William Henry Gates III
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
William (Bill) H. Gates is chairman and chief executive officer of Microsoft Corporation, the leading provider, worldwide, of software for the personal computer. Microsoft had revenues of $8.6 billion for the fiscal year ending June 1996, and employs more than 20,000 people in 48 countries.
Background on Bill
Born on October 28, 1955, Gates and his two sisters grew up in Seattle. Their father, William H. Gates II, is a Seattle attorney. Their late mother, Mary Gates, was a schoolteacher, University of Washington regent and chairwoman of United Way International.
Gates attended public elementary school and the private Lakeside School. There, he began his career in personal computer software, programming computers at age 13.
In 1973, Gates entered Harvard University as a freshman, where he lived down the hall from Steve Ballmer, now Microsoft's executive vice president for sales and support. While at Harvard, Gates developed the programming language BASIC for the first microcomputer -- the MITS Altair.
In his junior year, Gates dropped out of Harvard to devote his energies to Microsoft, a company he had begun in 1975 with Paul Allen. Guided by a belief that the personal computer would be a valuable tool on every office desktop and in every home, they began developing software for personal computers.
Gates' foresight and vision regarding personal computing have been central to the success of Microsoft and the software industry. Gates is actively involved in key management and strategic decisions at Microsoft, and plays an important role in the technical development of new products. A significant portion of his time is devoted to meeting with customers and staying in contact with Microsoft employees around the world through e-mail.
Under Gates' leadership, Microsoft's mission is to continually advance and improve software technology and to make it easier, more cost-effective and more enjoyable for people to use computers. The company is committed to a long-term view, reflected in its investment of more than $2 billion on research and development in the current fiscal year.
As of December 12, 1996, Gates' Microsoft stock holdings totaled 282,217,980 shares, currently selling at $95.25, as of Feb. 20th, 1997.
Giving a rough estimate of total worth:$ 26,881,262,595
In 1995, Gates wrote The Road Ahead, his vision of where information technology will take society. Co-authored by Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft's chief technology officer, and Peter Rinearson, The Road Ahead held the No. 1 spot on the New York Times' bestseller list for seven weeks. Published in the U.S. by Viking, the book was on the NYT list for a total of 18 weeks. Published in more than 20 countries, the book sold more than 400,000 copies in China alone. In 1996, while redeploying Microsoft around the Internet, Gates thoroughly revised The Road Ahead to reflect his view that interactive networks are a major milestone in human history. The paperback second edition has also become a bestseller. Gates is donating his proceeds from the book to a non-profit fund that supports teachers worldwide who are incorporating computers into their classrooms.
In addition to his passion for computers, Gates is interested in biotechnology. He sits on the board of the Icos Corporation and is a shareholder in Darwin Molecular, a subsidiary of British-based Chiroscience. He also founded Corbis Corporation, which is developing one of the largest resources of visual information in the world-a comprehensive digital archive of art and photography from public and private collections around the globe. Gates also has invested with cellular telephone pioneer Craig McCaw in Teledesic, a company that is working on an ambitious plan to launch hundreds of low-orbit satellites around the globe to provide worldwide two-way broadband telecommunications service.
In the decade since Microsoft has gone public, Gates has donated more than $270 million to charities, including $200 million to the William H. Gates Foundation. The focus of Gates' giving is in three areas: education, population issues and access to technology.
Gates was married on Jan. 1, 1994 to Melinda French Gates. They have one child, Jennifer Katharine Gates, born in 1996.
Times are changing fast. Three years ago, while President Bushs camp was mounting a direct-mail campaign unchanged from that of Reagan before him, the Clinton camp, host to a horde of so-called "computer whiz kids," all in their twenties, was developing a completely new set of election tactics, using personal computer networks and electronic mail, or "e-mail". Many of these twenty-some-odd-year-old mini-Clintons, who now occupy the White House, show up for work in sneakers, T-shirts, and jeans, and spend each day, from morn till night, tapping away at personal-computer keyboards. As I myself have often experienced of late, when you exchange business cards with an American you nearly always see, imprinted on the card along with the phone and fax numbers, an e-mail number, as well. When the person inquires, "What is your e-mail number?"and you reply, "I don't have one yet," you can catch the briefest glimmer in his eye, which seems to say, "A bit behind the times, aren't we?" The darling of this multimedia age is a man named Bill Gates. Won over by then Vice-Presidential candidate Gores promise to vigorously promote the "information superhighway," Gates, declaring himself a representative of Silicon Valley, donated a large amount of money to the Clinton campaign. The support of Bill Gates boosted the popularity of the Democratic Party. This year, Forbes Magazine's traditional annual list ranked this same Bill Gates, head of Microsoft Corp., as the worlds richest human being. Myths and legends about this youthful success story abound; he has already published an autobiography which, along with a critical biography of Gates, is being read by people all over the world. He is, in short, a super-famous man. Gates rear-echelon e-mail activities have been reprinted not only in America and Europe, but even, in translation, in Japanese newspapers. Gates has been known for some time as a political liberal and a strong supporter of the Democratic Party; lately, however, the word about town is that Gates and the Democratic Party have had a falling-out. The U.S. Department of Justice under the Clinton administration, citing doubts about the legality under U.S. antitrust laws of attempted buy-outs of other companies by Microsoft, has put such purchases on hold, causing them to fall through and, it is said, greatly angering Bill Gates.
