Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
William Henry Gates III, KBE (born October 28, 1955), commonly known as Bill Gates, is an American businessman and a computer pioneer. He, along with others, wrote the original Altair BASIC interpreter for the Altair 8800 (the first commercially successful personal computer). He, with Paul Allen, co-founded Microsoft Corporation, and is now its chairman and "Chief Software Architect." According to Forbes magazine, Gates is the wealthiest person in the world.
Gates was born in Seattle, Washington on Oct. 28, 1955 to William H. Gates, Sr., a corporate lawyer, and Mary Maxwell Gates , board member of First Interstate Bank , Pacific Northwest Bell and the national board of United Way. He is really William Henry Gates IV, his great-grandfather being the true William Henry Gates Sr.
Gates's sister Kristi Anne was born in 1953. Throughout grade school, Gates did poorly in penmanship, civics, and other subjects he found trivial, but got top grades in science and mathematics. Toward the end of his elementary years, Gates started to have severe behavioral problems that worried his parents and teachers enough that Gates had to go to a psychiatrist.
Gates attended Lakeside School, Seattle's most exclusive prep school, where he was able to develop his programming skills on the school's minicomputer. He later went on to study at Harvard University, but dropped out without graduating to pursue what would become a lifelong career in software development.
While he was a student at Harvard, he co-authored with Paul Allen the original Altair BASIC interpreter for the Altair 8800 (the first commercially successful personal computer) in the mid 1970s. It was inspired by BASIC, an easy-to-learn programming language developed at Dartmouth College for teaching purposes.
Gates married Melinda French on January 1, 1994. They have three children, Jennifer Katharine Gates (born April 26, 1996), Rory John Gates (born May 23, 1999) and Phoebe Adele Gates (born September 14, 2002). They live in a very large earth-sheltered home in the side of a hill overlooking Lake Washington. It is a very modern 21st century house in the "Pacific lodge " style, with advanced electronic systems everywhere. In one respect though it is more like an 18th or 19th century mansion: It has a large private library with a domed reading room. While it does have a classic flavor the home has many unique qualities. Visitors are surveyed and given a microchip upon entrance. This small chip sends signals throughout the house, and the rooms temperature and other factors change according to the preset user preferences.
In 1997, Gates was the victim of a bizarre extortion plot by Chicago resident Adam Quinn Pletcher. Gates testified at the subsequent trial. Pletcher was convicted and sentenced in July 1998 to six years in prison.
In his religious views, it is likely that Gates is agnostic. Asked by a Time interviewer whether he believed in God, Gates replied "I don't have any evidence on that."
According to Forbes, Gates donated money to the 2004 presidential campaign of George W. Bush. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Gates is cited as having donated at least $33,335 to over 50 political campaigns during the 2004 election cycle.
On December 14, 2004, Bill Gates joined Berkshire Hathaway's board, formalizing the relationship between him and Warren Buffett. Berkshire Hathaway is a conglomerate that includes Geico (automobile insurance), Benjamin Moore (paint) and Fruit of the Loom (textiles). Gates also serves on the board of Icos , a Bothell biotech company.
On March 2, 2005, the foreign office of the United Kingdom announced that Gates would receive the title of Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his contribution to enterprise in the United Kingdom and his efforts in poverty reduction around the world. Because he is not a Commonwealth citizen, he cannot use the title of "Sir," but may put letters "KBE" (Knight of the British Empire) after his name.
Main article: Microsoft
In 1975, Gates and Allen co-founded Micro-Soft, later Microsoft Corporation, to market their version of BASIC, called Microsoft BASIC. It was the primary interpreted computer language of the MS-DOS operating system, and was key to Microsoft's early commercial success.
In February 1976, Bill Gates wrote the Open Letter to Hobbyists, which shocked the computer hobbyist community by asserting that a commercial market existed for computer software. Gates stated in the letter that software should not be copied without the publisher's permission, which he equated to piracy. While legally correct, Gates's proposal was unprecedented in a community that was influenced by its ham radio legacy and hacker ethic, in which innovations and knowledge were freely shared in the community. Nevertheless, Gates was right about the market prospects and his efforts paid off: Microsoft Corporation became one of the world's most successful commercial enterprises, and a key player in the creation of a retail software industry.
