Bill Gates - Businessman Extraordinaire


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Born on 28th October 1955 in Seattle, Bill Gates demonstrated his technological ability at an early age when he was able to program computers at the age of thirteen. In fact, along with his friend Paul Allen, his grades suffered through the time he spent on the computer.

Keep in mind that this was in 1968, long before Clive Sinclair brought computing to the masses, and memory was held on magnetic tapes and programs written by means of typewriters that, rather than using ribbon, typed instructions using punched cards and paper tapes. Programs were read through the use of light played through the punched holes. Direct binary in fact: there was either light or no light.

The Lakeside Programmer’s Group that he formed in 1968 was intended to offer their computing skills to anybody who required them. In return for unlimited usage of the computers, they worked on debugging the software of the local Computer Center Corporation. When that went out of business they then switched to other ventures until Bill and Paul started up a proper company called Traf-O-Data designed to measure traffic flow through computers. They likely got this idea because they themselves delighted in using computers without logging their usage.

When Bill went to Harvard in 1973, he spent most of his time at the computer dept. , even though he was studying law, and after a summer job at Honeywell, he and Paul began to think about starting up a software company. It was a computer company called MITS that finally decided them. MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems) was an Albuquerque company that had developed a small computer called the Altair that had sold thousands within a month of release, and Gates and Allen wrote asking if they could try their version of BASIC on it. MITS agreed, but Bill and Paul had been lying so had to develop the language very rapidly, which they did in eight weeks. And it worked! They made a fair bit of money from that deal and decided to go permanent.

Bill and Paul started Microsoft in 1975 with the intention of bringing computing to the masses. At that time there was a Seattle company called Seattle Computer Products that had developed an operating system called SCP-DOS (disk operating system). Microsoft purchased that and modified it, renaming it MS-DOS. They then came to an agreement with IBM that MS-DOS would be used on all IBM personal computers, and it all grew from there.

Windows were developed in 1983, Microsoft went public in 1986, and the rest is history. Bill Gates became a millionaire on the day that he floated the company. Microsoft went from strength to strength, though many have criticized its business practices, and Microsoft and Bill Gate’s activities have seriously lessened the reputation of Microsoft and Bill Gates himself.

Contrary to what is sometimes written, Bill Gates did not develop BASIC nor did he develop DOS. He did, however, develop MS-DOS and Microsoft also developed the version called PC-DOS used by British company ICL. There have been many versions of DOS since then, and Windows has been developed to the platform of choice for home and businesses alike due to its ease of use, though its specificity of software that can run from it still rankles many who feel that Microsoft still has too much of a monopoly.

Outside computing, Bill Gates is a husband and a father. In 1994, he married Melinda French, a computer science graduate and Microsoft employee. They have three children at the time of writing, and she, Bill and Bono of U2 were name Persons of the Year in December 2005. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given over $24 billion towards the reduction of poverty and the improvement of healthcare worldwide, and also for education opportunities for the poor in the USA and improved access to informational technolgy.

Bill Gates decided in 2006 to step back from the day-to-day operation of Microsoft to spend more time on the foundation, and although many may dislike many of his business practices, none can dispute the benevolent way in which he spends his money.

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