat of intellectual achievement that for several years he boasted about when introducing himself to new people.

Gates enrolled at Harvard University in the fall, originally thinking of a career in law. But his freshman year saw him spend more of his time in the computer lab than in class. Gates did not really have a study regimen. Instead, he could get by on a few hours of sleep, cram for a test, and pass with a reasonable grade.

Gates remained in contact with Paul Allen who, after attending Washington State University for two years, dropped out and moved to Boston, Massachusetts, to work for Honeywell. In the summer of 1974, Gates joined Allen at Honeywell. During this time, Allen showed Gates an edition of Popular Electronics magazine featuring an article on the Altair 8800 mini-computer kit.

Both boys were fascinated with the possibilities this computer could make toward personal computing. The Altair was made by a small company in Albuquerque, New Mexico, called Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS). Gates and Allen contacted the company proclaiming they were working on a BASIC software program that would run the Altair computer.

In reality, they didn't have an Altair to work with or the code to run it. But they wanted to know if MITS was interested in someone developing such software. MITS was, and its president Ed Roberts asked the boys for a demonstration. Gates and Allen scrambled, and spent the next two months writing the software at Harvard's computer lab.

Allen traveled to Albuquerque for a test run at MITS, never having tried it out on an Altair computer. It worked perfectly. Allen was hired at MITS and Gates soon left Harvard to work with him, much to his parents' dismay. In 1975, Gates and Allen formed a partnership they called Micro-Soft, a blend of "micro-computer" and "software."

Microsoft (Gates and Allen dropped the hyphen in less than a year) started off on shaky footing. Though their BASIC software program for the Altair computer netted the company a fee and royalties, it wasn't meeting their overhead. Microsoft's BASIC software was popular with computer hobbyists who obtained pre-market copies and were reproducing and distributing them for free. According to Gates' later account, only about 10 percent of the people using BASIC in the Altair computer had actually paid for it. At this time, much of the personal computer enthusiasts were people not in it for the money. They felt the ease of reproduction and distribution allowed them to share software with friends and fellow computer enthusiasts. Bill Gates thought differently. He saw the free distribution of software as stealing, especially when it involved software that was created to be sold.

In February of 1976, Gates wrote an open letter to computer hobbyists saying that continued distribution and use of software without paying for it would "prevent good software from being written." In essence, pirating software would discourage developers from investing time and money into creating quality software. The letter was unpopular with computer enthusiasts, but Gates stuck to his beliefs and would use the threat of innovation as a defense when faced with charges of unfair business practices.

Gates had a more acrimonious relationship with MITS president Ed Roberts, often resulting in shouting matches. The combative Gates clashed with Roberts on software development and the direction of the business. Roberts considered Gates spoiled and obnoxious. In 1977, Roberts sold MITS to another computer company, and went back to Georgia to enter medical school and become a country doctor. Gates and Allen were on their own. The pair had to sue the new owner of MITS to retain the software rights they had developed for Altair.

Microsoft wrote software in different formats for other computer companies and, at the end of 1978, Gates moved the company's operations to Bellevue Washington, just east of Seattle. Bill Gates was glad to be home again in the Pacific Northwest, and threw himself into his work. All 25 employees of the young company had broad responsibilities for all aspects of the operation, product development, business development, and marketing. With his acumen for software development and a keen business sense, Gates placed himself as the head of Microsoft, which grossed $2.5 million in 1978. Gates was only 23.

Between 1978 and 1981, Microsoft's growth exploded, and staff increased from 25 to 128. Revenue also shot up from $4 million to $16 million. In mid-1981 Gates and Allen incorporated Microsoft, and Gates was appointed president and chairman of the board. Allen was named executive vice-president.

By 1983, Microsoft was going global with offices in Great Britain and Japan, and with 30 percent of the world's computers running on its software. But 1983 also brought news that rocked Microsoft to its very foundation. Paul Allen was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. Though his cancer went into remission a year later with intensive treatment, Allen resigned from company that same year. Rumors abound as to why Allen left Microsoft. Some say Bill Gates pushed him out, but many say it was a life-changing experience for Allen and he saw there were other opportunities that he could invest his time in.

Though their rivalry is legend, Microsoft and Apple shared many of their early innovations. In 1981 Apple invited Microsoft to help develop software for Macintosh computers. Some developers were involved in both Microsoft develeopment, and the development of Microsoft applications for Macintosh. The collaboration could be seen in some shared names between the Microsoft and Macintosh systems. It was through this knowledge sharing that Microsoft was to develop Windows. A system was that used a mouse to drive a graphic interface, displaying text and images on the screen. This differed greatly from the text and keyboard driven MS-DOS system where all text formatting showed on the screen as code and not what actually would be printed. Bill Gates quickly recognized the threat this kind of software might pose for MS-DOS and Microsoft overall. For the unsophisticated user—which was most of the buying public—the graphic imagery of the VisiCorp software would be so much easier to use. Gates announced in an advertising campaign that a new Microsoft operating system was about to be developed that would use a graphic interface. It was to be called "Windows," and would be compatible with all PC software products developed on the MS-DOS system. The announcement was a bluff, in that Microsoft had no such program under development. But as a marketing tactic it was sheer genius as nearly 30 percent of the computer market was using the MS-DOS system and would wait for Windows software rather than change to a new system. Without people willing to change formats, software developers were unwilling to write programs for the VisiCorp system and it lost momentum by early 1985.

