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Bill Gates

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For other uses, see Bill Gates (disambiguation).
Bill Gates
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Bill Gates

William Henry Gates III, KBE (born October 28, 1955), commonly known as Bill Gates, is an American businessman and a microcomputer pioneer. Along with others, he wrote the original Altair BASIC interpreter for the Altair 8800 (an early microcomputer). With Paul Allen, he co-founded Microsoft Corporation, and is now its chairman and "Chief Software Architect." According to Forbes magazine, Gates is the wealthiest person in the world.

Contents

Biography

Gates was born in Seattle, Washington, on October 28, 1955, to William H. Gates, Sr., a corporate lawyer, and Mary Maxwell Gates, board member of Berkshire Hathaway, First Interstate Bank, Pacific Northwest Bell and the national board of United Way. He is William Henry Gates III, his great-grandfather being the true William Henry Gates Sr.

Gates attended Lakeside School, Seattle's most exclusive prep school, where he was able to develop his programming skills on the school's minicomputer. In need of more computing power, Gates and his computer buddy, Paul Allen, sneaked into the University of Washington computer labs. They were later caught but struck an agreement with lab administrators by providing free computer help to students. He later went on to study at Harvard University but dropped out without graduating to pursue what would become a lifelong career in software development. It was while he was at Harvard that he met the current CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer. They were roommates during their freshman year.

While he was a student at Harvard, he co-wrote 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 (born April 26, 1996), Rory John Gates (born May 23, 1999) and Phoebe Adele Gates (born September 14, 2002).

In 1994, Gates acquired the Codex Leicester, a collection of writings by Leonardo da Vinci; as of 2003 it was on display at the Seattle Art Museum.

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On the cover of Time

In 1997, Gates was the victim of a bizarre extortion plot by Chicago resident Adam Quinn Pletcher. Gates testified at the subsequent trial. Pletcher was convicted and sentenced in July 1998 to six years in prison. In February 1998 he was attacked by Nol Godin with a cream pie.

In his religious views, it is likely that Gates is agnostic. Asked by a Time interviewer whether he believed in God, Gates replied, "I don't have any evidence on that." However, in a media interview in Australia, he claimed to know the Bible "very well" and often answered his children's questions about religion.

According to Forbes, Gates donated money to the 2004 presidential campaign of George W. Bush. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Gates is cited as having donated at least $33,335 to over 50 political campaigns during the 2004 election cycle.

On December 14, 2004, Bill Gates joined Berkshire Hathaway's board, formalizing the relationship between him and Warren Buffett. Berkshire Hathaway is a conglomerate that includes Geico (automobile insurance), Benjamin Moore (paint) and Fruit of the Loom (textiles). Gates also serves on the board of Icos, a Bothell biotech company.

On March 2, 2005, the Foreign Office of the United Kingdom announced that Gates would receive the title of Knight of the British Empire for his contribution to enterprise in the United Kingdom and his efforts in poverty reduction around the world. Because he is not a Commonwealth citizen, he cannot use the title of "Sir," but he may put the letters "KBE" after his name.

Home

The Gateses live in the exclusive suburb of Medina, Washington, in a huge earth-sheltered home in the side of a hill overlooking Lake Washington. The Gates home is a very modern 21st century house in the "Pacific lodge" style, with advanced 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. While it does have a classic flavor, the home has many unique qualities. Visitors are surveyed and given a microchip upon entrance. This small chip sends signals throughout the house, and a given room's temperature and other conditions will change according to preset user preferences. According to King County public records, as of 2002, the total assessed value of the property (land and house) is $113 million, and the annual property tax is just over $1 million.

House], interactive diagram of the house

Microsoft Corporation

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Bill Gates

Main article: Microsoft

In 1975, Gates and Allen co-founded Micro-Soft, later Microsoft Corporation, to market their version of BASIC, called Microsoft BASIC. Microsoft BASIC became the foundation of a successful software licensing business, being bundled (usually in ROM) with most home and personal computers of the 1970s and 1980s.

