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15 Shocking Facts About Bill Gates’ Childhood

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15 Shocking Facts About Bill Gates’ Childhood


Bill Gates is a name that the whole world recognizes. As the founder of Microsoft, he has impacted the lives of just about everyone alive today with his software. In the process, he has become incredibly rich – one of the richest men in the world, in fact. But he has strayed from being the single richest man alive through the act of charitable giving, something that has been one of his primary aims later in life. He has even pledged to give half of all his wealth away, a feat that becomes impressive in itself due to the alarming rate at which he earns more.

When someone reaches such heady heights of success, it’s interesting for us to take a look at where they came from. Is there something in his past that holds the key to explain how he did it? Could we take his example as a way to follow in his footsteps and experience similar levels of success?

Probably not – the software company that he founded has had an earth-shattering effect, the kind of impact that can never be repeated with the same results. But all the same, it’s very interesting to see what kind of beginnings a man like Bill Gates came from. Here are some of the most shocking and interesting facts about his childhood that we could find from the deepest depths of the internet. Some of them you might be able to expect, given the man that he is today – but some of them will totally surprise you.

15. He Took Up Computing At Just 13 Years Old

What age were you when you knew what you were going to be doing for the rest of your life? Have you even found your passion yet? Don’t be disheartened, but it seems like if you want to be the most successful man in the history of all time, you have to start young. Bill Gates first started to become interested in computing when he was just 13 years old, and within a short space of time he was totally hooked. He became obsessed with computers, and very soon messing around with software and programming was dominating most of his time. He took the pursuit very seriously, which was good news for the world. If he had decided to focus on sports instead, or literature, or history, things might have been very different. The tech revolution would have had a different starting point, and it’s hard to imagine that we would have reached the point we are at today without Microsoft.

14. He Met His Business Partner In University And They Both Dropped Out To Pursue Microsoft

It was when he was first getting interested in computers that he started attending Lakeside School, an exclusive preparatory in Seattle. There he met another boy called Paul Allen. Paul was two years older than him – 15 at the time. They became close friends because they were both so interested in computers. This was all happening in 1968. Fast forward to 1975, when Allen and Gates were still in touch and working on a new program together. They tried a few experiments; some successful, some not. Then they decided to form a partnership based on their micro-computer software. That’s right: they called it Microsoft. While it may have taken them 7 years to get there, they were clearly destined to do great things together from the beginning, when they were just teenagers. They were still only young men when they formed this partnership – so young, in fact, that both of them had to drop out of university (Harvard for Gates, Washington State University for Allen) to follow their dream.

13. He (Flawlessly) Memorized A 2000-Word Passage From The Book Of Matthew

Another example of his great intellect comes from the anecdote about his church confirmation class. Aged 11, he was challenged by the Reverend Dale Turner to memorize chapters 5 to 7 of the Book of Matthew, also known as the Sermon on the Mount. The whole class was tested with the prize being dinner on top of the Space Needle. Turner was stunned when it came time to perform, and Gates was able to recite the entire 2000-word text without any errors. 31 classmates ate at the Space Needle that year, but Gates was the only one to be able to do it flawlessly. He was definitely very interested in books, as he also spent his teenage years with his nose deep in a particular series. He read the entire ‘World Book Encyclopedia’, from the start all the way to the finish. He apparently still reads 50 books a year, though his biggest regret in life is that he does not yet know any foreign languages.

12. His Mother Was A Corporate Board Member

In the 1960s, most women were relegated to the role of mother, and if they did work, they would take relatively minor roles. Bill’s mother was called Mary, and she worked as a teacher for a while before having three children and devoting her life to looking after them. Well, almost. Actually, Mary was a strong role model for his involvement in business. She was serving on several corporate boards, such as the First Interstate Bank in Seattle, The United Way, which was founded by her grandfather, and International Business Machines (IBM). She was also busy with work for charitable causes, such as volunteering in schools and at community events. Bill would often be taken along with her when she was volunteering, and this no doubt instilled his passion for charity at an early age. He was brought up understanding that those who have much should give to those who have little.

11. He Got A Near-Perfect Score On His SATs… 1590 Out Of 1600

You can probably guess from what we have discussed so far that Bill Gates was a very intelligent boy. By the time it came to take his college SATs, this was proven beyond a doubt. His score was a very impressive 1590 out of 1600. He gained this score in 1973 at Lakeside School, and it was obviously an achievement which he was very proud of. For the next few years, he wore it as a badge of honour. Whenever he met someone new, he would introduce himself to them by mentioning the score. Although it is easy to understand why he was proud, it does sound a little egotistical to go around boasting about it all of the time. Though people were impressed, more than a few of them also probably found him to be a bit of a bore! Still, it does bear out the idea that it was his brilliant mind that shot him to success.

10. Contrary To Popular Belief, His Is Not A ‘Rags To Riches’ Story

We’re so used to the tale of the kid rising from rags into riches that it almost seems shocking to realize that Bill Gates grew up in a wealthy household. Of course, the wealth that he experienced as a child was nothing compared to what he would later make, but his family was still very well-off. They were described as upper-middle-class. His father, William H. Gates Sr., was a prominent lawyer, which made them plenty of money. He was encouraged to have a competitive spirit in the family environment, along with his sisters, Libby and Kristianne. He was taught that there was always a reward for winning and a penalty for losing. This must have been the basis for his competitive spirit later in life, as well as his desire to strive. What about his sisters now? Kristi actually went on to become Bill’s tax accountant, which is a neat way to keep business in the family. Libby, meanwhile, focused on raising her children, as well as being involved with philanthropy and education.

