If there is a man who has defined the modern world in the field of computing and at the same time has become a benchmark for global philanthropy, that man is Bill Gates. He is not just another billionaire, he is a man who is immersed in the most important contemporary debates about the future of humanity and who is frequently consulted by the media for his opinion on crucial issues such as the automation of work, climate change, infectious diseases and efforts to eradicate poverty.
Every year, the books that Bill Gates reads are an essential recommendation to be aware of what are the issues that are setting the trends of the present and the future, but also from time to time, Bill Gates surprises public opinion with his own writings in which he captures revealing and advanced perspectives on these same topics.
The life of Bill Gates is the most emblematic representation of what is known as the “American dream”. It’s not that Gates was born into poverty, but his achievements are far from something that his background condition could have determined. Therefore, when we talk about Bill Gates, we are talking about a person who has built an unparalleled fortune on his own and who may have great advice up his sleeve for all those who want to build a great fortune.
In the following paragraphs, we will explore the life, legacy and thought of Bill Gates, perhaps the most important American citizen of recent decades.
Bill Gates, whose given name is William Henry Gates III, was born on October 28, 1955, in Seattle, in the state of Washington in the United States. He is a business tycoon, software developer, investor, writer, and philanthropist. Along with Paul Allen, he is the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation, the world’s largest software company. During his career with this company, Gates held various positions including president, CEO, and chief software architect, while also being the majority shareholder of the company until May 2014. Bill Gates is considered one of the most well-known entrepreneurs in the world. the computer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s.
Throughout his career, Bill Gates has been criticized for his business tactics, which many considered anti-competitive at the time. He is married to former Microsoft executive Melinda Gates, with whom he has embarked on a global career in Philanthropy with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which manages large funds that are distributed worldwide in programs aimed at fighting poverty. Gates is a subscriber to the Giving Pledge initiative, where he along with other big-name billionaires has pledged to give at least half of his fortune to charity.
Since 1987, Gates has been included in Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s richest people. And from 1995 to 2017 he held the title of the richest person in the world, except for four years in that same period.
Forbes magazine currently ranks Bill Gates as one of the four richest people in the world, with an estimated fortune of $126.2 billion as of March 24, 2021.
Bill Gates is the son of William Henry Gates Sr and Mary Maxwell Gates. Gates’s ancestry includes English, German, Irish, and Scottish. Gates’s father was a well-known attorney, and his mother worked at the First Interstate BancSystem directors’ fair and the United Way of America. Gates’s maternal grandfather was JW Maxwell, an American national bank president. Gates had two sisters, the eldest (Kristianne) and the youngest, Libby. Bill Gates is number four in his family with his name, but he is known as William Gates III, because his father had the suffix of II. Gates’ family lived in the Sand Point area of Seattle in a house that was damaged by a rare tornado when Gates was seven years old.
When Gates was in school, he realized that his parents wanted him to pursue a career in law. When he was young, his family attended Congregational Christian Churches, a Protestant Reformed denomination, and due to his short stature as a child, he was frequently the butt of ridicule by his schoolmates. The Gates family liked to promote the spirit of competition in him. A person who once visited the family said that sports played in the Gates house always had a prize for the one who won as well as penance for the one who lost.
When Gates was 13 years old he was enrolled at Lakeside High School, where he wrote his first software program. When Gates was in eighth grade, the school’s Moms Club used proceeds from a garage sale to buy high school students a Teletype Model 33 ASR and a computer block from the time at General Electric. This would greatly influence Bill Gates. He developed a very early passion for programming on the GE system, which was based on the BASIC program, and was allowed to skip math classes in order for him to pursue his interest in math. programming.
Gates wrote the first computer program on the school machine that the mothers’ club had bought, which was a replica of the game of triqui, in which students could play against the computer. Gates was fascinated by the machine and the way he could execute the program so perfectly. After the Mothers’ Club donation was depleted, Gates and his friends looked to develop programs on other equipment, including DEC PDP minicomputers. With one of these systems, the PDP 10, which belonged to the Computer Center Corporation, which Gates was banned from during the summer, Paul Allen, Ric Weiland and Gates became friends and met their first business partner Kent Evans.
The four students formed the Lakeside Programming Club with the intention of making money. The Computer Center Corporation, CCC, offered them free time on the model so that they could find flaws in the software on which the machine operated. Gates studied the system to see its source code, including the Fortran and Lisp languages. The agreement with this company, the CCC, lasted until 1970, when the company went out of business.
