Bill Gates

A similar version of Microsoft Chairman's biography can be found at his official site. For those who wonder what the lights beside him represent, it is as simple as new innovative ideas that bring positive advances to the sector of high technology.


Gates, William Henry, III (1955- ), American business executive, who serves as chairman and chief software architect of , the leading computer software company in the United States. Gates cofounded Microsoft in 1975 with high school friend, Paul Allen. The company's success made Gates one of the most influential figures in the computer industry and, eventually, the richest person in the world.

Born in Seattle, Washington, Gates attended public school through the sixth grade. In the seventh grade he entered Seattle's exclusive Lakeside School, where he met Paul Allen. Gates was first introduced to computers and programming languages in 1968, when he was in the eighth grade. That year Lakeside bought a teletype machine that connected to a mainframe computer over phone lines. At the time, the school was one of the few that provided students with access to a computer.

Soon afterward, Gates, Allen, and other students convinced a local computer company to give them free access to its PDP-10, a new minicomputer made by . In exchange for the computer time, the students tried to find flaws in the system. Gates spent much of his free time on the PDP-10 learning programming languages such as FORTRAN. In 1972 Gates and Allen founded Traf-O-Data, a company that designed and built computerized car-counting machines for traffic analysis. The project introduced them to the programmable 8008 microprocessor from Intel Corporation.

While attending Harvard University in 1975, Gates teamed with Allen to develop a version of the BASIC programming language for the Altair 8800, the first personal computer. They licensed the software to the manufacturer of the Altair, Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), and formed Microsoft (originally Micro-soft) to develop versions of BASIC for other computer companies. Gates decided to drop out of Harvard in his junior year to devote his time to Microsoft.

In the early 1980s, Gates led Microsoft's evolution from a developer of programming languages to a diversified software company producing operating systems and applications software as well as programming tools. This transition began in 1981 with Microsoft's introduction of, the operating system for the IBM PC, the new personal computer from International Business Machines Corporation (IBM). Gates persuaded other computer manufacturers to standardize on MS-DOS, fueling software compatibility and computer industry growth in the 1980s. Gates also pushed Microsoft to introduce application software, such as Microsoft Word word-processing software.

Under Gates's leadership, Microsoft expanded rapidly in the 1980s and 1990s, driven by the success of its applications software and operating systems. The company's Windows operating systems, which employed a graphical user interface, became the most widely used operating systems for personal computers. As the company grew, the value of its stock boomed. In 1987, at age 31, Gates—who then owned about 40 percent of the company's stock—became the youngest self-made billionaire in American history. By 1999 Gates had amassed a personal fortune in excess of $80 billion, making him the wealthiest individual in the world.

Gates has made personal investments in other high-technology companies. In 1989 he founded Corbis Corporation, which now owns the largest collection of digital images in the world. In 1995 Corbis purchased the Bettmann Archive of 16 million photographic images and announced plans to digitize part of the collection. In 1994 Gates and Craig McCaw, a pioneer in the cellular telecommunications industry, became primary investors in Teledesic Corporation.Teledesic planned to launch several hundred low-orbiting artificial satellites to create a global, high-speed telecommunications network. Gates details his vision of technology's role in society in his book The Road Ahead (1995; revised, 1996).

In 1998 Gates relinquished his role of guiding the day-to-day business operations of Microsoft when he appointed an executive vice president of the company, Steve Ballmer, to the position of president. In 2000 Gates transferred the title of CEO to Ballmer, a change that allowed Gates to focus on the development of new products and technologies. Gates published Business @ the Speed of Thought, a book about the role technology can play in running a business, in 1999.

Gates was married on Jan. 1, 1994, to Melinda French Gates. The couple has three children: a daughter, Jennifer Katharine Gates, born in 1996; and a son, Rory John Gates, born in 1999 and a daughter, Phoebe Adelle Gates, born in 2002.

Gates is an avid reader and enjoys playing golf and bridge.

"Gates, William Henry, III," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2000 © 1997-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.