Born in 1955, Bill Gates is a businessman, investor, author, philanthropist, and humanitarian. He is best known as the key founder of Microsoft Corporation, holding the title of the richest man in the world several times over the years. After launching the company with his childhood friend Paul Allen, it quickly grew to become the largest computer software company in the world. Eventually, he left the position of CEO in 2000 and now works part-time as the technology advisor. Let's take a look into the life of Bill Gates, the man everyone knows, but not everyone knows much about.
He Was A Successful Coder At A Young Age
As a young teenager attending Lakeside Prep School, Bill Gates started demonstrating his prowess with computers. He wrote his first computer program on a General Electric computer. It was his own version of tic-tac-toe in which the user played against the computer.
His skill was noted by the school, and he was allowed to write the computer program for scheduling students' classes. Apparently, he modified the code and placed himself in classes with a "disproportionate number of interesting girls."
He Was The World's Wealthiest Billionaire For Several Years
Since 1987, Bill Gates has been included in Forbes' The World's Billionaire list and was ranked as No.1 in 1995 and 1996. He then held the No.1 position again from 1998 to 2007, 2009, and 2014 to 2017, when he was dethroned by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.
He was also No.1 on the Forbes 400 list from 1993 to 2007, 2009, and 2014 through 2017. Furthermore, in 2012, Forbes named him as the fourth most powerful person in the world.
He Only Speaks English
Although he's considered to be one of the most brilliant individuals in the entire world with a vast knowledge of countless programming languages, he is monolingual. He only knows how to speak English, which seems strange considering his unrelenting desire for knowledge, and the fact that he has been heavily involved with charities across the globe.
Gates has admitted that not learning even a second language is one of his biggest regrets. Yet, there's no saying what he'll accomplish in the future.
He Spent $30 Million On A Series Of Writings
Bill Gates has always referred to the Leonarda da Vinci, one of the Italian Renaissance's most renowned painters and inventors, as one of his greatest inspirations. In 1994, Gates dropped big bucks on the Leicester Codex, a collection of writings by da Vinci about fossils, water movement, soil erosion, and the light from the moon.
In 1997, he had some of the documents scanned and included them as a screensaver in the Microsoft Plus! for Windows 95 CD. In total, he spent $30.8 million on the writings, which have since been on display at art galleries across America.
His Children Will Inherit A Little, And The Rest Will Go To Charity
Bill Gates has gone on record claiming that each of his children will receive a "small" inheritance of just $10 million. While $10 million is the world to most people, considering that Gates has a net worth of $104.9 billion, it's essentially chump change. Gates defends his claim by stating that he doesn't want his children to be lazy.
He explained during a TED Talk, "We want to strike a balance where they have the freedom to do anything but not a lot of money showered on them so they could go out and do nothing." The rest of his money will be donated to charity.
Bill And Melinda Have Splurged At Times
Although the Gates lead relatively humble lives while also giving millions to charity, the couple has also made a few well-deserved purchases in the past. One of these is their massive estate nicknamed Xanadu 2.0, a 66,000-square-foot mansion located that overlooks Lake Washington in Medina, Washington.
The mansion is worth approximately $124 million and is where they raised their three children. Another big purchase that Gates has made was a personal plane in 1997 which he described as "his big splurge." Before that, he flew coach.
He Was A College Dropout
Like so many other mega-successful people, the founder of Microsoft dropped out of college. However, it wasn't just any college, it was Harvard University. After completing two years at school, he dropped out in order to start Microsoft. At a Harvard Q&A, Gates expressed some of his regrets about the decision.
"I wish I had gotten to know more people [...] I was just so into being good at the classes and taking lots of classes,” he shared. However, in 2007, he received an honorary doctorate from the school.
Moving Back To His Roots
Even back in the 70s, San Francisco's Silicon Valley and Dallas, Texas were still two of the biggest hubs of the technology industry in the United States. However, Gate's isn't one to follow trends. He decided to move his new company, Microsoft, to neither of these places.
Instead, he moved it from Albuquerque, New Mexico, back to his home state of Washington in Bellevue, a city just outside of his hometown Seattle. In 1986, the company moved again to Redmond, Washington where today there is an eight million-square-foot compound with between 30,000 and 40,000 employees.
He Met His Wife At Work
Unsurprisingly, Bill Gates met his future wife, Melinda, through work. At the time, she was working as a product marketing manager at Microsoft and encountered Gates at a dinner. The two were dating "secretly" for years, although it was relatively well-known among co-workers.
However, in 1993, they announced that they were getting engaged, making their relationship public. The two were married in 1994 and made quite the team over the past few decades.
