William Henry “Bill” Gates III, Born October 28, 1955 is an American business magnate, investor, programmer, inventor and philanthropist. Gates is the former chief executive and Co-founder of Microsoft, the world’s largest personal-computer software company. He Co-founded Microsoft with Paul Allen.
Bill Gates is consistently ranked in the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest people and was the wealthiest overall from 1995 to 2009 — excluding 2008, when he was ranked third. In 2011 he was the wealthiest American and the world’s second wealthiest person. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires List, Gates is the world’s richest person in 2013, a position that he last held on the list in 2007.
During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of CEO and chief software architect, and remains the largest individual shareholder, with 6.4 percent of the common stock. He has also authored and co-authored several books.
Gates is one of the best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution. Gates has been criticized for his business tactics, which have been considered anti-competitive, an opinion which has in some cases been upheld by the courts. In the later stages of his career, Gates has pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors, donating large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, established in 2000.
Gates stepped down as chief executive officer of Microsoft in January 2000. He remained as chairman and created the position of chief software architect for himself. In June 2006, Gates announced that he would be transitioning from full-time work at Microsoft to part-time work, and full-time work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
He gradually transferred his duties to Ray Ozzie, chief software architect, and Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer. Gates’ last full-time day at Microsoft was June 27, 2008. He remains at Microsoft as chairman.
Gates was born in Seattle, Washington, to William H. Gates, Sr. and Mary Maxwell Gates. His ancestry includes English, German, and Scots-Irish. His father was a prominent lawyer, and his mother served on the board of directors for First Interstate Banc System and the United Way. Gates’ maternal grandfather was JW Maxwell, a national bank president. Gates has one elder sister, Kristi (Kristianne), and one younger sister, Libby. He was the fourth of his name in his family, but was known as William Gates III or “Trey” because his father had the “II” suffix. Early on in his life, Gates’ parents had a law career in mind for him.
After reading the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics that demonstrated the Altair 8800, Gates contacted Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), the creators of the new microcomputer, to inform them that he and others were working on a BASIC interpreter for the platform. In reality, Gates and Allen did not have an Altair and had not written code for it; they merely wanted to gauge MITS’s interest.
MITS president Ed Roberts agreed to meet them for a demo, and over the course of a few weeks they developed an Altair emulator that ran on a minicomputer, and then the BASIC interpreter. The demonstration, held at MITS’s offices in Albuquerque was a success and resulted in a deal with MITS to distribute the interpreter as Altair BASIC. Paul Allen was hired into MITS, and Gates took a leave of absence from Harvard to work with Allen at MITS in Albuquerque in November 1975. They named their partnership “Micro-Soft” and had their first office located in Albuquerque.
Within a year, the hyphen was dropped, and on November 26, 1976, the trade name “Microsoft” was registered with the Office of the Secretary of the State of New Mexico. Gates never returned to Harvard to complete his studies.
Microsoft’s BASIC was popular with computer hobbyists, but Gates discovered that a pre-market copy had leaked into the community and was being widely copied and distributed. In February 1976, Gates wrote an Open Letter to Hobbyists in the MITS newsletter saying that MITS could not continue to produce, distribute, and maintain high-quality software without payment. This letter was unpopular with many computer hobbyists, but Gates persisted in his belief that software developers should be able to demand payment.
Microsoft became independent of MITS in late 1976, and it continued to develop programming language software for various systems. The company moved from Albuquerque to its new home in Bellevue, Washington on January 1, 1979.
During Microsoft’s early years, all employees had broad responsibility for the company’s business. Gates oversaw the business details, but continued to write code as well. In the first five years, Gates personally reviewed every line of code the company shipped, and often rewrote parts of it as he saw fit.
IBM approached Microsoft in July 1980 regarding its upcoming personal computer, the IBM PC. The computer company first proposed that Microsoft write the BASIC interpreter. When IBM’s representatives mentioned that they needed an operating system, Gates referred them to Digital Research (DRI), makers of the widely used CP/M operating system. IBM’s discussions with Digital Research went poorly, and they did not reach a licensing agreement.
IBM representative Jack Sams mentioned the licensing difficulties during a subsequent meeting with Gates and told him to get an acceptable operating system. A few weeks later Gates proposed using 86-DOS (QDOS), an operating system similar to CP/M that Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer Products (SCP) had made for hardware similar to the PC.
Microsoft made a deal with SCP to become the exclusive licensing agent, and later the full owner, of 86-DOS. After adapting the operating system for the PC, Microsoft delivered it to IBM as PC DOS in exchange for a one-time fee of $50,000.
Microsoft launched its first retail version of Microsoft Windows on November 20, 1985, and in August, the company struck a deal with IBM to develop a separate operating system called OS/2. Although the two companies successfully developed the first version of the new system, mounting creative differences caused the partnership to deteriorate. It ended in 1991, when Gates led Microsoft to develop a version of OS/2 independently from IBM.
Gates has several investments outside Microsoft, which in 2006 paid him a salary of $616,667 and $350,000 bonus totaling $966,667. He founded Corbis, a digital imaging company, in 1989. In 2004 he became a director of Berkshire Hathaway, the investment company headed by long-time friend Warren Buffett.
Gates married Melinda French on January 1, 1994. They have three children.
Bill and his wife Melinda, have been involved in several Philanthropy projects over the years and received many awards, including the Jefferson Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged.
Image Caption: Bill Gates in Berlin 2013. Credit: http://www.dts-nachrichtenagentur.de / Wikipedia