Gates became interested in computer programming when he was 13, during the era of giant mainframe computers. His school held a fund raiser to purchase a teletype terminal so students could use computer time that was donated by General Electric. Using this time, Gates wrote a tic tac toe program using BASIC, one of the first computer languages. Later he created a computer version of Risk, a board game he liked in which the goal is world domination. At Lakeside, Bill met Paul Allen, who shared his interest in computers. Gates and Allen and two other students hacked into a computer belonging to Computer Center Corporation (CCC) to get free computer time but were caught. After a period of probation, they were allowed back in the computer lab when they offered to fix glitches in CCCs software. At age 17, Gates and Allen were paid $20,000 for a program called Traf O Data that was used to count traffic.
In early 1973, Bill Gates served as a congressional page in the U.S. House of Representatives. He scored 1590 out of 1600 on the SAT and was accepted by Harvard University. Steve Ballmer, who became CEO of Microsoft after Bill retired, was also a Harvard student. Meanwhile, Paul Allen dropped out of Washington College to work on computers at Honeywell Corporation and convinced Gates to drop out of Harvard and join him in starting a new software company in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They called it Micro Soft. This was soon changed to Microsoft, and they moved their company to Bellevue, Washington.
In 1980, IBM, one of the largest technology companies of the era, asked Microsoft to write software to run their new personal computer, the IBM PC. Microsoft kept the licensing rights for the operating system (MS DOS) so that they earned money for every computer sold first by IBM, and later by all the other companies that made PC computers. Microsoft grew quickly from 25 employees in 1978 to over 90,000 today. Over the years, Microsoft developed many new technologies and some of the worlds most popular software and products such as Word and Power Point. Although some have criticized Gates for using questionable business practices, he built Microsoft into one of the largest companies in the world. He has been described as brilliant but childlike, driven, competitive, intense, fun, but lacking in empathy.
Bill Gates is one of the richest men in the world. In 2012, his $61 billion dollars in assets made him the worlds second richest man according to Forbes Magazine. In 2006, Gates announced that he would cut back his involvement at Microsoft to spend more time on philanthropy and his foundation. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports many causes including the quest to eradicate Polio, fighting AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis; providing vaccinations for children; and even reinventing the toilet among many other things.
Bill had a very close relationship with his mother, Mary, who after a brief career as a teacher devoted her time to helping raise the children and working on civic affairs and with charities. She also served on several corporate boards, including those of the First Interstate Bank in Seattle (founded by her grandfather), the United Way and International Business Machines (IBM). She would often take Bill along when she volunteered in schools and at community organizations.Bill was a voracious reader as a child, spending many hours pouring over reference books such as the encyclopedia. Around the age of 11 or 12, Bills parents began to have concerns about his behavior. He was doing well in school, but he seemed bored and withdrawn at times. His parents worried he might become a loner. Though they were strong believers in public education, when Bill turned 13, they enrolled him at Seattles Lakeside School, an exclusive preparatory school. He blossomed in nearly all his subjects, excelling in math and science, but also doing very well in drama and English.While at Lakeside School, a Seattle computer company offered to provide computer time for the students. The Mothers Club used proceeds from the schools rummage sale to purchase a teletype terminal for students to use. Bill Gates became entranced with what a computer could do and spent much of his free time working on the terminal. He wrote a tic tac toe program in BASIC computer language that allowed users to play against the computer.
