Profiles of Global Leaders
July 14, 2010
This paper will outline a profile of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. I will provide background information about his upbringing, his early exposure to computers, and his founding of Microsoft. I will then detail his unique leadership skills which have allowed him to take his company from a small upstart to a global icon. Childhood
William (Bill) Henry Gates III was born in 1955 in Seattle, Washington to a middle class family. His father was a lawyer and his mother served on the board of directors for a bank and the United Way. Bill Gates has one older and one younger sister. His parents had originally hoped that he would become a lawyer. At age 13 he enrolled in an exclusive school called Lakeside where he was exposed to an ASR-33 teletype terminal. The school had also acquired a block of time on a General Electric (GE) computer for the students. Gates had a fascination with the programming of the GE system and quickly learned BASIC. He was also able to get himself excused from his math class to follow his computer interest. He wrote his first program on this computer which allowed people to play tic-tac-toe against a computer. Gates was impressed by the computer and how it would always execute software code perfectly. After the school’s computer time was used up at GE, Gates received exposure to other computer systems including DEC PDP minicomputers. One of these systems was a PDP-10 belonging to Computer Center Corporation (CCC), which banned four Lakeside students (Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Ric Weiland, and Kent Evans) for the summer after the kids were caught taking advantage of kinks in the operating system to get free computer time. 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. This 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. Once school administrators became aware of his knack for programming, Gates was asked to write the school's computer program to schedule students in classes. He modified the code so that he was placed in classes with mostly female students. He later stated that "it was hard to tear myself away from a machine at which I could so unambiguously demonstrate success." At age 17, Bill Gates formed a venture with Paul Allen, called Traf-O-Data, to make traffic counters based on the Intel 8008 processor. Gates graduated from Lakeside School in 1973. He served as a congressional page in the U.S. House of Representatives after high school. He scored 1590 out of 1600 on the SAT and enrolled at Harvard College in the fall of 1973. While at Harvard, he met Steve Ballmer, who later succeeded Gates as CEO of Microsoft, and computer scientist Christos Papadimitriou, with whom he wrote a paper about pancake sorting. Bill Gates never pursued a specific course of study while a student at Harvard but he did spend a significant amount of time using the school's computers. He remained in contact with Paul Allen and joined him at Honeywell during the summer of 1974. Later that year, the MITS Altair 8800, based on the Intel 8080 CPU, was released and Gates and Allen saw this as the opportunity to start their own computer software company.
Creating the Microsoft Empire
In 1975 Bill Gates and Paul Allen contracted with the developers of the Altair 8800 to write the first computer language (Basic Interpreters) for MITS’s small computer which resulted in them relocating to Arizona and setting up a small office...