Microsoft's key moment came when in the late 1970s, IBM was planning to enter the personal computer market with its IBM Personal Computer (PC), which was released in 1981. Gates licensed MS-DOS, which it had acquired from a local computer manufacturer, to IBM. The story of how Microsoft acquired the original system (QDOS) has inspired much folklore, which often portrays Gates pouncing on a trivial mistake by Digital Research and stealing that company's lead in microcomputer operating systems. It is frequently cited by those who accuse Gates of unethical business practices. In reality, IBM did approach Digital Research for a version of CP/M for its upcoming IBM PC, and spoke to Gary Kildall's wife Dorothy. IBM representatives wanted Dorothy to sign their standard non-disclosure agreement, which Dorothy considered overly burdensome. IBM then returned to talk to Microsoft. Gates obtained rights to a cloned design of CP/M, QDOS, from Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer products , licensed it to IBM, and MSDOS/IBMDOS was born. Later, IBM discovered that Gates' operating system could have infringement problems with CP/M, contacted Kildall, and in exchange for a promise not to sue, made an agreement that CP/M would be sold along with IBMDOS when the IBM PC was released. The price set by IBM for CP/M was $250 and for MSDOS/IBMDOS it was $40. Obviously, MSDOS/IBMDOS outsold CP/M many times over, eventually becoming the standard. By marketing MS-DOS aggressively to manufacturers of IBM-PC clones, Microsoft gained unprecedented visibility in the microcomputer industry, even rivalling IBM.
During the following years, Gates used his company's growing resources to displace competitors such as WordPerfect, and Lotus 1-2-3, among many others. It is alleged (although never explained in detail) that Gates instructed Microsoft programmers to include special code in one of the MS-DOS versions to make Lotus 1-2-3 produce errors, making it appear to the users as if Lotus's software was the problem when it actually wasn't.
In the late 1980s, Microsoft and IBM partnered in the development of a more advanced operating system, OS/2. The operating system was marketed in connection with a new hardware design, the PS/2, that was proprietary and secret to IBM. As the project progressed, Gates oversaw continuing friction with IBM over the system's design, hardware support, and user interface. Ultimately he came to believe that IBM wanted to marginalize Microsoft from having any input in OS/2's development. On May 16, 1991 Gates announced to Microsoft employees that the OS/2 partnership was over and Microsoft would henceforth focus its platform efforts on Windows and the NT kernel. In the ensuing years OS/2 fell to the side and Windows became the favored PC platform.
Some years later, Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser displaced Netscape's Navigator, in a turn of events that many attributed to Microsoft's inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows at no extra charge. An opposing view is that the inclusion in Windows was less important in Internet Explorer's adoption than Microsoft's improvement of the browser's features to a level comparable with Navigator.
As the architect of Microsoft's product strategy, Gates has aggressively broadened the company's range of products and, once it has obtained a leading position in a category, has vigorously defended that position. His and other Microsoft executives' strategic decisions have more than once drawn the concern of competition regulators, and in some cases have been ruled illegal.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
With his wife, Gates founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a charitable organization. The foundation's grants have provided funds for underrepresented minority college scholarships, AIDS prevention, diseases that strike mainly in the third world, and other causes. The Foundation currently provides 90% of the world budget for the attempted eradication of poliomyelitis (polio), the World Health Organization having 'moved on' to other diseases. In June 1999, Gates and his wife donated US$5 billion to their foundation, the largest single donation ever by living individuals. He has donated more than US$100 million to help children suffering from AIDS. On January 26, 2005, it was announced that the Foundation had made a further contribution of US$750 million to the international Vaccine Fund to help fight diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, poliomyelitis and yellow fever.
Critics have called this a response to negative public outcry over the seemingly monopolistic and anti-competitive practices of his company, but those close to Gates say that he had long expressed his plan to eventually give away most (in 1997 the Washington Post reported 90%) of his large fortune. Critics also say that it is done purely as a tax write off to hide money and refrain from paying his share. Criticism aside, this still makes Bill Gates one of the, if not the, biggest (in monetary terms) philanthropists of all time.