9. He Exploited Software To Get Girls

Well, at least he tried to get girls through software. Because he was the one who wrote the school’s class scheduling system, he had the ability to do whatever he liked with it. Rather than leaving the code in a state as it was intended, he took the liberty of modifying it for his own purposes. He set the class schedule up so that he would be in classes with what he has described as a “disproportionate number of interesting girls”. Yes, even a child genius is driven by the same kind of impulses which affect all teenage boys! There’s no word on whether or not his attempts to surround himself with women were successful at that age, though they certainly were later in life. He met his now wife when she was working for his company. They married in 1994 and are still together, with three children — the same number as his own parents.

8. He Was Arrested… And Actually Had The $1000 Bail Money In His Wallet

He had already had one brush with the law when he was caught exploiting a software bug, but he went on to have another brush with the law later in life. Though he was no longer a child at 21, this is so shocking that we just had to include it. Could you believe that one of the richest and most powerful men in the world was once arrested? Not only that, but he looks pretty cheery in his mugshots, which he has been happy to share even in some Microsoft adverts. It was a traffic violation which got him into trouble. It turns out that he was speeding, and he was doing it without a license, too. This was the first of three arrests, and the funny part of the story is that he was already doing very well with Microsoft by this point. Not only was he able to post his $1000 bail, but he actually had the cash in his wallet!

7. He Was A Loner

Bill’s parents were against sending him to a private school, but they ended up doing so anyway. This was because they were quite worried about him and the way he was turning into a loner at 11 or 12. He was doing great in class but seemed to be withdrawn and even bored at times, and they thought that he was retreating too far into himself. This started because he was a voracious reader from an early age. He would constantly read, gaining as much information as he could. After he was sent to the Lakeside School he started to do better, and was fantastic in all of his subjects. He was particularly praised in maths, science, drama, and English. It was at this time that he became friends with Paul Allen, so clearly he managed to shed that loner mantle and learned how to connect with others at school.

6. He Was Argumentative At School

A lot of people have remarked that Allen and Gates were very different people during their school days, which is why it is a wonder that they became such fast friends. Allen was described as being reserved and shy, but Bill was the opposite. He was feisty and would often get into arguments, even becoming quite combative at times. An example of this was how they would argue about the computer lab at school. Each of them believed that they should be in charge of running it, and would clash over this point. Bill even banned Paul from coming into the computer lab at all at one point! The fact that they resolved their differences and always managed to get along in the end is something we can be thankful for. Without it, they may have devoted their time to rival programs instead of teaming up together, and things would have been very different.

5. He And His Partner Hacked Early Software Glitches

It was at Lakeside School that Bill also first showed his slight propensity for being a troublemaker. Like most intelligent kids, he became bored at school and probably wanted to rebel against authority a bit. At the time, you had to buy time to use computer systems – not every school automatically had one. The local Mothers Club had bought some time for students initially, but later they had to go elsewhere. One of the systems that they used was a PDP-10 which belonged to the Computer Center Corporation. Rather than being satisfied with the time they were allotted, Allen and Gates started to exploit software glitches. These allowed them to gain free computer time from the company. When they were caught, they had their school computer privileges revoked for a whole summer. They were then put on probation and ended up looking for bugs in exchange for time on the computers.

4. He Sold His First Program At Age 15

Although Microsoft was not to come until later, Gates actually sold his first computer program when he was just 15, in 1970. He and Paul had been working on a program that monitored the traffic patterns in Seattle. They called it the Traf-o-Data, which sounds almost like a joke name now because of how dated it is! They did very well off the back of this effort, netting themselves $20,000 between them. It was at this point that they first wanted to create their own software company, but at this time things weren’t so easy. Paul was two years older, after all, and both of their parents wanted them to go on to college instead of quitting school to be businessmen. So, things were delayed until they could both get the chance to work on something a bit more serious. This may have been a good decision, as it gave them time to come up with something very special.

3. His Parents Wanted Him To Be A Lawyer

Since his father was such a successful lawyer, it seems only natural that his parents were keen for Bill to follow in his footsteps. After all, they had all of the right connections to help him to succeed, and he was immersed in the world of law from a young age. That was one of the reasons why he put off starting a business with Allen and enrolled at Harvard University instead. By all accounts, he actually did intend to embark on a law career, just as his parents had wanted for him since he was a child. But he started spending more of his time in the computer lab than in the classroom, and he had a very lackadaisical approach to his studies. This is one of the things that led to him drop out of Harvard in order to pursue Microsoft, something that was a real disappointment to his parents. We doubt that they were disappointed for very long, however, given how quickly Bill became a success – and even richer than he was when he started out.

2. He Wrote Programs For His School

After he was caught exploiting the software glitches by CCC, he went on to help find and eliminate bugs for them, as we have discussed. This led to Information Sciences, Inc. asking him and Allen, as well as two other boys, to write a payroll program. When the school found out what they were up to, they were quick to requisition his services. Bill ended up writing a payroll program for the school as well, which he and Paul hacked into for fun. He also created a computer program which would schedule students into classes, so that teachers no longer had to work it all out by hand. This was a great early success, and it’s the kind of thing that would be almost unheard of today. It just goes to show how advanced he was even at a young age. There’s no wonder he went on to develop something so revolutionary.

1. He Is Also Known As ‘Trey’

With a name like William Gates and a wealthy background, you could easily imagine that he went through his whole life being known just as Bill. It fits him so well that you can’t really think of him being called anything but that – even William does not sound like it fits him very well. But in fact, his family had another nickname for him. Although he was the fourth in his family to have the name William Gates, for some reason his father took the suffix of II. This meant that in turn, Bill was known as William Gates III. His family took this as the basis for how they referred him, as ‘Trey’. It sounds more like a modern nickname and certainly doesn’t fit with the image we have of the nerdy and withdrawn child that he was. But still, this was how they called him for at least the first part of his life.

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