Over the next year, a Lakeside teacher enlisted Gates and Evans to design the school’s scheduling system, offering them computer time and royalties in return. The duo worked diligently to have a program ready for their final year of school. Toward the end of the school year, Evans was killed in a mountain-climbing accident, an event Gates described as one of the saddest days of his life. Gates then sought the help of Allen, who helped him finalize the development of the Lakeside program.
At the age of 17, Gates formed a small company with Paul Allen, called Traf-O-Data, in order to make an Intel 8008 processor-based traffic counter. Gates was an honors student when he graduated. from Lakeside High School in 1973. He scored 1,590 out of 1,600 on Scholastic Aptitude Tests and enrolled at Harvard University in the fall of 1973. Gates had chosen a law degree but later took computer and math courses. During his time at Harvard, Gates met his later partner as Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer. Gates left Harvard within two years of entering, while Ballmer stayed on and graduated with an honors thesis.
Gates devised an algorithm for a mathematical computer program as a solution to a series of unsolved problems that were presented in a combinatorics class by Professor Harry Lewis. The solution that Gates had presented held the record for being the fastest discovered in thirty years, and the successor answer was only 2% faster. Gates’ solution was formalized and published in collaboration with Harvard computer scientist Christos Papadimitrou.
Over the years, Gates and Allen kept in touch, teaming up again at Honeywell, a technology company, in the summer of 1974. In 1975, the MITS Altair 8800 microcomputer was introduced to the public with an Intel-based CPU. 8080, and Gates and Allen saw an opportunity to start their own software company. After Gates dropped out of Harvard University, his parents were very understanding and supportive of everything he wanted to do. He explained his decision to start his own company by telling them, “If things don’t work out, I always go back to college. I was officially out.”
In 1975, Gates read an issue of Popular Electronics magazine that told how the Altair 8800 worked. He contacted Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems, the company that had developed the computer, to inform them that he was working on a program that would interpret BASIC, the program’s computer base. The reality was that neither Gates nor Allen had a version of that computer and hadn’t written a single line of code for it, they simply wanted to know if they could appeal to the company’s interest. MITS president Ed Roberts agreed to meet with them for a demo, and within a few weeks, Gates and Allen developed an emulator for Altair that ran on a minicomputer and then developed the BASIC interpreter.
The demo of the program at the MITS offices in Albuquerque, New Mexico, proved to be a complete success and led to an agreement for Gates and Allen to distribute the interpreter program as Altair BASIC. MITS hired Allen, and Gates took a vacation from Harvard to work with Allen at MITS in November 1975.
Allen had an idea for the association that he had created with Gates, he called it Microsoft, a combination of the words microcomputer and software, the first office of this company would be located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The first employee Gates and Allen hired was a high school collaborator named Ric Weiland. Gates and Allen settled all the legal details of the company, and within a year, the company was registered under the trade name Microsoft with the New Mexico Secretary of State in November 1976. Thereafter, Gates never returned to Harvard to finish his studies.
The program developed by Microsoft for Altair became very popular among computer hobbyists, but soon Bill Gates discovered that a copy of the program had leaked to the public and was being widely distributed.
In February 1976, Gates wrote a letter to computer enthusiasts in which he claimed that over 90% of Microsoft Altari BASIC users had not paid for the program and therefore the market was in danger, since that piracy removed the incentives needed for more software developers to enter the market with similar products.
Gates’ letter was not very popular with computer hobbyists, but Gates persisted in his belief that software developers should demand compensation when their products were distributed illegally.
Later Microsoft became independent from MITS, at the end of 1976, and then continued to develop programming languages and software for various systems.
Microsoft would move on January 1, 1979 from Albuquerque to Bellevue, Washington.
The drive and determination of Bill Gates
There is a rather curious detail in the story of the rise of Microsoft. Bill Gates was a programmer who wanted to be aware of everything that was happening within the company. During the early years, he reviewed and frequently rewrote every line of code the company produced. As the company grew, Gates began to take on more managerial roles, but this was only after five years.
Partnership with IBM
Microsoft would not be the company after its partnership with IBM. Basically with this association, they were able to become the world’s leading providers of software. Many Millennials will remember the 1990s when the first steps in computing were taken in computer classrooms. Most of the computers back then were from IBM and the software was from Microsoft.
