Bill Gates Biography: Success Story of Microsoft Co-Founder

Bill Gates

Bill Gates

This success story talks about the biography of Bill Gates, a prominent American entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist with a terrific career in developing software for personal computers. He co-founded Microsoft Corporation, one of the most recognized brands in the computer industry; nearly every computer has at least one Microsoft product installed.

Bill Gates’ life story reminds me of the American dream. Due to his hard work, he has achieved not only the prosperity of the company but also the title of one of the wealthiest people on Earth.

Gates has been No. 1 on the Bloomberg Billionaires List for many years, but Carlos Slim Helu took the No. 1 spot in 2010. In May 2013, with a fortune of $72 billion, Bill Gates became the wealthiest man on the planet again and retook the world’s richest title from Carlos Slim. Bill Gates’ net worth was $108.0 billion as of October 01, 2023.

Early Life

William Henry “Bill” Gates III was born on October 28, 1955, in Seattle, Washington, in a relatively wealthy family of William Henry “Bill” Gates, Sr. – a successful attorney, and Mary Maxwell Gates – a former school teacher, who later became a member of the Board of Directors of the First Interstate Bank.

As a child, Bill Gates already possessed a prospective businessman talent, especially in mathematics. It is not accidental that at school, he scored 800 points in the mathematical part of the intelligence test, showing the best result. However, the family expected Bill Gates to follow his father’s steps and enter Harvard Law School.

In 1968, when Bill and his high school friend Paul Allen went to middle school, the school administration bought computer time from the General Electric Company. At that time, the system based on DEC PDP-10 micro-architecture was a basis on the market. Later, he said: “When I was thirteen, my school (Lakeside School) installed a teletype machine. From then on, my friends and I spent most of our free time writing programs and figuring out how to make the computer do interesting things.” The school administration had underestimated its students – the whole year of computer time was used in a few weeks. Fortunately, a new student arrived in Lakeside, whose father worked as a senior programmer at Computer Center Corporation (CCC). The new contract allowed Gates and his friends to continue their experiments.

Young hackers quickly figured out the intricacies of the machine, found the weaknesses and started causing trouble – they broke the defense, which on several occasions led to a system failure, and changed the files that contained records of computer time. CCC noticed that breach and set them aside from working with computers for a few weeks.

Meanwhile, the company’s business began to suffer from constant failures and poor protection. Remembering the destructive activities of computer users from Lakeside, CCC invited Bill Gates and his friends to identify flaws and security holes. As a payment, the company offered endless computer time for young hackers. Sure thing, Bill and his friends could not refuse. Since that day, the boys couldn’t say if it was a day or night outside – they were always hanging out in the lab. For instance, one of Gates’ projects was a program for scheduling classes. ‘Somehow,’ it constantly redefined Bill to the courses with the prettiest girls. In addition to troubleshooting, they studied each material on automated calculations and improved their skills.

Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose. – Bill Gates Click To Tweet

In 1969, the Computer Center Corporation experienced difficulties again; in 1970, it declared itself bankrupt. The Lakeside students lost their jobs and access to computer time. Paul Allen’s father worked at the University of Washington and had access to the computer center. Young programmers got down to business, looking for an area to apply their knowledge. In 1971, the Information Sciences hired Bill Gates and Paul Allen to create a make-up payroll sheet software. In addition to unlimited computer time, employers have agreed to pay the developers every time their software will bring the company profit.

The young programmers regularly received orders. Bill Gates was the initiator who said: “Let’s call the real world and sell it something.” The most exciting thing was that he found and sold his software to clients. For example, he developed software to optimize road traffic and sold it for $20,000. He was only 15 years old!

Bill Gates’s parents were terrified of their son’s enthusiasm, and by a willful decision, they banned him from computer projects. Bill did not approach the object of his passion for a year, reading the biographies of famous people from Napoleon to Roosevelt. By the age of seventeen, Gates received a proposal for writing a software package for Bonneville Dam, which his parents accepted. For a one-year work on this project, Gates received $30,000.

