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Biography

Bill Gates

Biography >> Entrepreneurs
Gates giving a speech
Bill Gates
Source: US Treasury Department

Biography:

Where did Bill Gates grow up?

William Henry Gates III was born in Seattle, Washington on October 28, 1955. He was the middle child of William H. Gates II, a prominent Seattle lawyer, and Mary Gates, who worked as a teacher before she had kids. Bill had an older sister, Kristi, and a younger sister, Libby.

Bill loved to play board games and was competitive at most everything he did. He was an intelligent student and his best subject in grade school was math. However, Bill got easily bored with school and ended up getting into trouble a lot. His parents kept him occupied with outside activities like Boy Scouts (he earned his Eagle Scout badge) and reading science fiction books.

When Bill turned thirteen his parents sent him to the Lakeside Preparatory School hoping it would prove more of a challenge for him. It was at Lakeside where Bill met his future business partner Paul Allen. He also was introduced to computers at Lakeside.

Computers

At the time when Bill was growing up, there weren't home computers like the PC, the laptop, or the tablet like we have today. Computers were owned by large companies and took up lots of space. Lakeside school purchased time on one of these computers that the students could use. Bill found the computer fascinating. The first computer program he wrote was a version of tic-tac-toe.

At one point, Bill and some of his fellow students were banned from using the computer because they hacked it to get extra computing time. They then agreed to look for bugs in the computer system in return for computer time. Later, while still in high school, Bill wrote a payroll program for a company and a scheduling program for his school. He even started a business with his friend Paul Allen writing a computer program that helped to track traffic patterns in Seattle.

College

After graduating from high school in 1973, Gates attended Harvard University. At first he planned to study as a lawyer, but he continued to spend much of his time on computers. He also kept in touch with his friend Paul Allen who was working for Honeywell.

When the Altair personal computer came out in 1974, Gates and Allen decided they could write a BASIC software program to run on the computer. They called up Altair and told them they were working on the program. Altair wanted a demonstration in a few weeks, but Gates hadn't even started on the program. He worked hard over the next month or so and, when they finally went to New Mexico to run the software, it worked perfectly the first time.

Starting Microsoft

In 1975, Gates dropped out of Harvard to start a software company with Paul Allen called Microsoft. The company was doing well, but it was in 1980 that Gates made a deal with IBM that would change computing. Microsoft reached a deal to provide the MS-DOS operating system on the new IBM PC. Gates sold the software to IBM for a fee of $50,000, however he held onto the copyright of the software. When the PC market took off, Microsoft also sold MS-DOS to other PC manufacturers. Soon, Microsoft was the operating system in a large percentage of computers around the world.

Bill Gates sitting down talking
Bill Gates
Source: U.S. Department of State

Windows

In 1985, Gates and Microsoft took another risk. They released the Microsoft Windows operating system. This was Microsoft's answer to a similar operating system introduced by Apple in 1984. At first, many people complained that Microsoft Windows wasn't as good as the Apple version. However, Gates continued to press the open PC concept. Microsoft Windows could run on a variety of PC compatible machines, while the Apple operating system only ran on Apple machines. Microsoft won the operating system battle and was soon installed on nearly 90% of the world's personal computers.

Microsoft Grows

Gates wasn't satisfied with just winning the operating system portion of the software market. Over the next few years he introduced new products such as Windows Office programs like Word and Excel. The company also introduced new and improved versions of Windows.

World's Richest Man

In 1986, Gates took Microsoft public. The company's stock was worth $520 million. Gates owned 45 percent of the stock himself which was worth $234 million. The company continued its rapid growth and the stock price soared. At one point, Gates' stock was worth over $100 billion. He was the richest man in the world.

Why was Bill Gates successful?

Like most successful entrepreneurs, Bill Gates' success came from a combination of hard work, intelligence, timing, business sense, and luck. Gates constantly challenged his employees to work harder and innovate, but he also worked as hard or harder than the people who worked for him. Gates also wasn't afraid to take risks. He took a risk when he dropped out of Harvard to start his own company. He also took a risk when he changed Microsoft's operating system from MS-DOS to Windows. However, his risks were calculated. He had confidence in himself and his product.

Personal Life

Gates married Melinda French in January of 1994. They have since had three children including two daughters and a son. In 2000, Gates and his wife formed the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Today, this is one of the largest charitable foundations in the world. Gates personally has donated over $28 billion to charity.

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Works Cited

Biography >> Entrepreneurs





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