A Timeline of Bill Gates’ Early Life, Achievements and Philanthropy

Bill Gates is renowned as an American computer programmer and business magnate who co-founded the world’s largest personal computer software company known as Microsoft. Since the formation of his company in 1975, the business mogul has held more than a few high-placed positions: he has served as the CEO, chairman, as well as the chief software architect. The unprecedented success of Microsoft placed Gates in the realm of the rich and powerful, and he has always been listed among the world’s wealthiest since 1987. From his early life to the things he has been able to achieve and philanthropic endeavors, below is the story of William Henry Gates III.

Tracing Bill Gates’ Origin and Early Life

Though known globally as Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft was named William Henry Gates III at birth. He was born in Seattle, Washington on the 28th of October 1955 to William H. Gates Sr. and his wife Mary Maxwell. His family is an upper-middle-class one with three children: Bill, Kristianne his older sister, and Libby his younger sister. Gates’ father was still a college law student when he met Mary who was an athletic student at the University of Washington and also neck-deep into leadership and student affairs.

Gates’ family life experience can be best described as very close-knit and warm, he was encouraged alongside his sisters to be competitive and always strive for excellence. Young Gates’ early signs of competitiveness came to the fore when he took charge of coordinating family games at their Puget Sound summer house. He also took pleasure in playing Monopoly and board games.

Gates’ relationship with his mother was quite a close one; Mary worked briefly as a teacher, but later decided to devote time to raising the kids and working with charities. She also spent her time serving on a few corporate boards like the First Interstate Bank located in Seattle (the bank owes its existence to her grandfather), International Business Machines (IBM), and Unite Way. Young Gates would often tag along whenever his mum was doing volunteer work at community organizations and educational institutions.

How He Developed Interest In Computer Programming

Bill Gates
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As a child, Bill Gates was quite rapacious with reading, with a better part of his time spent poring over several reference books like the encyclopedia. When he was approaching 12, his parents began to express concern over their son’s behavior. Though he was excelling in his studies, he usually appeared withdrawn and bored most of the time.

Even though Gates’ parents strongly believed in public education, they had to take the decision to enroll their son in the exclusive preparatory in Seattle called Lakeside School. He did well in almost all subjects; excelling in science, mathematics, English, as well as drama.

It was during his days at Lakeside School that Gates’ interest in computer programming was ignited. It happened that the school had an offer from a Seattle-based computer company, which offered to provide the students with computer time. The school procured a teletype terminal that students could use and with that, Bill Gates became engrossed with what a computer was capable of doing and thus, most of his leisure time was spent experimenting on the terminal. He was led to write a tic-tac-toe program in BASIC computer language which permitted users to play against the device.

After his graduation from Lakeside in 1973, he went on to achieve an intellectual feat in his college SAT by scoring 1590 out of 1600. Bill Gates did go to college, enrolling in Harvard in 1973 with the intent of studying law. However, he had to drop out in 1975 to the dismay of his parents.

The Real Reason Bill Gates Dropped out of Harvard

Being obsessed with computer programming right from his high school days, Bill Gates knew he would play a key role as a pioneer of the PC (personal computer) evolution. From what was obvious, remaining in school was just delaying his dreams and aspirations.

He expressed the concern that the evolution (equipping every office, home, and even pocket with PCs) may happen without him. And, with the advent of the initial computer using a microprocessor, Gates and his friend Paul Allen decided they needed to be the first that would get into that venture.

According to the business mogul, that was exactly when he decided to drop out of school, which he promptly did. However, he made a promise to his parents that if his venture was to turn out a failure, he would return to school to complete his degree. He never went back but Harvard gave him an honorary degree in 2007.

His Microsoft Venture and Partnership With IBM

In collaboration with Paul Allen, Bill Gates went on to found Microsoft in 1975. Initially, the company name was written as a hyphenated compound word (Micro-Soft) but was later changed to “Microsoft”. At the onset, the duo adapted BASIC, a programming language on microcomputers. Following its success, they continued developing programming language software for a variety of systems.

By 1980, IBM approached them with a proposal to write the BASIC interpreter for their future personal computer called IBM PC. Microsoft was able to accomplish this, creating the PC DOS operating system and delivering it to IBM for a one-off fee of $50,000.

Before long, the operating system of Microsoft gained popularity which led them to initiate an operating environment called Windows on the 20th of November 1985. Windows was launched for MS-DOS as its graphical operating system shell. As time rolled by, Windows began to dominate the global PC market, gaining more than 90 percent market share. The company experienced unparalleled success financially and as the largest shareholder of Microsoft, Gates amassed an enormous fortune.

The introduction of Microsoft Office came in 1989, a package integrating numerous applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel into a single system that is compatible with every product from Microsoft. The success they achieved with MS Office gave the company a monopoly on the operation of systems for personal computers. With the unprecedented spread of the internet around the globe in the mid-1990s, the focus of Microsoft expanded to include the development of enterprise and consumer software solutions. It was during this time that Microsoft Network and the operating system platform for Windows CE were developed.

