In 1975, a young programmer named Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard University to form a company called "Micro-soft" with his childhood friend Paul Allen. The company went on to ignite a personal computing craze and achieve overwhelming success with its technological innovations. Here’s a look at seven facts about the famed Microsoft co-founder:
He demonstrated a staggering intellect as a kid
Gates plowed through the hefty World Book Encyclopedia set at age 8, but he left perhaps his biggest impression as an 11-year-old in his church confirmation class. Every year, Reverend Dale Turner challenged his pupils to memorize chapters 5-7 of the Book of Matthew – a.k.a. the Sermon on the Mount – and treated the successful ones to dinner atop the Space Needle. When Gates took his turn, Reverend Turner was stunned as the boy recited the approximately 2,000-word text with zero errors. While 31 of his classmates eventually got to chow down at the Space Needle Restaurant, Gates was the only one to deliver a flawless performance.
Microsoft was not the first business partnership between Gates and Allen
As computer prodigies at Lakeside High School, they wrote a payroll program for a company called Information Sciences Inc. Shortly afterward, they came up with an idea to streamline the process of measuring traffic flow. Under the existing format, a pressure-sensitive tube punched a sequence onto paper tape whenever a car passed, with the results later transcribed to computer cards. After scraping together $360 for a microprocessor chip, Gates and Allen developed their "Traf-O-Data" computer to read and analyze the paper tapes. Although the Traf-O-Data generally worked, the budding entrepreneurs realized they knew far more about building that type of machine than how to sell it. Allen has since pointed to that experience as a valuable lesson about the importance of a business model.
His career could have turned out quite differently without an assist from a competitor
Approached by IBM in 1980 to develop a 16-bit operating system for its new personal computer, Gates referred the computer giants to Gary Kildall of Digital Research Inc. However, Kildall was out flying his plane when the IBM reps showed up, and his wife and business partner, Dorothy, balked at signing a non-disclosure agreement. Realizing that an opportunity was slipping away, Gates leased a similar operating system from another company and repackaged it as DOS for IBM. The development paved the way for Microsoft to become the dominant name in PC operating systems through MS-DOS and then Windows, and helped its president become a billionaire by age 31.
He met his ex-wife, Melinda, at Microsoft
A recent Duke graduate, Melinda French sat next to the company bigwig at an Expo trade-fair dinner, recalling him as "funnier than I thought he'd be." A few months later they crossed paths in a Microsoft car park, and Gates asked her out on a date... in two weeks. French rebuffed him, noting that she had no idea what she was doing in two weeks, but she relented when Gates called an hour later and asked to meet that night. Their relationship was an open secret within the company for years, but the veil was lifted by the time they became engaged in 1993, and they were married in Hawaii on New Year's Day 1994. They announced the end of their marriage in May 2021.
He's made his share of lavish purchases
Topping that list is the $36 million he paid for the Winslow Homer painting "Lost on the Grand Banks," and $30 million for a Leonardo da Vinci journal known as the Codex Leicester. He also shelled out $21 million for a private jet, an understandable expenditure for a man with so much global business. And then there's his estate in Medina, Washington: Valued at more than $120 million and nicknamed "Xanadu 2.0," the 66,000-square-foot behemoth has a private beach, an Art Deco home theater, a 60-foot pool with an underwater sound system and a trampoline room.