William H. Gates, perhaps the most well known person in the world, is the man responsible for revolutionizing the personal computer industry. A multi-millionaire by age thirty, Gates is now the richest person in the world. Bill Gates' story begins on October 28, 1955.
On October 28, 1955, William H. Gates was born to Bill (Sr.) and Mary Gates. Bill Sr. attended law school at the University of Washington, and upon graduating, became a lawyer. His wife, Mary Higgins, was an energetic schoolteacher. In 1953, the couple had their first child, Kristianne. Next came the birth of a son, Bill (Jr.), and in 1964, daughter Libby Gates was born.
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As a boy, Bill Gates was small, skinny, and extremely energetic. He grew up in a close-knit Seattle family. The Gates family often spent their summers at a nearby beach club, where they would participate in activities like water-skiing, swimming, and tennis.
Even when he was little, Bill Gates was extremely smart, surpassing all of his classmates. By the time he was nine years old, young Gates had already read the entire World Book Encyclopedia! Gates was particularly interested in mathematics, science, and business. A great experience for him was in 1962, when Seattle hosted the World's Fair. The World's Fair introduced Gates to the new technology of the time- the UNIVAC computer (a large mainframe computer that took up a whole entire room and would be considered primitive by our standards), large-screen color television sets, videos, and much more!
In his later years at elementary school, Bill Gates began displaying behavioral problems. He would often be emotionally immature. His overly talkative and extremely sarcastic personality worried his parents, who later sent him to a psychiatrist. Gates thought that getting a chance to talk with the psychiatrist was a great experience. It opened up his mind to a new way of thinking. However, Bill Sr. and Mary Gates were still worried about their son's behavioral problems. They decided to send him to a nearby private, all-boys school.
The Lakeside School was a prestigious all-boys school with a quiet campus, strict rules, and a competitive atmosphere. It attracted the best boys from all over the Seattle area. Although Gates' behavior improved, he had a tendency to not pay attention in the subjects that he was not interested in. Because of this, he maintained an overall B average.
Bill Gates' computer experience began in eighth grade. That year, the Lakeside School used the profits from its yearly rummage sale to buy a computer terminal for the boys to use. This terminal was connected to a mainframe computer located nearby, and in order to use it, the students had to buy computer time. The terminal did not have a monitor. The boys had to type in commands, then wait as the machine whirred. A short while later, the results of the operation would come shooting out on a piece of punched paper. This terminal is extremely primitive by our standards (it might take a whole lunch period to play tic-tac-toe on it!), but at the time, it was considered the best thing since sliced bread!
There was a group of boys that was particularly interested in this new machine. In 1970, two years after the Lakeside School bought the computer terminal, Bill Gates, together with his friends Paul Allen (with whom he later started Microsoft), Kent Evans, and Ric Weiland created the Lakeside Programmers Group, or LPG. However, the group was soon broken up- in the fall, Allen and Weiland, who were two years older than Gates and Evans, went off to college. Another unfortunate event befell the LPG. Kent Evans was on a mountaineering course when he lost his footing on the mounting, fell, and passed away in the rescue helicopter.
Although he was devastated, Bill Gates continued on with his life. In 1972, he and Paul Allen, who was attending the nearby University of Washington, heard about the Intel 8008 microprocessor chip. Microprocessors are now at the very heart of personal computers. This early microprocessor chip could only perform a few functions, but it was a step in the right direction. Allen and Gates immediately began experimenting with the chip. They soon created the Traf-O-Data. This was a machine could be used to analyze the information counted by traffic monitors. The traffic monitors would place a rubber hose with a metal box at one end across a street. Whenever a car drove across the hose, the hose would punch the paper tape inside the metal box. The job of the Traf-O-Data would be to process the tapes and then to print graphs and statistics. Unfortunately, it was not very successful.
The next year, in 1973, Bill Gates set off for Cambridge, Massachusetts- he had been accepted by Harvard University. For the first time in his life, Gates encountered other students that were better than him at math! However, Gates found Harvard's computer classes too easy. He was extremely obnoxious about it, causing many of the students and professors at Harvard to dislike him. At Harvard, Gates met another computer enthusiast, Steve Ballmer. Little did he know then, but Ballmer would play a key roll in Microsoft's success.
In late 1974/early 1975, a single event occurred; an event that would forever change the course of the lives of Bill Gates and Paul Allen. Paul Allen saw, on the cover of popular science magazine, "Popular Electronics," a picture of the Altair 8800. The Altair 8800 was the first affordable minicomputer available to the public. The Altair was basically a little blue box with flashing lights. It didn't yet have a language, and thus could not communicate with its users. Gates and Allen decided to write a version of BASIC (Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code), an easy to learn and easy to use programming language, for the Altair 8800. Spending almost every single waking moment working on this language, Gates and Allen were able to complete it in five weeks. This version of BASIC was installed in the Altair computer.
During the summer of 1976, Bill Gates flew to New Mexico, where Paul Allen was working for MITS, the company that designed the Altair 8800. That summer, Microsoft was born. The two young men first set up an office in a small apartment, then in a house, before finally moving to a commercial building. The two young men began writing a new version of BASIC, which they dubbed MS-BASIC. They worked on versions of MS-BASIC for other computers, not just the Altair 8800. Before long, Microsoft had sold versions of MS-BASIC to major companies like Commodore, Tandy, and General Electric. In 1976, Paul Allen left MITS to work at Microsoft full-time, and one year later, Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to make more time for the new company. By the end of 1977, almost all of the contenders in the microcomputer market ran versions of MS-BASIC.
