It is hard to imagine that one of the richest people in the world would have parts of his life unknown to the general public, but Bill Gates does have quite a few of them.
Unlike Steve Jobs, who had two movies made about his life, Bill Gates receives far less attention, regardless of being far richer and some would argue far more influential than Jobs. Even his massive efforts in charity work haven’t brought him the recognition Jobs enjoyed in general public.
Unlike some other self-proclaimed billionaires who currently occupy White House, Bill Gates earned his fortune on the power of his brain alone. His high school years were ridiculously easy in terms of school assignments and Bill thought that Harvard would be similar.
Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t. On his first theoretical math exam, he got a B, probably the first one he ever received. Shocked by this, he promptly changed major to applied math, but that didn’t stop further disappointments.
Gates and Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, met in high school. During Gates’ senior year, the two decided to start a company together, because that is what average teenagers do in those years. The company was built around “Traf-O-Data” a computer designed to measure traffic. It took them two years and $1,500 to create a working prototype, but both Gates and Allen lacked critical business skills to make it a success.
They didn’t bother with market research or even marketing plan and the project was doomed. The whole adventure lasted six years and they lost $3,494 before calling it quits. Although seemingly a complete failure, the experience they gained during the Traf-O-Data debacle was crucial in creating and managing their second company named Microsoft.
Bill Gates doesn’t look like a person with a rap sheet, but he does have one arrest in his career. It was in Albuquerque in 1977. There are no records of the exact crime he was accused of, but it was later revealed that it was a traffic violation. At least he got some cute mug shots out of the whole ordeal.
Gates early efforts in fighting against piracy resulted in Open Letter to Hobbyists, published in 1976. The copyright laws regarding software were murky at best at that time and computer enthusiasts, which were few and far apart, created a sharing culture, which paid little notice to the efforts software engineers put in creating their products. The situation was made even worse by the courts and judges who didn’t have any knowledge on the subject.
On one occasion, a federal court ruled that one company selling the exact copy of another company’s software (a chess game in this case) was perfectly legal. Software engineers were naturally dismayed with this state of affairs and felt discouraged. Gates even went as far as to say: “There’s nobody getting rich writing software that I know of.” Of course, he couldn’t have known what future would bring and that he would end up as the richest man on the planet, but still, the statement is deeply ironic, not to mention funny.
Despite the great respect he had for Allen, Gates was often critical of his work and contribution to the company. He was diagnosed with cancer a while earlier and he wasn’t at the top of his game. Once Allen heard of criticism, he confronted both Gates and Steve Balmer, who was in charge of the business side of the company. Allen decided to quit the company and Gates offered to buy him out at $5 per share. Allen asked for $10 and Bill refused. Those shares are worth $20 billion today, so Bill’s cheapness turned out to be great for Allen.
Due to its dominant market position, Microsoft ran into a myriad of troubles with monopoly laws. At one point, courts even ordered the company to break down, but the sentence was later overturned. It took 21 years for Microsoft to finally extract itself from its legal troubles.
As the richest person in the world, Bill Gates decided to build a house to match his status. It is located on Lake Washington, in Medina. The house is filled with the technology the rest of us won’t see for several more decades and it was touted as the first truly smart house in the world.
Bill and Melinda Gates are among the largest charity donators in the world, if not the largest. Their work on eradicating polio and other diseases is widely known and praised. Their foundation is active in many countries and they don’t have any problems spending billions of their own money in order to improve the everyday lives of people. Unlike many of his fellow billionaires, Bill has an interesting philosophy when it comes to his children, e has announced that he plans to leave each of them $10 million. The rest of his fortune will go to charity.