In 1973, Bill Gates entered Harvard University, intending to follow in his father’s footsteps or become a professor of Mathematics. Later, Bill admitted that his heart wasn’t in it. Most of his time at Harvard was spent playing pinball, bridge, or poker. Paul Allen, Bill’s friend, often visited him on weekends, and they debated the prospects of opening their own company.

One day, Paul got a job at Honeywell, a company in Boston, and learned about the Altair 8800 personal computer created by MITS. Gates had enough courage to offer MITS to use BASIC on this unique computer.

Of course, Bill Gates was cunning in that the language is designed explicitly for Altair, but the program showed a perfect match from the very first time. This option satisfied the managers, who offered young people the creation of programming languages.

Establishment and Development of Microsoft

In June 1975, Bill Gates created a company for software development and named it Microsoft (the first version was Micro-Soft). Despite the hard work of its employees, the company experienced some difficulties at first with distributing software products. The company did not have enough money to hire a good sales manager, so Bill Gates’ mother, Mary Maxwell Gates, performed this function.

Early next year, Gates and Allen discovered that the company’s income had dropped to the lowest affordable point. Its main reason was so-called ‘piracy’ – illegal copying of software and the use of it without permission of the creator. Many people copied the MS Basic and handed it to someone else. Realizing this, Bill Gates was furious, mainly because ‘piracy’ was depriving him of a well-earned income. In addition, these copies contained some mistakes he wanted to reduce before the formal release of MS Basic. Gates wrote an open letter in February 1976, published in a newsletter for Altair users. The Gates Foundation received 300 letters in response, but only a few contained a check.

Bill Gates was the very first to state the need for the protection of the software. His actions have made an incredible contribution to the gradual introduction of the thought that a computer program is a product of creativity and, therefore, must be protected like a musical composition or a literary work.

In 1976, it became apparent that Bill Gates could not simultaneously continue his studies and manage a growing company. In December, he left the university and fully engaged with the business despite all his parents’ objections. At that time, he was only twenty-one.

If you can't make it good, at least make it look good. – Bill Gates Click To Tweet

Then, the young business people got a lucky strike, and the profit of Microsoft sales reached $500,000 for the 1977 financial year. The company, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, had a staff of 13 people. Paul Allen and Gates were engaged in organizational issues: Paul was responsible for developing new software, and Bill communicated with the computer manufacturers and ran the company’s daily operations.

In 1979, Bill received an offer from IBM to create an operating system for the world’s first personal computer. However, Bill Gates was forced to deny IBM’s proposal, as he did not have any drafts for creating OS at the moment. Therefore, the CEO of Microsoft was forced to recommend IBM to seek help from its competitor Digital Research, which later became the developer of the OS for IBM’s personal computer.

Meanwhile, Microsoft buys a ‘crude’ operating system, 86-DOS, for $50,000 from the Seattle Computer and hires Tim Paterson, the creator of 86-DOS. Bill Gates’s company significantly refined 86-DOS, and soon the world saw MS-DOS, which Microsoft offered to use as the primary OS for IBM personal computers, thus beating Digital Research. In September 1980, IBM signed a detailed contract with Microsoft. This contract was destined to change the history of the personal computer industry. Both IBM and Microsoft benefited from it. Gates’ main competitor, Digital Research, altered the course of business, and they were no longer involved in the competition.

In 1981, Microsoft became a corporation, the management of which is shared between Bill Gates and Paul Allen. In the same year, IBM introduced its personal computer with 16-bit operating system MS-DOS. In addition, the IBM PC includes other Microsoft products such as BASIC, COBOL, Pascal, and others.

From Bill Gates biography, we learned that in 1982, Gates convinced IBM management that MS-DOS should be sold under the license of other computer manufacturers, thereby making the competition of Apple, which was selling its computers based on its operating system.

In 1983, The Microsoft Hardware group (formed in 1982) created a manipulator called ‘Mouse’ for easy data input into a computer with a graphical user interface. In the same year, the corporation presented a text editor for MS-DOS. In addition to all of these, Bill Gates announced Windows – the extension of the operating system for MS-DOS as a universal working environment for graphics applications.

