Bill Gates is one of the most famous people on the planet for excellent reasons. Although he is not as glamorous as his long-time rival and sometimes almost-friend, the late Steve Jobs, he is nonetheless an interesting figure in his own right. In part, this is because Gates was one of the co-founders of Microsoft, meaning that his name is not just synonymous with wealth but also with the fundamental way that computers have changed our lives in recent decades.
However, it should also be noted that there is much more to the man than his business acumen, seeing as how he has reduced his involvement with the tech titan in order to focus more and more on philanthropic endeavors through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As a result, he remains just as influential a figure in the world now as when he was the CEO of Microsoft, albeit with a different focus for a different time.
Here are 20 of the most interesting facts about Bill Gates:
1. In his childhood, Gates attended one of the few schools in the whole of the United States to have a school computer at the time. Many people say it was this luck alone that brought him down his incredible career path. As a result, he wrote his first computer program on a General Electric computer when he was still a student at Lakeside Prep School. Like a lot of school projects, it was a simple game that pitted the player against the computer, with his choice being tic-tac-toe.
2. A lot of tech entrepreneurs started out by dropping out of college in order to focus on their tech companies. Gates is one of the most famous examples of this trend, but his success should not be seen as cause for others to follow in his footsteps without serious care and consideration. After all, his career shows that he had the right skills in the right time and the right place to succeed, which is not something that all college drop-outs can claim.
3. In 1975, Gates was arrested for speeding while driving without a driver’s license. While in 1977, Gates was arrested a second time for running a red light while driving without a driver’s license. These are the only times that he has been arrested, though it might be interesting to note that he has had famous encounters with the legal system because of antitrust litigation against the company that he headed.
4. Despite Microsoft’s international presence as well as his philanthropic endeavors in countries situated all around the world, Gates speaks nothing but English. With that said, it is worth pointing out that he has mentioned this as the single biggest regret of his life. It’s hard to believe that one of the smartest men in history can only speak English, especially in this day and age.
5. Although Gates is no longer either the CEO or the Chairman of the Board for Microsoft, he retains a role as an adviser to Satya Nadella, who is the current CEO. To paraphrase Gates’s own words on the matter, he is a sort of assistant who remembers important things so that he can point them out to the decision-makers to make sure that they get the time and attention that they deserve.
6. Gates has a strong interest in artificial intelligence, so much so that he says that he would have become an artificial intelligence researcher if Microsoft had not met with such success. However, he is one of those people who are interested in artificial intelligence but also cautious about its existence, which is something that he shares with a number of other famous names in the fields of science and tech such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. After all, superhuman intelligence means superhuman potential, which in turn, means the power to do great good as well as great harm.
7. His musical tastes are oriented towards alternative rock. To be precise, he has stated that his favorite band is the American rock band Weezer, which is known for its range of sounds and range of styles. Other favorites include both U2 and Spinal Tap, though chances are good that more modern music lovers are more familiar with the first than the latter.
8. Even though he lived in the time of the Italian Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci retains his power to captivate the human imagination, with Gates being no exception to this rule. As a result, it should come as no surprise to learn that one of his biggest splurges was $30.8 million spent on an auction for the Codex Leicester, which is a collection of the famous inventor’s scientific writings.
9. The founding of Microsoft was not the first time that Gates and the other co-founder, Paul Allen, had collaborated on something. Their first project was writing a payroll program for a local company called Information Sciences Inc., which was followed by other software and hardware projects that instilled in them the importance of having a functional business model by teaching them that they knew more about making their products than selling them.
10. There was a bit of luck involved in Gates’s initial success, which is not uncommon with successful entrepreneurs. In short, he had been initially approached by IBM to create an operating system for its new personal computer, but referred them to one of his competitors. However, said individuals missed out on the opportunities presented to them, which convinced Gates to step up by licensing an operating system from another competitor before repackaging it as DOS for IBM, thus laying down the first stone in the foundation of Microsoft’s later dominance of the market for operating systems.
11. Gates met his wife, Melinda, through work. To be precise, the then-named Melinda French had just started working as a product marketing manager at Microsoft when she met him at an Expo dinner. They managed to keep their relationship as an open secret at the company for years and years, but chose to make it public when they became engaged in 1993 before getting married in 1994.