In February 1976, Bill Gates wrote the Open Letter to Hobbyists, which annoyed 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' 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.

Microsoft's key moment came when IBM was planning to enter the personal computer market with its IBM Personal Computer (PC), which was released in 1981. IBM approached Microsoft for an operating system (they had already licensed its language products), but Microsoft did not have one to sell and referred IBM to Digital Research. At Digital Research, IBM representatives spoke to Gary Kildall's wife Dorothy, but she declined to sign their standard non-disclosure agreement, which she considered overly burdensome. IBM then returned to talk to Microsoft. Gates obtained rights to a cloned design of CP/M, QDOS, from Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer products for $50,000 and licensed it to IBM for "about $80,000", according to Gates, and MS-DOS/PC-DOS was born. Later, IBM discovered that Gates' operating system could have infringement problems with CP/M, contacted Kildall, and in exchange for a promise not to sue, made an agreement that CP/M would be sold along with PC-DOS when the IBM PC was released. The price set by IBM for CP/M was $250, and for MS-DOS/PC-DOS it was $40. MS-DOS/PC-DOS outsold CP/M many times over, becoming the standard. Microsoft's licensing deal with IBM was not particularly lucrative in itself (it did not include royalties), but critically, Microsoft retained the right to sell MS-DOS to other computer manufacturers. By marketing MS-DOS aggressively to manufacturers of IBM-PC clones, Microsoft gained unprecedented visibility in the microcomputer industry, even rivalling IBM.

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.

In the late 1980s, Microsoft and IBM partnered in the development of a more advanced operating system, OS/2. The operating system was marketed in connection with a new hardware design, the PS/2, that was proprietary to IBM. As the project progressed, Gates oversaw continuing friction with IBM over the system's design, hardware support, and user interface. Ultimately he came to believe that IBM wanted to marginalize Microsoft from having any input in OS/2's development. On May 16, 1991, Gates announced to Microsoft employees that the OS/2 partnership was over and Microsoft would henceforth focus its platform efforts on Windows and the NT kernel. In the ensuing years OS/2 fell to the side, and Windows became the favored PC platform.

During the transition from MS-DOS to Windows, Microsoft gained ground on application software competitors such as WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3.

Some years later, Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser displaced Netscape's Navigator, which many attributed to Microsoft's inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows at no extra charge. An opposing view is that the inclusion in Windows was less important in Internet Explorer's adoption than Microsoft's improvement of the browser's features to a level comparable with Navigator.

As the architect of Microsoft's product strategy, Gates has aggressively broadened the company's range of products and, once it has obtained a leading position in a category, has vigorously defended that position. His and other Microsoft executives' strategic decisions have more than once drawn the concern of competition regulators and in some cases have been ruled illegal.

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".

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

With his wife, Gates founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a charitable organization. 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. The Foundation currently provides 90% of the world budget for the attempted eradication of poliomyelitis (polio), the World Health Organization having 'moved on' to other diseases. In June 1999, Gates and his wife donated US$5 billion to their foundation. They have donated more than US$100 million to help children suffering from AIDS. On January 26, 2005, it was announced that the Foundation had made a further contribution of US$750 million to the international Vaccine Fund to help fight diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, poliomyelitis and yellow fever. As of 2005, the foundation has an endowment of approximately US$28 billion.

Accolades

Criticism

See Common criticisms of Microsoft

Estimated wealth

Gates has been number one of the "Forbes 400" 1993-2005; he's been number one of Forbes "The World's Richest People" 1996, 1998-2005. According to Forbes list of "The World's Richest People" [3] (http://www.forbes.com/lists/home.jhtml?passListId=10&passYear=1996&passListType=Person) his net worth has been:

