Monday, July 28, 2008
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Bill Gates is one of the most influential and wealthiest people the world has ever seen. He's a ruthless businessman who built Microsoft into a software empire that would dominate office and home computing around the world. Forbes named Gates as the world's richest person for 13 years straight. But all good things must come to an end. On June 27, he is leaving the company he co-founded more than 30 years ago to devote himself to philanthropic work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Here's a look back at Gates' career and what lies ahead for him.
Family and Early ChildhoodOn October 28, 1955, shortly after 9:00 p.m., William Henry Gates III was born. He was born into a family with a rich history in business, politics, and community service. His great-grandfather had been a state legislator and mayor, his grandfather was the vice president of a national bank, and his father was a prominent lawyer. [Wallace, 1992, p. 8-9] Early on in life, it was apparent that Bill Gates inherited the ambition, intelligence, and competitive spirit that had helped his progenitors rise to the top in their chosen professions. In elementary school he quickly surpassed all of his peer's abilities in nearly all subjects, especially math and science. His parents recognized his intelligence and decided to enroll him in Lakeside, a private school known for its intense academic environment. This decision had far reaching effects on Bill Gates's life. For at Lakeside, Bill Gates was first introduced to computers.
First computing ExperienceIn the Spring of 1968, the Lakeside prep school decided that it should acquaint the student body with the world of computers [Teamgates.com, 9/29/96]. Computers were still too large and costly for the school to purchase its own. Instead, the school had a fund raiser and bought computer time on a DEC PDP-10 owned by General Electric. A few thousand dollars were raised which the school figured would buy more than enough time to last into the next school year. However, Lakeside had drastically underestimated the allure this machine would have for a hand full of young students.
Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and a few other Lakeside students (many of whom were the first programmers hired at Microsoft) immediately became inseparable from the computer. They would stay in the computer room all day and night, writing programs, reading computer literature and anything else they could to learn about computing. Soon Gates and the others started running into problems with the faculty. Their homework was being turned in late (if at all), they were skipping classes to be in the computer room and worst of all, they had used up all of the schools computer time in just a few weeks. [Wallace, 1992, p. 24]
In the fall of 1968, Computer Center Corporation opened for business in Seattle. It was offering computing time at good rates, and one of the chief programmers working for the corporation had a child attending Lakeside. A deal was struck between Lakeside Prep School and the Computer Center Corporation that allowed the school to continue providing it's students with computer time. [Wallace, 1992, p. 27] Gates and his comrades immediately began exploring the contents of this new machine. It was not long before the young hackers started causing problems. They caused the system to crash several times and broke the computers security system. They even altered the files that recorded the amount of computer time they were using. They were caught and the Computer Center Corporation banned them from the system for several weeks.
Bill Gates, Paul Allen and, two other hackers from Lakeside formed the Lakeside Programmers Group in late 1968. They were determined to find a way to apply their computer skills in the real world. The first opportunity to do this was a direct result of their mischievous activity with the school's computer time. The Computer Center Corporation's business was beginning to suffer due to the systems weak security and the frequency that it crashed. Impressed with Gates and the other Lakeside computer addicts' previous assaults on their computer, the Computer Center Corporation decided to hire the students to find bugs and expose weaknesses in the computer system. In return for the Lakeside Programming Group's help, the Computer Center Corporation would give them unlimited computer time [Wallace, 1992, p. 27]. The boys could not refuse. Gates is quoted as saying "It was when we got free time at C-cubed (Computer Center Corporation) that we really got into computers. I mean, then I became hardcore. It was day and night" [Wallace, 1992, p. 30]. Although the group was hired just to find bugs, they also read any computer related material that the day shift had left behind. The young hackers would even pick employees for new information. It was here that Gates and Allen really began to develop the talents that would lead to the formation of Microsoft seven years later.
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