Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from F-J

Gates, Bill - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Social and Economic Impact, Chronology: Bill Gates

microsoft software windows computer

Microsoft Corporation


William Henry Gates III became known as “The King of Software” by designing and developing innovative software for the personal computer (PC), helping to make them the universally popular machines they are today. With his high school friend, Paul Allen, Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft Corporation, which he built into a multibillion-dollar company.

Personal Life

William Henry Gates III was born October 28, 1955, in Seattle, Washington. His father, William Henry Gates Jr., is a prominent Seattle attorney, and his mother, the late Mary Maxwell, was a school teacher, regent at the University of Washington and chairperson of the United Way International. He married Melinda French Gates, a Microsoft manager, in 1994. Together they have a daughter, Jennifer, born in April of 1996. In his leisure time Gates enjoys reading, playing golf, and bridge. Gates received $2.5 million in advance for his bestseller The Road Ahead. The book covers Gates’s views on the future of the Internet.

Gates developed an early interest in computer science in the seventh grade at Seattle’s Lakeside School. There Gates became acquainted with Paul Allen, a teenager with a similar interest in technology who would eventually become one of his business partners. Gates entered Harvard University in 1973 to study pre-law. By 1975, Gates had decided to pursue a career in computer software and dropped out of Harvard.

Career Details

Gates’s early experiences with computers included debugging (or eliminating errors from) programs for the Computer Center Corporation’s PDP-10, helping computerize electric power grids for the Bonneville Power Administration, and—while still in high school—founding with high school friend, Paul Allen, a firm named Traf-O-Data. Their small company earned them $20,000 in fees for analyzing local traffic patterns.

While working with the Computer Center’s PDP-10, Gates was responsible for what was probably the first computer virus, which is a program that copies itself into other programs and ruins data. Discovering that the machine was hooked up to a national network of computers called Cybernet, Gates invaded the network and installed a program on the main computer that sent itself to the rest of the network’s computers: Cybernet crashed. When Gates was found out, he was severely reprimanded, causing him to stay away from computers for his entire junior year at Lakeside.

In January of 1975 Allen showed Gates a cover story in the magazine Popular Mechanics about a $350 million microcomputer, the Altair, made by a firm Called MITS in New Mexico. When he saw the story, Gates knew he wanted to be in the forefront of computer software design. “What first got me so interested in software development, and eventually led to the founding of Microsoft, was the excitement I felt as a teenager when I realized that computers gave me feedback and information like a puzzle to be studied and solved,” said Bill Gates (http://www.microsoft.com).

Gates and Allen first wrote a BASIC interpreter for the Altair computer. BASIC being a simple, interactive computer language designed in the 1960s and “interpreter” program that executes a source program by reading it one line at a time and performing operations immediately.

When Gates dropped out of Harvard in 1975, he ended his academic life and began his career in earnest as a software designer and entrepreneur. At this time, he and Allen became cofounders of Microsoft. They wrote programs for the early Apple and Commodore machines and expanded BASIC to run on microcomputers other than the Altair.

Gates’s big opportunity arrived in 1980 when IBM approached him to help with their personal computer project, code named Project Chess. Gates created the Microsoft Disk Operating System, or MS-DOS, and its related applications can run on almost any IBM compatible PC. By the early 1990s, Microsoft had sold more than 100 million copies of MS-DOS, making the operating system the all-time leader in software sales.

Gates’s other interests encompass medicine and the arts. In 1989 he started a company called Corbis. Corbis owns the rights to 800,000 digitized images. The images are licensed by newspapers and magazines and published by them either in print or electronic form. Another interest of his is biotechnology, because of the breakthroughs that have occurred using this technology. He believes that with the Internet, researchers will be able to communicate faster with each other, thus leading to more cures. Finding the best way to treat or prevent illness is important to Gates. He donated $1.5 million in 1998 to the International Aids Vaccine Scientific Blueprint project in the hope of developing a vaccine for Aids.

By the end of 1998, Gates was worth around $39 billion, making him the wealthiest self-made man in the entire world. In 1997, Microsoft recorded a net income of $3.4 billion. This made up 41 percent of the profits of the 10 largest publicly traded software companies. This period saw the roll out of Windows 95 and 98, major updates of the world’s preeminent computer operating system, Windows. In the first three days of its release, Windows 98 sold more than 500,000 copies, matching the sales of Windows 95 in its debut.

Gates’s competitive drive and fierce desire to win have made him a powerful force in business, but have also consumed much of his personal life. In the six years between 1978 and 1984 he took a total of only two weeks vacation.

Social and Economic Impact

Accompanying Gates’s competitive drive is a fear of losing. A guiding force in Microsoft’s economics is Gates’s insistence that rather than incurring debt, Microsoft should have on hand enough cash to operate for a year without any revenues. Business associates have argued the point with him and succeeded to a certain extent in acquiring cash for investment in expansion and development; however, as of January 1997, Microsoft had $8 billion in cash and no long-term debt.