  • 1996 - US$18.5 billion, ranked #1
  • 1997 - $36.4 billion, ranked #2 ([4] (http://www.forbes.com/lists/home.jhtml?passListId=10&passYear=1997&passListType=Person)) (behind the Sultan of Brunei who was included for this one year despite Forbes' usual policy of excluding heads of state)
  • 1998 - $51.0 billion, ranked #1
  • 1999 - $90.0 billion, ranked #1
  • 2000 - $95.0 billion, ranked #1
  • 2001 - $51.7 billion, ranked #1
  • 2002 - $58.8 billion, ranked #1
  • 2003 - $64.7 billion, ranked #1
  • 2004 - $78.6 billion, ranked #1
  • 2005 - $86.5 billion, ranked #1

The reduction in Gates' wealth since 2000 reflects a fall in Microsoft's share price and the multi-billion dollar gifts he has made to his charitable foundations. Again, according to a 2004 Forbes magazine article, Gates has given away over $28 billion to charities over the last few years.

Portrayals in films and TV

Bill Gates is often characterized as the quintessential example of a super-intelligent nerd with immense power. This has in turn led to pop culture stereotypes of Gates as a tyrant or evil genius commanding power over an all-powerful empire of technology. Several films and television shows have portrayed either the real Bill Gates or a fictionalized version of him, often according to these cliches.

Bill Gates is also thought by the media to be obsessed with his IQ, and IQ in general. His IQ is commonly believed to be around 160; however, many people estimate that had he sat the SAT exam, his result would only translate to a more modest IQ score of around 120-140.

Fictional portrayals

Films and television shows that have portrayed a fictionalized version of Gates include:

  • The Net (1995) — Angela Bennett, a reclusive software engineer played by Sandra Bullock, inadvertently discovers a backdoor in a security program being marketed to the federal government by a Microsoft-like software company headed by billionaire Jeff Gregg, who bears a marked resemblance to Bill Gates in the few scenes where he appears. The discovery makes Angela the target of a cyber-terrorist group known as the Praetorians, apparently loyal to Gregg, who erase her identity and attempt to kill her in an effort to recover the incriminating disk.
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Simpsons Episode "Das Bus"
  • Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) — Elliot Carver (played by Jonathan Pryce) is the head of a major communication organisations. One of the companies Carver owns is in the business of developing operating systems and software that are bug-ridden, forcing users into a perpetual upgrade cycle. What appears to be Carver's software development strategy has been a constant criticism of the operating system manufactured under the leadership of Bill Gates. Carver and Gates also appear to be somewhat similar.
  • The Simpsons (February 15, 1998) (Season 9, Episode 5F11) — Bill Gates comes to "buy" Homer Simpson's ambiguous internet company, CompuGlobalHyperMegaNet. Gates orders his underlings to "buy out" Simpson's business, so they wreck the place. When Homer asks for the money Gates replies, "Oh, I didn't get rich by writing a lot of checks! [manic laughter]"
  • South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (1999) — An Army general complains that his new Windows 98 upgrade is no more stable than his previous copy of Windows 95 and demands to see Bill Gates. When an animated Gates begins to explain just how much stabler Windows 98 actually is using technobabble, the general shoots him.
  • Pretty Sammy 2, an anime title, has an evil character called Biff Standard, whose software company StandardSoft tries to conquer the Japanese operating system market (dominated by the obviously superior Pineapple software in this show) by actively persecuting the main characters.
  • Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999) — a dramatized film about the history of Apple and Microsoft, with Anthony Michael Hall playing Bill Gates.
  • Tom Clancy's Net Force (1999) — Many believe the main protagonist, William Stiles, who tries to take over the world via control of the internet, to be based on Bill Gates. They note the similarities in the names, William being the longhand of Bill and a stile being a small bridge over a wall used instead of a gate.
  • 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. Gates is also mentioned by name in the film.
  • Clockstoppers (2002) — Henry Gates is a megalomaniacal corporate head who wants to take over the world using technology. (Henry is Bill Gates' middle name.)
  • Nothing So Strange (2002) — a film about a fictional assassination of Gates in 1999.
  • 2DTV (2004) (Series 4, Episode 6) — Bill Gates is seen at his "computer-shaped" home writing a letter to a customer, when the Office Assistant pops up and starts annoying Gates. Ultimately, it drives the animated Gates to near-suicide, at which point the paperclip proclaims, "Hi there, it looks like you're writing a suicide note", and a number of disgruntled customers appear, continuing, "would you like some help?". Gates also appears in episode 4 of this series, in an animated "Matrix for Windows" spoof, mocking the growing size of Microsoft operating systems.
  • Family Guy (August 29, 2001) (Season 3, Episode 08) — Gates flies through the air on a jetpack with Disney CEO and chairman Michael Eisner, who says, "God, the people look like ants from up here", to which Gates replies, "They are ants, Michael, they ARE ants!"
  • Family Guy (November 29, 2001) (Season 3, Episode 12) — Gates is playing poker with Peter Griffin, Mr. Pewterschmidt, Michael Eisner, and Ted Turner in one episode. When Turner asks whether Aces are high or low, Peter says, "They go both ways," and so Gates says, "Hah! He said they go both ways!" Then Turner explains the joke and kills it. Later in the episode, Peter brakes behind a toll booth and asks for a quarter to defray the toll. Gates replies, "What's a quarter?", a question which the other men begin to ponder as well.
  • In CnC: Yuri's Revenge, a man known only as "Chairman Bing" appears as the CEO of a company named Massivesoft.
  • In Robopon 2 (video game for the Game Boy Advance), there is a man named Mr. Gait who owns a giant software conglomerate named Macrosoft.
  • An episode of Pinky And The Brain features The Brain's arch Nemesis, Snowball, attempting to take over the world by impersonating the millionaire software designer "Bill Grates".

