Bill Gates

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If you show people the problems and you show people the solutions they will be moved to act.

William Henry Gates III (born 28 October 1955) is the co-founder and Chairman of Microsoft, and founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Forbes magazine has ranked him as the richest person in the world for twelve consecutive years.

Sourced[edit]

1980s[edit]

  • It's not manufacturers trying to rip anybody off or anything like that. There's nobody getting rich writing software that I know of.
    • Interview with Dennis Bathory-Kitsz in 80 Microcomputing (1980)
  • Instead of buying airplanes and playing around like some of our competitors, we've rolled almost everything back into the company.
    • Comment to reporters during the IBM PC launch (1981), interpreted as a jab at Gary Kildall
  • To create a new standard, it takes something that's not just a little bit different; it takes something that's really new and really captures people's imagination — and the Macintosh, of all the machines I've ever seen, is the only one that meets that standard.
    • Apple company event (October 1983) [1]
  • The next generation of interesting software will be done on the Macintosh, not the IBM PC.
    • BusinessWeek, 26 November 1984
  • I believe OS/2 is destined to be the most important operating system, and possibly program, of all time.
    • OS/2 Programmers Guide, November 1987
  • There's only one trick in software, and that is using a piece of software that's already been written.
    • Interview with Electronics magazine (1989)
  • I have to say that in 1981, making those decisions, I felt like I was providing enough freedom for 10 years. That is, a move from 64k to 640k felt like something that would last a great deal of time. Well, it didn't - it took about only 6 years before people started to see that as a real problem.
    • 1989 speech on the history of the microcomputer industry. [2]

1990s[edit]

  • If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.… The solution to this is patent exchanges with large companies and patenting as much as we can.
  • I laid out memory so the bottom 640K was general purpose RAM and the upper 384 I reserved for video and ROM, and things like that. That is why they talk about the 640K limit. It is actually a limit, not of the software, in any way, shape, or form, it is the limit of the microprocessor. That thing generates addresses, 20-bits addresses, that only can address a megabyte of memory. And, therefore, all the applications are tied to that limit. It was ten times what we had before. But to my surprise, we ran out of that address base for applications within—oh five or six years people were complaining.
  • Gary Kildall was one of the original pioneers of the PC revolution. He was a very creative computer scientist who did excellent work. Although we were competitors, I always had tremendous respect for his contributions to the PC industry. His untimely death was very unfortunate and he and his work will be missed.
    • The Computer Chronicles. "Special Edition: Gary Kildall." 1995
  • There are no significant bugs in our released software that any significant number of users want fixed. … I'm saying we don't do a new version to fix bugs. We don't. Not enough people would buy it. You can take a hundred people using Microsoft Word. Call them up and say "Would you buy a new version because of bugs?" You won't get a single person to say they'd buy a new version because of bugs. We'd never be able to sell a release on that basis.
  • In terms of doing things I take a fairly scientific approach to why things happen and how they happen. I don't know if there's a god or not, but I think religious principles are quite valid.
    • PBS interview with David Frost (November 1995)
  • We've done some good work, but all of these products become obsolete so fast... It will be some finite number of years, and I don't know the number — before our doom comes.
    • Forbes Greatest Business Stories of All Time (1997) by Daniel Gross ISBN 0471196533
  • One thing we have got to change in our strategy - allowing Office documents to be rendered very well by other peoples browsers is one of the most destructive things we could do to the company. We have to stop putting any effort into this and make sure that Office documents very well depends on PROPRIETARY IE capabilities.
    • 1998 a memo to the Office product group[3]
  • About 3 million computers get sold every year in China, but people don't pay for the software. Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.
  • Sometimes we do get taken by surprise. For example, when the Internet came along, we had it as a fifth or sixth priority. It wasn't like somebody told me about it and I said, "I don't know how to spell that." I said, "Yeah, I've got that on my list, so I'm okay." But there came a point when we realized it was happening faster and was a much deeper phenomenon than had been recognized in our strategy.

2000s[edit]

  • Microsoft has had clear competitors in the past. It’s a good thing we have museums to document that.
  • We don't have the user centricity. Until we understand context, which is way beyond presence — presence is the most trivial notion, just am I on this device or not; it doesn't say am I meeting with something, am I focused on writing something.
  • Personal computing today is a rich ecosystem encompassing massive PC-based data centers, notebook and Tablet PCs, handheld devices, and smart cell phones. It has expanded from the desktop and the data center to wherever people need it — at their desks, in a meeting, on the road or even in the air.
  • If you show people the problems and you show people the solutions they will be moved to act.
  • Any operating system without a browser is going to be fucking out of business. Should we improve our product, or go out of business?
    • "In Search of the Real Bill Gates," Time (20 October 2005)
  • I wish I wasn't ... There's nothing good that comes out of that. You get more visibility as a result of it.
    • On being the world's richest man, in an online advertising conference in Redmond, Washington, as quoted in The Guardian (5 May 2006)
  • Stolen's a strong word. It's copyrighted content that the owner wasn't paid for. So yes.
    • On his use of YouTube to watch videos. "Bill Gates on ...the Competition" in The Wall Street Journal (19 June 2006); also quoted in "Bill Gates' piracy confession" at ComputerWorld.com
  • If you just want to say, "Steve Jobs invented the world, and then the rest of us came along," that's fine. If you’re interested, [Vista development chief] Jim Allchin will be glad to educate you feature by feature what the truth is. … Let’s be realistic, who came up with "File/Edit/View/Help"? Do you want to go back to the original Mac and think about where those interface concepts came from?
  • "You know, I'm a big believer in touch and digital reading, but I still think that some mixture of voice, the pen and a real keyboard - in other words a netbook - will be the mainstream on that." quoted in (February 2010)[4]
  • "It's easier for our software to compete with Linux when there's piracy than when there's not." -Bill Gates, Fortune Magazine, July 17 2007
  • Robots will play an important role in providing physical assistance and even companionship for the elderly.