In July 1980 this association would begin. IBM wanted complete software for its personal computer, the IBM PC. The first thing that IBM proposed to Microsoft was to develop a BASIC interpreter, as well as an operating system.
After IBM unsuccessfully searched for a developer for its personal computer operating system, Gates and Allen approached the company with a proposal. Gates and Allen developed a version of 86 DOS, which they called PC DOS and which they sold for a one-time fee of $50,000.
The contract with IBM was only worth a small fee, but the notoriety that Microsoft would achieve with it would catapult the company to fame, taking Microsoft from being a small company to becoming the leading global company in the software area.
Gates did not offer IBM the copyright to the operating system because he believed that other computer companies could clone IBM’s hardware and thus the same software. Gates and Allen later made another version of the operating system, MS DOS, which they sold to clients other than IBM. MS DOS made Microsoft a big player in the software industry.
When IBM continued to produce computers with the Microsoft operating system, the press identified Microsoft as highly influential on IBM, and PC Magazine asked “if Gates was the man behind the machine,” in a reference to IBM equipment.
Microsoft then went through a restructuring process, in 1981, which made the company headquartered in Washington and made Gates the general chairman and director of the board of directors, while Paul the general vice president and chairman of the board of directors. the vice president of the board.
In early 1983, Allen left the company after receiving a diagnosis of lymphoma, ending the partnership between Gates and Allen, which had been strained in previous months by disputes over share ownership. Later that same decade, Gates and Allen regained their friendship and donated millions of dollars to their youth school, Lakeside. Gates and Allen remained friends until Allen’s death in 2018.
Microsoft released its first version of Microsoft Windows on November 20, 1995. In August 1996, the company reached an agreement with IBM to develop a different operating system called OS/2. But although the two companies reached an agreement to develop the first version of the new system, the partnership deteriorated due to creative differences.
Microsoft Management and Bill Gates Management Style
Bill Gates was the first person in charge of product strategy from 1975 to 2006, being very attentive to each element that the company created and the response that consumers gave. Gate earned a reputation for being aloof; an industry executive complained in 1981 that it was too difficult to get Gates to answer or return calls. Later, an Atari executive would recall that when he showed him a game, he beat him in it 35 out of 37 times. When they met months later, Gates won, tied or won every game. “He had studied every detail of the game until he completely mastered it. That’s a competitor.”
Gates met regularly with managers and software directors, and managers described him as “virtually combative.” He also scolded them for the holes he perceived in business strategies that put the business at risk in the long run. Gates also interrupted managers’ introductions to him with expressions like “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard” and “Why don’t you give up your options and join the Peace Corps?” The goal of this behavior is for administrators to defend their proposals in detail until Gates is fully convinced. When employees seemed to be procrastinating, Gates was known for sarcastically commenting, “I’ll do it over the weekend.”
During the company’s early years, Gates was actively involved in developing much of the software himself, but his primary role in the company was as director and executive. Gates was no longer on the software development team since the company worked on the TRS 80 Model 100 minicomputer, but Gates continued to write code until at least 1989. In 1985 when the company announced Excel, Jerry Pournelle wrote: “Gates loved it. I like the show, not because it’s going to make a lot of money (although, I’m sure it will), but because it’s a completely neat show.”
On June 15, 2006, Gates announced that he would gradually step down from his management roles at Microsoft to devote more time to philanthropy. He then divided his responsibilities among two of his successors, when he put Ray Ozzie in charge of administration and Craig Mundie in charge of product development.
Antitrust litigation at Microsoft
Bill Gates approved many decisions that led to Microsoft being investigated for monopolistic practices. In the 1998 Microsoft v. United States case, Gate gave testimony that many journalists viewed as “evasive.” he argued before examinee David Boies that certain words should be understood contextually. A year later, when the recordings of Gates’s testimony were brought to the judge, he found them simply hilarious.
Despite multiple denials by Gates and the company, the judge ruled that Microsoft had engaged in monopolistic practices and was actively blocking competition, with each of the actions investigated being a violation of the Sherman antitrust law. 1890.