In 1986, Microsoft entered the IPO market, and in just one day, one share cost grew from $22 to $28. It goes without saying that since then, Microsoft has started to dominate an entire industry – it has owned about 44 percent of all profits in the software market. It also kept other companies from growing. In 1991, Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus Development Corp., declared in an interview: “The revolution is over, and the free-wheeling innovation in the software industry has ground to a halt. For me, it’s the Kingdom of the Dead.”

The fact confirms that in 1993, the number of registered users of Microsoft Windows reached 25 million. Thus, Windows becomes the most popular operating system in the world with a graphical interface. Microsoft also released Windows NT – a number of operating systems designed for workstations and servers.

Two years later, the Microsoft Corporation deployed Windows 95. The excitement about its sale was so great that one could find even people who did not have a computer in a line to a store. Just in one year, 25 million copies of Windows 95 were sold.

In 1996-97, the company launched the next generation of Microsoft Windows NT (4.0 and 5.0), which was significantly modified compared to the first version of the software.

In 1998, the brand-new Windows 98 saw the world. Not too many changes were made, except for improved internal functions. Then, Microsoft created Windows 2000. Later, it’s going to be called the best corporate operating system.

Code named ‘Longhorn’ in the early development stages, Windows Vista was released on January 30, 2007. It had the most robust security system and a matching Microsoft Office 2007.

Windows 7 was built for the wireless world, which arose in the late 2000s. By its release, laptops were outselling desktops, and it had become common to connect to public wireless networks in coffee shops and private ones at home.

In 2012, Windows 8 introduced significant changes to the operating system’s platform to improve its user experience on tablets, where Windows was now competing with mobile operating systems, including Android and iOS. In particular, these changes included a touch-optimized Windows shell based on Microsoft’s Metro design, the Start, and other innovations. Windows 8.1 was released a year later. It addresses some aspects of Windows 8, which users and reviewers criticized. In one interview, Bill Gates said he was very proud of the Windows 8 operating system. Windows 10 was released in July 2015. It includes the Edge browser, the new Microsoft browser that substitutes Internet Explorer. Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8/8.1 the first year after the release.

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. – Bill Gates Click To Tweet

Bill Gates Quitting Microsoft Corporation

In early January 2008, during the Consumer Electronics Show opening ceremony, Bill said that by the beginning of July, he would leave Microsoft. He announced that from now on, he is putting all his efforts into the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, whose main objective is to support projects in education and health care.

Since the end of June 2008, Gates has retired from active management at Microsoft. He gave his authority to Steve Ballmer while extending a zone of responsibility for Craig Mundie and Ray Ozzie. This trio now determines the course of the company. Despite this, Bill Gates is still a chairman of the Board of Directors (but non-executive) and remains the largest shareholder, with 6.4 percent of the common stock.

On February 04, 2014, Bill Gates resigned as the Chairman of the Board and will work directly with the new CEO Satya Nadella as an advisor on technology. Thus, Gates will directly affect the operation of Microsoft, but at the same time, he is deprived of the post of Chairman, which he held since 1981.

Bill Gates Personality Traits

One of the most essential qualities of Bill Gates is his ability to recognize a truly talented person. “I don’t hire fools,” he said once. Sometimes, Gates conducted interviews for a vacant position and, if necessary, called and tried to persuade a candidate he favored. Despite Bill Gates appreciating his time, he also realizes that intellectual capital is the most essential thing in business. His team is comprised of the best minds and the most robust programmers worldwide. In the language of management, Bill Gates is the first capitalist of intellectual property. Bill Gates’ life story will be studied as an excellent example of a great business.

His desire to head the top of the list no matter what it takes paid off – the dominance in the global market of the computer industry for a few decades is not that easy to achieve! As of April 09, 2015, the Microsoft Windows operating system market share reached 91.02%, which confirms the success of the Microsoft company. However, Bill Gates seems indifferent to these numbers, “Success is a bad teacher. It makes smart people think that they can’t lose.”

