William H. (Bill) Gates III
(Created by Warner Emdee, History 135, January 2001)
WWW Sites
Recommended Books
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Used with permission of www.corbis.com


computer chip imageAssignment

How have Bill Gates and Microsoft influenced the modern world?

computer chip imageBackground

Bill Gates was born in Seattle on October 28, 1955 to his parents, Mary and William Gates II.  He has two sisters. His father was a prominent Seattle lawyer, and his mother was a schoolteacher, University of Washington regent and chairwoman of United Way International. His great-grandfather was a state legislator and mayor, and his grandfather was the vice president of a national bank.

Bill demonstrated his intelligence and ambition early in life, and his parents decided to enroll him into the prestigious Lakeside private prep school. Bill first started working with computers at the school. His mother was on the committee that donated the terminal to the school, which was connected via a telephone to a local computer company. Bill and a few other students formed the Lakeside Programmers Group, and nearly spent all of their time on the computer writing programs for various purposes. The group was even banned from the computer for a few weeks for hacking into the security program and altering data on the system. Many of the group members ended up working at Microsoft as programmers. Bill later went onto Harvard University, but dropped out in 1974 to form Microsoft with Paul Allen, who had been a friend of Bill Gates since childhood. Bill Gates had known Steve Ballmer at Harvard, and they worked on programs together for the Altair computer. 

Microsoft was originally a company that wrote applications and languages. They had not written any operating systems when IBM approached them for help on the IBM personal computer. Seeing an opportunity, Bill Gates purchased the operating system known as CPM DOS from a small software company in Seattle, Washington. He then leased the operating system to IBM as MS-DOS. Initially this seemed like a good deal, but Bill soon realized that the lease agreement gave IBM unrestricted use of DOS. When COMPAQ approached Microsoft about licensing MS-DOS, Microsoft leased it to them on a per PC basis, which was more profitable for Microsoft. IBM was upset that Microsoft was leasing MS-DOS to its competitors, and negotiated for a new Operating system that would only run on IBM computers. Bill Gates tried to sell IBM on the idea of a new project that he was working on called Windows, but when IBM learned that it would run on all IBM PCs and the new IBM clone PCs, they lost interest. IBM wanted an operating system that would only work on IBM computers. Microsoft wrote OS2 for IBM, and ended with exclusive rights to DOS, and Windows. When Microsoft released Windows, Apple sued them claiming that it was a copy of their operating system that ran on Apple computers. Microsoft eventually won the lawsuit. In 1975, Microsoft had yearly revenue of $16,005. In 2000 that number had grown to $22.96 billion, and Microsoft currently employs more than 39,000 people in 60 countries.

Bill is currently chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft Corporation, which makes almost all of the dominant software products used on personal computers today. They make everything from the computer operating system to the applications that people use in daily life. Recently Microsoft has also made a push to dominate the Internet and Business Network Operating systems. Gates was formerly Chief Executive Officer, but recently passed that responsibility on to Steve Ballmer. Bill wanted to get back into programming because he felt that he had drifted away from it. Bill was married to Melinda French Gates in 1994 in Hawaii. They now have two children: a daughter, Jennifer Katharine Gates, born in 1996; and a son, Rory John Gates, born in 1999. Bill likes to read and play golf and bridge.

computer chip imageTimeline

1955 William Henry Gates III was born to William H. and Mary Maxwell Gates on October 28 shortly after 9 PM in Seattle Washington.

1967 William (Bill) Gates enrolled in the Lakeside School in Seattle.

1968 Lakeside School Mother’s Club gave the school a Digital training terminal, linked by telephone to a local computing company.

1972 Bill Gates was a congressional page during the summer.

1973 Bill Gates graduated from Lakeside High School and enrolled in Harvard University, where he majored in pre-law.

1974 The MITS Altair kit computer, mostly for electronic hobbyists, went on sale for $397.

1974 (April 14) Bill Gates and Paul Allen formed Micro-soft.

1975 Bill Gates and Paul Allen wrote the first language for a personal computer.

1976 Gates wrote his famous "Open Letter to Hobbyists", accusing them of software piracy.

1977 Micro-Soft owned rights to BASIC after a lawsuit with MITS.

1977 Micro-Soft released FORTRAN.

1978 Micro-Soft opened an office in Japan.

1979 Micro-Soft became Microsoft.

1979 Gates moved back to Seattle.

1980 Microsoft provided DOS to IBM for use on the IBM PC.  MS-DOS becamse the key to Microsoft’s success.

1981 (June 25) Microsoft was incorporated with Bill Gates as Chairman and CEO.

1985 Bill Gates gave keynote address at Comdex.

1985 Microsoft introduced Windows 1.0.

1986 Bill Gates became a billionaire at 31 years of age, the youngest person to ever do so.

1990 Microsoft released Windows 3.0.

1990 Microsoft sales topped $1 billion for the first time.

1993 Bill Gates received the National Medal of Technology from President Bush.

1994 Bill Gates and Melinda French married in Hawaii on New Years Day.

1994 Bill Gates became the wealthiest person in America.

1994 Mary Gates died of breast cancer.

1995 Microsoft released Windows 95.

1995 Bill Gates became the wealthiest private individual.

1995 Bill Gates was voted "most respected CEO" in Industry Week survey.

1996 Internet browser war began between Microsoft and Netscape.

1996 Bill Gates dropped to second wealthiest individual in the world.

1996 Jennifer Katharine Gates was born on April 26.

1997 Bill Gates sold 340,000 shares of Microsoft for $39,142,500.

1998 Bill, Melinda, and Jennifer Gates moved into their new multi-million house in Medina, Washington.

1998 Microsoft released Windows 98.

1998 Gates and Allen sold $570 million of Microsoft to diversify.

2000 Microsoft released Windows 2000 and Windows Me (Millennium Edition).

computer chip imageWWW Sites

There are several web sites about Bill Gates on the Internet.  The University of Hartford Information Technology Services has one, and there is a good interview with Bill Gates at ZDNET.  Virginia Tech has information about computers before Microsoft. Biography.com has a general overview of Bill's life and some information about Microsoft History.  There is also an official biography (alternative site), and a lengthy interview at the Museum of American History site that has a lot of personal insight.  There are also thousands of anti-Microsoft sites that have different opinions to offer.  The International Anti-Microsoft Network has a portal to anti-Microsoft Web sites. There is a pretty good timeline of both Bill Gates and Microsoft. You can read some information about some of the various operating systems available to help answer the assignment question. You can read about Windows ME at Microsoft. Another popular alternative is Linux.

Other sites

computer chip imageRecommended Books

Jennifer Edstrom and Marlin Eller, Barbarians Led by Bill Gates: Microsoft from the Inside

Michael Drummond, How Three Software Warriors Started a Revolution Behind the Walls of Fortress Microsoft

Janet Lowe, Bill Gates Speaks: Insight From the World’s Greatest Entrepreneur

James Wallace & Jim Erickson, Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire

Ken Auletta, World War 3.0 : Microsoft and Its Enemies

Jeanne Lesinski, Bill Gates

Paul Andrews, Gates: How Microsoft's Mogul Reinvented an Industry-And Made Himself the Richest Man in America

Sean Connolly, Bill Gates: An Unauthorized Biography

Josepha Sherman, Bill Gates: Computer King

Robert Heller, Business Masterminds: Bill Gates


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