Bill Gates’ personal net worth — an estimated $US79.5 billion — makes him the richest person in the world.
On Wednesday, he turns 60 years old.
Gathered from 20 years of interviews, these quotes show how Gates went from computer geek to software titan to an activist whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given away $US34.5 billion in grants since it started in 1997.
This is an update of an article originally written by Drake Baer and revised by Steve Banna.
'It's pretty amazing to go from a world where computers were unheard of and very complex to where they're a tool of everyday life. That was the dream that I wanted to make come true, and in a large part it's unfolded as I'd expected. You can argue about advertising business models or which networking protocol would catch on or which screen sizes would be used for which things. There are less robots now than I would have guessed.'
'Most of our competitors were one-product wonders ... They would do their one product, but never get their engineering sorted out.
'They did not think about software in this broad way. They did not think about tools or efficiency. They would therefore do one product, but would not renew it to get it to the next generation.'
'We need innovation that gives us energy that's cheaper than today's hydrocarbon energy, that has zero CO2 emissions, and that's as reliable as today's overall energy system. And when you put all those requirements together, we need an energy miracle. That may make it seem too daunting to people, but in science, miracles are happening all the time.'
'It's an elusive concept. There's a certain sharpness, an ability to absorb new facts. To walk into a situation, have something explained to you and immediately say, 'Well, what about this?' To ask an insightful question. To absorb it in real time. A capacity to remember. To relate to domains that may not seem connected at first. A certain creativity that allows people to be effective.'
'Eradications are special. ... Zero is a magic number. You either do what it takes to get to zero and you're glad you did it; or you get close, give up and it goes back to where it was before, in which case you wasted all that credibility, activity, money that could have been applied to other things.'
'The most important work I got a chance to be involved in, no matter what I do, is the personal computer. You know, that's what I grew up, in my teens, my 20s, my 30s, you know, I even knew not to get married until later because I was so obsessed with it. That's my life's work.'
'You have to have a certain realism that government is a pretty blunt instrument and without the constant attention of highly qualified people with the right metrics, it will fall into not doing things very well.'
'If I think something's a waste of time or inappropriate I don't wait to point it out. I say it right away. It's real time. So you might hear me say 'That's the dumbest idea I have ever heard' many times during a meeting.'
'Our modern lifestyle is not a political creation. Before 1700, everybody was poor as hell. Life was short and brutish. It wasn't because we didn't have good politicians; we had some really good politicians.
But then we started inventing -- electricity, steam engines, microprocessors, understanding genetics and medicine and things like that. Yes, stability and education are important -- I'm not taking anything away from that -- but innovation is the real driver of progress.'
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