William Gates is an entrepreneur, philanthropist and the co-founder of Microsoft. He is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. At the age of 66, his net worth is about $136.2 billion, as of January 2022.
In 25 years, he built a two-person operation into a multibillion-dollar colossus, which resulted in him becoming one of the richest people in the world. Yet, he accomplished this feat not by inventing new technology but by taking existing technology, adapting it to a particular market and then dominating that market through innovative promotion and cunning business savvy.
Gates' first exposure to computers came while he was attending the Lakeside School in Seattle. A company its computers to the college through a Teletype link and young Gates became entranced by the potential of the primitive machine. With fellow student Paul Allen, he began ditching class to spend time in the school's computer room. Their work would soon pay off. When Gates was 16, Allen and he went into business together. The two teens netted about $20,000 with Traf-O-Data, a program they developed to navigate live traffic flow within the Seattle area.
Due to his love and obvious aptitude for programming and maybe due to his father's influence, Gates joined Harvard in the fall of 1973. By his own admission, he was there in body but not in spirit, preferring to spend his time playing poker and video games instead of attending class.
All that changed in December 1974, when Allen showed Gates an article about the world's first microcomputer: the Altair 8800. Spotting a chance, Gates and Allen called the manufacturer, MITS, in Albuquerque, New Mexico and told the president they'd written a version of the favoured machine-oriented language BASIC for the Altair. When he said that he wished to see it, Gates and Allen, who actually hadn't written anything, started working day and night in Harvard's computer lab. Since they didn't have an Altair themselves, they were forced to simulate it on other computers.
When Allen flew to Albuquerque to check the program on the Altair, neither he nor Gates was sure it might run. But run it did. Gates dropped out of Harvard and moved with Allen to Albuquerque, where they officially established Microsoft. MITS collapsed shortly thereafter but Gates and Allen were already writing software for other computer startups including Commodore, Apple and Tandy Corp.
The duo moved the company to Seattle in 1979 and that is when Microsoft became massive. When Gates learned IBM was having trouble obtaining a software package for its new PC, he bought an existing software package from a small Seattle company for $50,000, developed it into MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System) and then licensed it to IBM. The genius of the IBM deal, masterminded by Gates, was that while IBM got MS-DOS, Microsoft retained the right to license it to other computer makers.
Much as Gates had anticipated, after the primary IBM PCs were released, cloners like Compaq began producing compatible PCs, and also the market was soon flooded with clones. Like IBM, instead of producing their own operating systems, the cloners decided it absolutely was cheaper to get MS-DOS off the shelf. As a result, MS-DOS became the quality software package for the industry, and Microsoft's sales soared from $7.5 million in 1980 to $16 million in 1981.
Microsoft expanded into application software and continued to grow unchecked until 1984 when Apple introduced the primary Macintosh computer. The Macintosh's sleek graphical program (GUI) was far easier to use than MS-DOS and threatened to make the Microsoft program obsolete. In response to the current threat, Gates announced that Microsoft was developing its own GUI-based software package called Windows. Gates then took Microsoft public in 1986 to get capital. The IPO was a roaring success, raising $61 million and making Gates one among the wealthiest people within the country overnight.
"If you'd have asked me in my twenties if I'd ever retire early from Microsoft, I'd have told you that you just were crazy", he wrote on his blog Gates Notes. He's the first to admit that, especially while he was working in the company, he was obsessed with building the business. "I loved being fanatic. I revelled in it", the self-made billionaire stated in the Netflix three-episode documentary series "Inside Bill's Brain". He went on to add, "I didn't believe weekends, I didn't believe in taking a vacation."
In 2000, Bill Gates and his former spouse, Melinda, launched their foundation, which works to cut back inequity across the world. They transferred $20 billion of Microsoft stock to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and commenced travelling abroad to solve global health crises in underdeveloped countries. The more involved he became with the foundation, the more he realized that his future career ought not to be on building software products. In 2001, Gates' good friend Warren Buffett, the Oracle of Omaha, invited him to talk to a bunch of business leaders about what Melinda and he were learning on their foundation trips.
Bill Gates now has his focus on the foundation and working towards making the world a better place using the vast resources that he has access to. Some see him as an innovative visionary who sparked a computer revolution. Others see him as a modern-day robber baron whose predatory practices have stifled competition within the software industry. Suffice to say, Bill Gates is a Wizard of Wealth and has left a dent in the universe, both in the corporate one and the human one.