Another personality trait of this man is pragmatism in everything. Work, work, and work again – this is Bill Gates’ core idea. Rest is considered a sign of weakness, so he works hard daily. He says there is no time for hesitation as the value of what you have achieved very quickly comes to zero, and in the world of computers, it is the most noticeable. They say that if you master a new program, it is already outdated. If it’s true at the user’s level, what would it be for the creator?

Recognition and Philanthropy

Bill Gates has been recognized all around the world for his accomplishments. He received his doctorates from the following universities:

  • Royal Institute of Technology (Stockholm, Sweden).
  • Nyenrode Business Universiteit, (Breukelen, The Netherlands, 2000).
  • Tsinghua University (Beijing, China, April 2007).
  • Harvard University (Cambridge, USA, June 2007).
  • Karolinska Institutet (Stockholm, Sweden, 2007).
  • Cambridge University (Cambridge, USA, June 2009)

In 2007, Gates became an honorary trustee of Peking University.

Also, while being a student, Gates was inspired by the philanthropic work of John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie. In 2000, Gates and his wife, Melinda, founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support low-income countries.

In 2005, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Bill Gates an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE), and he could use the post-nominal letters KBE after his name. In November 2006, the Mexican government awarded Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates, the Order of the Aztec Eagle for their philanthropic contributions to the world’s development, especially in health and education.

Time magazine named Bill Gates one of the 100 persons who most influenced the world in the 20th century. Additionally, Time magazine named Gates, his wife Melinda, and the U2 lead singer Bono as the Persons of the Year of 2005.

The Franklin Institute awarded Gates with the 2010 Bower Award for Business Leadership for his accomplishments at Microsoft Corporation and philanthropic work.

On January 05, 2015, Bill Gates presented an ingenious Omniprocessor machine that turns feces into clean drinking water. This installation will help 2.5 billion people worldwide suffering from a shortage of drinking water.

It was developed by Janicki Engineering Company, headed by CEO Peter Janicki, and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Omniprocessor can be a win-win investment for small and middle-class entrepreneurs in developing countries. Entrepreneurs who invest in the machine will be paid for sludge input. And those same entrepreneurs will be born for the outputs: electricity, water, and ash. Later this year, it will be set up in Dakar, Senegal, as the pilot project.

Bill Gates noted that the Omniprocessor could handle waste from 100,000 people, producing up to 86,000 liters of drinking water daily and a net 250 kW of electricity.

Peter Janicki and Bill Gates explain how it works in the video below.

Family and Passions

Gates is an excellent example of a family man who married Melinda French in 1994 and became Melinda Gates. In 1996, their first daughter, Jennifer, was born. Rory John Gates saw the word in 1999; three years later, he’s got a little sister – Phoebe.

Bill met Melinda at a Microsoft press briefing in New York in 1987. As he figured out, she worked in his company for quite a long time. Melinda left the business by marrying its owner. They lived in a large house near Seattle, as Microsoft headquarters is also in the Seattle suburb. The couple filed for divorce in May 2021 after 27 years of marriage. The couple divorced in August 2021.

Gates is fond of cars – what man does not like high speed? He owns several of them, including the Porsche 930 Turbo, Porsche 959 Coupe, and Porsche Carrera 911 Cabriolet 964. In one of his interviews, Gates confessed that he had never used a seat belt.

Only very few people know that Gates is also a talented writer. In 1995, Bill Gates published The Road Ahead, co-written with Nathan Myhrvold, formerly Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, and journalist Peter Rinearson. For seven weeks, The Road to the Future headed the list of best sellers by the New York Times.

In 1999, Bill Gates wrote one more book, Business @ the Speed of Thought, which explains how information technology can solve business problems entirely. This book was created in collaboration with Collins Hemingway and was translated into 25 languages.

As of March 2015, 118,584 employees worked at Microsoft Corporation. In 2015, the company’s revenue reached $93.58 billion.

Many things may be said about Gates, both positive and negative. However, one thing is clear – not recognizing his influence is impossible. We hope you have enjoyed exploring the biography of Bill Gates and the success story of Microsoft Corporation.

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