Biography of Bill Gates

Microsoft Founder, Global Philanthropist

Bill Gates
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates listens during a press conference to launch a plan aimed at saving 10 million mothers and newborns in the poorest countries. Cetty Images/Rick Gershon

Bill Gates was born William Henry Gates in Seattle, Washington, on October 28, 1955, to a high-spirited family with a history of entrepreneurship. His father, William H. Gates II, is a Seattle attorney. His late mother, Mary Gates, was a schoolteacher, University of Washington regent, and chairwoman of United Way International.

Bill Gates would go on to not only develop a fundamental programming language but also found one of the largest and most influential technology companies in the world, while also contributing billions of dollars to charitable initiatives around the globe.

Early Years

Gates had an early interest in software and began programming computers at the age of 13. While still in high school, he would partner with childhood friend Paul Allen to develop a company called Traf-O-Data, which sold the city of Seattle a computerized method to count city traffic.

In 1973, Gates was accepted as a student at Harvard University, where he met Steve Ballmer (who was Microsoft's chief executive officer from January 2000 to February 2014). While still a Harvard undergraduate, Bill Gates developed the programming language BASIC for the MITS Altair microcomputer.

Founder of Microsoft

In 1975, Gates left Harvard before graduating to form Microsoft with Allen. The pair set up shop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with a plan to develop software for the newly emerging personal computer market.

Microsoft became famous for their computer operating systems and killer business deals. For example, when Gates and Allen developed their brand-new 16-bit computer operating system, MS-DOS, for IBM's new personal computer, the duo convinced IBM to allow Microsoft to retain the licensing rights. The computer giant agreed, and Gates made a fortune from the deal.

On November 10, 1983, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, Microsoft Corporation formally announced Microsoft Windows, a next-generation operating system that revolutionized—and continues to revolutionize—personal computing.

Marriage, Family, and Personal Life

On January 1, 1994, Bill Gates married Melinda French. Born August 15, 1964, in Dallas, TX, Melinda Gates earned a bachelor's degree in computer science and economics from Duke University, and a year later, in 1986, received her MBA, also from Duke. She met Gates when she was working at Microsoft. They have three children. The couple lives in Xanadu 2.0, a 66,000-square-foot mansion overlooking Lake Washington in Medina, Washington. 

Philanthropist

Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with the broad mission to help improve the quality of life for people around the world, primarily in the areas of global health and learning. Initiatives have ranged from funding tuition for 20,000 college students to installing 47,000 computers in 11,000 libraries in all 50 states. According to the foundation's website, as of the last quarter of 2016, the couple has endowed their charitable endeavor with $40.3 billion.

In 2014, Bill Gates stepped down as chairman of Microsoft (although he continues to serve as a technology adviser) to focus full time on the foundation.

Legacy and Impact

Back when Gates and Allen announced their intention to put a computer in every home and on every desktop, most people scoffed. Up until then, only the government and large corporations could afford computers. But within only a few decades Microsoft had indeed brought computer power to the people.

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Bellis, Mary. "Biography of Bill Gates." ThoughtCo, May. 22, 2018, thoughtco.com/bill-gates-biography-and-history-1991861. Bellis, Mary. (2018, May 22). Biography of Bill Gates. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/bill-gates-biography-and-history-1991861 Bellis, Mary. "Biography of Bill Gates." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/bill-gates-biography-and-history-1991861 (accessed May 23, 2018).