Bill Gates

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Bill Gates in 2019

William Henry Gates III (born 28 October 1955) is an American business magnate, investor, author, philanthropist, and humanitarian. He is most famous as the co-founder 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.




  • 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 64 K to 640 K 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]


  • 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 640 K 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 640 K 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)
  • What we're saying to people is that every idea about ease-of-use, we can develop in software, for the PC, without asking them to buy new hardware, without asking them to throw away their old applications.
  • Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There's a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning.
    • "In Search of the Real Bill Gates," Time (13 January 1997)
  • 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 (13 January 1997)
  • As soon as I learned about this miracle of chip making I thought, what is the key missing element? ... I'd been working on software so I decided that maybe that was what was necessary to bring all this power to life. I talked about that with a friend, Paul Allen, and we kept saying, "What can we do? Can we start our own software company?" It seemed impossible at the time because software was not done by independent companies. The companies that built the computers — IBM and DEC — they did all the software. And when we called them up and said, "We would like to do an operating system," they said, "who are you?" to which we said, "we're high-school students." That was s, uh — that was the end of that conversation.
    • Speech to the Economic Club of Detroit (1997) [3]
  • 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[4]
  • Although 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.


  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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?
  • It's easier for our software to compete with Linux when there's piracy than when there's not.
    • Fortune (17 July 2007)


When I was a kid, the disaster we worried about most was a nuclear war. That's why we had a barrel like this down in our basement, filled with cans of food and water.
If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it's most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war.
  • Just giving people devices has a really horrible track record. You really have to change the curriculum and the teacher. And it's never going to work on a device where you don't have a keyboard-type input. Students aren't there just to read things. They're actually supposed to be able to write and communicate. And so it's going to be more in the PC realm—it's going to be a low-cost PC that lets them be highly interactive.
  • When I was a kid, the disaster we worried about most was a nuclear war. That's why we had a barrel like this down in our basement, filled with cans of food and water. When the nuclear attack came, we were supposed to go downstairs, hunker down, and eat out of that barrel. Today, the greatest risk of global catastrophe doesn't look like this. Instead, it looks like this. If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it's most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes.


  • Usually, you'd expect the worst to be the "ground zero" country — in this case, China, then the next wave, which was all in Asia, and then in Europe, and then finally, the U.S. We had all this community spread.
    With a travel ban, where you actually force people to come back from China, you have to have a way to be able to either just assume they're infected and quarantine them, or test them. And then if they test positive, to have that enforced quarantine.
    We actually seeded a lot of infection by saying, 'Okay, everybody, residents and citizens come back (and not testing or quarantining).'
  • We always have to be serious about public health in a global sense and surveillance for "the next one", because we don't know where it will emerge.
    • As quoted in "Coronavirus: Bill Gates describes what we did wrong, and how to do better" by Lisa M. Krieger, The Mercury News (21 October 2020)
  • "The big concern is about the generations yet to come when [AI] gets way smarter than it is right now. And if a person with Mal intent was using that, say, for a cyberattack, or to make a deep fake that makes a politician look like they're doing something awful, or even one of your relatives saying, okay, I've been kidnapped."

Interview from Programmers at Work (1986)


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)

  • 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)

  • 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.

Regarding Bill And Melinda Gates' Polio Efforts (2009)

  • The success of the Nigeria programme hinges on the active participation of everyone to make sure that all children are reached by National Immunization Days (NIDs), Immunization Plus Days (IPDs) and the routine immunization programme, if the country capitalizes on the commitments I've heard in the past two days, Nigeria can lead the way to a polio-free Africa.
  • I'd like to start by telling you about my wife Melinda's Aunt Myra. We see her a few times a year. Aunt Myra worked for many years taking reservations for Delta Airlines. She lived in New Orleans until Hurricane Katrina, and then she moved to Dallas, Melinda's hometown. She loves to see our kids. When we all get together, she'll sit down on the floor and play games with them. Aunt Myra also has polio. She's in braces, and she has been ever since she was a little girl. Our children only know what polio is because of their aunt. Otherwise, the disease would just be another historical fact they learn about in school. In fact, even though I was born just three years after one of the worst polio epidemics in American history, I didn't know anyone with polio when I was growing up. That's how far we've come.