It was at Lakeside School where Bill met Paul Allen, who was two years his senior. The two became fast friends, bonding on their common enthusiasm over computers, even though they were very different. Allen was more reserved and shy. Bill was feisty and at times combative. They both spent much of their free time together working on programs. Occasionally, they disagreed and would clash over who was right or who should run the computer lab. On one occasion, their argument escalated to the point where Allen banned Gates from the computer lab. On another occasion, Gates and Allen had their school computer privileges revoked for taking advantage of software glitches to obtain free computer time from the company that provided the computers. After their probation, they were allowed back in the computer lab when they offered to debug the program. During this time, Gates developed a payroll program for the computer company the boys hacked into, and a scheduling program for the school.In 1970, at the age of 15, Bill Gates went into business with his pal, Paul Allen. They developed Traf o Data, a computer program that monitored traffic patterns in Seattle, and netted $20,000 for their efforts. Gates and Allen wanted to start their own company, but Gatess parents wanted him to finish school and go on to college where they hoped he would work to become a lawyer.Bill Gates graduated from Lakeside in 1973. He scored 1590 out of 1600 on the college SAT test, a feat of intellectual achievement that for several years he boasted about when introducing himself to new people.
Microsoft (Gates and Allen dropped the hyphen in less than a year) started off on shaky footing. Though their BASIC software program for the Altair computer netted the company a fee and royalties, it wasnt meeting their overhead. Microsofts BASIC software was popular with computer hobbyists who obtained pre market copies and were reproducing and distributing them for free. According to Gatess later account, only about 10 percent of the people using BASIC in the Altair computer had actually paid for it. At this time, much of the personal computer enthusiasts were people not in it for the money. They felt the ease of reproduction and distribution allowed them to share software with friends and fellow computer enthusiasts. Bill Gates thought differently. He saw the free distribution of software as stealing, especially when it involved software that was created to be sold.In February of 1976, Gates wrote an open letter to computer hobbyists saying that continued distribution and use of software without paying for it would prevent good software from being written. In essence, pirating software would discourage developers from investing time and money into creating quality software. The letter was unpopular with computer enthusiasts, but Gates stuck to his beliefs and would use the threat of innovation as a defense when faced with charges of unfair business practices.
Gates had a more acrimonious relationship with MITS president Ed Roberts, often resulting in shouting matches. The combative Gates clashed with Roberts on software development and the direction of the business. Roberts considered Gates spoiled and obnoxious. In 1977, Roberts sold MITS to another computer company, and went back to Georgia to enter medical school and become a country doctor. Gates and Allen were on their own. The pair had to sue the new owner of MITS to retain the software rights they had developed for Altair.Microsoft wrote software in different formats for other computer companies and, at the end of 1978, Gates moved the companys operations to Bellevue Washington, just east of Seattle. Bill Gates was glad to be home again in the Pacific Northwest, and threw himself into his work. All 25 employees of the young company had broad responsibilities for all aspects of the operation, product development, business development, and marketing. With his acumen for software development and a keen business sense, Gates placed himself as the head of Microsoft, which grossed $2.5 million in 1978. Gates was only 23.
Gates had to adapt the newly purchased software to work for the IBM PC. He delivered it for a $50,000 fee, the same price he had paid for the software in its original form. IBM wanted to buy the source code, which would have given them the information to the operating system. Gates refused, instead proposing that IBM pay a licensing fee for copies of the software sold with their computers. Doing this allowed Microsoft to license the software they called MS DOS to any other PC manufacturer, should other computer companies clone the IBM PC, which they soon did. Microsoft also released software called Softcard, which allowed Microsoft BASIC to operate on Apple II machines.Between 1978 and 1981, Microsofts growth exploded, and staff increased from 25 to 128. Revenue also shot up from $4 million to $16 million. In mid 1981 Gates and Allen incorporated Microsoft, and Gates was appointed president and chairman of the board. Allen was named executive vice president.
By 1983, Microsoft was going global with offices in Great Britain and Japan, and with 30 percent of the worlds computers running on its software. But 1983 also brought news that rocked Microsoft to its very foundation. Paul Allen was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease. Though his cancer went into remission a year later with intensive treatment, Allen resigned from company that same year. Rumors abound as to why Allen left Microsoft. Some say Bill Gates pushed him out, but many say it was a life changing experience for Allen and he saw there were other opportunities that he could invest his time in.