William HenryBillGates III (born October 28, 1955) is an American business magnate, investor, author, and philanthropist.[1][2] In 1975, Gates and Paul Allen co-founded Microsoft, which became the world’s largest PC software company. During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of chairman, CEO and chief software architect, and was the largest individual shareholder until May 2014.[3][a] Gates has authored and co-authored several books.

Since 1987, Gates has been included in the Forbes list of the world’s wealthiest people[6] and was the wealthiest from 1995 to 2007, again in 2009, and has been since 2014.[7] Between 2009 and 2014, his wealth doubled from US$40 billion to more than US$82 billion.[8] Between 2013 and 2014, his wealth increased by US$15 billion.[9] Gates is currently the richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of US$86.9 billion as of April 2017.[10] In 2009, Gates and Warren Buffett founded The Giving Pledge, whereby they, and other billionaires, pledge to give at least half of their wealth to philanthropy.[11]

Gates is one of the best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution. He has been criticized for his business tactics, which have been considered anti-competitive, an opinion that has in some cases been upheld by numerous court rulings.[12] Later in his career, Gates pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors, donating large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, established in 2000.

Gates stepped down as chief executive officer of Microsoft in January 2000. He remained as chairman and created the position of chief software architect for himself.[13] In June 2006, Gates announced that he would be transitioning from full-time work at Microsoft to part-time work, and full-time work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.[14] He gradually transferred his duties to Ray Ozzie and Craig Mundie.[15] He stepped down as chairman of Microsoft in February 2014, taking on a new post as technology adviser to support the then newly appointed CEO Satya Nadella

Early life

Gates was born in Seattle, Washington on October 28, 1955. He is the son of William H. Gates Sr.[b] (born 1925) and Mary Maxwell Gates (1929–1994). His ancestry includes English, German, Irish, and Scots-Irish.[17][18] His father was a prominent lawyer, and his mother served on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem and the United Way. Gates’ maternal grandfather was JW Maxwell, a national bank president. Gates has one elder sister, Kristi (Kristianne), and one younger sister, Libby. He is the fourth of his name in his family, but is known as William Gates III or “Trey” because his father had the “II” suffix.[19] Early on in his life, Gates’ parents had a law career in mind for him.[20] When Gates was young, his family regularly attended a church of the Congregational Christian Churches, a Protestant Reformed denomination.[21][22][23] The family encouraged competition; one visitor reported that “it didn’t matter whether it was hearts or pickleball or swimming to the dock … there was always a reward for winning and there was always a penalty for losing”.[24]

The Poker Room in Currier House at Harvard College

At 13, he enrolled in the Lakeside School, a private preparatory school.[25] When he was in the eighth grade, the Mothers Club at the school used proceeds from Lakeside School’s rummage sale to buy a Teletype Model 33 ASR terminal and a block of computer time on a General Electric (GE) computer for the school’s students.[26] Gates took an interest in programming the GE system in BASIC, and was excused from math classes to pursue his interest. He wrote his first computer program on this machine: an implementation of tic-tac-toe that allowed users to play games against the computer. Gates was fascinated by the machine and how it would always execute software code perfectly. When he reflected back on that moment, he said, “There was just something neat about the machine.”[27] After the Mothers Club donation was exhausted, he and other students sought time on systems including DEC PDP minicomputers. One of these systems was a PDP-10 belonging to Computer Center Corporation (CCC), which banned four Lakeside students – Gates, Paul Allen, Ric Weiland, and Kent Evans – for the summer after it caught them exploiting bugs in the operating system to obtain free computer time.[28][29]

At the end of the ban, the four students offered to find bugs in CCC’s software in exchange for computer time. Rather than use the system via Teletype, Gates went to CCC’s offices and studied source code for various programs that ran on the system, including programs in Fortran, Lisp, and machine language. The arrangement with CCC continued until 1970, when the company went out of business. The following year, Information Sciences, Inc. hired the four Lakeside students to write a payroll program in Cobol, providing them computer time and royalties. After his administrators became aware of his programming abilities, Gates wrote the school’s computer program to schedule students in classes. He modified the code so that he was placed in classes with “a disproportionate number of interesting girls.”[30] He later stated that “it was hard to tear myself away from a machine at which I could so unambiguously demonstrate success.”[27] At age 17, Gates formed a venture with Allen, called Traf-O-Data, to make traffic counters based on the Intel 8008 processor.[31] In early 1973, Bill Gates served as a congressional page in the U.S. House of Representatives.[32]

Gates graduated from Lakeside School in 1973, and was a National Merit Scholar.[33] He scored 1590 out of 1600 on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests[34] and enrolled at Harvard College in the autumn of 1973.[35] He chose a pre-law major but took rigorous mathematics and graduate level computer science courses.[36] While at Harvard, he met fellow student Steve Ballmer. Gates left Harvard after two years while Ballmer would stay and graduate magna cum laude. Years later, Ballmer succeeded Gates as CEO of Microsoft before resigning from the company in 2014.[37]

In his second year, Gates devised an algorithm for pancake sorting as a solution to one of a series of unsolved problems[38] presented in a combinatorics class by Harry Lewis, one of his professors. Gates’ solution held the record as the fastest version for over thirty years;[38][39] its successor is faster by only one percent.[38] His solution was later formalized in a published paper in collaboration with Harvard computer scientist Christos Papadimitriou.[40]

Gates did not have a definite study plan while a student at Harvard[41] and spent a lot of time using the school’s computers. Gates remained in contact with Paul Allen, and he joined him at Honeywell during the summer of 1974.[42] The following year saw the release of the MITS Altair 8800 based on the Intel 8080 CPU, and Gates and Allen saw this as the opportunity to start their own computer software company.[43] Gates dropped out of Harvard at this time. He had talked this decision over with his parents, who were supportive of him after seeing how much Gates wanted to start his own company.[41] Gates explained his official status with Harvard that, “…if things [Microsoft] hadn’t worked out, I could always go back to school. I was officially on [a] leave [of absence