William Henry "Bill" Gates III (born October 28, 1955) is an American business magnate, philanthropist, author, and chairman of Microsoft, the software company he founded with Paul Allen. He is ranked consistently one of the world's wealthiest people and the wealthiest overall as of March 2009. During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of CEO and chief software architect, and remains the largest individual shareholder with more than 8 percent of the common stock. He has also authored or co-authored several books.
Gates is one of the best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution. Although he is admired by many, a large number of industry insiders criticize his business tactics, which they consider anti-competitive, an opinion which has in some cases been upheld by the courts. In the later stages of his career, Gates has pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors, donating large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, established in 2000.
Bill Gates stepped down as chief executive officer of Microsoft in January, 2000. He remained as chairman and created the position of chief software architect. In June, 2006, Gates announced that he would be transitioning from full-time work at Microsoft to part-time work and full-time work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He gradually transferred his duties to Ray Ozzie, chief software architect and Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer. Gates's last full-time day at Microsoft was June 27, 2008. He remains at Microsoft as non-executive chairman.
Gates was born in Seattle, Washington, to William H. Gates, Sr. and Mary Maxwell Gates. His family was upper middle class; his father was a prominent lawyer, his mother served on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem and the United Way, and her father, J. W. Maxwell, was a national bank president. Gates has one elder sister, Kristi (Kristianne), and one younger sister, Libby. He was the fourth of his name in his family, but was known as William Gates III or "Trey" because his father had dropped his own "III" suffix. Early on in his life, Gates's parents had a law career in mind for him.
At 13 he enrolled in the Lakeside School, an exclusive preparatory school. When he was in the eighth grade, the Mothers Club at the school used proceeds from Lakeside School's rummage sale to buy an ASR-33 teletype terminal and a block of computer time on a General Electric (GE) computer for the school's students. Gates took an interest in programming the GE system in BASIC and was excused from math classes to pursue his interest. He wrote his first computer program on this machine: an implementation of tic-tac-toe that allowed users to play games against the computer. Gates was fascinated by the machine and how it would always execute software code perfectly. When he reflected back on that moment, he commented on it and said, "There was just something neat about the machine." After the Mothers Club donation was exhausted, he and other students sought time on systems including DEC PDP minicomputers. One of these systems was a PDP-10 belonging to Computer Center Corporation (CCC), which banned four Lakeside students—Gates, Paul Allen, Ric Weiland, and Kent Evans—for the summer after it caught them exploiting bugs in the operating system to obtain free computer time.
At the end of the ban, the four students offered to find bugs in CCC's software in exchange for computer time. Rather than use the system via teletype, Gates went to CCC's offices and studied source code for various programs that ran on the system, including programs in FORTRAN, LISP, and machine language. The arrangement with CCC continued until 1970, when it went out of business. The following year, Information Sciences Inc. hired the four Lakeside students to write a payroll program in COBOL, providing them computer time and royalties. After his administrators became aware of his programming abilities, Gates wrote the school's computer program to schedule students in classes. He modified the code so that he was placed in classes with mostly female students. He later stated that "it was hard to tear myself away from a machine at which I could so unambiguously demonstrate success." At age 17, Gates formed a venture with Allen, called Traf-O-Data, to make traffic counters based on the Intel 8008 processor.. In early 1973, Bill Gates served as a congressional page in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Gates graduated from Lakeside School in 1973. He scored 1590 out of 1600 on the SAT and subsequently enrolled at Harvard College in the fall of 1973. Prior to the mid-1990s, a SAT score of 1590 corresponded roughly to an IQ of 170, a figure that has been cited frequently by the press. While at Harvard, he met his future business partner, Steve Ballmer, whom he later appointed as CEO of Microsoft. He also met computer scientist Christos Papadimitriou at Harvard, with whom he collaborated on a paper about pancake sorting. He did not have a definite study plan while a student at Harvard and spent a lot of time using the school's computers. Gates also took the infamously difficult Math 55 class, which he said taught him that there were people smarter than him. He remained in contact with Paul Allen, joining him at Honeywell during the summer of 1974. The following year saw the release of the MITS Altair 8800 based on the Intel 8080 CPU, and Gates and Allen saw this as the opportunity to start their own computer software company. He had talked this decision over with his parents, who were supportive of him after seeing how much Gates wanted to start a company.