In 1987 Gates entered the world of computer-driven multimedia when he began promoting CD-ROM technology. Gates envisioned the expansion of his business by combining PCs with the information reservoirs provided by CD-ROM and was soon marketing a number of multimedia products.

In addition, Gates invested $1 billion in the cable company Comcast in 1998 in an effort to persuade the cable industry to assist in developing faster connections using cable modems. That same year, Microsoft formed the Cable Broadband Forum with Intel, TCI, and Time Warner to promote cable modems. The company also invested $425 million to guarantee itself a 20 percent equity stake in the cable access venture, Road Runner.

Microsoft employs around 20,000 people in 48 countries. A typical Microsoft employee is very intelligent, but may only have little if any experience—much like Gates’s own background. Gates also invites challenge and confrontation to maintain flexibility. As a student of business history, Gates came to believe that it is paramount for corporate executives to be sensitive to change in their industries and that they remain flexible in order to respond to change when necessary and to seize opportunities. In Hard Drive, James Wallace and Jim Erickson quoted Gates as saying, “I can do anything if I put my mind to it.”

Gates’s strategy has been to leverage Microsoft’s desktop operating system to dominate all software sales—from word processing to spreadsheets. Because most new PCs are equipped with the Windows operating system, Gates can place icons for Microsoft software packages on the desktops when a computer is purchased. Also, Microsoft’s large cash reserves give it an advantage over its competitors. Microsoft can enter a new market or introduce a new package without needing to make a profit from the outset.

With these successes have come scrutiny. In April 1995, when Microsoft attempted to make the biggest acquisition in the history of the software industry by purchasing Intuit, a maker of personal-finance software, the antitrust division of the Department of Justice blocked the deal and Microsoft backed off. However, competitors continue to complain that Microsoft uses an existing monopoly to retard the development of new technology. It was the bundling of software, such as Web browsers with Windows 95 and 98 that prompted the Justice Department to file an antitrust lawsuit against the company in 1998. A U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled that Microsoft was free to bundle its software, but a court date was set for September 1998 to determine the final ruling.

Microsoft tripled its sales in the early 1990s with its successful Windows debut. Microsoft Network (MSN) was launched in 1994, Windows 95 was released in August 1995, and Windows 98 made its debut in June 1998. At first, while Microsoft was enjoying these successes, other companies were making inroads in the development of software for the World Wide Web (WWW). But in the fall of 1995, Gates realized that 20 million people were surfing the net without Microsoft software. An aggressive campaign was launched to raise Microsoft’s stake in the Web. Staffing was increased, software was bought, and deals were cut—America Online (AOL) was given an icon in Windows 95 in exchange for using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer as its principal web browser. Windows 97 integrates its Internet Explorer browser and MSN into its Windows operating system, creating an active desktop. In 1998, Microsoft gained a significant hold on Web browsers, the NetAction consumer group reported. It found that four of the largest Internet service providers (ISP) distributed only Microsoft’s Explorer.

Chronology: Bill Gates

1955: Born.

1972: Established Traft-O-Data firm.

1973: Developed BASIC computer program for MITS Altair.

1975: Cofounded Microsoft with Paul Allen.

1984: Sold 2 million copies of MS-DOS.

1987: Unveiled Windows software.

1989: Founded Corbis Corp.

1995: Offered the Windows 95 update.

1995: Published The Road Ahead .

1998: Becomes the world’s wealthiest self-made man.

Microsoft’s influence is spreading to banking, retailing, entertainment, and the news. MSNBC debuted on July 15, 1996. This is a joint venture between Microsoft and General Electric’s NBC, which offers a 24-hour cable-TV-news channel with a companion Web site. Gates envisions the merging of content and software and with this move has positioned Microsoft to be at the forefront. Real estate is another area that Gates became involved with in 1998, when Cliveden PLC of the UK, a luxury hotel and leisure club operator, agreed to be purchased by Destination USA, a group of US investors, of which Gates owns 10 percent.

Gates also envisions Microsoft as being the number one software provider to China, the world’s largest emerging software market. By training technicians at China’s universities and centers, developing Chinese-language Windows operating systems, providing Chinese government ministries with PCs that use Windows and DOS, and by developing with Chinese researchers interactive TV and speech and handwriting recognition programs, Gates is laying the groundwork for enormous Microsoft sales.

Gaultier, Jean-Paul [next] [back] Gasser, Herbert Spencer

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or

Vote down Vote up

over 4 years ago

Hi hello I am BIll Gates and I do not approve this message

Vote down Vote up

almost 4 years ago

ituPoker.Com Agen Poker Online Indonesia Terpercaya

Vote down Vote up

about 2 years ago

This doesn't help me with i have to do

Read more: Gates, Bill - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Social and Economic Impact, Chronology: Bill Gates - Microsoft, Software, Windows, and Computer - JRank Articles http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/6234/Gates-Bill.html#ixzz3gzpRAKe2

Vote down Vote up

over 3 years ago

This doesn't help me with i have to do