William Henry Gates III (born October 28, 1955) is an American business magnate, philanthropist, the world's third richest person (as of 2008), and chairman of Microsoft, the software company he founded with Paul Allen. During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of CEO and chief software architect, and remains the individual shareholder with the most shares, with more than 9 percent of the common stock. He has also authored or co-authored several books.
Gates was born in Seattle, Washington and excelled in school. He enrolled at Harvard College in 1973, where he met Steve Ballmer, who would later become CEO of Microsoft. After reading the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics, Gates contacted Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems and provided them with the Altair BASIC, and thus Microsoft was formed. This led to a partnership with IBM that required Microsoft to make the BASIC interpreter for the IBM PC. Later on, Gates struck another deal with IBM, allowing IBM to package Microsoft's PC-DOS software with IBM's personal computers in exchange for a fee paid to Microsoft for every computer sold. This deal established Microsoft as a major player in the software industry.
Gates is one of the best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution. Although he is admired by many, a large number of industry insiders criticize his business tactics, which they consider anti-competitive, an opinion which has in some cases been upheld by the courts. In the later stages of his career, Gates has pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors, donating large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, established in 2000.Bill Gates stepped down from most of his duties on June 27, 2008. Over a span of several years Ray Ozzie took over as chief software architect, Craig Mundie as chief research and strategy officer, and Steve Ballmer as chief executive officer. Gates remains the chairman of Microsoft's board of directors
Gates was born in Seattle, Washington, to William H. Gates, Sr. and Mary Maxwell Gates. His family was wealthy; his father was a prominent lawyer, his mother served on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem and the United Way, and her father, J. W. Maxwell, was a national bank president. Gates has one older sister, Kristi (Kristianne), and one younger sister, Libby. He was the fourth of his name in his family, but was known as William Gates III or "Trey" because his father had dropped his own "III" suffix. Early on in his life, Gates' parents had a law career in mind for him.
At thirteen he enrolled in the Lakeside School, an exclusive preparatory school. When he was in the eighth grade, the Mothers Club at the school used proceeds from Lakeside School's rummage sale to buy an ASR-33 teletype terminal and a block of computer time on a General Electric (GE) computer for the school's students. Gates took an interest in programming the GE system in BASIC and was excused from math classes to pursue his interest. He wrote his first computer program on this machine: an implementation of tic-tac-toe that allowed users to play games against the computer. Gates was fascinated by the machine and how it would always execute software code perfectly. When he reflected back on that moment, he commented on it and said, "There was just something neat about the machine." After the Mothers Club donation was exhausted, he and other students sought time on systems including DEC PDP minicomputers. One of these systems was a PDP-10 belonging to Computer Center Corporation (CCC), which banned four Lakeside students—Gates, Paul Allen, Ric Weiland, and Kent Evans—for the summer after it caught them exploiting bugs in the operating system to obtain free computer time.
At the end of the ban, the four students offered to debug CCC's software in exchange for free computer time. Rather than use the system via teletype, Gates went to CCC's offices and studied source code for various programs that ran on the system, including FORTRAN, LISP, and machine language. The arrangement with CCC continued until 1970, when it went out of business. The following year, Information Sciences Inc. hired the four Lakeside students to write a payroll program in COBOL, providing them computer time and royalties. After his administrators became aware of his programming abilities, Gates wrote the school's computer program to schedule students in classes. He modified the code so that he was placed in classes with mostly female students. He later stated that "it was hard to tear myself away from a machine at which I could so unambiguously demonstrate success." At age 17, Gates formed a venture with Allen, called Traf-O-Data, to make traffic counters based on the Intel 8008 processor. That first year he made $20,000; however, when his clients discovered his age, business slowed.Gates graduated from Lakeside School in 1973. He scored 1590 out of 1600 on his SATs, the standardized test for college admissions in the United States, and subsequently enrolled at Harvard College in the fall of 1973. While at Harvard, he met his future business partner, Steve Ballmer, whom he later appointed as CEO of Microsoft. He also met computer scientist Christos Papadimitriou at Harvard, with whom he collaborated on a paper about algorithms. He did not have a definite study plan while a student at Harvard, and eventually took a leave of absence in 1975. After Intel released the Intel 8080 CPU, Gates realized that this was the first computer chip which cost less than $200 that could run BASIC, making it the most affordable chip at the time to run inside a personal computer. He figured that this was the only chance he would get to take advantage of the timing, and decided to start a computer software company with Paul Allen. He had talked this decision over with his parents, who were supportive of him after seeing how much Gates wanted to start a software company.
Gates married Melinda French from Dallas, Texas on January 1, 1994. They have three children: Jennifer Katharine Gates (1996), Rory John Gates (1999) and Phoebe Adele Gates (2002). Bill Gates' house is a 21st century earth-sheltered home in the side of a hill overlooking Lake Washington in Medina, Washington. According to King County public records, as of 2006, the total assessed value of the property (land and house) is $125 million, and the annual property tax is $991,000. Also among Gates' private acquisitions is the Codex Leicester, a collection of writings by Leonardo da Vinci, which Gates bought for $30.8 million at an auction in 1994. Gates is also known as an avid reader and the ceiling of his large, home library is engraved with a quotation from The Great Gatsby.
Gates was number one on the "Forbes 400" list from 1993 through to 2007 and number one on Forbes list of "The World's Richest People" from 1995 to 2007. In 1999, Gates's wealth briefly surpassed $101 billion, causing the media to call him a "centibillionaire". Since 2000, the nominal value of his Microsoft holdings has declined due to a fall in Microsoft's stock price after the dot-com bubble and the multi-billion dollar donations he has made to his charitable foundations. In a May 2006 interview, Gates commented that he wished that he were not the richest man in the world because he disliked the attention it brought. Gates has several investments outside Microsoft, which in 2006 paid him a salary of $616,667, and $350,000 bonus totalling $966,667. He founded Corbis, a digital imaging company, in 1989. In 2004 he became a director of Berkshire Hathaway, the investment company headed by long-time friend Warren Buffett. He is a client of Cascade Investment Group, a wealth management firm with diverse holdings.
Time magazine named Gates one of the 100 people who most influenced the 20th century, as well as one of the 100 most influential people of 2004, 2005, and 2006. Time also collectively named Gates, his wife Melinda and alternative rock band U2's lead singer Bono as the 2005 Persons of the Year for their humanitarian efforts. In 2006, he was voted eighth in the list of "Heroes of our time". Gates was listed in the Sunday Times power list in 1999, named CEO of the year by Chief Executive Officers magazine in 1994, ranked number one in the "Top 50 Cyber Elite" by Time in 1998, ranked number two in the Upside Elite 100 in 1999 and was included in The Guardian as one of the "Top 100 influential people in media" in 2001.
Gates has received honorary doctorates from Nyenrode Business Universiteit, Breukelen, The Netherlands in 2000, the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden in 2002, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan in 2005, Harvard University in June 2007, and from Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, in January 2008. Gates was also made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) from Queen Elizabeth II in 2005, in addition to having entomologists name the Bill Gates flower fly, Eristalis gatesi, in his honor.
In November 2006, he and his wife were awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle for their philanthropic work around the world in the areas of health and education, particularly in Mexico, and specifically in the program "Un país de lectores".