Bill Gates’ life after Microsoft
After formally leaving Microsoft, Bill Gates devoted himself fully to his philanthropic causes.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Gates was the top-earning billionaire in 2013, with a net worth of $78.5 billion. As of January 2014, most of Bill Gates’ assets are managed by Cascade Investment LLC, an entity through which he owns shares in multiple businesses, including a hotel chain and a product placement and copyright company. called Corbis Corp.
On February 4, 2014, Gates resigned from his chairmanship at Microsoft and became a technology advisor. After this, the Indian executive Satya Nadella took over as CEO of the company.
In the March 2014 issue, Gates gave his perspectives on a wide range of topics in Rolling Stone magazine. In the interview, Gates discussed topics such as climate change, philanthropic efforts, various technology companies he was advising, and the general state of the United States. At the time, Gates was very optimistic about the future, stating that he did not expect large numbers of deaths due to a pandemic or nuclear weapons or bioterrorism. In the interview, Gates also identified innovation as the driving force behind progress and announced that the United States was now much better off than it had been at any time in history.
In an interview Gates gave for the TED Conference in March 2015 with Baidu CEO Robin Li, Gates said that he recommended Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom’s recent work, “Superintelligence, Paths, Dangers, and Strategies.” Back then, long before the global coronavirus crisis of 2020, Gates said the world was unprepared for the next pandemic, a statement later picked up by conspiracy theory groups to support claims that Gates was behind the development of the virus and of a supposed vaccine that contained a social control chip (See BBC report and the conspiracy theories that arose around the Covid19 pandemic and Gates’s involvement in financing the development of vaccines).
Gates’ remarks in 2015 were: “If something kills more than 10 million people in the next few decades, it is likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war.”
Bill Gates has also been actively advocating the adoption of clean technologies to reduce CO2 emissions. In 2018, Gates met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss investment opportunities in Saudi Vision 2030, a strategic development program aimed at reducing Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil.
During the 2010s, Microsoft ventured into the development of operating systems for smartphones, with the launch of Windows Phone, a system that was widely used in Nokia cell phones. However, Microsoft’s entrepreneurial adventure in the world of mobile operating systems was short-lived. Less than a year after its launch, in 2014, the operating system was abandoned in the face of the overwhelming growth of Android, Google’s operating system, which became the dominant player in the mobile industry. Gates would later declare that “losing the race against Google’s operating system had been his biggest mistake.”
By March 2020, Gates declared that he would be leaving his position on the board of directors of the investment firm Berkshire Hathaway and Microsoft, in order to focus his efforts on philanthropic work such as the fight against climate change, global health, sustainable development and education.
Bill Gates has been a very strong promoter of the use of vaccines against infectious diseases and his contribution has been extremely important for the eradication of polio worldwide. Gates’ effort to eradicate polio may be one of his best-known philanthropic endeavors, but Gates’ work goes far beyond that and has proven to be of immense use to humanity in multiple ways.
Gates thoroughly studied the work of nineteenth-century millionaires in the field of philanthropy ( John Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie) and was inspired by them to develop his initiatives. In 1994 Gates donated part of his Microsoft stock to establish the William H. Gates Foundation. In 2000, he and his wife would merge several family foundations into one, creating the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which received $5 billion from Microsoft. As of 2013, Gates and his wife’s foundation ranks as the world’s most highly funded NGO, with property and assets that are valued at more than $34.6 billion.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation allows donors to access information about how the money is spent, unlike other large organizations like the Wellcome Trust. Through her foundation, Gates has donated more than $20 million to Carnegie Mellon University for the construction of a Center for Computer Science, which opened in 2009.
Bill Gates has been praised for his extensive philanthropic work, citing David Rockefeller as his greatest influence on this activity. Gates and his father met with Rockefeller on several occasions, and the work of the Gates Foundation has in part been shaped by the Rockefeller family’s philanthropic approach, which is to seek to address large global problems that are often ignored by governments. and by other organizations. Bill Gates and his wife are recognized as the second most generous philanthropists in the United States, the first being Warren Buffett, who has already donated $28 billion to charity. The couple plan to eventually give 95% of their fortune to charity over the course of their lives, however, philanthropic efforts are often difficult to focus properly, resulting in many millionaires generally adding much more wealth to their wealth and faster than the wealth they put into charity.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation organizes its work into five core areas, Global Development, Global Health, America, and the Advocacy Group for Global Political Action. Among its tasks, the foundation finances a wide range of projects ranging from the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, as well as the extended program of vaccines for the eradication of poliomyelitis. The foundation finances allowances for institutes and libraries, as well as scholarships for various universities.