TED, February 2010

  • 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).

(Full speech on the official website of the TED Conference)

  • Let's burn the 99%.

(Referring to Nuclear Fusion involving commonly available elements as opposed to Nuclear Fission with rare Uranium)

July 2013

  • He [Steve Jobs] showed me the boat he was working on ... and talked about how he's looking forward to being on it, even though we both knew there was a good chance that wouldn't happen.

The Rolling Stone Interview (2014)

...The mystery and the beauty of the world is overwhelmingly amazing, and there's no scientific explanation of how it came about... I think it makes sense to believe in God...
  • The moral systems of religion, I think, are superimportant. We've raised our kids in a religious way; they've gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in. I've been very lucky, and therefore I owe it to try and reduce the inequity in the world. And that's kind of a religious belief. I mean, it's at least a moral belief.
  • I agree with people like Richard Dawkins that mankind felt the need for creation myths. Before we really began to understand disease and the weather and things like that, we sought false explanations for them.
    Now science has filled in some of the realm – not all – that religion used to fill. But the mystery and the beauty of the world is overwhelmingly amazing, and there's no scientific explanation of how it came about. To say that it was generated by random numbers, that does seem, you know, sort of an uncharitable view. I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don't know. interview 2014

  • We would like every country to be self-sufficient so that both in terms of running a good primary health care system and funding a good primary health care system, it's all OK, and they just participate in regional bodies that have standby capacity to deal with these things. Africa, of all the places in the world, is the furthest behind on being able to do that. And through aid, health and health systems in Africa have improved very, very dramatically.

COVID-19 pandemic 2020

  • 40,000 people came out of China, 'cause we didn't ban the rest of them citizens from coming back, so we created this rush and we didn't have the ability to quarantine those people, and that seeded the disease here
    • Video explaining his view of the reasons of the early spread of COVID-19 in the United States
  • We are running the worst testing system, in terms of who gets access to it, of any country
  • Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds.
    • on Twitter [5], Apr 14, 2020

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster (2021)


How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need. Book published by Alfred A. Knopf on February 16, 2021. ISBN 9780385546133 (hardcover), ISBN 9780385546140 (e-book).
Main Wikiquote page for How to Avoid a Climate Disaster
Wikipedia page for How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

"When it comes to climate change, I know innovation isn’t the only thing we need. But we cannot keep the earth livable without it. Techno-fixes are not sufficient, but they are necessary." - From How to Avoid a Climate Disaster (2021). (This photo shows smoke from one of the many 2021 wildfires in the US state of California.)
"Deploying today’s renewables and improving transmission couldn’t be more important." - From How to Avoid a Climate Disaster (2021). (This photo shows solar panels, wind turbines, and components of the electrical grid that carry the electricity generated to consumers.)
  • I [have become] convinced of three things: 1. To avoid a climate disaster, we have to get to get to zero {net emissions by the year 2050}. 2. We need to deploy the tools we already have, like solar and wind, faster and smarter. 3. And we need to create and roll out breakthrough technologies that can take us the rest of the way.
    • From "Introduction: 51 Billion to Zero," page 8
  • Deploying today’s renewables and improving transmission couldn’t be more important. . . . Unless we use large amounts of nuclear energy . . . every path to zero in the United States will require us to install as much wind and solar power as we can build and find room for. . . . [M]ost countries aren’t as lucky as the United States when it comes to solar and wind resources. . . . That’s why, even as we deploy, deploy, deploy solar and wind, the world is going to need some new clean electricity inventions too.
    • From "Chapter 4: How We Plug In," pages 83 and 84
  • [W]ith transportation, the zero-carbon future is basically this: Use electricity to run all the vehicles we can, and get cheap alternative fuels for the rest. In the first group are passenger cars and trucks, light and medium trucks, and buses. In the second group are long-distance trucks, trains, airplanes, and container ships.
    • From "Chapter 7: How We Get Around," page 147
  • To get [the breakthroughs on the "Technologies needed" list] ready soon enough to make a difference, governments need to . . . [q]uintuple clean energy and climate-related R&D over the next decade. . . .
    • From "Chapter 11: A Plan for Getting to Zero," page 200
  • It helps to set ambitious goals and commit to meeting them, the way countries around the world did with the 2015 Paris Agreement. It’s easy to mock international agreements, but they’re part of how progress happens: If you like having an ozone layer, you can thank an international agreement called the Montreal Protocol.
    • From "Chapter 11: A Plan for Getting to Zero," page 215
  • As a Citizen . . . Make calls, write letters, attend town halls. . . . [M]ake clear that this is an issue that will help determine how you vote. . . . Look locally as well as nationally. . . . Run for office.
    • From "Chapter 12: What Each of Us Can Do," pages 218 to 220
  • We should spend the next decade focusing on the technologies, [governmental] policies and market structures that will put us on the path to eliminating greenhouse gases by 2050. It's hard to think of a better response to a miserable [year of COVID-19 disruptions during] 2020 than spending the next ten years dedicating ourselves to this ambitious goal.
    • From "Afterword: Climate Change and COVID-19," page 230


