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William (Bill) H. Gates was chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft Corporation, the worldwide leader in software services and Internet technologies for personal and business. Gates’ foresight and his vision for personal computing have been central to the success of Microsoft and the software industry.

In August 23, 1995, an unprecedented marketing and media frenzy reached its peak throughout the world. The level of publicity and excitement had rarely been seen before, but it was not for a new movie or even a new car. It was a piece of software. By midnight, customers had already queued up outside computer stores to be among the first to purchase Window 95, an upgraded operating system for IBM and IBM-compatible personal computers. Microsoft Corporation, the company behind Windows 95, spared no expense in exciting the demand for its new product.

Born on October 28, 1955, William Henry Gates grew up in Seattle, Washington, is a socially prominent family with his two sisters. Their father was a lawyer, with a well-connected firm in the city. Their mother, Mary Gates, was a schoolteacher, active in charity work. Gates attended public elementary school and the private Lakeside School. There, he discovered his interest in software and began programming computers at the age of 13. “He was a computer nerd before the term was invented” , as one of his teachers described Gates at the time.

In 1973 , Bill Gates entered Harvard University as a freshman, where he lived doen the hall from Steve Ballmer, now Microsoft’s chief executive officer. While at Harvard, Gates developed a version of the programming language BASIC for the first microcomputer – the MITS Altair.

In his junior years, Gates left Harvard to devote his energies to Microsoft, a company he had begun in 1975 with his childhood friend Paul Allen. Guided by a belief that the computer would be a valuable tool on every office desktop and in every home, they began developing software for personal computers. Gates and Allen were not typical entrepreneurs. They had no business plan, no venture capital, no banker or Small Business Administration loans. But they had the most important tools needed for software development: brains and computers, and they had everything necessary for entry into the porous computer industry of the time: they had product, programming expertise, and most importantly, a vision of greater possibilities.

The introduction of Windows 95 mirrored the rapid changes in the marketplace and marked a new crucial point for Bill Gates. His role in the personal computer revolution had given him a net worth estimated in the summer of 1996 at $18 billion, and had turned him into an icon of information technology. Few American businessmen have ever occupied such a niche in the popular imagination. Just as John D. Rockefeller created order from chaos in the most important new industry of the late nineteenth century, Gates and his company did the same in the most crucial industry of the late twentieth century: computers. And like Rockefeller, Gates found ways to force the rest of the industry to follow his lead.

Gates was married on January 1, 1994, to Melinda French Gates. They have three children. Gates is an avid reader, and enjoys playing golf and bridge.

In 1999, Gates wrote Business & Speed of Thought, a book that shows how computer technology can solve business problems in fundamentally new ways. The book was published in 25 languages and is available in more than 60 countries. Gates’ previous book, The Road Ahead, published in 1995, held the No. 1 spot on the New York Times’ bestseller list for seven weeks.

Though an innovative and forward-thinking entrepreneur, Bill Gate didn’t invent crucial technology. Rather, he shrewdly adapted and improved products first made by others. He recognized the coming of the personal computer (PC) long before others did, and deduced that operating systems and applications (software) would be at least as important to the PC business as the nuts-and-bolts equipment (hardware). Part of the reason for Microsoft’s dominance in the field lies precisely in Gates’ ability to anticipate developments in computer technology and to judge when the public will be ready for them. Another part of Microsoft’s success lies in Gates’ unwavering confidence in his own ideas. Through the force of his personality, as much as through the popularity of his products, Bill Gates has imposed his own order on the burgeoning computer industry.

Gates has donated the proceeds of both books to non-profit organizations that support the use of technology in education and professional skills development. Under Gates’ leadership, Microsoft’s mission has been to continually advance and improve software technology, and to make it easier, more cost-effective and more enjoyable for people to use computers.

Philanthropy was also important to Gates. He and his wife, Melinda, have endowed a foundation with more than $24 billion to support initiatives in the areas of global health and learning, including the Gates Library Initiative to bring computers, Internet Access and training to public libraries in low-income communities in the United States and Canada.


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