So You Say You Want A Revolution...
Steve Wozniak
Ted Hoff
Mitch Kapor
Steve Jobs
Back to home

Bill Gates
Controversial Pioneer
    The repetition of history, is such a remarkable cycle that one may even site examples within one lineage. Take for example the striking similarities between Bill Gates III and his namesake and great-grandfather William Gates Sr. Bill Sr., like his great- grandson, was a pioneer, who moved to Seattle to strike it rich in the 1880's. He was unafraid to take risks and followed rumours of gold to Nome, Alaska, just as his great- grandson took revolutionary bounds in the computer industry. In many ways they can both be called pioneers, in the very classic sense of the word. But that sense of the word may be the fabled wrench in the gears. To the Native Americans already being pushed off their land in Seattle and Nome, William Sr. was not a pioneer, but an intruder, dominating the land and pushing all other aside. Here too, Bill Gates is like his great-grandfather. He is hailed simultaniously as a leader of the information age and denounced as a monopolistic tyrant. How has one man become such a boon and a bain to society, and in the process, man himself the richest man in the world?

Straight C Student

    William Henry Gates III was born October 28, 1955 to Mary and Bill Gates. He was the only boy of three children. While growing up Bill was a small child with a rebellious streak, who did poorly in elementary school. His parents were concerned enough to send him to a psychologist whose personality would have a profound effect on him later. After the summer of fifth grade however, Bill decided enough was enough, and with that simple change of mind, his grade point average went from a 2.2 to a 4.0. His parents enrolled him in a religious private school later on where he would discover future business associate and friend Paul Allen. It was also where is natural inclanation towards math and science would lead him to computers and computer programming. By the time he entered Harvard in 1973 he was already being paid for his programming hobby.


    While Bill was still in school and Paul was working for MITS on a little project called DOS, theyformed their own company Tref-O-Data, at the dawn of the computer age when techie clubs and conventions were still the only places you were liekly to see computers outside of large corperations. In 1975 they completed the first computer language for personal computers, called BASIC, which was released with the new Altaire computer. Soon afterwards he dropped out of school and devoted himself to computer programming full-time. Paul quit MITS and they moved to the Altaire headquarters in Albuquerque, New Mexico where they renamed their team Micro-soft. In 1977 they dropped the hyphen and Microsoft Co. was officially born They grossed one million dollars their first year and moved the company to Seattle. In 1981 they won the rights to BASIC which they had written while still at MITS and began the evoltion chain that all softwear programs would follow, updating old programs while devoloping new projects on the side. Bill was constantly on the search for was to make the personal computer a less intimidating machine to use. In other words, something more accessible to more people, with more money. In 1983 they came out with Multi-Tool for DOS, later renamed Microsoft Word. They worked closely with the big names in hardwear, first with IBM in the earlier years of BASIC and DOS, and later with Apple.

Pioneers of Rejection

    Most of the programs Microsoft has innovated and consequently, grown rich from, were unwanted or discards from the big coorperations. When Microsoft first thought of a "smoke-and-mirrors" interface program for PC's in 1983, IBM expressed no interest at all in the project. Microsoft would present the Interface Manager three times in total before giving up on IBM, and releasing the program in 1985 under a new name, Windows. In 1985 they also showed a new spreadsheet program to Apple computers, called Excel. Not interested. At the time graphics interfacing was considered a big gamble, but for Bill and Microsoft, it was a gamble that would pay off.

Youngest Billionaire

    In 1986 shares for Microsoft stock went on sale for approximately $21 apiece. Bill would quickly become the world's youngest billionaire. Meanwhile, Microsoft continued to pioneer throughout the 1980's, releasing the first program for CD-ROM in 1987 called MS Bookshelf. By the 1990's Microsoft was as big a name as IBM and Apple in an industry where companies had a tendancy to disappear overnight. In 1991 President George Bush awarded Bill Gates the National Medal for Technological Achievment. But questions of how Microsoft was maintaining that position were beginning to surface.

Darwinian Technologists

    In 1993 the first law suit came. A little known company called Stac Electronics filed suit for a patent violation for the inclusion of some file compressing programs in MS DOS 6.0. The Federal Trade Comission was called in to investigate reported muscle tactics used by Microsoft to force hardwear producers to use their programs. The Investigation came up clean, three years later. Meanwhile Bill had already settled with Stac and another company, Wang Laboratories, with cash settlements. The FTC came up clean on Microsoft, but the trouble was jsut beginning for Bill Gates. Soon after the Justice Department started its own investigation into the possible illegal monopoly of of Microsoft in softwear manufacturing.

Bill Gates 2000

    What does the future hold for this semi-pioneer, semi-war criminal? His contributions to the advances of the PC are innumerable, and have brought the efficiency of computers to millions of users world-wide. Surrounded by clouds of contraversy, does the future still look bright for Bill? According to him, it does. Finally in his 40's and the richest man or woman on Earth, Bill Gates seems optimistic for the future of Microsoft and himself. Recently married and a new father, Bill has been trying to put a more humane touch in Microsoft's divide and conquer tactics of the past. He ditched Apple out of certain ruin in a move that has left his audible critics with suspicion. Competion, he says now, is the only way to keep a business healthy. It's humanitarian Darwinism. He's also turned a new cheek. Retirement looks to be in the near future, or at least a step-down from his position as CEO. He's also just revealed his philanthropic plans for his billions. 95%, he says, will be donated to charitable causes. His children will have to earn their money, just as he did. So who will be the next of this family of dubious pioneers to make waves in the world of computers? Perhaps in their new four million dollar home in Seattle, they will take a stronger liking to art.

Page By Alexis Podolny
Disclaimer: I do NOT like purple.