One of the most striking approaches has also been the program to bring clean water and sanitation to the poorest countries. The foundation’s agriculture division has supported the International Rice Research Institute, which has developed Golden Rice, a genetically modified variant of rice used to combat vitamin A deficiency in children in developing countries. poor. The foundation has also worked to promote women’s access to quality effective contraceptive methods and has focused on universal access to voluntary planning.
Bill Gates has been widely criticized in academic circles for his philanthropic work. Many people consider that the philanthropic work of millionaires is nothing more than a public relations exercise that has little to do with the development and growth of the poorest economies, and that instead charitable work is used as an excuse not to address tax avoidance and the few taxes paid by large private companies. Critics argue that society would be better served if, instead of doing charity, millionaires paid much fairer taxes that would provide states with the necessary tools to address the huge and pressing problems and constraints to development.
Melinda and Bill Gates started dating in 1987, after meeting at a trade show in New York.
Bill Gates married Melinda French after attending a golf course on the Hawaiian island of Lanai on January 1, 1994. Melinda previously had a job tutoring children in math and programming while at Microsoft. The couple has three children, Jennifer, Rory, and Phoebe. The family residence is in Medina, in the state of Washington.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Gates noted the following: “The moral system of religion, I think is super important. We have raised our children in a religious way, they are attending a Catholic church that Melinda attends and in which I have participated. I consider myself a very lucky person and therefore I must try to reduce inequity in the world. And that is a type of religious belief. I mean, at least one kind of moral belief.”
Bill Gates also said: “I agree with Richard Dawkins that humanity feels the need for creation myths. Before we could understand diseases and things like the weather, we were looking for false explanations for these phenomena. Now science has come to explain much that was previously addressed by myths – but not everything that religion has used to explain. For example, the mystery and beauty of our world are overwhelmingly impressive, and there is no scientific explanation for how it all turned out. To say that it was generated by random numbers seems to, you know, a bit of an uncharitable way of looking at it. I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly in what area of your life that makes a difference, I don’t know.”
The Giving Pledge (or the commitment to give)
In June 2010 Bill Gates and Warren Buffett formally announced the campaign or program called The Giving Pledge, an agreement in which the world’s great tycoons have committed to giving at least half of their fortunes to charity during their lives. Since 2010 Gates and Buffett socialized the idea with other millionaires and began to join them in the program. In August of that year, the aggregate wealth of all pledged millionaires was $125 billion. By the following year, twice as many millionaires had joined the proposal. As of May 2017, 158 individuals had joined the program, although not all of them are billionaires.
One of the criticisms that have been leveled at this group of donors, of which Gates is the leader, is that none of the signatories has seen a significant commitment to keeping their promise to give their money to charity. Instead, most of the billionaires who are part of it have increased their wealth, instead of seeing their bulging fortunes decrease, even though they know that their lifestyle would not change in the least if their commitment to giving were was complying as and had initially proposed.
Donations from billionaires, as we mentioned earlier, are a hot topic of public debate, in part because many nations give donors tax deductions, which means that donations reduce what these millionaires have to pay in taxes, which deprives the states of greater resources to make social investments that could be better financed if there were no deductions for donations and instead greater amounts were charged to large fortunes. Likewise, a better service would be provided to society through state action, since deductions do not encourage all millionaires to make donations, for which many resources are wasted via taxes could be allocated to better public services such as health, education or infrastructure.
Bill Gates has written three books, which are:
The Way Forward, written with Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold and journalist Peter Rinearson, in which the trio outline the implications of the personal computing revolution and describe how the future has profoundly changed with the arrival of the freeway global information, and the internet.
Business at the Speed of Thought, a book that was published in 1999 and discusses how business and technology are integrated and shows how digital infrastructures and information networks can help give you an edge over the competition.
How to Avoid Climate Disaster, published in February 2021, presents what Bill Gates has learned in the 2010s about the science of climate change and investments in innovations to confront this phenomenon. Bill Gates maintains that climate change is the greatest existential threat facing humanity.
In popular culture
Bill Gates has also appeared in a number of documentaries and movies. In 2019, Netflix presented the documentary series Inside the Mind of Bill Gates, exploring Gates’ vision of humanity’s most pressing problems.