Bill Gates and His Computer Empire
Just past 9 PM on October 28, 1955, the man who would revolutionize the computer industry as we know it, was born. The son of Bill Jr. and Mary Gates was named William Henry Gates III. The computer super-genius was soon to take his place in history. Within the last fifteen years the company that he and Paul Allan started, Microsoft, has become the largest software corporation in the computer industry. What is Bill Gates’ background, and how did he preserve his place in history while amassing his fortune?
Bill Gates grew up in a typical wealthy family. His father, Bill Gates Jr., was a lawyer in Seattle, Washington. His mother was a socialite housewife and occasional teacher. Growing up, Bill Gates’ nickname was “Trey.” This nickname was indicative of the III after his name. This nickname has stayed with him throughout his life to date (Wallace and Erikson 10). Bill also grew up as a middle child between his two sisters. His older sister is named Kirsti, and his younger sister’s name is Libby (Sihvonen 3). Bill Gates attended Lakeside School (an expensive private school in Seattle) as a child.
Bill Gates was first introduced to computers as a student at Lakeside School. A company called Computer Center Corporation (referred to as “C-cubed” by Bill Gates) leased computers from Digital Equipment Corporation. In 1968, the board of Lakeside School decided to provide a computer (a GE PDP-10 connected via Teletype at the school), and computer time for their students (Wallace and Erikson 26). Almost instantly, Bill and a handful of fellow students were addicted to the new computer. Within a year, Bill Gates, Paul Allan, and two other students of Lakeside School formed the Lakeside Programmer’s Group. At the age of 13, Bill Gates had already constructed an application (program) that played tic-tac-toe. Later, the Lakeside Programmer’s Group developed an application called Traf-O-Data. This was a program that would calculate the number of cars traveling down a road, and would give the best timing for a stop light. C-cubed used Gates and his friends to try and hack items, but Gates was
often scolded for hacking too much. Unfortunately, in 1970, C-cubed went out of business.
Soon after C-cubed went out of business, Bill’s parents made him give up computers. They stated that he was becoming too addicted. With the same enthusiasm as he had placed in computers, he dove into his high school classes. He especially committed himself to reading. His favorite books included Catcher in the Rye and A Separate Peace. Even though Bill tried to be “normal” in high school, he was still very much considered an outcast to those who did not know him. Those who did not know him thought of him as egotistical and nerdy. To the opposite, those who did know him thought of him as energetic and a risk taker (Wallace and Erikson 25-37). His best friend throughout life has been Paul Allan. Later, it would be Gates and Allan that created Microsoft.
After a one year absence, Bill Gates once again took up computers and associated with the Lakeside Programmer’s Group. In 1971, the Lakeside Programmer’s Group received an excellent opportunity. They had received a call from Information Sciences Incorporated to create a program that would deal with payrolls on a PDP-10 computer. Paul Allan and a friend told Gates that there was not enough work to go around, and not to worry about doing anything in the project. In the end, it was Gates and a friend who did most of the programming (Wallace and Erikson 42). Gates’ father took care of the legal implications of the project throughout this time.
Gates and the fellow programmers went on a bus to Portland, Oregon to deliver the product. When they met the executives, they were given a sheet of paper and a pen to write a resume for them, so they could be hired on the spot. They agreed on a price for the product. It was ten percent of the profit in royalties. They also received about ten thousand dollars worth of computer time.
In a joint effort between Bill Gates and Kent Evans, they constructed an application to computerize class schedules. In the 1972-73 school year, the school used the program for a cost of two dollars per student. To this day, the changes in the program have only been minor, as it is still being used.
In the fall of 1973, Bill Gates began college at Harvard University. His major was in pre-law, though he did not know what he wanted to do. In his third year of college, Bill Gates dropped out to begin a company called “Micro-Soft”( A combination of “microcomputer software”), centered in Albuquerque, New Mexico. While still at Harvard, Bill Gates had been working on a new program called “BASIC”(Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction). This was a new programming language. The first computer to use BASIC was the Altair. Gates told the Altair executives that BASIC was done three weeks before it was actually finished. This is an example of business-wise Gates is. If would not have done this, he never would have received the contract to create and own the language used on the Altair, and Bill Gates’ company, Microsoft, would have died. From then on, BASIC evolved along with Microsoft.
Bill Gates later purchased a product and rights to a revolutionary new disk operating system called 86-QDOS from Seattle Computer Products. He then changed the name to MS-DOS and resold the product for a profit. Keeping the rights, he got to receive royalties in addition to the sale price of MS-DOS. Bill Gates and Microsoft still to this day receive royalties and profits from the original 86-QDOS.
Later in the life of Microsoft, Bill Gates developed a new GUI (Graphical User Interface), for a disk operating system. He called this new style Windows. Windows versions 1-2 earned him a small amount of money, but the major jackpot came from Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows NT, and soon, Windows 98. This new approach to a graphical interface has often been imitated, but no imitation has ever come close to the power and friendliness of his Windows products.
Recently, Microsoft and Bill Gates have selected the Internet as the cutting edge. They have focused their time and effort to create programs that will work with “the web”. The United States Justice Department has slapped Microsoft with an anti-trust lawsuit on behalf of the American people. Generally, the American people are happy with Microsoft because Microsoft’s products run their computers.
Bill Gates has not only left his mark in the past, but is and will be in the present and future. With the future release of Windows 98, Bill Gates has shown that he has the staying power in the PC (Personal Computer) market like no other individual or person in history. In addition to the operating systems, Microsoft also has many other products for PC’s. Microsoft’s products include Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, and Schedule+. With these products, Microsoft has made life easier for all people who use PC’s.
Not only has Bill Gates changed the computer market for individuals, but with Windows NT, he has focused in on the business world as well. Bill Gates to date is worth a total of 48.4 billion dollars. The equivalent amount would be if everyone in America were to give $179.54 (Greenspun 1). With this money, he has the opportunity to change the world physically, as well as in history.
James Wallace, and Jim Erickson. Hard Drive. New York, New York: HarperBusiness, 1993.
“In Search of the Real Bill Gates.” Time 13 January 1997.
Sami Sihvonen, “Bill Gates FAQ.” Http://www.geocities.com/BourbonStreet/4211/bill-faq.htm April 10, 1998
Microsoft, “Bill Gates- About Bill.” Http://www.microsoft.com April 10, 1998
Team Gates, “Bill Gates.” Http://www.teamgates.com April 10, 1998
Philip Greenspun, “Bill Gates Personal Wealth Clock.” Http://webho.com/WealthClock May 10, 1998