In November 1985, Bill Gates and Microsoft launched Windows; nearly two years after his announcement. Visually the Windows system looked very similar to the Macintosh system Apple Computer Corporation had introduced nearly two years earlier. Apple had earlier given Microsoft full access to their technology while it was working on making Microsoft products compatible for Apple computers.

Gates had advised Apple to license their software but they ignored the advice, being more interested in selling computers. Once again, Gates took full advantage of the situation and created a software format that was strikingly similar to the Macintosh. Apple threatened to sue and Microsoft retaliated, saying it would delay shipment of its Microsoft compatible software for Macintosh users. In the end, Microsoft prevailed in the courts because it could prove that while there were similarities in how the two software systems operated, each individual function was distinctly different.

In 1986, Bill Gates took Microsoft public with an initial public offering (IPO) of $21 per share. Gates held 45 percent of the company's 24.7 million shares and became an instant millionaire at age 31. Gates' stake at that time was $234 million of Microsoft's $520 million. Over time, the company's stock increased in value and split numerous times. In 1987, Bill Gates became a billionaire when the stock raised to $90.75 a share. Since then, Gates has been on the top or near the top of Forbes' 400 list of the world's wealthiest people. In 1999, with stock prices at an all time high and the stock splitting eight-fold since its IPO, Gates' wealth briefly topped $101 billion. Yet, Bill Gates never felt totally secure about the status of his company. Always having to look over his shoulder to see where the competition was, he developed a white hot drive and competitive spirit. Gates expected everyone in the company to have the same drive and dedication. One story goes that one of Gates' assistants had come to work early to find someone sleeping under a desk. She considered calling security or the police when she discovered it was Gates.

Bill Gates' intelligence allowed him to be able to see all sides of the software industry—product development and corporate strategy. When analyzing any corporate move, he would develop a profile of all the possible cases and run through them, asking questions about anything that could possibly happen.

His confrontational management style became legend as he would challenge employees and their ideas to keep the creative process going. An unprepared presenter would hear, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!" from Gates. But this was as much a test of the rigor of the employee as it was Gates' passion for his company. He was constantly testing the people around him to see if they were really convinced of their ideas.

Bill Gates stepped down from the day-to-day operations of Microsoft in 2000, turning over the job of CEO to college friend Steve Ballmer who had been with Microsoft since 1980. He positioned himself as chief software architect so he could concentrate on what was for him the more passionate side of the business. He still remains chairman of the board. Over the next few years, his involvement with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation occupied much of his time and even more of his interest. In 2006, Gates announced he was transitioning himself from full-time work at Microsoft, to devote more quality time to the Foundation. His last full day at Microsoft was June 27, 2008.

In addition to all the accolades of being one of the most successful and richest businessmen in the history of the world, Bill Gates has also received numerous awards for philanthropic work. Time magazine named Gates one of the most influential people of the 20th century. The magazine also named Gates, his wife Melinda, and rock band U2's lead singer Bono as the 2005 Persons of the Year.

Gates also holds several honorary doctorates from universities throughout the world and an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. In 2006, Gates and his wife were awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle by the Mexican government for their philanthropic work throughout the world in the areas of health and education.

Companies and Investments

Microsoft (Co-Founder and Chairman)

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Chairman)

Cascade Investment (CEO)

Corbis (CEO)

Lessons Learned

Rule 1: Life is not fair – get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60K a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents’ generation, try de-lousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

Inspiring Quotes

Peace, justice and nonviolence are inevitable.

Steven Pinker

Bill Henry Gates's Quotes

Before you were born, your parents werent as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Bill Henry Gates

If you cant make it good, at least make it look good.

Bill Henry Gates

Dont compare yourself with anyone in this world...if you do so, you are insulting yourself.

Bill Henry Gates

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning

Bill Henry Gates

If you give people tools, and they use their natural abilities and their curiosity, they will develop things in ways that will surprise you very much beyond what you might have expected.

Bill Henry Gates

Influential Books

Steven Pinker - The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

Michael Dell - Direct from Dell: Strategies that Revolutionized an Industry (Collins Business Essentials)

John McDonald - A Ghost's Memoir: The Making of Alfred P. Sloan's My Years with General Motors

Mentors

Steve Ballmer, Paul Allen

References


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