Real-life portrayals

Films and television shows where Bill Gates has actually appeared as himself include:

  • Frasier — Bill Gates is invited as a guest speaker on Dr. Frasier Crane's radio show. However, straight from the moment the radio show starts, all the callers only have questions for Gates (about Windows computers), and Dr. Crane does not get any attention.
  • Triumph of the Nerds — Bill Gates gives an interview in the documentary film that explores the history of the personal computer.

References in computer software

Many computer programs, most of which are for systems other than Microsoft Windows, contain more-or-less direct references to Bill Gates. Obviously, these references are less than flattering. Some include:

  • The Open Source game XBill, in which a character known as "Bill", wearing large eyeglasses, is trying to install Wingdows (a virus disguised as windows) on computers running other operating systems.
  • The Amiga game Uropa, in which the main enemy is known as "Bill Setag" (Gates in reverse).
  • In Might and Magic VII: For Blood and Honor, the player is given a side-quest to kill an evil villain named "William Setag" and rescue the princess he kidnapped.
  • The Windows game Arcanum includes a character named Gilbert Bates, who is a fabulously wealthy entrepeneur. The familiar form of his name, Gil Bates, is a spoonerism of Bill Gates.
  • The PC adventure game Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon features a software company called ScumSoft, which is an obvious parody of Microsoft Corporation. The company's evil president is a small, nerdy-looking guy with glasses called Elmo Pug, who bears a striking resemblance to Bill Gates.
  • A computer program for designing computer chips (Electronic Design Automation) called Build Gates, a gate in this context referring to a logic gate.
  • The name of SLAX's Kill Bill edition is a parody of the movie Kill Bill. The wallpaper is a Tux in a yellow jumpsuit similar to the bride in Kill Bill, who is going to Kill Bill (Gates).
  • In the Illusion Softworks game Mafia, a "William Gates" is featured as a supposed Kentuckian bootlegger.

Quotes

Template:Wikiquote

  • I want to make clear that we respect the role of government in our legal and economic system. — June 9, 2000 ([5] (http://story.news.yahoo.com/fc?tmpl=fc&cid=34&lp=3&ll=b3&pg=1&mod=video&in=tech&cat=microsoft_antitrust))
  • In terms of doing things I take a fairly scientific approach to why things happen and how they happen. I don't know if there's a god or not, but I think religious principles are quite valid.PBS interview with David Frost, November 1995

See also

Books by Bill Gates

Further reading

External links

Biographies
Philanthropy
Data
Articles

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