Bill Gates is a billionaire several times over. How did he get rich?
Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft in 1975 and began making computer programs for various systems, the first being Altair BASIC. Later, Microsoft collaborated with Seattle Computer Products and IBM to make operating systems. It was the Windows OS that significantly boosted Microsoft’s profits, making Bill Gates the youngest-ever self-made billionaire at the time, when he was 31, in 1987.
Keep reading to learn more about the early days of Microsoft, and what Bill Gates spends his billions on.
Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard where he had been studying mathematics and computer science, in order to start his own company.
In late 1975, Gates and Paul Allen, a friend from school, formed the company “Micro-Soft.” They got the name from combining “microcomputer” and “software.” They soon dropped the dash and settled with “Microsoft.”
Microsoft’s first program was “Altair BASIC” which was an interpretation program designed to run on Altair computers.
Microsoft also developed software for various other systems, becoming successful quickly. In the early years of the company, Bill Gates would personally review every line of code that his employees would output, often rewriting the code to perfection.
IBM approached Microsoft in 1980, asking if they could provide the BASIC interpreter for their upcoming personal computer. They also asked if Microsoft could make them an operating system, but at the time, Microsoft was yet to design one.
Microsoft collaborated with Seattle Computer Products, in order to utilize their existing 86-DOS system. Microsoft was then given an exclusivity deal, to be the only licensed agent for the system, later becoming the full owner.
Microsoft sold the final product to IBM for a one-time fee of $50,000—a relatively small fee. However, it was the reputation gained by Microsoft for the collaboration with IBM that boosted the worth of Gates’ company.
In early 1983, co-founder of Microsoft, Allen, left the company due to health problems. The relationship between the two childhood friends had already been strained due to disputes over the business.
A few years later, the pair reconciled and together they donated millions of dollars to their old school. They remained friends until Allen’s death in 2018.
Windows 1.0 was launched in 1985, however, the reception was lukewarm. Critics noted that the operating system was sluggish due to the computers of the time not being powerful enough to run it.
The New York Times drew a comparison between Windows’ performance on a computer with 512 KB of RAM to “pouring molasses in the Arctic.” Windows also relied on users owning a mouse at a time that this was uncommon.
Microsoft honed its craft over the years, and each subsequent system became more powerful, but it was still uncommon to see Windows in the home. It was Windows 95 that was the major game-changer, both for Microsoft and for the everyday consumer.
Windows 95 was the first system aimed at regular people, instead of professional users or computer hobbyists. It was significantly more powerful than its predecessors and included built-in support for components such as modems and CD-ROM drives.
Windows 95 sold 40 million copies within its first year of release, significantly boosting the profits of Microsoft.
Since then, Microsoft has gone on to infiltrate millions of homes, businesses, and schools across the world. The founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, is estimated to have a staggering net worth of $115 billion.
Gates has been interested in giving back since the early days of Microsoft. However, in 2018, Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, wrote an open letter declaring that they had plans to donate all of their wealth to charitable causes.
In the letter, the couple explained the reasoning behind the bold decision to give away their billions:
“There are two reasons to do something like this. One is that its meaningful work. Even before we got married, we talked about how we would eventually spend a lot of time on philanthropy. We think that’s a basic responsibility of anyone with a lot of money. Once you’ve taken care of yourself and your children, the best use of extra wealth is to give it back to society.
The other reason is that we have fun doing it…”