William Henry Gates, III, commonly known as Trey, was born on October 28, 1955 in Seattle, Washington. He is the second child of William and Mary Gates. His father is a lawyer and his mother is a former teacher who currently serves on multiple prestigious boards.
Trey’s parents sent him to a private school (Moritz, 238).
At the young age of 13, Bill taught himself programming, even after taking a computer studies class. With a flawless 800 on the math portion of the SAT, he graduated from Lakeside school and became a prelaw major at Harvard University. As a student, Gates was extraordinary. He managed to achieve an A in an economics class without attending and by cramming the night before the final exam.
In June 1975, Bill Gates left Harvard University to focus on computers. Later that year, he relocated to New Mexico with Allen Kay and together they founded Microsoft to create their Basic for the MITS. After a year and a half, they earned a significant amount of money and were contracted by Tandy to design software for its radio shack computers. Subsequently, Gates and Allen moved the company’s base to Seattle, Washington.
In Seattle, Gates developed an operating system named MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System). Later, Microsoft sold the rights of MS-DOS to IBM, leading to its emergence as a prominent computer corporation. Various computer companies, including Apple computers’ pioneers Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, desired Microsoft’s software for their machines. Having established the operating system, Gates and Microsoft embarked on creating applications software for various purposes like financial analysis and word processing.
Microsoft’s ongoing innovation in computer software ensures its future success. Bill Gates, who envisions a robust and fast network within companies and across the Information Superhighway, remains committed to shaping the future (Brandt, 57).
Before Bill Gates entered the computer industry in the early 1970s, hardware components such as chips, circuit boards, capacitors, and controllers played a major role. IBM, Compaq, and Apple were influential companies that sold expensive devices made of metal, plastic, and silicon. However, Gates has a vision of personal computers evolving into interconnected networks. He believes that affordable networks with adequate capacity will bring about a technological revolution.
Bill Gates recognized the potential of the software industry, which was predicted to grow rapidly, similar to its hardware counterpart. Born in 1955 during the early stages of the computer industry, Gates seized this opportunity. By that time, there were fewer than 500 electronic computers worldwide valued at less than $200 million and the term “software” had not yet been coined (Manes, 2).
Bill Gates first encountered a computer in 1968 during his time in junior high school. At that time, the computer industry and Gates himself were rapidly evolving. He recognized that the software aspect of computers was more profitable than hardware. Excellent software makes computers captivating and user-friendly. Gates embraced this idea and successfully pursued it. In 1993, Gates’ personal net worth exceeded $2 billion, and his company, Microsoft, had a valuation of over $7 billion (Manes, 2).
In the early stages of Microsoft’s growth and the software industry as a whole, computer hardware manufacturers saw the opportunity to exploit Bill Gates’ company. Initially, Microsoft produced BASIC, which was one of their first programs. However, the situation changed as Microsoft and its software became increasingly popular. The hardware manufacturers no longer perceived themselves as exploiters but rather viewed Bill Gates and Microsoft as having control over their fates. If a hardware couldn’t run Microsoft software, it was a sure path to defeat. During the early 80’s, Bill Gates held significant influence over the computer industry. His decisions on which machines to support or ignore had the power to make or break companies. Leaders of computer and microprocessor firms often made visits to Microsoft’s wooded headquarters in Redmond, Washington, seeking guidance from Gates himself. (Manes, 4)
In 1986, Microsoft launched its inaugural version of Windows, which brought about a revolution in the computer industry. Windows was known as an operating environment and emphasized on running other programs. Unlike the original BASIC language, Windows integrated a Graphical User Interface (GUI), commonly referred to as Agooey within the industry. This GUI presented a symbolic depiction of a desktop on computer screens across the nation, incorporating icons that symbolized different files and programs.
Opening these files and programs was similar to opening different “windows”, which is why they were given that name. This meant that non-Macintosh personal computers were now becoming user friendly, removing the perception that they were complicated and only accessible through unfamiliar methods. However, the first seven years after the launch of windows were not seamless for Bill Gates and Microsoft. During this time, reviews were lukewarm, compliments were given reluctantly, hype didn’t materialize, and sales were slow (Manes, 7).
Despite facing legal action from Apple computer, led by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Microsoft overcame these challenges and gained popularity with their Windows software. They were accused of copying Macintosh concepts for Windows but managed to spread quickly. Since then, Microsoft has released multiple updated editions of Windows, including the most recent version, Windows 95.
Upon its release, Windows 95 encountered challenges despite its similarities to the original Windows program. Microsoft faced a legal dispute with the U.S. Justice Department regarding their investigation into the computer industry. According to The Economist’s June 24, 1995 issue, three antitrust probes were launched into Bill Gates’ empire by the department (The Economist, 59).
The investigation centered around Microsoft’s potential misuse of licensing agreements and royalty fees with various computer manufacturers. Bill Gates and Microsoft have established their operating software as the industry standard for personal computers, and Gates now aims to dominate the software sector of the emerging multimedia market. This market includes virtual reality video games and interactive multimedia programming on cable television. To make its entry into this market, Microsoft has secured a contract to supply software to Sega, a prominent Japanese video game manufacturer. Sega’s most popular character, a hyperactive hedgehog named Sonic, is currently the hottest property in the industry.
Besides Sega, Mr. Gates has also been in discussions with Time Warner and TCI to establish a joint venture called CableSoft, aimed at establishing interactive TV standards. (The Economist, 73) Microsoft’s Bill Gates and his company have been leading the ever-evolving computer industry for a considerable period. As long as profit margins and stock prices keep rising and Microsoft products retain their widespread popularity, this duo will continue to dominate the industry.
- Manes, Stephen; Andrews, Paul; Gates – How Microsoft=s Mogul Reinvented An Industry – And Made Himself The Richest Man In America. Doubleday 1993
- Trojan hedgehog@, The Economist. January 22, 1994, p.73-74
- High noon for Billy the Kid?@, The Economist. June 24, 1995, P.59-60
- Bitter, Gary G. AWillian H. Gates.@ Macmillan Encyclopedia of Computers. Macmillan Publishing: New York, NY, 1992, P.409-410.
- Brandt, Richard. ABill Gate=s Vision.@ Business Week. June 27, 1994, P.56-62.
- Moritz, Charles. AWilliam Gates.@ Current Biography. H.W. Wilson Company: New York, NY, 1991, P.237-241.