In the first month of the year 2000, Bill Gates relinquished his position as CEO of Microsoft, though his position as chairman was retained. He also created a new position for himself as Chief Software Architect. With time, he gradually handed over duties and focused on philanthropy. It was in February 2014 that he stepped down from his position as chairman.

Bill Gates’ Achievements Beyond Microsoft

Quitting his positions at Microsoft, Bill Gates has been steadfast in the area of philanthropy and several other projects. According to reports from Bloomberg Billionaires Index, he was named the highest-earning billionaire in the world in 2013 with a net worth that shot from US$15.8 billion to $78.5 billion. As of the first month of 2014, a majority of his assets were held at Cascade Investment LLC, an entity through which the billionaire owns stakes in several businesses. These holdings include the likes of Corbis Corp and Four Season Hotels and Resort. Gates is currently engaged as a technology advisor in support of Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella.

In 2017, it became known that a company owned by Bill Gates had invested the sum of $80 million into the development project for a “smart city” in the vicinity of Phoenix, Arizona. The proposed smart city called Belmont is aimed at building a forward-thinking community, equipped with an infrastructure and communication spine that will embrace radical technology designed around data centers, high-speed digital networks, autonomous logistics hubs and vehicles; distribution models, and new manufacturing technologies.

Out of the 25,000 acres of land mapped out for the site, reports have it that 470 acres were to be utilized for public schools and 3,800 acres for the construction of offices, retail and commercial space, and leaving room for 80,000 residential units.

Details of The Entrepreneur’s Philanthropic Gestures

The William H. Gates Foundation was established in 1994 by Bill Gates and his wife Melinda Gates. The foundation was charged with the responsibility of drumming up support for world health, education, and investments in low-income communities globally. It also has the objective of finding lasting solutions to domestic issues and whatsoever that would contribute to the general good of mankind.

With the influence of his wife, Gates got interested in following his mum’s footsteps to become a civic leader, studying the philanthropic efforts of John D Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie who were industrial titans in the US. With that, he realized that he should donate more of his fortune to charity.

In the year 2000, the duo pulled numerous family foundations together, making a $28 billion contribution towards the formation of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In the years that followed, Gates increasingly devoted more time to affairs that revolve around the foundation. Among other things, the billionaire philanthropist has thrown his weight in support of the Common Core State Standards educational initiative of the United States. Bill Gates has also proven himself to be a compassionate employer. He announced that all the employees of the foundation would get one year paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child.

The first of what would become the foundation’s yearly “Goalkeepers” report was launched in 2017. In a nutshell, it is an evaluation of the progress recorded in many vital areas connected to public health; this includes malnutrition, child mortality, and HIV. The co-founder of Microsoft has identified both chronic and infectious diseases as the two major public health concerns needed to be properly addressed within the up-coming decade.

An announcement came in April 2018 that the famed philanthropist was going to collaborate with Larry Page of Google in providing the sum of $12 million to fund a universal flu vaccine. According to Gates, the fund was to be awarded in grants to the tune of $2 million for “bold and innovative” individual efforts to commence clinical trials in 2021. While many people were skeptical, speculating whether the funds would be sufficient to ignite any genuine medical breakthrough, others were quick to praise the initiative and its’ agenda.

The discussion on Bill Gates’ philanthropic efforts cannot be concluded without mentioning his Alzheimer’s research. It was in November 2017 that he revealed the investment of $50 million of his resources into the Dementia Discovery Fund. According to the philanthropist, he would follow up on the initial investment with another $50 million, which will be targeted at start-up schemes in Alzheimer’s research. It has been expressed that his interest here is personal, the Microsoft co-founder had witnessed the destructive effects of the illness on some of his family members.

According to his statement to CNN, any form of treatment at all would serve as a great advancement from the current situation, however, the long-term aim has to be a cure.

One of his greatest efforts towards philanthropy is the “Gates-Buffet Giving Pledge” which he signed in 2010 alongside fellow billionaire Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. The pledge is a commitment to donate at least half of their fortune to charity.

Is Bill Gates Still The Richest Man In The World?

Gates had an uninterrupted 24-year run as the world’s richest man until 2018 when Amazon boss Jeff Bezos ended his reign to become the first individual worldwide to earn $160 billion in net worth. Bill Gates’ name showed up on the 1987 billionaire list by Forbes, which was their first with the sum of $1.25 billion as his net worth. However, Jeff Bezos’ first appearance on Forbes’ list of 400 wealthiest Americans was 11 years later in 1998 with $1.6 billion net worth, precisely a year after his company Amazon went public.

But then, as of this writing, Bezos has lost his exalted position as the richest man in the world, giving leeway to Gates who grabbed the top spot following Amazon’s lackluster third-quarter results that saw Bezos lose almost $7 billion in stock value. Reports had it that it was the first time Gates got to hold the top spot over a couple of years. Although the co-founder of Microsoft previously briefly topped Jeff Bezos when the Amazon boss reported that his three months profit fell almost by 28%, Bill Gates’ time as the top man was short-lived at the time.

