Starting in 1987, Gates was included in the Forbes list of the world's wealthiest people and was the wealthiest from 1995 to 2007, again in 2009, and has been since 2014. Between 2009 and 2014, his wealth doubled from 40 billion to more than 82 billion. Between 2013 and 2014, his wealth increased by 15 billion. Gates is currently the wealthiest person in the world with a net worth of US$90 billion as of August 2016.
Gates is one of the best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution. Gates has been criticized for his business tactics, which have been considered anti-competitive, an opinion that has in some cases been upheld by numerous court rulings. Later in his career Gates 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.
Gates stepped down as chief executive officer of Microsoft in January 2000. He remained as chairman and created the position of chief software architect for himself. In June 2006, Gates announced that he would be transitioning from full-time work at Microsoft to part-time work, and full-time work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He gradually transferred his duties to Ray Ozzie (chief software architect) and Craig Mundie (chief research and strategy officer). Ozzie later left the company. Gates's last full-time day at Microsoft was June 27, 2008. He stepped down as chairman of Microsoft, in February 2014, taking on a new post as technology adviser to support newly appointed CEO Satya Nadella.
At 13, he enrolled in the Lakeside School, a private preparatory school. When he was in the eighth grade, the Mothers Club at the school used proceeds from Lakeside School's rummage sale to buy a Teletype Model 33 ASR terminal and a block of computer time on a General Electric (GE) computer for the school's students. Gates took an interest in programming the GE system in BASIC, and was excused from math classes to pursue his interest. He wrote his first computer program on this machine: an implementation of tic-tac-toe that allowed users to play games against the computer. Gates was fascinated by the machine and how it would always execute software code perfectly. When he reflected back on that moment, he said, "There was just something neat about the machine." After the Mothers Club donation was exhausted, he and other students sought time on systems including DEC PDP minicomputers. One of these systems was a PDP-10 belonging to Computer Center Corporation (CCC), which banned four Lakeside students Gates, Paul Allen, Ric Weiland, and Kent Evans for the summer after it caught them exploiting bugs in the operating system to obtain free computer time.
At the end of the ban, the four students offered to find bugs in CCC's software in exchange for computer time. Rather than use the system via Teletype, Gates went to CCC's offices and studied source code for various programs that ran on the system, including programs in Fortran, Lisp, and machine language. The arrangement with CCC continued until 1970, when the company went out of business. The following year, Information Sciences, Inc. hired the four Lakeside students to write a payroll program in Cobol, providing them computer time and royalties. After his administrators became aware of his programming abilities, Gates wrote the school's computer program to schedule students in classes. He modified the code so that he was placed in classes with "a disproportionate number of interesting girls." He later stated that "it was hard to tear myself away from a machine at which I could so unambiguously demonstrate success." At age 17, Gates formed a venture with Allen, called Traf-O-Data, to make based on the Intel 8008 processor. In early 1973, Bill Gates served as a congressional page in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Gates graduated from Lakeside School in 1973, and was a National Merit Scholar. He scored 1590 out of 1600 on the SAT and enrolled at Harvard College in the autumn of 1973. While at Harvard, he met Steve Ballmer, who would later succeed Gates as CEO of Microsoft. ξ4
In his second year, Gates devised an algorithm for pancake sorting as a solution to one of a series of unsolved problems presented in a combinatorics class by Harry Lewis, one of his professors. Gates's solution held the record as the fastest version for over thirty years; its successor is faster by only one percent. His solution was later formalized in a published paper in collaboration with Harvard computer scientist Christos Papadimitriou.
Gates did not have a definite study plan while a student at Harvard and spent a lot of time using the school's computers. Gates remained in contact with Paul Allen, and he joined him at Honeywell during the summer of 1974. The following year saw the release of the MITS Altair 8800 based on the Intel 8080 CPU, and Gates and Allen saw this as the opportunity to start their own computer software company. Gates dropped out of Harvard at this time. He had talked this decision over with his parents, who were supportive of him after seeing how much Gates wanted to start a company.
Microsoft's Altair 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 in which he asserted that more than 90% of the users of Microsoft Altair BASIC had not paid Microsoft for it and by doing so the Altair "hobby market" was in danger of eliminating the incentive for any professional developers to produce, distribute, and maintain high-quality software. 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. The company moved from Albuquerque to its new home in Bellevue, Washington, on January 1, 1979.
During Microsoft's early years, all employees had broad responsibility for the company's business. Gates oversaw the business details, but continued to write code as well. In the first five years, Gates personally reviewed every line of code the company shipped, and often rewrote parts of it as he saw fit.
