Can anyone name even just one person whose life has not been touched by Bill Gates one way or another? Bill Gates is the founder of Microsoft, which provided millions of computer users an operating system called Windows so that it could be used easily and productivity software called Microsoft Office to enhance the way we do things. At the height of its dominance in the market, Microsoft was called the evil empire and pirates had a heyday producing counterfeit and fake copies of the software. Indeed, Gates is one of the most influential persons of the past century.
He was born in 1955 as William Henry Gates. At an early age, he already showed an inclination towards computers and software programming. At age 13, while most boys his age would be out playing baseball or football during their spare time, Gates was already writing his first computer program. Students of Lakeside School, an exclusive preparatory school, had access to a Teletype model 33 ASR terminal, along with a block of computer time on a General Electric (GE) computer. Gates was excused from some of his classes so that he could devote his time to programming the GE system using the BASIC program. The very first that he was able to develop was a game of tic tac toe, in which users would play games against the computer. The computer’s perfect execution of the code he wrote amazed Gates and cemented his love for this new technology.
From Micro-Soft to Microsoft
While studying in Harvard in the mid 1970s, Gates stumbled upon a January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics that featured the new microcomputer called Altair 8800. He immediately contacted the makers of this machine, called Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (or MITS), to gauge the company’s interest on an interpreter for its platform.
The call was a mere shot in the dark, as Gates had not written any code for the microcomputer at all. To his surprise, however, MITS agreed to meet with him and his partner, Paul Allen, for a demonstration in a few weeks time. The two frantically developed an emulator for the Altair system and a BASIC interpreter. They were able to finish it on time, and the demonstration proved to be a success. MITS agreed to distribute the interpreter developed by Gates and Allen as Altair BASIC.
The two then created a partnership called Micro-Soft. After being hired by MITS to work for the company, Gates dropped out of Harvard permanently with the blessing of his parents. Micro-soft subsequently dropped the hyphen the following year to become the Microsoft we all know today.
Hitting the Big Time
Gates and Allen eventually broke off ties with MITS in 1976, though their company continued to program new codes and write new software for different systems. Microsoft’s headquarters were also established in Bellevue in Washington in 1979.
The following year, the giant computer maker International Business Machines, or IBM, asked Microsoft to write a BASIC interpreter for its system. Microsoft set up IBM with Digital Research, the makers of the then popular CP/M operating system. Negotiations between the two latter companies fell apart, however, and Microsoft was asked once again by IBM to obtain for them an acceptable system. Gates then contacted Tim Paterson, the owner of Seattle Computer Products, or SCP, that owned the 86-DOS system. Microsoft signed an exclusive licensing deal with SCP for 86-DOS, and eventually took complete ownership of the system.
The system was renamed as MS-DOS and sold to IBM for $50,000, even as Microsoft retained copyright ownership. The move paid off, as other hardware vendors copied IBM’s system, and operated it using MS-DOS. Microsoft quickly ascended into becoming a major player in the market.
Gates steered the company aggressively until 2000, when he stepped down as CEO. He remained its chief software architect until 2008. By the time he retired, he was already one of the world’s richest men. He also seeded $30 billion for the establishment of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that aims to address poverty and health issues in the developing world.
Passion for Fast Cars
Aside from computers and poverty alleviation, Gates is also known for being fascinated with vehicles. He has been seen driving a 2008 Ford Focus, even as the car giant had a funny exchange with Gates regarding the similarities of the automotive and computer industries.
Gates’ favorites are cars from the German manufacturer Porsche. He actually has three of them, to wit:
Porsche 911 Carrera
A convertible built with profuse amounts of stainless steel, the 911 is eye candy for the serious car lover. But more than that, it also boasts of a rear-mounted and water-cooled 3.4-liter engine that has 24 valves and 6 cylinders. It has maximum 296 horsepower and 258 pounds of torque. It can speed up to 60 miles per hour in just five seconds.
The 930 was one of the first Porsches bought by Gates during the time when Microsoft was just starting. Gates is known to possess the need for speed, which was probably why he bought the fastest production car available from the German automaker at that time. it boasts of a 260 PS engine with maximum 256 horsepower. It can reach 60 miles per hour in just 5.2 seconds, and the car tops up at 153 miles per hour.
Porsche 959 Coupe
This is the mother of all super cars and is considered the most technologically advanced street legal sports car ever created. The funny thing was that the car was initially banned in the United States because of its unknown crash ratings. As a result, the car was stored for more than a decade at the Port of Seattle by the US Customs Service.
In 1999, then President Bill Clinton signed the Show and Display law that allowed certain collectible vehicles to be exempt from safety and crash regulations. As only 337 units were built, the 959 easily counted as a collectible. To further ensure that the 959 would be allowed in, Gates was also rumored to have written a program that simulated the car’s crashworthiness. He is now enjoying a car that can reach 60 miles per hour in less than 3.7 seconds with top speed at 195 miles per hour.