William Henry Gates III (born October 28, 1955 in Seattle, Washington) is an American entrepreneur and the co-founder, chairman, former chief software architect, and former CEO of Microsoft, the world's largest software company. Forbes magazine's list of The World's Billionaires has ranked him as the richest person in the world for the last thirteen consecutive years, and recent estimates put his net worth near $82 billion. When family wealth is considered, his family ranks second behind the Walton family.
Gates is one of the best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution. Although he is widely respected by people who see his wealth as a product of intelligence and foresight, his business tactics have often been criticized as unethical or anti-competitive, and have, in some instances, been ruled as such in court. Since amassing his fortune, Gates has pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors, donating large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, established in 2000.
In 1984, Bill Gates appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine; he has since appeared seven more times.
After reading the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics that demonstrated the Altair 8800, Gates contacted MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems), the creators of the new microcomputer, to inform them that he and others were working on a BASIC interpreter for the platform. In reality, Gates and Allen did not have an Altair and had not written code for it; they merely wanted to gauge MITS's interest. MITS president Ed Roberts agreed to meet them for a demo, and over the course of a few weeks they developed an Altair emulator that ran on a mini computer, and then the BASIC interpreter. The demonstration, held at MITS's offices in Albuquerque, was a success and resulted in a deal with MITS to distribute the interpreter as Altair BASIC. Gates took a leave of absence from Harvard to work with Allen at MITS, and they dubbed their partnership Micro-Soft.
Microsoft's BASIC was popular with computer hobbyists, but Gates discovered that a pre-market copy had leaked into the community and was being widely copied and distributed. In February 1976, Gates wrote an Open Letter to Hobbyists in the MITS newsletter saying that MITS could not continue to produce, distribute, and maintain high-quality software without payment. This letter was unpopular with many computer hobbyists, but Gates persisted in his belief that software developers should be able to demand payment. Microsoft became independent of MITS in late 1976, and it continued to develop programming language software for various systems.
According to Gates, people at Microsoft often did more than one job during the early years; whoever answered the phone when an order came in was responsible for packing and mailing it. Gates oversaw the business details, but continued to write code as well. In the first five years, he personally reviewed every line of code the company shipped, and often rewrote parts of it as he saw fit.
Since Microsoft's founding in 1975 and as of 2006, Gates has had primary responsibility for Microsoft's product strategy. He has aggressively broadened the company's range of products, and wherever Microsoft has achieved a dominant position he has vigorously defended it. Many decisions that have led to antitrust litigation over Microsoft's business practices have had Gates' approval. In the 1998 United States v. Microsoft case, Gates gave deposition testimony that several journalists characterized as evasive. He argued with examiner David Boies over the definitions of words such as: compete, concerned, ask, and we. (BusinessWeek reported)