Bill Gates was born on October 28, 1955 in Seattle, Washington. His father was an attorney and his mother was a schoolteacher. He attended public elementary school, but went to a private high school. During his high school years, he learned to program computers at the age of 13. It was apparent to his teachers that he had a lot of potential in academics since he excelled in math and science.
The first computer he used was a DEC PDP-10 that was owned by General Electric. His high school paid General Electric for time that the students could use to program the computer. Bill Gates and his friend Paul Allen spent many hours at the computer, eventually causing their grades to suffer from skipped classes and late homework. When they were given a new system to work with, they hacked into the system to make it so that the computer did not record the time that they spent on it, causing them to be banned from it for weeks.
In 1968, he formed a group called the Lakeside Programmers Group with the intent of applying their learned computer skills to the real world. The local Computer Center Corporation hired them to find bugs in their system's software and gave them unlimited computer usage as a result.
After Computer Center Corporation went out of business in 1970, the group began working on computers at the University of Washington in their free time. They soon found work at Information Sciences Inc., where they were hired to develop payroll software. Later that year, Bill Gates and Paul Allen started a company called Traf-O-Data, which developed a computer to measure the flow of traffic. They earned nearly $20,000 from the project, but dissolved the company before graduating.
In 1971, Bill and Paul were hired by their high school to develop a computerized scheduling system. The next year, they were hired by a defense company, TRW, to fix bugs in the company's software.
In 1973, Bill started his studies at Harvard University. His first major was pre-law, but he spent most of his time in the computer center on campus. That summer, he and Paul got jobs at Honeywell and the two constantly talked about the prospects of starting a software development firm.
In 1974, Bill discovered that the Altair 8080 was being built to introduce computers to the public. Bill called the company that manufactured the device, MITS, and told them that he and Paul Allen had developed a version of the BASIC programming language that could be used on the Altair (which was a lie). The company showed interest and the two began actually writing the software, finishing it in about eight weeks. The two went to MITS and tested the software for the first time on a real Altair, observing that it worked perfectly. MITS bought the rights to the software for a tidy sum and Bill and Paul finally decided to start their own company.
Bill left Harvard in 1975 to start Microsoft with his friend Paul Allen. They believed strongly that computers had a place in every home and on every desk and worked to develop software that would allow computers to be used for many purposes. On January 1, 1979, the company moved to Seattle with its sixteen employees, where Bill thought it would be easier to find programmers to hire. Microsoft was very careful about who it hired, focusing on only the best college graduates with impeccable records.
In 1981, they purchased the SCP-DOS operating system from a company called Seattle Computer Products and modified the software to become MS-DOS. Microsoft made a deal with IBM to develop software for a line of personal computers and MS-DOS was shipped on all IBM computers. By 1983, Microsoft had developed a more graphical operating system, which they called Windows, which supported usage of a mouse. Many say that Bill Gates stole the idea for a graphical operating system and the mouse from Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer, who stole the idea from Xerox.
In 1986, Microsoft became a publicly traded company and many investors jumped on the boat in anticipation of the growing computer market. The IPO price was $21 per share and Bill became a millionaire that same day.
During the 90s, the home computer market exploded after the availability of the Internet. Microsoft released its Windows 3.0 operating system, which quickly became the popular choice for personal computers, even surpassing MacOS, which had enjoyed some degree of popularity during the 80s. Microsoft made a fortune, quickly becoming one of the most profitable companies in the world. Microsoft's Windows OS became the most popular operating system in the world for personal computer use and Bill Gates became the world's richest man, with a fortune of billions of dollars.
Despite Bill's enormous success, he is criticized by many for his cutthroat business practices. The popularity of open source operating systems are beginning to put a significant dent in Microsoft's sales, particularly those based on the Linux core. Microsoft has undergone multiple anti-trust cases, resulting in massive fines and a lessened reputation.