- Honorary KBE from the United Kingdom announced, 2005 
- Top 100 influential people in media, the Guardian, 2001
- The Sunday Times power list, 1999
- Upside Elite 100, Ranked 2nd, 1999
- Top 50 Cyber Elite, TIME magazine, Ranked 1st, 1998
- Top 100 most powerful people in sports, The Sporting News, Ranked 28th, 1997
- CEO of the year, Chief Executive Officers magazine , 1994
- Entomologists have named the Bill Gates flower fly, Eristalis gatesi, in his honor 
- Bill Gates is often accused of fraudulently obtaining control of the original DOS operating system for Intel 8088 based personal computers and building his empire out of stolen goods.
- Microsoft disabled the competing DR-DOS operating system when run with their own Windows 3.1 GUI.
- Microsoft is accused of having played unfair technical and business tricks to sabotage the development of IBM-Microsoft's joint venture OS/2 operating system, in order to be able to sell its own creature, the comparatively primitive Windows 1.0 graphic environment.
Gates has been number one of the "Forbes 400" 1993-2005, he's been number one of Forbes magazine's "The World's Richest People" 1996, 1998-2005. According to Forbes list of "The World's Richest People"  his net worth has been:
- 1996 - US$18.5 billion, ranked #1
- 1997 - $36.4 billion, ranked #2 () (behind Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah who did a one time stint on the list)
- 1998 - $51.0 billion, ranked #1
- 1999 - $90.0 billion, ranked #1
- 2000 - $60.0 billion, ranked #1
- 2001 - $58.7 billion, ranked #1
- 2002 - $52.8 billion, ranked #1
- 2003 - $40.7 billion, ranked #1
- 2004 - $46.6 billion, ranked #1
- 2005 - $46.5 billion, ranked #1
In his will Gates leaves behind .01% of his wealth to each of his children.
Portrayals in films and TV
Bill Gates is often characterized as the quintessiential example of a super-intelligent nerd with immense power. This has in turn led to pop culture stereotypes of Gates as a tyrant or evil genius commanding power over an all-powerful empire of technology. Several films and television shows have portrayed either the real Bill Gates or a fictionalized version of him, often according to these cliches.
Films and television shows that have portrayed a fictionalized version of Gates include:
- The Net (1995) — Angela Bennett, a reclusive software engineer played by Sandra Bullock, inadvertently discovers a backdoor in a security program being marketed to the federal government by a Microsoft-like software company headed by billionaire Jeff Gregg, who bears a marked resemblance to Bill Gates in the few scenes where he appears. The discovery makes Angela the target of a cyber-terrorist group known as the Praetorians, apparently loyal to Gregg, who erase her identity and attempt to kill her in an effort to recover the incriminating disk.
- The Simpsons (February 15, 1998) (Season 9, Episode 5F11) — Bill Gates comes to "buy" Homer Simpson's ambiguous internet company, CompuGlobalHyperMegaNet. Gates orders his underlings to "buy out" Simpson's business, so they wreck the place. When Homer asks for the money Gates replies "O, I didn't get rich by writing a lot of checks! [manic laughter]"
- South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (1999) — an Army general complains that his new Windows 98 upgrade is no more stable than his previous copy of Windows 95, and demands to see Bill Gates. When an animated Gates begins to explain just how much stabler Windows 98 actually is using technobabble, the general shoots him.
- Pretty Sammy 2 , a Japanese Anime, has an evil character called Biff Standard, whose software company StandardSoft tries to conquer the Japanese operating system market (dominated by the obviously superior Pineapple software in this show) by actively persecuting the main characters.
- Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999) — a dramatized but historically true film about the history of Apple and Microsoft, with Anthony Michael Hall playing Bill Gates.
- Tom Clancy's Net Force (1999) — Many believe the main protagonist, William Stiles, who tries to take over the world via control of the internet, to be based on Bill Gates. They note the similarities in the names, William being the longhand of Bill and a stile being a small bridge over a wall used instead of a gate.