Gates did not offer to transfer the copyright on the operating system, because he believed that other hardware vendors would clone IBM's system. They did, and the sales of MS-DOS made Microsoft a major player in the industry. Despite IBM's name on the operating system the press quickly identified Microsoft as being very influential on the new computer. PC Magazine asked if Gates were "the man behind the machine?", and InfoWorld quoted an expert as stating "it's Gates' computer". Gates oversaw Microsoft's company restructuring on June 25, 1981, which re-incorporated the company in Washington state and made Gates, the president of Microsoft and its board chairman.
As an executive, Gates met regularly with Microsoft's senior managers and program managers. Firsthand accounts of these meetings describe him as verbally combative, berating managers for perceived holes in their business strategies or proposals that placed the company's long-term interests at risk. He interrupted presentations with such comments "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!" and "Why don't you just give up your options and join the Peace Corps?" The target of his outburst then had to defend the proposal in detail until, hopefully, Gates was fully convinced. When subordinates appeared to be procrastinating, he was known to remark sarcastically, "I'll do it over the weekend." ξ5
Gates was an active software developer in Microsoft's early history, particularly on the company's programming language products, but his role most of its history was primarily as management and executive. Gates has not officially been on a development team since working on the TRS-80 Model 100, but wrote code as late as 1989 that shipped in the company's products. He remained interested in technical details; Jerry Pournelle wrote in 1985 that when watching Gates announcing Microsoft Excel, "Something else impressed me. Bill Gates likes the program, not because it's going to make him a lot of money (although I'm sure it will do that), but because it's a neat hack." On June 15, 2006, Gates announced that he would transition out of his day-to-day role over the next two years to dedicate more time to philanthropy. He divided his responsibilities between two successors, placing Ray Ozzie in charge of day-to-day management and Craig Mundie in charge of long-term product strategy.
Gates later said he had simply resisted attempts by Boies to mischaracterize his words and actions. As to his demeanor during the deposition, he said, "Did I fence with Boies? ... I plead guilty. Whatever that penalty is should be levied against me: rudeness to Boies in the first degree." Despite Gates' denials, the judge ruled that Microsoft had committed monopolization and tying, and blocking competition, both in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Gates was the world's highest-earning billionaire in 2013, as his fortune increased by US$15.8 billion to US$78.5 billion. As of January 2014, most of Gates's assets are held in Cascade Investment LLC, an entity through which he owns stakes in numerous businesses, including Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, and Corbis Corp. On February 4, 2014, Gates stepped down as chairman of Microsoft to become Technology Advisor alongside Satya Nadella.
In a substantial interview with Rolling Stone magazine, published in March 27, 2014 issue, Gates provided his perspective on a range of issues, such as climate change, his charitable activities, various tech companies and people involved in them, and the state of America. In response to a question about his greatest fear when he looks 50 years into the future, Gates stated: "... there'll be some really bad things that'll happen in the next 50 or 100 years, but hopefully none of them on the scale of, say, a million people that you didn't expect to die from a pandemic, or nuclear or bioterrorism." Gates also identified innovation as the "real driver of progress" and pronounced that "America's way better today than it's ever been."
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Gates stated in regard to his faith:
The moral systems of religion, I think, are super important. We've raised our kids in a religious way; they've gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in. I've been very lucky, and therefore I owe it to try and reduce the inequity in the world. And that's kind of a religious belief. I mean, it's at least a moral belief.
In the same interview, Gates said: "I agree with people like Richard Dawkins that mankind felt the need for creation myths. Before we really began to understand disease and the weather and things like that, we sought false explanations for them. Now science has filled in some of the realm – not all – that religion used to fill. But the mystery and the beauty of the world is overwhelmingly amazing, and there's no scientific explanation of how it came about. To say that it was generated by random numbers, that does seem, you know, sort of an uncharitable view laughs. 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."
Among Gates's private acquisitions is the Codex Leicester, a collection of writings by Leonardo da Vinci, which Gates bought for $30.8 million at an auction in 1994. Gates is also known as an avid reader, and the ceiling of his large home library is engraved with a quotation from The Great Gatsby. He also enjoys playing bridge, tennis, and golf.
Gates was number one on the Forbes 400 list from 1993 through to 2007, and number one on Forbes list of The World's Richest People from 1995 to 2007 and 2009. In 1999, his wealth briefly surpassed $101 billion, causing the media to call Gates a "centibillionaire". Despite his wealth and extensive business travel Gates usually flew coach class until 1997, when he bought a private jet. Since 2000, the nominal value of his Microsoft holdings has declined due to a fall in Microsoft's stock price after the dot-com bubble burst and the multibillion-dollar donations he has made to his charitable foundations. In a May 2006 interview, Gates commented that he wished that he were not the richest man in the world because he disliked the attention it brought. In March 2010, Gates was the second wealthiest person behind Carlos Slim, but regained the top position in 2013, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires List. Carlos Slim retook the position again in June 2014 (but then lost the top position back to Gates).
