William (Bill) H. Gates is chairman and chief executive officer of Microsoft Corporation, the leading provider, worldwide, of software for the personal computer. Microsoft had revenues of $8.6 billion for the fiscal year ending June 1996, and employs more than 20,000 people in 48 countries.
Born on October 28, 1955, Gates and his two sisters grew up in Seattle. Their father, William H. Gates II, is a Seattle attorney. Their late mother, Mary Gates, was a schoolteacher, University of Washington regent and chairwoman of United Way International.
Gates attended public elementary school and the private Lakeside School. There, he began his career in personal computer software, programming computers at age 13.
In 1973, Gates entered Harvard University as a freshman, where he lived down the hall from Steve Ballmer, now Microsoft’s executive vice president for sales and support. While at Harvard, Gates developed the programming language BASIC for the first microcomputer — the MITS Altair.
In his junior year, Gates dropped out of Harvard to devote his energies to Microsoft, a company he had begun in 1975 with Paul Allen. Guided by a belief that the personal computer would be a valuable tool on every office desktop and in every home, they began developing software for personal computers.
Gates’ foresight and vision regarding personal computing have been central to the success of Microsoft and the software industry. Gates is actively involved in key management and strategic decisions at Microsoft, and plays an important role in the technical development of new products. A significant portion of his time is devoted to meeting with customers and staying in contact with Microsoft employees around the world through e-mail.
Under Gates’ leadership, Microsoft’s mission is to continually advance and improve software technology and to make it easier, more cost-effective and more enjoyable for people to use computers. The company is committed to a long-term view, reflected in its investment of more than $2 billion on research and development in the current fiscal year.
As of December 12, 1996, Gates’ Microsoft stock holdings totaled 282,217,980 shares.
In 1995, Gates wrote The Road Ahead, his vision of where information technology will take society. Co-authored by Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s chief technology officer, and Peter Rinearson, The Road Ahead held the No. 1 spot on the New York Times’ bestseller list for seven weeks. Published in the U.S. by Viking, the book was on the NYT list for a total of 18 weeks. Published in more than 20 countries, the book sold more than 400,000 copies in China alone.
In 1996, while redeploying Microsoft around the Internet, Gates thoroughly revised The Road Ahead to reflect his view that interactive networks are a major milestone in human history. The paperback second edition has also become a bestseller. Gates is donating his proceeds from the book to a non-profit fund that supports teachers worldwide who are incorporating computers into their classrooms.
In addition to his passion for computers, Gates is interested in biotechnology. He sits on the board of the Icos Corporation and is a shareholder in Darwin Molecular, a subsidiary of British-based Chiroscience. He also founded Corbis Corporation, which is developing one of the largest resources of visual information in the worlda comprehensive digital archive of art and photography from public and private collections around the globe. Gates also has invested with cellular telephone pioneer Craig McCaw in Teledesic, a company that is working on an ambitious plan to launch hundreds of low-orbit satellites around the globe to provide worldwide two-way broadband telecommunications service.
In the decade since Microsoft has gone public, Gates has donated more than $270 million to charities, including $200 million to the William H. Gates Foundation. The focus of Gates’ giving is in three areas: education, population issues and access to technology.