- AntiTrust (2001) — a film about a programmer in a fictional software company. Tim Robbins plays Gary Winston, the corporate head, whose characteristics are believed by some to be derived from Gates. Gates is also mentioned by name in the film.
- Clockstoppers (2002) — Henry Gates is a megalomaniacal corporate head who wants to take over the world using technology. (Henry is Bill Gates' middle name.)
- Nothing So Strange (2002) — a film about a fictional assassination of Gates in 1999.
- 2DTV (2004) (Series 4, Episode 6) — Bill Gates is seen at his "computer-shaped" home writing a letter to a customer, when the Office Assistant pops up and starts annoying Gates. Ultimately, it drives the animated Gates to near-suicide, at which point the paperclip proclaims, "Hi there, it looks like you're writing a suicide note", and a number of disgruntled customers appear, continuing, "would you like some help?". Gates also appears in episode 4 of this series, in an animated "Matrix for Windows" spoof, mocking the growing size of Microsoft operating systems.
- Family Guy (August 29, 2001) (Season 3, Episode 08) — In one episode, Gates is flying through the air on a jetpack with Disney CEO and chairman Michael Eisner, who says "God, the people look like ants from up here", to which Gates replies, "They are ants, Michael, they ARE ants!"
- Family Guy (November 29, 2001) (Season 3, Episode 12) — Gates is playing poker with Peter Griffin, Mr. Pewterschmidt, Michael Eisner, and Ted Turner in one episode. When Turner asks whether Aces are high or low, Peter says, "They go both ways," and so Gates says, "Hah! He said they go both ways!" Then Turner explains the joke and kills it. Later in the episode, Peter brakes behind a toll booth and asks for a quarter to defray the toll. Gates replies, "What's a quarter?", to which the other men begin to ponder at as well.
- In CnC: Yuri's Revenge, a man known only as "Chairman Bing" appears as the CEO of a company named Massivesoft
Films and television shows where Bill Gates has actually appeared as himself include:
- Frasier — Bill Gates is invited as a guest speaker on Dr. Frasier Crane's radio show. However, straight from the moment the radio show starts, all the callers only have questions for Gates (about Windows computers) and Dr. Crane doesn't get any attention.
References in computer software
Many computer programs, most of which are for systems other than Microsoft Windows, contain more-or-less direct references to Bill Gates. Obviously, these references are less than flattering. Some include:
- The Open Source game XBill, in which a character known as "Bill", wearing large eyeglasses, is trying to install Windows on computers running other operating systems.
- The Amiga game UropaČ , in which the main enemy is known as "Bill Setag" (Gates in reverse).
- The Windows game Arcanum includes a character named Gilbert Bates, who is a fabulously wealthy entrepeneur. The familiar form of his name, Gil Bates, is a spoonerism of Bill Gates.
- The PC adventure game Space Quest III: The Pirates of Pestulon features a software company called ScumSoft, which is an obvious parody of Microsoft Corporation. The company's evil president is a small, nerdy-looking guy with glasses called Elmo Pug, who seems to bear a striking resemblance to Bill Gates.
- I want to make clear that we respect the role of government in our legal and economic system. — June 9, 2000 ()
- In terms of doing things I take a fairly scientific approach to why things happen and how they happen. I don't know if there's a god or not, but I think religious principles are quite valid. — PBS interview with David Frost, November 1995
Books by Bill Gates
- James Wallace (1993) Hard Drive : Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire Harper Business. ISBN 0887306292
- Janet Lowe (1998) Bill Gates Speaks : Insight from the World's Greatest Entrepreneur John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 0471293539
- Jeanne M. Lesinski (2000) Bill Gates Lerner Publications Company. ISBN 082259689X
- David Bank (2001) Breaking Windows: How Bill Gates Fumbled the Future of Microsoft Free Press. ISBN 0743203151
- Interview with Bill Moyers
- Bill Gates hit with cream pie
- BBC: Bill Gates profile
- Bill Gates speaks with Peter Jennings of ABC
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