William Henry Gates III is an American business magnate, software developer, investor, author, and philanthropist. He is the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation.
William Henry Gates III was born on October 28, 1955, in Seattle, Washington. Gates was bullied as a child. He preferred to stay in his room where he would shout "I'm thinking" when his mother asked what he was doing. When he was 13, he enrolled in the private Lakeside prep school and he wrote his first software program. He was in eighth grade during his first year at Lakeside and the school's Mother's Club used proceeds from a fundraiser to buy a Teletype Model 33 ASR terminal and time on a GE computer for the school's students. Gates became interested in programming the GE computer in BASIC. He wrote his first program — a tic-tac-toe game, on this computer. Players played the game against the computer. Eventually, Gates and his friends Paul Allen, Ric Weiland, and Kent Evans were banned from using the school's computer after they were caught exploiting bugs in the operating system to get free time on the machine. The four students formed the Lakeside Programmers Club to make money.
When their ban was over, the boys offered to look for bugs in the software in exchange for extra time on the computer. Gates began studying code to the programs that ran on the computer including Fortran, Lisp, and machine language. In 1971, a Lakeside teacher asked Gates and Evans to automate the school's class-scheduling system. The friends wrote software with one twist–Gates changed the code so that he was in classes with a higher number of interesting girls. Gates and Evans wanted to have the new system up and running by senior year. Then, at the end of their junior year, Evans was killed in a mountain climbing accident. Gates turned to Allen to help him finish the project for Lakeside.
During their senior year, Gates and Allen formed a company called Traf-O-Data and made traffic counters on the Intel 8008 processer. He graduated from Lakeside School in 1973 and enrolled at Harvard in the fall of 1973. At Harvard, Gates took math and graduate-level computer science classes. He met Steve Ballmer at Harvard. Gates dropped out of college at the end of his sophomore year.
With the release of the MITS Altair 8800 based on the Intel 8080 CPU, Gates and Paul Allen saw this as the opening they needed to create their own computer software company. The creators of the new microcomputer, Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), formed a partnership with Gates and Allen using their Altair emulator that ran on a minicomputer, and then the BASIC interpreter. The trade name Microsoft was registered on November 26, 1976. During the first five years of the Microsoft company, Gates personally reviewed every line of code the company shipped, often rewriting code as needed. On November 20, 1985, Microsoft launched its first retail version of Microsoft Windows.
Microsoft went public in 1986. The opening stock price was $21. After the trading day, the stock closed at $27.75 and Bill's 45% was worth $350 million. Less than a year later, after the stock surged, he was a billionaire. He was 31 years old.
Gates announced on June 15, 2006, that he would transition out of his day-to-day role at Microsoft over the next two years in order to dedicate more time to philanthropy.
On March 13, 2020, Gates announced he would step down as Microsoft's Chairman.
In 1987, Melinda French went to work in the product development division of Microsoft. At some point, she and Bill were seated next to each other at a work dinner. They hit it off and Bill was soon calling Melinda to ask her out. Melinda eventually rose to the position of General Manager of Information Products. She stayed with Microsoft until 1996.
Bill and Melinda married on a golf course on the Hawaiian island of Lanai on January 1, 1994. They have three children; Phoebe Adele, Rory John, and Jennifer Katharine.
Gates purchased the Codex Leicester, a collection of scientific writings by Leonardo da Vinci, for $30.8 million at an auction in 1994.
Gates and his wife combined three family foundations to create the charitable Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, the largest transparently operated charitable foundation in the world.
On December 9, 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates and investor Warren Buffett each signed a commitment they called the Giving Pledge, which is a commitment by all three to donate at least half of their wealth, over the course of time, to charity.
Net Worth Details
Bill Gates has sold at least $40 billion in Microsoft stock and collected over $12 billion in dividends since the company's IPO in 1986. He used that money to create the holding company Cascade Investment which has continued to grow and includes investments in companies such as Canadian National Railway and AutoNation. Gates is quite a philanthropist and donated a $3.3 billion payout he received in 2004 to his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He still has a 1.3 percent stake in Microsoft.