12. Given his philanthropic endeavors, it should come as no surprise to learn that Gates plans to donate 95 percent of his fortune to charitable causes rather than leave the bulk to his children. He has stated in the past that he plans to leave no more than $10 million to each of his children because leaving them more than that amount would do them no good. It is interesting to note that Gates’s philanthropic endeavors are probably rooted in his family background, seeing as how his mother actually served on the Board of Directors for an organization as prestigious as the United Way.
13. Although he has long been involved in philanthropic endeavors, Gates decided to consolidate them under the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 1999, which is the single biggest private institution of its kind in the world. As a result, it is involved in a wide range of projects in Asia, Africa, and Europe addressing a wide range of issues. For example, it supports libraries in the United States so as to make their resources available to more of the public as well as overhauls of the public education system to produce better results for American schoolchildren.
Similarly, it has poured billions and billions of dollars into combating AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other diseases that mainly affect the global poor, while also encouraging agricultural development in order to make sure that the people living in poorer countries can continue feeding themselves in spite of ever-increasing demand for food crops. All of these efforts have been made possible because of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s staggering $43 billion endowment.
14. One particularly notable example of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s good works is a machine that can turn sewage into water that is safe for humans to drink. To provide support for this project, Gates made an appearance on The Tonight Show in 2015, where he and the host, Jimmy Fallon, proceeded to drink a glass of water treated by the machine to prove that it worked.
This project is extremely important because drinkable water is actually a rare and precious commodity in large swathes of the world, meaning that the machine has the potential to do a great deal of good by preventing a number of waterborne diseases that have been persistent problems for much of human history.
15. During the dot-com boom of the 90’s, Gates saw his fortune soar like a lot of other tech entrepreneurs. In fact, his fortune soared so much so fast that the media actually came up with a new word to describe his relatively short-lived net worth of more than a $100 billion. Rather appropriately, that word was “centi-billionaire,” which means basically “hundred-times billionaire.”
Unfortunately, neither the word nor the situation that necessitated it lasted long, seeing as how the dot-com boom remains one of the more famous examples of an economic bubble, though more because of its proximity than because of its egregiousness.
16. Gates is not the only business magnate with an interest in making the world a better place to live in. Famously, this can be seen in the example of the “Gates Giving Pledge,” which saw Gates as well as two of his friends, Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffett promising to donate half of their wealth to charitable causes. For people who are unfamiliar with the other two men, Zuckerberg is the co-founder of Facebook, while Buffett is one of the most famous and one of the most successful investors on Wall Street.
17. Despite his business acumen, Gates has been known to make incorrect predictions from time to time. For example, he once predicted that email spam would be eliminated within no more than two years in 2004, which is proven false by the fact that email spam is still popping up on a regular basis in email inboxes throughout the world. Unfortunately, this case shows that human ingenuity can be put to use doing great good as well as something that can be called seemingly perpetual irritation if not necessarily great evil.
18. Unsurprisingly, Gates and his wife have received a number of accolades from a number of countries for their philanthropic endeavors. For example, Queen Elizabeth II of England made Gates an honorary Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2005 for his support of charitable causes. Similarly, Gates has received the Placard of the Order of the Aztec Eagle from Mexico, the Padma Bhushan from India, and even the Silver Buffalo Award from the Boy Scouts of America.
19. Like a lot of people who belong to the relevant fields, Gates believes that automation will make a number of careers obsolete within a matter of decades. Salespeople of all sorts are probably the most common examples brought out whenever this topic is brought up, but it should interest people to know that Gates believes that other careers such as auditors and accountants will be affected as well as computing techniques and technologies become more and more advanced.
To be fair, this is not as unlikely as it sounds to people who have ever had to struggle through the sometimes labyrinthine procedures of accounting since the field is founded on a system of rules and principles that provide a common basis of understanding for would-be users.
20. Amusingly, even though Gates dropped out of Harvard way back in 1975, he actually has a Harvard degree because the school chose to honor him with an honorary degree in 2007. This is far from being his only award of this kind, seeing as how he has other honorary degrees from a remarkable range of famous schools, ranging from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom to Tsinghua University in China and Waseda University in Japan.