Year To Success

Lesson 15: Inspiration from Bill Gates

William H. Gates (1955–) is the Chairman and Chief Software Architect of Microsoft Corporation.

Success is creating jobs and opportunity. Gates’ company, Microsoft, employs more than 50,000 people in 72 countries and regions.

Success is sharing. Bill and his wife, Melinda, have endowed a foundation with more than $24 billion to support philanthropic initiatives in the areas of global health and learning.

Success is passion for knowledge. Gates became inseparable from the computer. In his youth, he would stay in the computer room all day and night, writing programs, reading computer literature and anything else he could to learn about computing.

Success is following your heart’s desire. Bill did well at Harvard but just as in high school, his heart was not in his studies. After locating the school’s computer center, he lost himself in the world of computers once again. In his junior year, Gates left Harvard to devote his energies to Microsoft, a company he had begun in 1975 with his childhood friend Paul Allen.

Success is vision. When Gates first saw the cover of Popular Electronics with a picture of the Altair 8080 and the headline “World’s First Microcomputer Kit to Rival Commercial Models,” he knew that the home computer market was about to explode and that someone would need to make software for the new machines.

Success is unwavering commitment. Within a few days of being introduced to the Altair, Gates had called MITS (Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems), the makers of the Altair. He told the company that he and Paul Allen had developed a version of the computing language “BASIC” that could be used on the Altair. This was not entirely true. The fact was, they had not even written a line of code. With that statement, however, Gates totally committed himself.

Success is not always about innovation. 

  • Microsoft’s first product was a version of the programming language BASIC for the Altair 8080. BASIC, invented by John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz in 1964, was someone else’s idea. So was the Altair. Gates used the two to fill a need that was not currently being met.
  • IBM hired Microsoft to build its operating system. Microsoft bought Q-DOS from a company called Seattle Computer Products and “repackaged” it for the PC once again making PC history.
  • In May 1990, Microsoft introduced its own version of Apple windows and called it Microsoft Windows 3.0, which, of course, made computer history.
  • Microsoft’s first browser, Internet Explorer 1.0, was not even their product. It was licensed from a company called Spyglass.