Sometimes, it all starts with a name; Bill Gates literally means: ‘the gate of money.’ Bill Gates has been one of the wealthiest people on earth for some time now and has ranked as number one for more than half of the years Forbes has been tracking and ranking the wealthiest individuals of the planet.
Bill Gates was born in 1955 in Seattle, Washington, to a father that was a lawyer and a mother who worked in the banking industry. His family always encouraged competition, something that would later help Gates in his desire to conquer the computing world.
Noticing his high intelligence, Bill’s parents enrolled him in a private school, Lakeside School, when he was only 13 years old. It was there that Gates became fascinated by computers.
At Lakeside, Gates aggressively pursued his desire and was notably part of a group of students that were given the opportunity to find bugs in systems belonging to CCC (Computer Center Corporation).
Gates would later be contracted by his own school to develop a program for scheduling classes for students, an opportunity the mischievous teenager took advantage of to place himself in classes with ‘interesting girls’.
Gates graduated from Lakeside as a National Merit Scholar and joined Harvard University. In a dilemma, not knowing what to pursue, Gates chose a pre-law major, but also studied mathematics and graduate level computer science. He would later drop out after only two years at Harvard when he saw the opportunity to start his own software company.
Together with his long-time friend, Paul Allen, Gates founded Microsoft in 1975. Gates envisioned a future where there would be a computer on every desk, with Microsoft the software powering it. Who is to say that wasn’t a near perfect prophesy?
The company’s first contract was developing software that would power Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) computers. It was this early that Gates encountered the problem of counterfeits, with multiple copies of their first Microsoft Altair BASIC, leaking among users.
Gates became an ardent advocate for protecting the intellectual rights of software developers and even wrote to the Altair community warning that the use of pirated software versions would reduce the incentive for programmers to continually produce high-quality software.
Gates the Leader
In Microsoft’s early years, Gates would oversee its business aspects. His leadership qualities and especially his negotiation tactics would come to the fore when their next big opportunity came about in 1980.
Computer hardware giant, IBM, contacted Microsoft with a request for developing their operating system. In the contract, Gates cleverly inserted a clause that allowed Microsoft to license the operating system to other hardware makers under the name MS-DOS.
This one clause shaped the future of Microsoft, and who would have known that software is all that mattered, not the hardware. Only Gates perhaps! Microsoft would later, in 1985, release the first retail version of Microsoft Windows, and the rest, as they say, is history.
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As a natural competitor, Gates guided Microsoft to near total domination of the PC world, flooring major rivals in this space. Microsoft was even once deemed to have grown too big to operate as a single entity, and the US government wanted it to split.
After conquering it all in business, Gates has now refocused his energies on philanthropy. With his wife, Gates is now fully concerned with his foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
It is the largest private foundation in the world that mainly focuses on enhancing healthcare and reducing extreme poverty globally; while in the US, it concentrates on expanding educational opportunities and broadening access to information technology.
Gates once advised: ‘Don’t compare yourself with anyone in this world… if you do so, you are insulting yourself’. But who can compare to Bill Gates – there is clearly only one Bill Gates!