Bill And Melinda Divorced After 27 Years Together
In 2021, Bill and Melinda Gates announced via social media that they were getting a divorce. After 27 years of marriage and running the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation together, the pair wrote this to their followers:
"We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives. We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life."
Not Exactly A Man Of The Law
Bill Gates is typically referred to as a uber-successful genius who helped changed the trajectory of technology and does what he can to make the world a better place. However, that doesn't mean he always follows the rules -- or the law, for that matter.
In 1975, Gates was arrested in New Mexico for speeding without a license and again in 1997 for running a red light and driving without a license. But still, these are minor offenses considering what the kind of trouble he could have found himself working at the level he does.
His Wealth Led To The Creation Of New Words
With the rise of the dot-com era during the 1990s, technology was accelerating at a massive rate. This was also the case for money that the people in the industry were making.
However, Gates' pockets grew more than anyone else's, so much, in fact, that a new term had to be created for his substantial wealth. In 1999, after Gates' immense fortune reached $101 billion the term "centi-billionaire" was coined, another accolade for Gates.
He Has His Own Foundation
Bill Gates is known for being an incredibly generous man, with plans to give 95% of his money to charity. In 1999, he established he established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has since grown to become the world's largest private charity. The foundation is worth over $43 billion and has offices in countries around the world.
Furthermore, since leaving his full-time position at Microsoft in 2008, he has been working on a variety of projects designed to make the world a better place. One of these projects is a device that turns sewage into safe drinking water.
Microsoft Wasn't The First Time Gates And Allen Worked Together
While attending Lakeside High School together, young prodigies Bill Gates and Paul Allen wrote the code for a payroll program for the company Information Sciences Inc. It wasn't long after completing the project that they came up with the idea to streamline the process of measuring traffic flow.
After saving up $360 for a microprocessor chip, the two computer whizzes developed what they called their "Traf-O-Data" computer. Although their machine worked, they realized that they knew how to build the machine better than they knew how to sell it. This was a realization Allen claims helped them greatly when starting Microsoft.
He's Made The "Giving Pledge"
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation addresses a series of problems including world hunger, clean water, and diseases. However, on top of the foundation, Gates also started what is known as the "Giving Pledge."
This is a pledge that some people have made which promises that they will donate at least half of their wealth to charitable causes in the wake of their death. Fellow tech mogul Elon Musk and billionaire financier Warren Buffett have both made the pledge.
He Is Religious
Bill Gates has been open about his religious beliefs throughout the years. He agrees with secular humanists such as Richard Dawkins, although he has gone on record that he is a religious man.
He also told Rolling Stone that his children were raised Catholic. "I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don't know," he said. This statement was a surprise to many.
He's Been Knighted
Along with being one of the richest men in the world, and having earned numerous honorary degrees from universities around the world, Bill Gates is also a knight. In 2005, Queen Elizabeth II of England made Gates an honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his charitable and philanthropic efforts.
In addition, he has also received the Placard of the Order of the Aztec Eagle from Mexico, the Padma Bhushan from India, and the Silver Buffalo Award from the Boy Scouts of America.
He Stepped Down As The Microsoft CEO
In 2006, Bill Gates stepped down as the CEO of Microsoft. This was mostly so that he could devote his attention to his various charities, especially the Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation.
However, he is still involved with the company and serves as the advisor to Satya Nadella, the current CEO of the company. According to Gates, he is also working with Microsoft on its "Personal Agent," which will "remember everything and help you go back and find things and help you pick what things to pay attention to."
He's Interested In Artificial Intelligence
When asked what he would have done had Microsoft not taken off, Gates has answered multiple times that he would most likely have focused on artificial intelligence, something he has been fascinated about for years.
However, even though he may be interested in artificial intelligence, he claims that he is "in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence." Other scientists that share his concern include the late Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, who is extra worried.
He's Run Into Some Controversy
Although Gates is well-known for his philanthropic work, he has encountered some controversy for the way he ran his business. In 1988, he was in the middle of an antitrust lawsuit by the Department of Justice, who were trying to see if Microsoft's bundling of software packages was intended to create a monopoly on the market.
The case claimed that Microsoft made it hard to install competitors' software on computers using Microsoft Windows and made it difficult to uninstall programs that were automatically downloaded with Windows.
He's Paid His Fair Share Of Taxes
Even though he ran into some trouble with the government during the antitrust case, it didn't turn Bill Gates against the government. In 2000, Microsoft lost the case and almost had to be split in half, which would have created what were referred to as "Baby Bills." Luckily for Gates, in 2001, an agreement was reached, and the company remained intact.
Since the ruling, Gates has been a major contributor to the democratic party and is in favor of higher taxes for the wealthy. Gates once told BBC, "I've paid more tax than any individual ever, and gladly so… I’ve paid over $6 billion in taxes."