He was born in Seattle in 1955, and began programming computers at the age of 13. In 1973 he was accepted into Harvard and it was here where he developed his own version of the BASIC programming language for one of the first microcomputers: the MITS Altair. His college years were short-lived however, and he dropped out in his junior year to concentrate on his business, Microsoft, which he co-founded with his friend, Paul Allen.
He had a vision that computers would be a tool for the masses; in every office and home. It was with this vision that Microsoft began developing software for personal computers. An important milestone in the early days of Microsoft was their partnership with IBM in 1980. IBM allowed Microsoft to bundle their operating system on IBM hardware, paying Microsoft a royalty for every sale. Although their partnership with IBM ended in 1985, by the 1990's, Microsoft products had a 90% market share of operating systems for the world's personal computers.
Although the success of Microsoft as a company was phenomenal, it was not without controversy. In 1997 Microsoft was brought to court by the US Justice Department which accused them of violating anti-trust law (which prohibits anti-competitive behavior). This court action was initiated because Microsoft's Windows 95 software was bundled with Internet Explorer, which, according to the Justice Department, stifled competition from other Internet browser manufacturers. Microsoft was ordered to be split up into two companies, but this decision was overturned on appeal, and the company agreed to a financial settlement as well as certain restrictions regarding their business practices.
In January 2000, Bill Gates retired as CEO of Microsoft, but remained as chairman and filled the newly-created role of chief software architect. He ceased full time work in 2006 to work on his philanthropic endeavors, and his last full time day at Microsoft was June 27, 2008. He remains the largest shareholder of Microsoft and is one of the wealthiest people in the world, giving away millions of dollars each year through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Bill Gates will unquestionably be remembered as one of the most influential persons of the late 20th and early 21st century, playing a major role in the ...