During this period, Microsoft continued to grow and expand. In 1978, Gates and Allen decided to move their company from New Mexico to Bellevue, Washington, a suburb of Seattle. Shortly after the move, Gates realized that Microsoft needed managers. Up to this point, it had just been the employees and himself. He had to answer all the phone calls, answer all the e-mail. Thus, Gates hired college friend Steve Ballmer to be the business chief. Ballmer's presence in Microsoft was for the better. He made many changes, and now Microsoft had experience managers to help in its overall functioning.
A major breakthrough in the PC market was the arrival of IBM. IBM decided that to produce its first personal computer, it would buy or lease software and hardware from existing companies. They decided to get an operating system from Microsoft. Thus, Microsoft created MS-DOS, the now famous operating system. On August 12, 1981, IBM announced the arrival of the IBM PC. With this new computer came PC clones. Other companies began producing personal computers that were virtually exactly the same as the IBM PC. Of course, these clones needed the same operating systems as IBM's personal computer. Gates and Microsoft began leasing out more and more copies of MS-DOS.
A year later, in 1982, trouble struck Microsoft. Paul Allen was diagnosed with lymphoma, a type of cancer. Although his disease was treatable, Allen decided to resign. Gates was devastated, but alas, life must continue.
Bill Gates was astonished with the idea of Graphical User Interface (GUI), a "point and click" interface. Using GUI, users can use mice to click on icons of the program or application that they want to run. It was easy to use and user-friendly. After creating MS-DOS, a text-based operating system, Gates immediately went to work trying to develop an operating system that was based on easy-to-use graphics. Windows 1.0, Microsoft's first graphical operating system was announced in 1985.
By this time, Microsoft had already been dubbed as the fastest growing company in Washington State. After all, it was the first computer software company in the world! Gates and Allen's vision back in the 1970s has turned them into billionaires!
In early 1986, Microsoft Corporation moved from its Bellevue home to Redmond, Washington. The new complex was humongous! It occupied 400 acres of land, and consists of five separate buildings. Often referred to as the Microsoft campus, the new location gave Microsoft a college-campus atmosphere. Employees could have picnics on the lawn on sunny days, or they could go bowling in the halls on rainy days!
Shortly after this move, Gates realized that it was necessary for Microsoft to go public. The opening price for a Microsoft stock was $25.75. By the end of the day, it was up to $27.75 a share! Gates became a billionaire that day.
1988 was a big year for Bill Gates. First, the building of his "house" commenced. This house was more of a mansion! It was actually five separate houses that were connected to each other via underground tunnels. One house was to be the grand entry hall, another had guest bedrooms, a library, a small movie theater, and a dining room, the third was a large reception hall, the fourth a beach house, and the fifth was to be Gates's private home. This house was very high-tech. It is the type of complex that Gates has envisioned for the future.
Then, in 1990, the infamous Windows 3.0 was introduced. Windows 3.0, the successor to Windows 1.0 was an immediate success! It was a huge hit, and sold more than 2 million copies in the first year!
That same year, legal issues arose for Microsoft. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) viewed some of Microsoft's actions as being a monopoly, which is illegal. A monopoly is when a single company takes over an industry so that there will be no competition. In addition to that, the FTC thought that Microsoft was sabotaging other companies! Microsoft was accused of spreading a rumor that DR DOS, the operating system developed by Dell, Inc., did not work with Windows. This, of course, was false. Because of these rumors, it was decided that Microsoft's business practices were unethical. When Gates refused to change them, the FTC handed over the case to the United States Department of Justice. A few years later, in 1995, this case was called off. Why? Well, because of Microsoft, the United States was now the world leader in software. The US needed Microsoft. However, Microsoft also did agree to make a few changes in its business practices.
Meanwhile, entangled between hours of work and long business trips, Gates met Melinda Finch, who had been a product manager at Microsoft. The two were married on New Years Day of 1994 in Hawaii. Two years after their marriage, their daughter, Jennifer Katharine Gates, was born.
Today, Bill Gates has continued to revolutionize the personal computer industry. Later releases of Windows, like Windows '98, Windows 2000, Windows Me, and Windows XP have intrigued the public! They have made computing so easy that even little kids can use them! These new operating systems have creative user interfaces that optimize your computing experience. Furthermore, Gates has released Internet Explorer, a very popular Internet browser.
Bill Gates is not only involved in business and work, but he has put much of his earnings to charity. He has donated millions of dollars to United Way, to the University of Washington, to Harvard, to Stanford, as well as to his old high school, Lakewood. Above all, Gates has created the Gates Library Foundation. This is a foundation whose goal is to introduce computers and the digital world to low-income areas in the United States. With his wife, Bill Gates has donated millions of dollars for this project. Now, many libraries throughout the United States are equipped with computers and Internet access! With this development, Gates hopes to breach the Digital Divide- the barrier between those with computers and those without.
Nobody knows exactly what the future will bring, but you can be sure that whatever it is, Gates will play a major role in it!