Another factor that led to Bezos’ fall from the pinnacle of wealth, albeit not immediately, was his divorce settlement to his ex-wife MacKenzie Bezos. This made him part with $36 billion which was quickly recorded as the biggest divorce settlement in history. So, Bezos now sits on the 2nd position with $103.9 billion, with Bill Gates reclaiming his long lost position as the richest man in the world with $110 billion as his net worth; this is according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Gates was aided by his company shares that went up by almost 48%, boosting the value of his entire stake in Microsoft.

It is worthy to note that sometime in October 2019, Microsoft triumphed over Amazon in a cloud-computing contract worth the sum of $10 billion with the Pentagon. As losing the deal threatens Amazon’s position as the top firm of the cloud industry, the company disclosed that it will file a legal complaint to protest the decision which according to their spokesperson, was “unmistakable bias”.

In all, Bill Gates is the richest man in the world as of this writing. But then, the likes of Jeff Bezos are not relenting at all. Given that, he may be dethroned again in the nearest future, we can only wait to see what unfolds.

How The Billionaire Spends His Money

From what has been discussed thus far, it is obvious that a great deal of Bill Gate’s wealth goes to philanthropic causes. Outside of that, the man is prudent but doesn’t hold back when it comes to spending his money on things he truly fancies.

For instance, Bill Gates loves exotic cars and has acquired quite a lot of them, especially Porsche. He was already a proud owner of the Porsche 959 sports car 13 years before the model gained the approval of the United States Department of Transportation and the Environmental protection Agency.

His earlier air travels had him flying coach, but of late, the famous billionaire moves around in the plane he acquired in 1997. He named the aircraft as one of his big splurges during an interview with Ellen DeGeneres on The Ellen Show. Apart from Bill Gates’ luxury jet, another big splurge of his happens to be the Codex Leicester. The piece comprises of writings authored by the great Leonardo da Vinci. Gates purchased this for the whopping sum of $30.8 million at an auction held in 1994.

Family Life With His Wife and Children

It was in 1987 that Melinda French, a 23-year-old product manager at Microsoft caught the eyes of Bill Gates who just clocked 32. It came to pass that the business mogul found a perfect partner in Melinda who was described as organized and very bright. The duo became an item and as time rolled by, their dalliance blossomed into an enduring love as they came to discover an intimate and intellectual connection. Their mutual love eventually evolved into a marriage as they exchanged vows on the 1st of January 1994 in Hawaii.

The Gates Family: Image Source

After Gates’ mum died from the ravages of breast cancer a few months into their married life, the young couple decided to embark on a tour in 1995 in a bid to get their life into perspective. Their love was further cemented with the arrival of their first child, an adorable daughter named Jennifer Gates; she was born in 1996.

Jennifer soon became a sister to Rory, a baby boy who joined the family barely three years later in 1999. Gates and Melinda had the last addition to their family in 2002 with the birth of Phoebe Gates, their second daughter.

A year after they first became parents in 1997, the Gates family moved to the shore of Lake Washington where they bought a $54 million house of 55,000-square-foot. Though it still serves as a business center, the house is said to be very comfy for the family. Bill Gates has expressed that leaving children with massive wealth would not serve in their best interest. Thus, his children only stand to get $10 million each as an inheritance.

7 Fun Facts To Know About Bill Gates

1. The richest man in the world wrote his debut computer program as a teenager during his days at Lakeside Prep School. The program was one version of tic-tac-toe, which enables one to play against the machine.

2. Upon the discovery of his amazing skills in coding while in high school, he was given the task of writing the computer program used for allocating students to different classes. He pulled some smart moves in the process and cautiously made some adjustments on the code which put him in classes with a good number of fascinating female students.

3. Bill Gates has always had a curious mind, he was still a teenager when he read the complete “World Book Encyclopedia” series and has not stopped reading to date. He confessed to reading at least 50 books in a year.

4. Being a college dropout places him on par with several other successful tech entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Larry Ellison. Howbeit, this did not have any negative effect on what they have been able to achieve in life.

5. A couple of years after he left college, the acclaimed billionaire was arrested in New Mexico for driving without a license, in addition to running a red light.

6. During the early days at Microsoft, Bill Gates kept a close eye on his staff members by committing their license plate to memory. However, he had to relinquish the habit as the company grew bigger.

7. According to the world’s richest man, if Microsoft had turned out to be a failure, he would have ended up as a researcher in the area of artificial intelligence.

Obianuju Okafor
Obianuju Okafor
With over 4 years of experience as a lifestyle and celebrity news content developer, Obianuju keeps her insights fresh by following up on the latest pop culture news and trends. When she's not working, she's likely still reading or watching the most interesting stuff online


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