Gates has several investments outside Microsoft, which in 2006 paid him a salary of $616,667 and $350,000 bonus totalling $966,667. He founded Corbis, a digital imaging company, in 1989. In 2004, he became a director of Berkshire Hathaway, the investment company headed by long-time friend Warren Buffett. In 2016 he revealed that he was color-blind when discussing his gaming habits.
Gates has credited the generosity and extensive philanthropy of David Rockefeller as a major influence. Gates and his father met with Rockefeller several times, and their charity work is partly modeled on the Rockefeller family's philanthropic focus, whereby they are interested in tackling the global problems that are ignored by governments and other organizations. As of 2007, Bill and Melinda Gates were the second-most generous philanthropists in America, having given over $28 billion to charity; the couple plan to eventually donate 95 percent of their wealth to charity.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports the use of genetically modified organisms in agricultural development. Specifically, the foundation is supporting the International Rice Research Institute in developing Golden Rice, a genetically modified rice variant used to combat Vitamin A deficiency.
Gates has recently expressed concern about the existential threats of Superintelligence; in a Reddit "ask me anything", he stated that
First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don't understand why some people are not concerned.
Gates has also provided personal donations to educational institutions. In 1999, Gates donated $20 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for the construction of a computer laboratory named the "William H. Gates Building" that was designed by architect Frank O. Gehry. While Microsoft had previously given financial support to the institution, this was the first personal donation received from Gates.
The Maxwell Dworkin Laboratory of the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is named after the mothers of both Gates and Microsoft President Steven A. Ballmer, both of whom were students (Ballmer was a member of the School's graduating class of 1977, while Gates left his studies for Microsoft), and donated funds for the laboratory's construction. Gates also donated $6 million to the construction of the Gates Computer Science Building, completed in January 1996, on the campus of Stanford University. The building contains the Computer Science Department (CSD) and the Computer Systems Laboratory (CSL) of Stanford's Engineering department.
On August 15, 2014, Bill Gates posted a video of himself dumping a bucket of ice water on his head, after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg challenged him to do so, in order to raise awareness for the disease ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).
Bill Gates and his foundation are taking an interest in solving global sanitation problems since about 2005, for example by announcing the "Reinvent the Toilet Challenge" which has received considerable media interest. To raise awareness for the topic of sanitation and possible solutions, Bill Gates drank water which was "produced from human feces" in 2014 – in fact it was produced from a sewage sludge treatment process called the Omni Processor. In early 2015, he also appeared with Jimmy Fallon on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and challenged him to see if he could taste the difference between this reclaimed water or bottled water.
Bill and Melinda Gates have said that they intend to leave their three children $10 million each as their inheritance. With only $30 million kept in the family, they appear to be on a course to give away about 99.96 percent of their wealth.
Time magazine named Gates , as well as one of the 100 most influential people of 2004, 2005, and 2006. Time also collectively named Gates, his wife Melinda and U2's lead singer Bono as the 2005 Persons of the Year for their humanitarian efforts. In 2006, he was voted eighth in the list of "Heroes of our time". Gates was listed in the Sunday Times power list in 1999, named CEO of the year by Chief Executive Officers magazine in 1994, ranked number one in the "Top 50 Cyber Elite" by Time in 1998, ranked number two in the Upside Elite 100 in 1999, and was included in The Guardian as one of the "Top 100 influential people in media" in 2001.
In 1994, he was honored as the twentieth DFBCS of the British Computer Society. In 1999, Gates received New York Institute of Technology's President's Medal. Gates has received honorary doctorates from Nyenrode Business Universiteit, Breukelen, The Netherlands, in 2000; KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, in 2002; Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan, in 2005; Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, in April 2007; Harvard University in June 2007; Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, in 2007, and Cambridge University in June 2009. He was also made an honorary trustee of Peking University in 2007.
Gates was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Elizabeth II in 2005. In November 2006, he was awarded the Placard of the Order of the Aztec Eagle, together with his wife Melinda who was awarded the Insignia of the same order, both for their philanthropic work around the world in the areas of health and education, particularly in Mexico, and specifically in the program " Un país de lectores". Gates received the 2010 Bower Award for Business Leadership from The Franklin Institute for his achievements at Microsoft and his philanthropic work. Also in 2010, he was honored with the Silver Buffalo Award by the Boy Scouts of America, its highest award for adults, for his service to youth.
In 2015, Gates, along with his wife Melinda, received the Padma Bhushan, India's third-highest civilian award for their social work in the country.
Entomology named Bill Gates' flower fly, Eristalis gatesi, in his honor in 1997.
In 2002, Bill and Melinda Gates received the Jefferson Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged. National Winners | public service awards. Jefferson Awards.org. Retrieved on September 4, 2013.