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William Henry Gates III

William Henry Gates III
Born: October 28, 1955
Zodiac sign: Scorpio

Income: Around $550,000 in salary and bonuses in 1996; he's not Microsoft's highest-paid employee.

Wealth: $29 billion (Rs 104,400 crore; around 9 per cent of India's GDP) worth of Microsoft shares. Plus investments in other companies, possessions like Leonardo da Vinci's notebook (which he bought for $32 million) and real estate (he's building a $50-million house).

Education: Lakeside School, Seattle, and Harvard University, but dropped out of Harvard to set up a software company with childhood friend Paul Allen. Names like Allen & Gates, Gates & Allen, Unincorporated Inc. and Unlimited Limited were rejected in favour of Microsoft Corporation.

Medical history: At 11, was sent to a psychologist by his mother who was worried about her son's withdrawn and shy nature.

First brush with computers: Got hooked at the age of 13 when his school bought a teletype computer, soon devising a computer version of Risk, a board game where the goal is global domination. By high school, he and his friends were running a profitable company analysing Seattle's traffic data.

Other achievements in school: Played the lead in a Lakeside production of Peter Shaffer's Black Comedy.

Turning point: At 18, convinced IBM that he would be able to supply the operating system—the program that runs a computer's basic functions—for its soon-to-be-launched PCs faster than anyone else. He bought Q-DOS (Quick 'n Dirty Operating System) from Seattle Computer Products for $75,000, and licensed it to IBM as MS-DOS (licensed, not sold, so he got revenues from each MS-DOS-running PC sold) with the clause that he was free to license MS-DOS to anyone. IBM's sales blitzes made MS-DOS the industry standard in operating systems, and Gates was on his way. Today, 80 per cent of the world's PCs run on Microsoft operating systems.

Family: Wife Melinda (nee French), a former Microsoft product manager; married in Hawaii on January 1, 1994. Daughter Jennifer Katherine was born on April 26, 1996.

Close friends: Warren Buffett, the second richest man in the world; Steve Ballmer, Harvard classmate, and Microsoft's sales and support chief; Ann Winblad, software entrepreneur, and former girlfriend. In the '80s, Gates and Winblad would often go on 'virtual dates' by going to the same movie at the same time in different cities and discussing it on their cellphones. Even now, the married Gates spends one weekend every spring with Winblad.

Favourite book: Catcher in the Rye.

Favourite phrase: "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

Most common opinion heard about Gates: "He's the smartest guy I've ever met."

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