Gates: "modern-day Rockefeller"
Gates, an object of admiration for most Americans as a "modern-day Rockefeller," is also, it seems, an object of envy who arouses fierce jealousy: charges are currently being brought against him for violation of antitrust laws. Simply put, the Justice Department, under the traditional notion that allowing software makers to merge with the company which makes their computer operating systems to form a single giant company is less desirable than keeping them separate, is moving to block Gates' path. Some 80% of the personal computers in the world today use the MS DOS or Windows operating systems both Microsoft products. If you purchase a piece of software, such as a word processor, and try to run it on your personal computer, you will be unable to run the program unless it is first able to connect with and operating system. Because of this judgment that it is best to keep separate that which ought to be consolidated, it is difficult to see how the Internet, or any other information network, can in future be integrated into a single, unified whole. The specter of an antitrust law born in the age of Standard Oil has risen once again to haunt us. As a rule, disputes such as this are amicably settled by lobbyists. Astoundingly, however, Bill Gates had not a single lobbyist in Washington. Absorbed in his work, it seems, he had neglected to devote any attention to lobbying activities. Then, too, his is such a new industry that it simply hadn't had time to hire lobbyists and launch a carefully planned program of lobbying activities. Thus it appears that Gates' split with the Democratic Party is a fair accomplishment.
"The Road Ahead"
In "The Road Ahead," a book-and-CD-ROM package, Gates "predicts the future for you" (as Newsweek's cover put it). And, surprise!, things look bright indeed to America's richest guy. The "information highway" -- Gates generally clips it to a plain "the highway" -- isn't here yet; the Internet is only a genetic precursor, according to Gates. But when "the highway" itself arrives at our doors, with its ubiquitous high-bandwidth digital video feeds, our lives will undergo a seismic change for the better.
This "World of Tomorrow" prognostication game is old enough hat that even Gates admits many of his predictions will soon look comical. The CD-ROM's video portrait of "the highway" circa 2004 -- a world of heavy makeup, bad Muzak and super-efficient cappuccino bars -- will make for good party entertainment a decade hence. So will its wide-eyed virtual-reality walk-through of the still-unfinished Gates mansion, the Hearst Castle of the '90s.
"The Road Ahead," like an AT&T ad, is built around a ritual repetition of the word "will." I used the CD-ROM's "full text search" function and, though it wouldn't tell me how many times "will" appears, it reported that the word turns up on just about every page.
You will use "the highway" to "shop, order food, contact fellow hobbyists, or publish information for others to use." You will select how, when and where you wish to receive your news and entertainment. You will benefit from lower prices and the elimination of middlemen that the network's "friction-free" marketplace allows. Your wallet PC will identify you at airport gates and highway tollbooths. Your children will tap a torrent of homework helpers.
As the CD-ROM narrator breathlessly puts it, "The information flow into your home will be incredible!" ("Get the mop, Martha!")
At some point, all these "wills" change in character from predictive to prescriptive, and Gates' friendly if cool tone acquires an undercurrent of coercion. The promise of "the highway," according to Gates, is that it will allow us all to control our destinies more fully. The not-so-well-buried subtext of "The Road Ahead," though, tells a different story -- of Gates' and Microsoft's desperate struggle to maintain control of the high-tech marketplace.
"The Road Ahead" won't satisfy readers curious for insights into Chairman Bill's psyche; it mostly has the bland, confident air of an annual report. But in its very first chapter -- next to a cute high-school picture of Gates and Paul Allen scrunched over an old teletype terminal -- Gates does give one clue to his mindset. He was attracted to computers as a kid, he explains, because "we could give this big machine orders and it would always obey."
It's easy to jump on a line like that and make Gates out as some kind of silicon-chip Nazi. But of course he's only being honest about the attraction computer science has always held for engineers, enthusiasts and precocious children: the appeal of instantly responsive, utterly submissive systems that can be gradually massaged toward perfection.
Though digital technology invites its creators into a world of absolute control, the computer market remains a place of frustrating chaos. Gates long ago adopted the strategy that made Microsoft's fortune: ship early with imperfect products, seize market share and then upgrade toward an acceptable level of performance. This drives engineers nuts, but it's sharp business, and it has kept the company on top of the software industry -- until now.
Conclusion and personal ideas:
William Henry Gates III, as you have read, is quite an incredible man. His intelligence and insight into the future, shows how "ahead of his time", he is. In almost all of our daily lives, (whether you know it or not), Gates has done something, influenced someone, invented some new software, that is relevant to what you do. Whether you are a news reporter, or a bagger at a grocery store, a high-tech attorney, or a low-tech gardener, it seems that not a day goes by, without some mention of technology, computers, or what's in store for us.
He is quite a pioneer in his field, and has brought a new realization to many, regarding the future. In fact, his 1995, best selling book, is titled: "The Road Ahead". This man has such power over our society, and our country, that his ideas are often met with resistance. Many people believe that it is terrible that someone with ideas and goals like his, should have so much power and say in our everyday life.
It is obvious to many that he tells the truth, when he talks about the future, and how he thinks it will be. Because with his economic stature, and powerful ideas, he will be able to change the world.
I believe he is one of the most magnificent men in our recent history, to be compared to Hitler, Rockefeller, Martin Luther King, and many other influential people. He has influenced me personally, just with the use of computers in our everyday lives, (more in mine that others), and the majority of our U.S. population. His presence in our economy, society, and life cannot be ignored, and I believe that this will become even more evident, as we move into the 21st century.
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