  • 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).


  • 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
  • 640 K ought to be enough for anybody.
    • Often attributed to Gates in 1981. Gates considered the IBM PC's 640 KB program memory a significant breakthrough over 8-bit systems that were typically limited to 64 KB, 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 640 K 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 640 K? The machine was going to be 512 K at one point, and we kept pushing it up. I never said that statement — I said the opposite of that.
  • "Gates talks". U.S. News & World Report. August 20, 2001. Retrieved on October 8, 2014. 
  • 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.
  • Choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.
    • Sometimes quoted with "difficult" instead of "hard".
    • A similar thought was expressed by automobile executive Clarence Bleicher in 1947 (before Bill Gates was born): "if you get a tough job, one that is hard, and you haven't got a way to make it easy, put a lazy man on it, and after 10 days he will have an easy way to do it".[1]
  • If you're born poor it's not your fault, but if you die poor it's your fault.
    • Quoted in various publications, without any further sourcing. The quote is dubious in view of the Gates Foundation's public mission, "to lift people out of hunger and extreme poverty." Gates was born to an affluent family.

Quotes about Gates

  • 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)
  • What J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller were to the Age of Robber Barons, Microsoft's Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffett, as well as digital moguls like Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos are to the contemporary age of the rule of the 1%. Then as now, the super-rich used governments to write laws and rules to allow them to accumulate unlimited wealth; then as now, creating monopolies by enclosing the commons and killing competition is the strategy for becoming the 1%.
    • Vandana Shiva Oneness vs. the 1%: Shattering Illusions, Seeding Freedom (2018)
  • In May 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York announced a partnership with the Gates Foundation to 'reinvent education.' Cuomo called Gates a visionary and argued that the pandemic has created 'a moment in history when we can actually incorporate and advance [Gates'] ideas...all these buildings, all these physical classrooms-why with all the technology you have?' In fact, Gates has been trying to dismantle the public education system of the United States for two decades.
    • Vandana Shiva Oneness vs. the 1%: Shattering Illusions, Seeding Freedom (2018)
  • In an interview with The Economist last month, Bill Gates stated that millions of people in developing countries would die before the COVID-19 pandemic was over. He noted, importantly, that 90 percent of the deaths would not result from the virus itself, but from "indirect" effects. These include most prominently the economic impact of the pandemic, as well as other causes such as the overwhelming of medical and public health resources, which increases fatalities from other diseases. Gates was not exaggerating at all. It's easy to see how this horror will materialize, if we project forward from the current situation. The World Food Program projects that the number of people facing acute hunger will nearly double this year, from 135 to 260 million.
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