Interview from Programmers at Work (1986)[edit]

Suzanne Lammers, Programmers at Work: Interviews With 19 Programmers Who Shaped the Computer Industry, Harper and Row, ISBN 0-914-84571-3. Text here.

  • The best way to prepare [to be a programmer] is to write programs, and to study great programs that other people have written. In my case, I went to the garbage cans at the Computer Science Center and fished out listings of their operating system.
  • You've got to be willing to read other people's code, and then write your own, then have other people review your code. You've got to want to be in this incredible feedback loop where you get the world-class people to tell you what you're doing wrong...
  • The finest pieces of software are those where one individual has a complete sense of exactly how the program works. To have that, you have to really love the program and concentrate on keeping it simple, to an incredible degree.
  • We're no longer in the days where everything is super well crafted. But at the heart of the programs that make it to the top, you'll find that the key internal code was done by a few people who really know what they were doing.
  • Unfortunately, many programs are so big that there is no one individual who really knows all the pieces, and so the amount of code sharing you get isn't as great. Also, the opportunity to go back and really rewrite something isn't quite as great, because there's always a new set of features that you're adding on to the same program.
  • The worst programs are the ones where the programmers doing the original work don't lay a solid foundation, and then they're not involved in the program in the future.
  • Programs today get very fat; the enhancements tend to slow the programs down because people put in special checks. When they want to add some feature, they'll just stick in these checks without thinking how they might slow the thing down.
  • Before Paul and I started the company, we had been involved in some large-scale software projects that were real disasters. They just kept pouring people in, and nobody knew how they were going to stabilize the project. We swore to ourselves that we would do better.

The Road Ahead (1995)[edit]

  • Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose.
  • The obvious mathematical breakthrough would be development of an easy way to factor large prime numbers.
    • p. 265 in hardcover edition, corrected in paperback
  • One of the wonderful things about the information highway is that virtual equity is far easier to achieve than real-world equity...We are all created equal in the virtual world and we can use this equality to help address some of the sociological problems that society has yet to solve in the physical world,"

TED, February 2009[edit]

  • This leads to the paradox, that because the disease is only in the poor countries, there is not much investment. For example, there is more money put into baldness drugs, than are put into malaria. Now, baldness, it is a terrible thing [audience laughter] and rich men are afflicted, so that is why that priority is set.
    • Video may be viewed here.

TED, February 2010[edit]

  • First we've got population. Now, the world today has 6.8 billion people. That's headed up to about nine billion. Now, if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we could lower that (forecast) by, perhaps, 10 or 15 percent, but there we see an increase of about 1.3 (per year).

(Often misrepresented as meaning that he wanted to see current world population reduced via vaccine side-effects or perhaps immunocontraception)

Attributed[edit]

  • I see little commercial potential for the internet for the next 10 years.
    • Remarks at COMDEX (November 1994), attributed in Kommunikation erstatter transport (2009) by Karl Krarup et al.
  • Intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana.
    • The Wall Street Journal (December 29, 2011).


Misattributed[edit]

  • Life is not fair. Get used to it... Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.
    • Though widely attributed to Gates on the internet, this list of life suggestions is actually based on one from Charles J. Sykes. More information at Snopes.com
  • 640K ought to be enough for anybody.
    • Often attributed to Gates in 1981. Gates considered the IBM PC's 640kB program memory a significant breakthrough over 8-bit systems that were typically limited to 64kB, but he has denied making this remark. Also see the 1989 and 1993 remarks above.
I've said some stupid things and some wrong things, but not that. No one involved in computers would ever say that a certain amount of memory is enough for all time … I keep bumping into that silly quotation attributed to me that says 640K of memory is enough. There's never a citation; the quotation just floats like a rumor, repeated again and again.
Do you realize the pain the industry went through while the IBM PC was limited to 640K? The machine was going to be 512K at one point, and we kept pushing it up. I never said that statement — I said the opposite of that.
  • "Gates talks" (20 August 2001) U.S. News & World Report
  • A future startup with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high. Established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors.
    • Cited to "Challenges and Strategy" (16 May 1991) via Fred Warshofsky (1994), The Patent Wars. This is a misreading of Warshofsky's text; the quotation is actually from League for Programming Freedom (1991), "Against Software Patents." An example of the misattribution appears in Lawrence Lessig (2001), The future of ideas.

Quotes about Gates[edit]

  • The idea that Bill Gates has appeared like a knight in shining armour to lead all customers out of a mire of technological chaos neatly ignores the fact that it was he who, by peddling second-rate technology, led them into it in the first place.
  • Gates is the ultimate programming machine. He believes everything can be defined, examined, reduced to essentials, and rearranged into a logical sequence that will achieve a particular goal.
  • Bill Gates is a very rich man today ... and do you want to know why? The answer is one word: versions.
  • It's a business I don't know anything about, but I admire Bill Gates enormously. I know him individually, and I think he's incredible in business.
    • Warren Buffett, in lecture at Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (1994); Warren Buffett Talks Business VHS (1995) by The University of North Carolina Center for Public Television.
  • There never was a chip, it is said, that Bill Gates couldn't slow down with a new batch of features.
    • James Coates, The Chicago Tribune
  • He is divisive. He is manipulative. He is a user. He has taken much from me and the industry.
    • Gary Kildall, in notes for an unpublished memoir Computer Connections.
  • Bill Gates is a monocle and a Persian cat away from being the villain in a James Bond movie.
  • [Gates] apparently has made more money than anyone else his age, ever, in any business.
    • Brian O'Reilly, Fortune magazine, (12 October 1987)

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