Bill Gates

(b. 1955) American computer entrepreneur

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1955– )

US computer entrepreneur, who became the richest man in the world.

Born in Seattle, Washington, Gates was educated at Harvard. His career in computers began when he founded Microsoft at the age of twenty-one. From another company he acquired a software system that, after adaptation, he renamed MS-DOS. When IBM took MS-DOS as the operating system for their PCs the foundation for Gates's wealth was laid. Because the IBM PC was widely imitated by other manufacturers, the MS-DOS software system on which it depended was widely used throughout the world. This generated enormous royalties for Microsoft, which Gates used to fund the research and development for regular upgrades of MS-DOS and for further software systems. By 1994 Chief Executive magazine had named Gates as its Chief Executive of the Year and he had begun to be consulted by governments as well as corporations seeking advice on the broader implications of information technology. During the 1990s Gates made another fortune from his widely used Windows system, which enables a computer to be operated using on-screen symbols. In 1996 it was calculated that Gates's 24 per cent shareholding in Microsoft was worth $20 billion, thus surpassing the estimated wealth of the sultan of Brunei.

Gates has published two books – The Future (1994) and The Road Ahead (1996). These publications seem to indicate that he has personal ambitions to be taken seriously as a social visionary. Despite his wealth, Gates has continued to live modestly, dressing as informally as his employees and making use of regular airlines rather than a personal jet. His only conspicuous indulgence has been his multimillion-dollar home. In recent years the commanding position of Microsoft in the software market has made it a target for accusations that it exercises a monopoly; it has therefore become the subject of hostile legal actions.

Subjects: Business and Management.

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