Born on October 28th, 1955, in Seattle, Washington, American businessman and software developer William Henry Gates III is best known as the co-founder of Microsoft together with his childhood friend, Paul Allen. Bill wrote his first software program, an implementation of tic-tac-toe, at the age of thirteen. Fascinated by the possibilities of coding, he and fellow students at Lakeside prep school formed the Lakeside Programmers Club. At seventeen, Bill formed his first partnership with Paul Allen, the Traf-O-Data. He graduated with honors in 1973, and went on to study math and computer sciences at Harvard College.
Gates left Harvard after just two years and went to work at the company Honeywell, where his friend Allen was already working, in 1974. A year later, in 1975, Gates and Allen formed “Micro-Soft” in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after being hired by electronics company MITS to work on a BASIC interpreter for their platform. Their company was later registered in 1976 under the name of “Microsoft.” Microsoft released their first product, Altair BASIC, in 1975, and became very popular amongst computer hobbyists.
In 1980, Microsoft was approached by leading computer company IBM, who were in need of an operating system. Gates and Allen proposed the operating system 86-DOS, of Seattle Computer Products, and made a deal with its creator Tim Paterson to adapt it for the IBM PCs. The result was the PC DOS, only functional on IBM computers, but Gates later adapted into MS-DOS, which could be run by other customers other than IBM, by the 1980s. The product made Microsoft one of the best-known companies in the industry, eventually becoming the largest computer company in the world.
After Allen left the company in 1983 due to health issues, Microsoft released its first retail version of Microsoft Windows in 1985. The software was created as a response to the competition’s Macintosh GUI (Apple.) In 1986, Microsoft entered into another partnership with IBM to develop a separate operating system called OS/2. The DOS system evolved over the course of the decade to become Windows 95, then XP and afterwards came Windows 8 and 10 (2012 and 2015 respectively.)
Since it was founded, Gates has acted as CEO, president, and chief software architect of Microsoft. He stepped down as the company’s CEO in 2000, but remained chairman of the board of directors as well as taking up a role as chief software architect. In 2008, he reduced his time working at Microsoft to spend more hours on his philanthropic efforts through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the private charitable foundation he and his then-wife, Melinda Gates, established in 2000. Gates left his chairman position in 2014 and completely left his board positions in 2020, to continue to focus on his philanthropic efforts on climate change, global health and development, and education.
Gates has held the Forbes title of wealthiest person alive on several occasions, and currently holds the fifth position on the list, with an estimated net worth of US$107 billion.