William Henry Gates III, KBE, (born October 28, 1955), commonly known as Bill Gates, is the co-founder and current Chairman and Chief Software Architect of Microsoft. According to Forbes magazine in 2004, Gates is the wealthiest person in the world, a position he has held steadily for many years.
Bill Gates was born in Seattle, Washington to William H. Gates, Sr., a corporate lawyer, and Mary Maxwell Gates, board member of First Interstate Bank, Pacific Northwest Bell and the national board of United Way.
Gates attended Lakeside School, Seattle's most exclusive prep school, where he was able to develop his programming skills on the school's minicomputer. He later on went to study at Harvard University, but dropped out without graduating to pursue what would become a lifelong career in software development.
While he was a student at Harvard, he co-authored with Paul Allen the original Altair BASIC interpreter for the Altair 8800 (the first commercially successful personal computer) in the mid 1970s. It was inspired by BASIC, an easy-to-learn programming language developed at Dartmouth College for teaching purposes.
Gates married Melinda French on January 1, 1994. They have three children, Jennifer Katharine Gates (1996), Rory John Gates (1999) and Phoebe Adele Gates (2002). They live in a very large earth-sheltered home in the side of a hill overlooking Lake Washington. It is a very modern 21st century house in the "Pacific lodge" style, with advanced electrical and electronic systems everywhere. In one respect though it is more like an 18th or 19th century mansion: It has a large private library with a domed reading room.
Also in 1994, he acquired the Codex Leicester, a collection of writings by Leonardo da Vinci; as of 2003 it was on display at the Seattle Art Museum.
In 1997, Gates was the victim of a bizarre extortion plot by Chicago resident Adam Quinn Pletcher. Gates testified at the subsequent trial. Pletcher was convicted and sentenced in July 1998 to six years in prison.
In 1975, Gates and Allen co-founded Microsoft Corporation to market their version of BASIC, called Microsoft BASIC. It was the primary interpreted computer language of the MS-DOS operating system, and was key to Microsoft's early commercial success.
In February 1976, Gates wrote the Open Letter to Hobbyists, which shocked the computer hobbyist community by asserting that a commercial market existed for computer software. Gates stated in the letter that software should not be copied without the publisher's permission, which he equated to piracy. While legally correct, Gates's proposal was unprecedented in a community that was influenced by its ham radio legacy and hacker ethic, in which innovations and knowledge were freely shared in the community. Nevertheless, Gates was right about the market prospects and his efforts paid off: Microsoft Corporation became one of the world's most successful commercial enterprises, and a key player in the creation of a retail software industry.
Microsoft's key moment came when in the late 1970s, IBM was planning to enter the personal computer market with its IBM Personal Computer (PC), which was released in 1981. Gates licensed MS-DOS to IBM, which it had acquired from a local computer manufacturer. The story of how Microsoft acquired the original system (QDOS) has inspired much folklore, which often portrays Gates pouncing on a trivial mistake by Digital Research and stealing that company's lead in microcomputer operating systems. It is frequently cited by those who accuse Gates of unethical business practices. In reality, IBM did approach Digital Research for a version of CP/M for its upcoming IBM PC, and spoke to Gary Kildall's wife Dorothy. IBM representatives wanted Dorothy to sign their standard non-disclosure agreement, which Dorothy considered overly burdensome. IBM then returned to talk to Microsoft. He obtained rights to a...