Bill Gates - Biography

William Henry Gates III

ByStacey Reitz

Bill Gates, Born: October 28, 1951 in Seattle, Washington.
Bill had a vision as a teenager that every business and household should have a computer. The realization of Bill Gates' vision has changed the computing world.
Education: Attended Harvard University
Professional Experience: Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Microsoft Corporation, 1975 - Present.
Founded Lakeside Programming Group, 1971 - 1974
Honors: 1992, National Medal of Technology William Henry Gates was born into an affluent Seattle family. Gates is the second of three children of William and Mary Gates. Gates' parents were involved in politics and business and they encouraged their children to get involved in their lives. Gates worked as a page at the State capital in Olympia, Washington and in Washington D.C. Confidence and intelligence are two traits that helped Gates obtain his goals. Mathematics, business and computing were fields in which Gates had keen interests. Gates and his friends often studied Fortune magazine for fun. It is these characteristics that helped Bill Gates change the computing world.
At thirteen, Gates enrolled in Lakeside, a very strict, private school. Lakeside offered students the opportunity to explore their own interests. Gates would read far ahead in his classes giving himself free time to explore his interests in computers and business. When Gates was in eighth grade, Lakeside bought a teletype machine and computer time from a donation from the "Mothers Club" rummage sale. The system was an ASR-33 Teletype with paper type connected over a phone line to a GE computer. Mastering the operation of this machine became a contest between the students. Computer time was very expensive, and after a short time the donation from the "Mothers Club" was exhausted. Obtaining free computer time would become a main goal of Gates and his best friend, Paul Allen.
BASIC was the language run by the GE computer system. Gates and Allen would spend hours reading the BASIC manuals and teaching themselves the language. The two boys finally found a local business to pay for all their computer time. The company had a DEC machine which also ran BASIC. Gates and Allen would go to the Computer Center Corporation, C-Cubed, at night and look for computer bugs in exchange for computer time. Gates spent the next couple of years at the computer center teaching himself FORTRAN, LISP and PDP-10 machine language. The boys would not just look for bugs, but they would also study the operating system from discarded code they found in the trash. Two others, Ric Weiland and Kent Evans, joined Gates and Allen at the computing center and the four of them became addicted to learning everything they could about computers. These four youths called themselves the Lakeside Programming Group.
The Lakeside Programming Group was a profitable experience. The C-Cubed corporation eventually went bankrupt and Gates and his friends were forced to find another source of free computer time. The programming group found a company in Portland that used the same PDP-10 machine as C-Cubed. Gates contacted the company and persuaded it to let the group write a COBOL payroll program in exchange for free computer time. By coding this program, the group learned much about payroll, taxes and labor reports: business information that interested them.
A major event occurred during the coding of the payroll project. The other members of the group did not think the project was big enough for all four members and asked Gates to leave. Gates's response was "Look, if you (ever) want me to come back you have to let me be in charge. But this is a dangerous thing, because if you put me in charge this time, I'm going to want to be in charge forever after" (Bill Gates Interview, 8). The group reconsidered and agreed to Gates's terms and the payroll project was completed on time. Gates's confidence and self-assurance began to blossom.
Other job opportunities came to the Lakeside Programming Group. The boys did a scheduling system for Lakeside school and were paid $4,200.00. They also coded "Traf-O-Data" for the Washington State Road Department. This program tabulated readings from pressure hoses on roadways which determined the location of traffic lights and how to distribute road repair funds.
Gates graduated from Lakeside in 1973 and enrolled in Harvard University to study mathematics or law. He really did not have much interest in computer science. He felt he was computer literate and thought the computer science crowd was uninteresting. While walking through Harvard Square one day, Allen and Gates noticed something that would change their lives forever. The two saw a copy of Popular Electronics magazine. On the cover of the magazine was a picture of the Altair, a computer kit which you could assemble yourself.
When Gates and Allen were still in Lakeside, they dreamed of starting a computer company that would use the same Intel microprocessor as the Altair. Gates, Allen and their friend, Paul Gilbert, a wiring wizard, built their own machine at Lakeside, using Intel's 8008 1k microprocessor chips. The group had an opportunity to demonstrate their machine but they could not get it working and abandoned the idea. After seeing this magazine and not wanting to be excluded, Gates contacted Ed Roberts of the MITS company and proposed to write some BASIC software for the Altair.
The two started on their new project immediately. Allen worked on the assembler and Gates started the coding. A third person, Monte Davidoff, joined the team and wrote several math packages. None of the team members had ever seen the Altair machine or the Intel processor. One mistake would cause the software not to run. Gates contacted MITS to inform it of their progress. MITS personnel were impressed with what they were hearing and decided to meet Paul Allen and test the team's code.
At MITS corporate locale in Albuquerque, Paul Allen loaded the team's code onto the Altair. On the second try, the system booted and worked as planned. Gates and Allen moved to Albuquerque to help MITS with the Altar. In April, 1975, Gates and Allen founded the Microsoft Corporation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Microsoft would sell its BASIC system to MITS, NCR and Intel. It was much cheaper for these companies to buy Microsoft's software than to write their own. Gates and Allen hired Marc McDonald and Ric Weiland, both high school friends, to help with Microsoft's expansion.
On January 1, 1979, Bill Gates moved Microsoft and its sixteen employees from Albuquerque to Seattle, Washington. Gates thought that recruiting programmers would be easier from this site. Microsoft developed a standard for hiring new employees. Only the most gifted and intelligent new college graduates would be hired. Little job experience was considered positive from Microsoft's point of view. An employee with little experience would have no bias'.
The expansion of personnel lead to the development of a Microsoft spreadsheet program and Microsoft Word. Interests in graphical interfaces were realized. In 1981, Gates purchased the SCP-DOS operating system from Seattle Computer Products, later modifying the operating system to MS-DOS. Gates made a deal with IBM to write an operating system for its new line of personal computers, and in 1981, MS-DOS was shipped on all new IBM PC's. Microsoft made additional technological breakthroughs in the 1980's. In April, 1983, Microsoft introduced the "mouse" and in November 1983, a graphical user interface known as "Windows" was introduced.

On March 13, 1986, Microsoft went public on the Stock Exchange. The initial offering for a share of Microsoft stock was $21.00 per share. Bill Gates became an instant millionaire. At thirty-one, Gates joined the Gatesionaires club and became the richest man in the United States. The 1990's are proving to be an exciting time for Bill Gates. In July, 1990, the Microsoft Corporation became the first software company to earn over one Gatesion dollars in sales. Windows 3.0, released in May, 1990, received great public reviews. In June, 1992, Gates was awarded the National Medal of Technology from President George Bush. On January 1, 1994, Melinda French, a marketing manager from Microsoft, married Gates on Lanai, Hawaii. Jennifer Katherine Gates, Gates and Melinda's daughter, was born on April 26th 1994.
Bill Gates has transformed the computing world in the short twenty-five year interval since he first learned BASIC on the GE machine. The development of MS-DOS, Windows, and the introduction of the mouse have brought computing down to a personal level. Gates's goal to have a computer in every household is being realized. His dreams have created a very competitive software and hardware computer industry. Bill Gates has had a huge influence on how the world processes information. Society has been transformed by a man with a vision.